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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a safety-net government benefit for older, disabled and blind people in financial need. The Social Security Administration (SSA), which administers the program, sets strict limits on how much money SSI beneficiaries can earn and on the level of financial assets, such as savings or stocks, they can own.
To be eligible for SSI, an individual cannot have more than $2,000 worth of what Social Security calls “countable resources.” For a married couple, the spouses’ combined assets cannot exceed $3,000. Resources topping those levels are grounds for Social Security to reject an application for SSI, and to withhold or terminate benefits if you’re already getting them.
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The SSA defines resources as things of value that you own, including:
- Bank accounts
- Financial investments such as stocks and bonds
- Life insurance
- Personal property
- Anything else you own that could be changed to cash and used for food or shelter
Say you have $800 each in checking and savings accounts and no other financial assets. You could qualify for SSI, assuming you also meet the criteria for income and age or disability. However, if in addition to that $1,600 in the bank you have $5,000 in a mutual fund or individual retirement account (IRA), you cannot receive SSI.
Social Security also may count some “deemed resources” toward your limit. These are assets belonging to a spouse, parent or in-law that you live with or, if you’re an immigrant, to a sponsor who supports your U.S. residency.