Real Money, Real Experts

Economic Self-Sufficiency: How Financial Professionals Support Individuals with Disabilities

November 24, 2020 AFCPE® Season 1 Episode 14
Real Money, Real Experts
Economic Self-Sufficiency: How Financial Professionals Support Individuals with Disabilities
Show Notes Transcript

This week, Real Money, Real Experts welcomes Michael Roush, Director of the Center for Disability Inclusive Community Development at the National Disability Institute.

Co-hosts Rebecca Wiggins and Dr. Mary Bell Carlson talk to Michael about how financial coaches and counselors can best serve people in the disability community.

*Show Notes*
00:50 Intro Michael Roush
05:10 Defining disability
08:19 Accessibility vs. equity
12:10 Why counsel individuals with disabilities
14:55 Building awareness among coaches
18:10 Impact of COVID-19
21:12 Disability resources coaches should know about
23:11 NDI & AFCPE® Financial Inclusion Essentials
26:41 Your Two Cents

Show Note links:

National Disability Institute: www.nationaldisabilityinstitute.org


Race, Ethnicity, and Disability Brief - https://www.nationaldisabilityinstitute.org/reports/research-brief-race-ethnicity-and-disability/


FDIC and Disability Unbanked and Underbanked Report

https://www.nationaldisabilityinstitute.org/reports/banking-status-and-financial-behaviors-2019/


Financial Inclusion Essentials: https://www.afcpe.org/education-and-training/financial-inclusion-essentials/ 


Americans Disabilities Act from the Department of Justice: https://www.ada.gov/


ABLE Accounts: https://www.ablenrc.org/ 


NDI’s information on ABLE Accounts: https://www.nationaldisabilityinstitute.org/financial-wellness/able-accounts/


Virtual Financial Counseling/Coaching Initiative: https://www.yellowribbonnetwork.org/afcpecovid19 


NDI’s Financial Resilience Center:
https://www.nationaldisabilityinstitute.org/financial-resilience-center/

Intro:

Welcome to Real Money, Real Experts, a podcast where leading financial counseling and coaching experts share their stories, their challenges, and their advice for helping people manage money in the real world. I'm your host, Rebecca Wiggins, Executive Director of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® or AFCPE®. And I'm your cohost, Dr. Mary Bell Carlson. I'm an Accredited Financial Counselor®, or AFC®, and the CEO of Chief Financial Mom. Every episode, we're taking a deep dive into the topic, fix the personal finance professionals care about: helping clients, building community and your professional growth. Welcome everyone to the Real Money, Real Experts podcast. I'm Rebecca. This is Mary. Thanks for taking the time to join us today. Today on the show we're talking with Michael Roush. Michael is the Director of the Center for Disability Inclusive Community Development at National Disability Institute, or NDI, and serves as a subject matter expert on financial capability strategies for people with disabilities. Michael is the coauthor of multiple financial education and asset building curriculums for students and adults with disabilities, and has trained more than 2000 individuals on how to integrate the curriculums into their organizations' delivery of service. Michael is also an Accredited Financial Counselor® and a Community Partner Work Incentives, Counselor. Michael has a master's degree in human behavior. So we're really excited to have you on the podcast today, Michael, thanks for joining us.

Michael Roush:

Great. Thanks for having me.

Mary Bell Carlson:

Michael, we're glad to have you, and I'm really looking forward to hearing about how you got started in this field of financial coaching and counseling and your focus on your work with people with disabilities.

Michael Roush:

