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Enabling Adults Living With a Disability to Spend Their Own Money and Increase Their Independence with True Link

Enabling Adults Living With a Disability to Spend Their Own Money and Increase Their Independence with True Link

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With True Link, families can easily adjust settings on the dashboard to meet an individual’s specific needs – whether that’s to help prevent spending mistakes, scam attempts, and more – and your loved one can still make some purchases on their own.

In this article, we’ll walk through a few examples of how customers can adjust their dashboard settings so the True Link Visa® Prepaid Card will work for their specific needs.

David Learns Good Spending Habits
Brad Struggles to Help Niece as her Trustee
Paula worries less about her son’s spending
Trust Officer Desiree Prepares to be Audited
Tim Helps his Sister as Trustee

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David Learns Good Spending Habits 

David is a 20-year-old basketball fan who loves to delight his friends and family with his extensive knowledge of NBA history and stats. Diagnosed with autism in first grade, David now lives in a group home with other young adults with developmental disabilities. Alongside other residents, he is getting to practice essential life skills like money management, household cleaning, and cooking. While David didn’t know his way around the kitchen before moving into the home, he’s found a lot of joy in preparing simple, nutritious meals for his friends. 

As part of the money management curriculum at his group home, David is learning about making purchases on his own. Before these lessons, David found himself overwhelmed the few times he’d tried buying something at a store – which item should he choose; what if there isn’t a price tag; should he do self-checkout or get in a line with a cashier; does he need a bag or not; does he need a PIN number for his parent’s card; what if the card doesn’t go through? But with the group home’s help, David now has a step-by-step plan to guide him through this process, and they’ve practiced what to do if something goes wrong. 

They also provide every resident with a True Link Visa Card. 

When setting up a new True Link Visa Card, the administrators choose from two versions of default settings – one for people who do not receive public benefits – like David – and one for those who do and need additional guardrails in place. Every resident starts with a balance limit of $50 to help avoid costly spending mistakes, and alerts are configured to send a daily digest to the home’s administrators to make sure everything checks out. For those individuals receiving public benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Medicaid, True Link makes it easy to block access to cash or spending categories like food that could compromise benefits. 

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Steps to set it up:

  1. In the transfer tab, connect David’s parent’s bank account, as they’re supporting him for now, and schedule a recurring transfer of $50 to land on the True Link Visa Card on the first and third Tuesday of the month. 
  2. Under the alerts tab, toggle the daily digest email and confirm the email address
  3. Since David doesn’t receive benefits, food and cash can stay unblocked 

Thanks to the skills he’s been practicing at the group home, David has enjoyed making purchases for himself, and he’s become more comfortable navigating any obstacles that come up. Over time, the True Link Visa Card has become one of his most prized possessions. He loves searching for Phoenix Suns memorabilia at the local thrift store and regaling his friends with highlights from their last 20 seasons.

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Brad Struggles to Help Niece as her Trustee

Brad hadn’t planned on acting as a trustee for his niece’s trust. Months before his sister passed away, she asked Brad to take on the role of trustee for her daughter, Natalie, and Brad didn’t feel like he could say “no”.

Growing up, Natalie was a bit of an anxious child who often found solace in being around animals. Since her junior year of high school, Natalie has struggled with mental health and substance abuse disorders. Now 27 years-old, she finds it difficult to hold down a job but regularly volunteers at the local animal hospital. 

Natalie’s mom knew that keeping her daughter afloat financially would be a challenge in her absence. When things got hard, almost all of Natalie’s money would go towards alcohol, and her mom didn’t want her inheritance to be depleted right away. That’s why she had worked with a knowledgeable Elder Law Attorney to draft a trust with clear parameters on how funds could be used (e.g., rent was ok, alcohol was not). 

Upon his sister’s passing, Brad was named trustee and became responsible for overseeing Natalie’s use of trust funds. The first several months were particularly rocky: Natalie was having a hard time accepting the new boundaries placed around her spending, and she was constantly calling Brad with requests for more money. As a new trustee with a full-time job and two teenage sons himself, Brad was finding it difficult to accompany Natalie to the bank several times a week or to the store each time she needed to make a purchase. He knew that abiding by the trust's requirements was essential to protect Natalie's financial wellbeing, but he needed a better solution. 

After searching through family forums about how other families have dealt with these challenges, he learned about True Link and decided to give it a try. 

Before giving Natalie her new True Link Visa Card, Brad adjusted the Visa card’s settings to block purchases that went against the rules of the trust (e.g., liquor stores, bars). But he left other categories of purchase open so Natalie could make everyday purchases on her own – like when she needs a haircut, or wants to buy a pizza to share with friends.

