A long-time acquaintance in financial straits asked for my help in revamping her money status. I’d love to!
The first tip was well-received: apply for disability benefits. She’s been medically eligible for as long as I’ve known her, but has stumbled along through endless short-term gigs instead, each one exacerbating her symptoms.
Kudos to her for working so hard and doing her utmost to be independent. But really, disability benefits exist for a reason. They also allow a person to continue working hard: many disability programs actively encourage a person to continue working. The monthly cash benefit simply provides a back-up, a cushion, a supplement…a guarantee of being able to eat and stay housed whenever things go to crap.
I was thrilled when Abby finally decided to apply. Our contact over so many years meant I was privy to some of her most intimate challenges. This was going to be the easiest application I’ve ever assisted with!
We didn’t get far.
While each program is different, this one in particular requires that the family’s assets and income be presented to the agency. Abby and her partner decided not to: “We’re not established enough…We’ve decided to submit my application as though she is my roommate.”
An applicant can’t simply designate a partner a roommate, for the purpose of financial gain. The laws set out what defines a spouse -for the purposes of any given program- and what defines a roommate. The law decides when the relationship is established enough for our companion to be deemed a spouse.
“But our worker said this was the way to go.”
Your worker is encouraging you to break laws. If you follow her advice, you can be charged with fraud and also lose access to critical benefits in future (when you may need them even more).
I said these, and left it at that. My friend gets to make whatever decision she wishes; this is up to her. I understand she and her partner are feeling desperate to get sufficient funds in place. The thing is, the program allows that!
Applying as a couple, they will receive a touch less up front, but they will be able to top that up with the earnings they’re each able to achieve. By the time all is said and done, they’ll be in a great position to work the number of hours they each genuinely can, while spending the rest of the time resting and healing. Perfect! And by doing everything in alignment with the laws, they also protect their access in future.
In a similar vein, a bookkeeper I know was flabbergasted at how many small business owners trip over themselves to reduce their tax liability…all the while neglecting to apply for the deductions and benefits they are eligible for, which would net them far more!
To protect and increase your finances now and in future, don’t skirt the rules. Instead, find out what the relevant laws are, honor those, and legally pursue every option available to you. You’ll likely be surprised to find you actually net more, short and long term.