I think like many might have a similar story that financial counseling and coaching sort of found me. I think my awareness on the importance of financial wellness really prepared me for the work I'm doing today. Of course, being a young child of poverty, being a first-generation college student and obtaining my graduate degree , but also a personal awakening with my relationship with money. And my mid twenties is really what got me started in this field. I started out getting my MBA, but as I mentioned, this personal experience and awakening in my early twenties, it really made me pause and be like, there's more to understanding this thing called money, my relationship with money and how to manage money. I made my family very proud when - I say that jokingly - when I dropped out of the MBA program. I was three classes left in completing it and I switched to study psychology, more specifically focusing on human behavior, and that personal financial situation really made me realize that I needed to understand the psychology and behaviors of money first. And I know this sounds extreme to go and get a graduate degree and , you know, drop out of the MBA program to go focus on this. But I sometimes take the extreme route, I think. I would like to say to both of you and to the listeners that I do believe getting an MBA is very important. It's just my personal journey led me to want to understand the psychology and behaviors of my journey in my relationship with money. I think it also gave me a stronger foundation to be able to help others. But as Mary you're also asking about how my focus on people with disabilities. I am a person with a disability, as well as a family member of others with disabilities. I celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act , which is this great civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. And one of the proper goals of this legislation states that economic self-sufficiency is my right. But this is also a community that has multiple barriers, such as benefit programs that states have, to remain eligible, you have to remain poor, or that individuals may not have access to the different programs and resources , to help an individual achieve that proper goal of economic self-sufficiency. And I believe that with my personal journey and being an advocate for others has really led to understanding the importance and the advocacy for the need of financial counseling for people with disabilities. And I'm grateful for AFCPE® and introducing me to becoming an AFC®, which really I think made my personal and professional journey even stronger and to be in an advocate to help people with disabilities build their financial lives.

Mary Bell Carlson:

Michael, I just want to take a step back here too, as we're talking about people with disabilities, you know, it's such a broad term, and I'm wondering if you could break it down just a bit and kind of frame for us who we're really talking about when we're discussing people with disabilities. Oftentimes I think there's some folks who get lost in that discussion, or maybe aren't top of mind . So would you mind just kind of framing that out for us?

Michael Roush:

This is really an important question. And I think in my work, I always appreciate when people ask who are people with disabilities because that's what's going to build the awareness. The other thing is, is disability can be very broad and understanding the definition of course allows us to better serve this community or my community. And as I mentioned earlier, the Americans with Disabilities Act defines disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or major life activities. And I'll talk about major life activities because I think that's important to understand, but the definition also mentions that a person has a record of such an impairment or is perceived by others to have an impairment, but in looking at major life activities, you know, that can include caring for oneself, performing different tasks, manual tasks , seeing, hearing, bending, speaking, learning, concentrating, and so forth. There's also different types of disabilities. There could be an individual who has a hearing disability who is deaf or hard of hearing, could have a mobility disability. It could be an individual who's a person who uses a wheelchair, could be a cognitive disability, an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability, a visual disability, like somebody , an individual who's blind or low vision. Also as I mentioned earlier about , the major life activities, it also includes individuals who have a learning disability or who have a mental health or emotional disability or a chronic health condition. And Rebecca, I think what's really important to note here with this question that you asked and understanding who people with disabilities are, is that not all disabilities are visible, such as a learning or mental health , or emotional disability. You know, I mentioned that I'm a person with a disability, I'm a person with a dual mental health diagnoses. And, you know, as I share my story, people don't believe it because they can't see it or they say 'I've been diagnosed with that, and I did not know that I was protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act or that I am considered a person with a disability.' So I think that's really important to keep in mind because just because an individual doesn't have a physical or sensory disability that you can see, it doesn't mean that they're not a person with a disability.

Mary Bell Carlson:

That's, that's such a great point. Michael, I'm also curious if you would share more about your perspective on the difference between accessibility and equity and then like what makes providing financial counseling to people with disabilities different than those without.

Michael Roush:

And I appreciate this question and I think it's really important for us to understand accessibility and equity. So let's first talk about accessibility. So accessibility is looked at as giving equitable access to everyone along the continuum of human ability and experience. Not only does accessibility encompass the broader meanings of compliance and refers to how an organizations make space for those characteristics that each person brings. And I think that's an important piece for us to keep in mind , when it comes to accessibility and giving that equitable access. As I was preparing for this, I pulled out some different definitions on accessibility and the Office for Civil Rights defines accessibility as meaning when a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions and enjoy the same services as a person, without a disability, and an equally integrated and equally effective manner with substantially equivalent, ease of use. Of course, I definitely don't have this memorized as I just was reading what the definition is, but it's making sure that the individual has the same opportunity to participate as somebody without a disability. So now let's look at equity, right? So equity is defined as the state, the quality, or ideal of being just impartial and fair, right? So we look at that. It's really about everybody getting what they need in order to improve that quality of their situation. So I really believe that for something to be fully equitable, that allows an individual to participate and have the same experience. Accessibility, those accommodation needs, need to be a key factor and this lens of equity to really assure that again, everybody has the same experience and that opportunity to improve their situation. If items aren't accessible to me - let's say you're at a conference, making sure that something is fully accessible, let's say for an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, we might include closed captioning or captioning services, or we might have ASL interpreters or American Sign Language interpreters, so that they're able to relay that information to individuals that are participating to be able to understand and get the information. So there accessibility is very important and we're assuring that having an American Sign Language interpreter there is allowing the individual to have the same experience. And by doing that again, we're really creating this foundation for all to be able to participate in that particular situation.

