Navigating Finances: Financial Literacy + Financial Empowerment = Financial Freedom

Financial literacy is the ability to understand and effectively use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting, and investing.  Individuals who are financially literate are thus able to make well-informed decisions and ultimately achieve financial freedom.  The path to financial freedom must come at the hands of financial empowerment.  Financial empowerment promotes long-term financial stability & well-being by fostering confidence in individuals & communities.  There is an inherent desire amongst people to feel financially included & empowered.

So why would we not provide the same financial resources for people with disabilities?  Financial literacy & education programs should be inclusive &, MORE IMPORTANTLY, accessible to people with disabilities.  People with disabilities need the same financial knowledge and skills as everyone else: money management, budgeting, the effective use of banks, and debt reduction.

A great place to start is to evaluate what is important to YOU.  What are your hopes, dreams, and core values?  Your values will lead you to prioritize what you do with your time, energy, and in this case, your money.  If your goals and values align, you are more inclined to prioritize them and, thus, increase your likelihood of accomplishing them.  For people with disabilities, this is a more complex thought process, as many must plan for larger-than-average purchases, such as vehicle purchases, vehicle adaptations, medical bills, home renovations, assistive devices, and education & training.  As such, it becomes even more critical to budget for these large purchases, on a limited income.

Where do we even BEGIN to create a budget? 

  1. How much will all the products & services that you need cost?  Do the research.  Identify what is the most affordable option for you, as it relates to adaptive technology, assistive devices, etc.
  2. How much will your current health insurance will cover?  Your insurance is a great supplement to your current income and can help alleviate the financial burden of funding a more comfortable lifestyle for you and your family.
  3. How will you pay for the items & care that you need?  Maybe you have a rich uncle.  But if you don’t (like most of us do not) perhaps you have some money saved up or may be able to pick up extra shifts on the job.  One thing I learned along my journey to financial freedom was that I am not above doing ANY job in my pursuit of financial independence.  If there was someone paying to have toilets cleaned, I was on it!  If I needed to work in a factory or do housekeeping, no problem!  I knew the goal I had in mind and I was not going to allow ANYTHING to stop me from getting there.Regularly saving, coupled with DISCIPLINE, can also help you make strides towards your goals and allow you to be prepared for unexpected expenses as they arise.  One way to begin saving money, as an individual living with a disability, is to open an ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) account or a PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-Support) for individuals receiving SSI and wanting to begin their journey to economic freedom.  Many government assistance programs will limit the amount of income that a person with disabilities can receive.  As such, many people fear losing their public benefits because they work too many hours and thus make (and save) too much money.  The aforementioned ABLE account does not affect individuals’ eligibility for SSI and Medicaid.  ABLE accounts can be used towards the purchase of qualified disability expenses.

The purpose of a PASS account is to assist people with disabilities find employment that reduces or eliminates SSI benefits, thus reducing their dependence on disability assistance.  A PASS account helps people with disabilities become “self-supporting” (Another way of saying financially independent *wink wink. *)

  1. How can you keep the costs as low as possible?  There may be programs available to you such as a federally funded alternative financing program that provides affordable financing to purchase assistive technology.  There are also several state funded programs that could be tapped into. A couple of good places to start including the Tennessee Departments of Health and Human Services and the Administration for Community Living.

As financial guru Dave Ramsey says, “Budgeting helps you tell your money where to go, rather than wondering where it went.”

It is important that you track the money you receive from working, monies received from other assistance programs, and the money used from the ABLE & PASS accounts that we mentioned earlier.  Creating a budget can help you understand how getting a new job (and negotiating that salary) can help or hurt you in the long run.  How will this new income affect your benefits?  Will you be worse off with this new income than if you only received your government benefits?  The only way to know this is by creating a WRITTEN plan of action (better known as a budget) to direct (and take full control of) your financial life.

Tracking Expenses

Once you have sorted out your income, now let’s map out your expenses.  It is imperative that you learn to organize, track, and prioritize your expenses.  The Golden Rule that we financial folks use is “Spend LESS than you make”.  However, the first step is knowing what we spend our money on and prioritizing from there.  There are always necessities and wants.  After we cover our necessities, what is left for the things we want to be able to enjoy in life?  A second critical factor is timing: when are bills due to be paid.  One thing I practice personally and may be practical for you is: if I get paid on the 1st and 15th, then any bills that are due between the 1st and 14th get paid (and budgeted for) with the check received on the 1st of the month.  Any bills due between the 15th and the end of the month are budgeted and paid for with the check received on the 15th.

Once you have each element of the budget, you can now make better financial decisions for yourself and for your loved ones and ultimately achieve some level of financial freedom. But the key here is to REMAIN disciplined.  I cannot guarantee that this journey will be easy.  However, I can tell you that it is doable, and YOU are able to achieve it!


About the Author
Dr. Clement O. Ogunyemi (Dr. O) aka The Finance Doctor® is a charismatic, energetic, and intellectual financial mentor. Dr. O restores hope by reconstructing people’s debilitating habits to simple, easy techniques of how to tap into their own competitive nature to maximize wealth and reduce taxes.

Dr. O holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Corporate Finance, and a Doctor of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. His doctoral study centered around the importance and impact of financial literacy programs on an individual’s financial decision making. Dr. O began his finance career at Morgan Stanley before moving to NW Arkansas to work for Walmart and several Walmart vendors.

He is the founder of 4Q Pro Financial Management & Consulting, LLC, and has proven to be a community servant, who is always looking to put others’ needs at the forefront. His philanthropic arm includes founding the Ogunyemi Family Foundation, which awards high school seniors with scholarships to help alleviate the financial burden of pursuing a higher education.  Additionally, he serves on several nonprofit boards, including the United Way, NextGen Guidance, The Voice of Diversity, among others.  He is also an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, where he serves as the Arkansas District Treasurer.

Contact information for Dr. Clement O. Ogunyemi, The Finance Doctor®

4Q Pro Financial Management & Consulting, LLC

Office: 1-800-432-2304

Fax: 1-888-316-5739