Prior to True Link, Natalie was calling Brad nonstop when she needed money. Now, she knows she can rely on a $100 deposit each Monday, and can still use the Visa card at her favorite stores. When she needs to make a bigger purchase – like for a new winter coat – she can ask Brad to load more money (they’ve switched to texting, so Brad doesn’t get interrupted at work), and he’ll temporarily adjust the settings for that merchant.

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Steps to set it up:

  1. In the transfer tab, connect the trust bank account to the True Link Visa Card and schedule a recurring transfer of $100 to land weekly on Mondays
  2. In the spending monitor tab, click “block” next to liquor stores, bars, and cash
  3. Adjust settings (temporarily) to allow purchases under $200 at Burlington Coat Factory
  4. Set text alerts and receive a message when the balance drops below $20

The True Link Visa Card has helped bring peace of mind to Brad's role as trustee. With fewer urgent calls, less trips to the bank, and a reduction of tense moments, Brad feels more confident in his ability to manage the trust while empowering Natalie to live her life to the fullest, within the trust's parameters. Natalie has been asking about adopting a cat from a local shelter, and Brad is coming around to the idea. His sons are even helping Natalie brainstorm names on the family text thread. 

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Paula worries less about her son’s spending

When Ricardo was born with Down’s Syndrome, his mother, Paula, was worried about whether he would lead a fulfilling life. And while things aren’t always easy for Ricardo, his supportive family and community have helped him grow into a joyful young man. One of Ricardo’s favorite activities is going to the local game store for Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) night on Wednesdays. He loves painting his own D&D miniatures and showing them off every week. Over the years, Paula has become less nervous about Ricardo’s health and happiness, and more concerned about his financial wellbeing. 

Years ago, when establishing Ricardo’s Supplemental Needs Trust (SNT), Paula had elected to serve as his trustee. Ricardo relies on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to cover the costs of his housing and food, and since stepping into her role, Paula had worried constantly about him accidentally using trust funds for purchases that could compromise these benefits. She’d been reading up on “in kind support and maintenance” and its impact on SSI – for Paula, the stress of Ricardo unintentionally losing these funds was becoming overwhelming.

That's when a fellow mom recommended True Link. 

With True Link, Paula doesn’t have to rely on Ricardo remembering to not order a milkshake when he goes out with friends after game night. Instead, she can customize where the True Link Visa Card works and where it doesn’t – blocking transactions at restaurants or via food delivery apps, while still allowing Ricardo to buy paint and miniature supplies from a reputable hobby store online. 

With True Link, Paula can also ensure Ricardo stays on budget by refilling his Visa card with $60 from his trust account every week, and preventing transactions over $25. Ricardo understands that there are limits for how much he can spend, and he knows he can text True Link’s automated phone system at any time he wants to check his balance.

<div style="padding:47.5% 0 0 0;position:relative;"><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/858412090?h=84aabd527d&amp;badge=0&amp;autopause=0&amp;player_id=0&amp;app_id=58479" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen; picture-in-picture" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" title="Paula Worries Less about her Son’s Spending"></iframe></div><script src="https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js"></script>

Steps to set it up:

  1. In the transfer tab, connect the trust bank account to the True Link Visa Card and schedule a recurring transfer of $60 to land on the True Link Visa Card, weekly on Wednesday mornings
  2. In the spending monitor tab, click block next to restaurants, grocery stores, cash, and online purchases
  3. Add an exception for purchases made online at Harry’s Hobby Store 
  4. Set text alerts and receive a message when the balance drops below $20

This system worked well for the last year of Ricardo living under his parent’s roof. When he transitioned to a group home a few months ago, he was able to take the True Link Visa Card with him and continue using it the way he always had – though Paula has updated weekly transfer amounts to $80. And while Paula can’t monitor Ricardo’s as closely as when they lived together, she values the peace of mind True Link has given her and knows if she’s ever worried, she can always review her son’s recent transactions. 

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Trust Officer Desiree Prepares to be Audited

Sharon lived at home in a small Midwest city until her early 40’s, but moved into a subsidized apartment closer to town after her mom passed away. In order to protect Sharon’s benefits eligibility – for things like Social Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, and Section 8 housing – her parents set up a Supplemental Needs Trust. They considered asking Sharon’s sister Lisa to act as trustee, but ultimately decided that their relationship would be better if they kept financial decision-making out of it. After interviewing professional trust officers to take on the role, they chose Desiree, a trust officer at their local bank to manage the trust.