Mary Bell Carlson:

Can you share with us some of the research data on how financial coaching and counseling specifically can work with a person with disabilities or what we should be aware of in terms of disability ?

Michael Roush:

You know, before I talk about the importance of financial counseling or some of the research that we did specifically on financial counseling and financial coaching, if it's okay, I just want to share a little bit more on why there is a need for financial counseling and coaching and why we hope that as listeners hear this, that they recognize really the need and who people with disabilities are even more. And I share this because we know that 26% of working age adults , people with disabilities, live in poverty compared to 11% of those without disabilities. Almost half skip medical treatments because of costs . A third are late on mortgage payments. A third overdraw checking accounts, and they're three times more likely to have difficulty paying bills. So as we look at that data or those statistics, we know there's a need, right? We know that there's a need for financial counseling and financial coaching, but historically people with disabilities have not had access to targeted financial capability strategies, and face myths that limit their financial empowerment or that opportunity to really build their financial wellness. So in looking at that, we really wanted to step back and see how do we build the capacity to support people with disabilities? And how do we build the capacity of financial counselors and financial coaches to really help change these statistics that the disability community faces. Last year we , uh, administered a survey to financial coaches and financial counselors to really understand their needs to serve people with disabilities and what do they need to build their capacity to serve people with disabilities. And the survey provided some valuable insight. And I want to share just a few points that I think are very important for the listeners. So first of all, we asked individuals, the number of people with disabilities that they serve, right. 71% reported they served either none or very few individuals who identified themselves as having a disability. So we know that they most likely did serve people with disabilities because the national estimates suggest that between 12 and 20% of the population are people with disabilities. And so this indicated to us that we really need to build the awareness of who people with disabilities are and the status of their clients. We also looked at the level of comfort of providing financial coaching and counseling to people with disabilities. And we thought this was really important to look at, and then look at what are their concerns in serving individuals with disabilities. And in the survey results, we found that 12% of respondents said they were not comfortable in providing services to people with disabilities and only one in five were comfortable. And it's important to note that counselors who reporting serving no, or very few people with disabilities were most likely to say they are not comfortable in serving people with disabilities. So we went to look at really what were their concerns about serving people with disabilities, so again, we can help build their capacity.

:

So in the survey we asked do you share any of these concerns in serving people with disabilities? And we listed a variety of concerns that we've heard through our other work. And over 90% of respondents shared one or more of these concerns. Almost 60% were not sure of the services they might need that are specific to the individual's disability. But the other piece that we hear quite often is that they did not want to give their clients advice that would be harmful or detrimental to their access of benefits. And I think that that's really important and we appreciate that the respondents highlighted that. The last thing I'll share on the survey, cause I could go on and on about this survey and the results. But when we asked them their interest in learning more about subpopulations of the disability community , earlier when I mentioned the different types of disabilities - hearing mobility, visual, mental health , uh, emotional, et cetera - we asked which audiences would they like to learn more about. 71% indicated they would like to learn more about individuals with mental health diagnoses, followed by intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Michael Roush:

And I think that that's really important piece for us to understand is that the respondents wanted to learn more about individuals with a mental health diagnoses. So it goes back to, did they recognize that audience as being a part of the disability community or not, but it does provide us great insight that on how we, not only at the National Disability Institute, but other organizations like AFCPE® can strengthen the capacity of financial counselors and coaches to be able to serve people with disability.

Mary Bell Carlson:

Michael, would you also tell us how COVID-19 is impacting people with disabilities?

