Unearned income won’t affect insurance

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Dear Dr. Don,
I’m disabled and receiving Social Security Disability Insurance. It is difficult for people in my situation to save anything more than $4,000 an individual and $6,000 a couple. Do you have any recommendations to circumvent this problem? Am I to understand that people like me are expected to live only on what they receive from disability insurance?
— Deborah Disability

Dear Deborah,
I learned the following from the Social Security website: “The Social Security Administration is responsible for two major programs that provide benefits based on disability: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is based on prior work under Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Under SSI, payments are made on the basis of financial need.”

The website also explains that, “Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed persons. To be eligible for a Social Security benefit, the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work to be “insured” for Social Security purposes. Disability benefits are payable to blind or disabled workers, widow(er)s, or adults disabled since childhood, who are otherwise eligible. The amount of the monthly disability benefit is based on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker.”

But to get to the crux of your question, I got some help from Edward Lafferty, a public affairs specialist for the Social Security Administration. He explains:

For SSDI, there are limits on earnings, but no limits on unearned income. So, investments, pensions (with the exception of a public disability benefit such as workers’ compensation) and other financial assets will generally not affect the monthly SSDI benefit.

The limitations for work-related income are spelled out on the Web page “Substantial Gainful Activity.” Contact your local Social Security office or check online if you need additional information.

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