Am I automatically accepted in the program if I meet all of the necessary requirements?
Unfortunately not. Applicants are admitted into the program based on available funding resources.
This sounds like a great deal, but I thought there was no such thing as free money. What's the catch?
There's no real catch to the Prosperity Accounts. You will NOT have to repay any of this money to United Way or AFI - this is not a loan! There are a few requirements for you to participate. You will have to complete an application, provide supporting documentation, and be accepted into the program before you can open an account. You will have to take some training classes relevant to your asset goal before you can invest in your asset. Also, your savings and the matching dollars you receive can only be used to invest in certain assets.
I can barely make ends meet every month! How do you expect me to save any money?
Most people are surprised by how quickly they are able to find at least $25 per month to save in their account. For some, finding $25 to save can be as easy as rearranging the phone services they pay for every month, but almost never use. For others, having coffee at home instead of buying a cup on the way to work is the way they find extra savings. All of our savers have the opportunity to sign up for the My Budget Coach program to help them create a budget. This serves as a great foundation to help you save and reach your chosen asset goal.
How do we know Prosperity Accounts will be used as intended?
Provisions are built in to ensure compliance. Savers are informed of the eligible uses for Prosperity Accounts, face penalties for misuse, and are motivated to comply because Prosperity Accounts provide a route to their dreams. United Way holds the matching funds in a separate account, and only writes a check at the time the account holder is ready to purchase their asset. Checks are written only to eligible vendors such as the seller of a home or institution furnishing a mortgage; an accredited post-secondary school; a business account established in a federally-insured financial institution; a rental property owner; lease management agency; or an automobile dealer.
Will I lose my Social Security disability benefits if I participate in a Prosperity Account?
No. Participating in a Prosperity Account (also known as Individual Development Accounts – IDAs or Assets For Independence - AFI) will NOT cause you to lose your Social Security disability benefits. Social Security disability benefits can be provided in two ways: through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or through Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For the former (SSDI), any resources or assets do not affect income when determining eligibility or when calculating benefit payment amounts. As for SSI, the Social Security website states explicitly that money saved in an Individual Development Account is not counted when determining SSI eligibility or when calculating benefit payments. Moreover, in response to a question about the affect of IDA savings on SSI benefits, the website states, “Your SSI benefit will not go down—it might even go up!" This is because the earnings, the matching money, and the interest that goes into your IDA do not count as your income or resources when we figure your SSI benefit. In addition, any interest earned on an individual’s own contributions and on matching funds to an IDA is excluded from SSI’s definition of countable income and resources. Payouts from an IDA can be made only for a qualified purpose (such as for a vehicle, home, business capitalization, and higher education or training) or for an allowable emergency (as determined by United Way). These payouts and emergency withdrawals are also not counted as income for SSI purposes.
Do I need a lot of money to open a Prosperity Account?
No. You can open a Prosperity Account for as little as $25!
Where are savings deposited?
Certain designated financial institutions have agreed to establish special Prosperity Accounts, jointly owned by United Way of Frederick County and you.
Will I have access to my money once I deposit my savings into my account?
Because Prosperity Accounts are intended to help people purchase assets, withdrawals for non-asset uses are strongly discouraged. Participants are always free to close their accounts and withdraw from the program but will not receive the match for early withdrawal.
What if I have an emergency and need the savings I have put in my Prosperity Account?
All of our account holders will be allowed to withdraw their savings to help deal with emergencies that involve eviction, loss of a home, loss of employment, and medical emergencies. You'd be able to make this withdrawal without losing your match money, as long as you replace the emergency funds you’ve withdrawn.
How do I receive match funds?
Matched funds will be made available when the saver is ready to purchase an asset. At that time a vendor check will be issued directly to the company, institution or individual furnishing all or a part of a participant’s asset goal (for example: a title company, home inspector, automobile dealership, wholesale supplier, or University). One of the benefits of this process is that the saver is not taxed on the savings match.
Where does all this match money come from?
The Prosperity Account matched savings are funded through a grant from Assets For Independence (AFI) and United Way of Frederick County.
Why would anyone want to provide money for a program like this?
Prosperity Accounts (also known as Individual Development Accounts – IDAs) not only provide savings incentives, but also the opportunity for people to enter the financial mainstream. It is estimated that for each federal dollar invested in IDAs, five dollars go to the national economy in the form of new businesses, additional earnings, new and rehabilitated homes, reduced welfare expenditures, and human capital associated with greater educational attainment.
Is there a chance United Way of Frederick County won't have my money when it comes time for me to buy the asset I've been saving for?
No. United Way of Frederick County will always have the money it needs to match your savings. We'll never open an account unless we have the full amount someone could receive in match dollars up front. We reserve the full amount of match any Investor could receive whenever a new account is opened to ensure that all of our savers will always have access to their funds when they are finished saving.