Michael Roush:

Like many in our country, and of course around the world, COVID-19 has impacted our financial lives and , really has impacted our psychosocial needs. At the National Disability Institute, we really are looking at the current and long-term devastating impact of COVID- 19 that we'll have on the financial and personal health of people with disabilities. You know, as I mentioned earlier about the different research is that, you know, people with disabilities are more likely than those without disabilities to live in poverty, more likely to be in low wage jobs even when employed, and less likely to have accumulated any savings, as well as less likely to come up with funds, if an unexpected need arose. And with COVID-19, I mean, this pandemic has further exacerbated, you know, the situation for people with disabilities and you know, other vulnerable populations. I think one of the key pieces to keep in mind is not only the financial aspect, but social isolation has been a key issue that's impacting people with disabilities during this time. I know for me personally, as an individual, you know, with mental health diagnoses, not being able to be with my friends all the time and not being able to be with family and things like that has created that social isolation and that additional impact. And I think it's important to note that as we looked at the pandemic at the very beginning, we held some listening sessions to really hear about the needs of people with disabilities. And we heard that, you know, there's that fear of not having access to healthcare, the fear of getting COVID-19 and who will support them, you know, could my family come to the hospital, could the individual who provides that personal care be there if I did go into the hospital. There was that fear of, of not being able to pay the bills and really the fear of not having access to the resources or the supports that are available. But through that listening session, one of the things that we had done at the National Disability Institute is we created the Financial Resilience Center that assists people with disabilities to identify resources, but also address questions during this time that they might have , to really be able to give them that updated information and serve as that go-to resource. As part of the center, part of the Financial Resilience Center, we're grateful that NDI has partnered with AFCPE® to provide free financial counseling to people with disabilities.

Mary Bell Carlson:

Michael, you've got so much on your website that is able to help financial professionals and really be a go-to resource for us in working with clients with disabilities. Are there a couple of other areas - you mentioned the financial resiliency center - could you also maybe talk to us more about other areas, including Able Accounts or other things that might be very helpful for a financial counselor coach to know about?

Michael Roush:

Absolutely. So looking at an able account, so an able account is this tax advantage savings account that allows an individual to save up to $15,000 per year. And the important thing about this is, is that it's a protected savings account. So if I'm an individual who's receiving a needs-based benefit or a need-tested benefit and has a resource limit attached to it that states I can't have over $2,000 in my account, or it will impact by eligibility for benefits. But if I open an able account, if I meet the qualifications, then I'm able to save up to $15,000 into that account. The great thing about an able account is not only can I contribute to my able account, but my family members and others can contribute to my able account as well, up to a cumulative total of $15,000. Now it's important to note that with an able account that the funds in that able account can be used for disability-qualified expenses. So that savings in that account is specifically for disability-related, disability-qualified expenses. To learn more about Able Accounts , please go to the Able National Resource Center.

Rebecca Wiggins:

That's so helpful. Thank you, Michael. And just for our listeners to know, we are definitely going to include all the links that you've mentioned because you've been sharing some really great resources for us today. So I want to shift gears just a bit and talk a little bit about the partnership between NDI and AFCPE® and the development of the Financial Inclusions Essential course. And just wondering if you can share with our listeners a little bit more about that program and how AFCPE® professionals can get involved and take that course and learn more about working with people with disabilities.

Michael Roush:

That's great. You know, I'm very proud of Financial Inclusion Essentials, and really the opportunity to work with AFCPE® and putting this together and working with the staff at AFCPE® and developing this. You know , as I was just giving some information on Able Accounts, this course provides additional information on Able Accounts and different things that financial counselor needs to know about Able Accounts. You know, as I sit and think about Financial Inclusions Essentials, you know, the timing of this course, you know, not only based on the feedback on the survey that I shared earlier of financial counselors and financial coaches, that this course can assist financial coaches and counselors really build their capacity and increase their awareness. A little bit about Financial Inclusion Essentials is that it is a self-paced online course that can be accessed by financial counselors, financial coaches, disability, service providers, or others who really want to learn more about building the financial wellbeing of people with disabilities. The course focuses on a variety of modules, looks of course, at who people with disabilities are and understanding that more. Really looks at debunking the myths and the stereotypes, understanding the money management rights and resources of people with disabilities. You know, if I have a guardian or a representative payee. Also talks about tax credits and services, employment resources, and also education on major acquisitions, but of course Able Accounts. You know, one of the things that we really look at at National Disability Institute are the resources and tools that can be available. You know, I may not be able to become an expert on each of these different topics, but the course is designed to give counselors and coaches information, activities to help decipher and understand the information for that knowledge gain, but it also provides discussions and resources. Resources are really important because again, you may not be able to be an expert on public benefit programs, but it provides you with the resources on where to go to get more information or where to guide individuals. So if you want to learn more about Financial Inclusion Essentials, please go to the AFCPE® website, and I think you click on the Education and Training tab, and then you click on Financial Inclusion Essentials. We've had a great response and feedback from those who've completed the course. And again, this we feel is really going to help change and build the capacity and the awareness of financial counselors and financial coaches to be able to better serve or enhance their capacity to serve people with disabilities.