One of the reasons Sharon’s parents went with their local bank was because of Desiree’s extensive knowledge of the rules governing special needs trusts. They felt confident she would follow the rules and maintain detailed records so Sharon could remain eligible for her benefits.

They also liked that the bank uses True Link. During their interviews for potential trust officers, Desiree explained how this system would help give Sharon the independence and autonomy to spend funds on what she needed while helping her avoid spending mistakes that could compromise her public benefits. It’s also more efficient for everyone – Sharon could access the funds she needed quickly, Desiree’s team didn’t have to print and mail physical checks, and they can also use the portal to pay recurring expenses directly. This is great for things like Sharon’s weekly tap dance classes, her monthly T-mobile bill, and her Netflix subscription.

Desiree finds the True Link Visa Card particularly useful when Sharon (or any SNT beneficiary) has an emergency need for funds. When Sharon’s old smart phone died one Thursday, Desiree was able to fund the Visa Card with $500 that Sharon could use at the T-mobile store the next day. Sharon appreciated that she didn’t have to reschedule her regular weekend Facetime call with her siter, and her niece, Ava.

<div style="padding:47.5% 0 0 0;position:relative;"><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/858417866?h=d9c82c7d51&amp;badge=0&amp;autopause=0&amp;player_id=0&amp;app_id=58479" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen; picture-in-picture" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" title="Trust Officer Desiree Prepares to be Audited"></iframe></div><script src="https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js"></script>

Steps to set it up:

  1. In the transfer tab, connect the trust bank account to the True Link Visa Card and schedule a recurring transfer of $75 to land on the True Link Visa Card, weekly on Monday mornings
  2. In the spending monitor tab, use the default settings for SNT beneficiaries which blocks grocery stores, restaurants, housing payments, utilities, and 
  3. Set email alerts for a daily digest of all transactions (across all clients)
  4. Schedule a one-time emergency transfer of $500 

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Tim Helps his Sister as Trustee 

Katie is the beneficiary of a Specials Needs Trust (SNT) her parents set up through their estate planning process. After Katie’s parents passed away, the trust was funded by a life insurance payout and other inheritance funds. Tim, Katie’s brother, took on the role of trustee. 

Diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in her early 20s, Katie lives a 40-minute drive from Tim in West Virginia. She works a few shifts a week at a local restaurant and often spends her free time hiking around the Appalachian mountains. 

Katie can typically manage her money on her own, but because she receives Social Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, there are certain rules she and Tim must follow. To remain eligible for her full benefits, Katie can’t receive cash, checks, or gift cards from the trust or use the funds to purchase food. Tim told his sister about the True Link Visa Card, and they decide this is a good way for Katie to access her trust funds. 

The Visa Card shows Katie’s name on it and works wherever Visa cards are accepted; no one can tell that the Visa card is connected to a trust or that anyone else is managing it. This allows Katie to have autonomy when shopping – whether she’s buying things online or in a store. To align with the benefits rules, Tim can go into the True Link dashboard and “turn off” vendors that sell food and block cash withdrawals at ATMs and at the point of sale as “cash back.” 

When Katie experiences a manic episode, Tim can put additional restrictions in place. During periods where she’s stopped taking her medications, Katie has gone on wild spending sprees – purchasing items she doesn’t need, ignoring the budget she and Tim agreed on, and offering to buy things for strangers. Now, when Tim sees signs that this might be happening, he can restrict purchases over a certain amount and block additional vendors he knows to be trouble spots for her. Once Katie is feeling more stable, he can easily go back into the dashboard and adjust these settings. 

Tim monitors the spending activity and the Visa Card balance through the app on his computer or phone, and puts more money onto the Visa card when it’s getting low. He prefers doing this funding manually from a connected account instead of scheduling automatic funding transfers, so he can spot when Katie might need help. He’s relieved to know that if Katie has an urgent need for funds, money can be transferred from the trust to the Visa Card within minutes, and he’s set up an alert for when the balance gets below $50. 

Steps to set it up a Visa Card like Katie’s:

  1. In the spending monitor tab, block restaurants, grocery stores, food delivery apps.
  2. Block all access to cash
  3. Block Amazon and Ebay - where Katie most often ends up overspending during manic episodes
  4. Set up an alert for when balance falls below $50 
  5. Set $200 spending limit 

Initially, Katie was worried that Tim managing her trust was going to keep her from living the life she wanted. But with True Link, she rarely thinks about Tim’s role in her financial life and is happy to have someone looking out for her.

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