Mary Bell Carlson:

Michael you've given us so many resources and things to consider in our practice. At the end of each interview, we'd like to get the guests two cents or biggest takeaways for our listeners. If you just had one piece of advice to offer other financial professionals, what would it be?

Michael Roush:

Yeah. You know, I think my two cents here and what I want people to, I hope what the l isters have gained from this, and what they'll take away is that, you know, we all serve people with disabilities. You know, whether we're a disability-specific organization or not. You know, it's important for organizations and financial counselors and coaches to really understand who people with disabilities are. And remember that not all disabilities are visible. I think when we create programs or look at our own program that we really have to look at, u m, is it inclusive for all? Is it inclusive for everyone that we serve? I think the other piece that I w ant t o share is that awareness really plays that integral part in building an environment that is really inclusive and equitable for all, including with people with disabilities. And I've know I've used that word awareness quite a bit during the podcast, but I think that that is really the powerful piece as that as we learn more, we're able to serve better. I think the last thing that I would like to say is that I really, really would like to say thank you to AFCPE® and the staff for being a leader in building an organization that is accessible, that's inclusive, and equitable for all, including people with disabilities. This really gives me hope that together, we will see that the proper goal of economic self-sufficiency stated in the great civil rights legislation for people with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act that that economic self-sufficiency can and will be a reality. So I really appreciate the opportunity to share my two cents, but also to recognize AFCPE® for being a leader and building the awareness.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Well, thank you, Michael. That's such a high compliment coming from you, and we have really enjoyed our partnership and look forward to continuing this work together because it's such a journey and something we don't ever want to, you know , turn away from or think that we have all the answers to. So we appreciate your partnership in doing this work.

Michael Roush:

Thank you .

Mary Bell Carlson:

One of the points that I really liked that he brought up during the discussion is that not only are there disabilities that we can see, but importantly, there's disabilities that we can't see, and these individuals still need services and help. And sometimes we don't know that we're serving people with disabilities and to be just aware and keenly aware and flexible in terms of the information you're giving or the way in which you're giving that information to make sure that everyone in that meeting or discussion is a part of it. The other part that I thought was really interesting was how many individuals with disabilities live in poverty and really struggle with financial access and financial means. He said that there are people with disabilities are nearly three times more likely to have extreme difficulty in paying their bills. There is such a need for help with this community that it's really, I'm glad that we're reaching out as financial counselors and especially AFCPE® of having this opportunity for the essential scores, because it's such a need for us to be able to help so many that are not only struggling with their disability, but struggling financially sometimes due to that disability. And one thing we didn't really talk about this with Michael - I kind of wish we had asked him about this - but one thing that came up for me towards the end was, you know, I'm hearing more and more using the term differently, abled versus disability. And for me, what comes up with that is this mindset of equity that it automatically puts you in this frame of mind, that we're all differently abled in a lot of different ways, right? And so then you come at it from that place of what do I need to do for this individual, really meeting people where they are. So we are really excited about the partnership with NDI and the Financial Inclusions Essentials. There is information, and we'll put this in the show notes of how you can access that essential course and earn CEU credits for it, of course.

Rebecca Wiggins:

And we hope that you'll take advantage of that because as Michael said, there's a lot of really good information in there. And I think it just helps everybody expand their skills, their perspective, and understand, as he said, that there are a lot more people who identify as being differently, abled that we need to make sure that we have those skills in that mindset and make making sure that we're really meeting people where they are. So we hope you'll go check out Financial Inclusions Essentials and check out all the show notes. There's going to be tons of resources that you can access from today's session.

Outro:

If you enjoyed the show today, be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. Real Money, Real Experts is available wherever you listen to your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google lay. Share it with a friend and leave us a rating and review. This helps others discover the podcast too . Thanks so much for listening.