Author Topic: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions  (Read 2717 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« on: September 17, 2018, 02:25:43 PM »
I am bipolar and was recommended by my psychiatrist last year to have my social security disability benefits reinstated after attempting unsuccessfully to go back to work.

  • My brand of bipolar means I have very poor impulse control, poor organizational and money management skills every day, not only during manic "high energy" episodes.
  • I have today received a retroactive disability payment of $22,000 because my disability has just been reinstated
  • I will be paid $1600 month from now on with money deducted for insurance
  • My rent is $500
  • I'm working on a budget with my roommate who understands being very frugal
  • Both parents are living nearby, both have been very abusive during the times of my life I am financially dependent on them such as the last year and a half. They are extremely anxious about not having enough money to live on. I am an additional burden
  • There is a supplemental trust set up for my benefit. I don't know anything other than it they say it exists
  • My brother is very supportive towards me, runs interference between my parents. I do not receive $ from him.

While my parents are alive I see the $22,000 as enabling me to protect my mental health and the rest of my well-being from their abuse. Our relationship is a source of intense anxiety among other things. I do not know how to manage the money to do this.

Question 1
What are methods to protect the money from my own tendency to just spend mindlessly?

Question 2

One of the few things my parents do understand is that financial independence on my part removes their power.

Do I disclose the money? To my parents?   My brother?  Neither?


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2018, 02:44:35 PM »
I'll start with number two: DON'T. Your money is your business. You are a vulnerable adult, your parents have been abusive towards you and they and they need money. As you probably know in your gut, disclosing to them that you've received a windfall is a BAD idea. You don't have to feel guilty about not telling them, even if you have been financially dependent on them in the past. It's none of their business. Don't count on the trust - if you end up receiving any money from it ever, you're lucky, but I've heard about a lot of abusive parents using a future inheritance or trust as a carrot to make their offspring obey, and in many cases the money wasn't actually there.

As for number one: I don't know about any legal options that you might have in the US. I know that in my country some banks offer special savings accounts for people with poor impulse control: any withdrawal from the account has to be announced 30 days prior. Another option would be to transfer your nest egg to a separate account and automatically transfer a percentage of your monthly income to that account as well, and leave the account details in a safe with a trusted person, like a solicitor. You'd have access, but you'd have to make an appointment, talk it through, etc. I would pick a professional instead of a relative for this task. There's also the option of a voluntary conservatorship, but I think that's a pretty extreme measure, which should be a last resort.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2018, 02:44:39 PM »
It sounds like you are not capable of managing your finances, especially a large sum like $22k. 

Maybe other members can chime in regarding a if there is some legal way to get help for this, power of attorney, etc.

Have no idea how your relationship is with your brother, but if he is responsible maybe he can assist in making some of the decisions?

Edit - do NOT tell your parents.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2018, 02:56:45 PM by use2betrix »


  • Bristles
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Re: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2018, 03:02:00 PM »
1.  Make it hard to access more then you need.   That might mean you auto deposit in an account in a bank across town, and you have to plan how to get there to to get any cash out.   It can help control your spending by making hard to get you cash in hand.
Use Cash and cashiers checks only.   No Credit or Debit card.   If you MUST have a Credit Card, put it on ice (Literally!) so you can't use it on a whim.  And when you do have to use it, you have to thaw it out so it takes planning ahead! 
Finally I recommend Dave Ramsey Envelope method for the cash on hand.  (Full disclosure, I have never done this method before but I am aware of people whom have, and it seems to help them out.)

2.  Your money is your business.  If you trust your brother not to blab then maybe tell him something but not everything.  The where and how you get your freedom (in this particular case) is your business and the only person that needs to know, is you.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2018, 03:04:02 PM »
My sister has special needs and my grandparents set up a trust for her, so I have a bit of knowledge on this. Chances are you're entitled to an accounting of the activity and balances of any trust for which you're a beneficiary at least annually. You should also be entitled to be given a copy of the trust document if you request it. Both of these requests should be made to the trustee of the trust.

Where does your disability income come from? Given the amount I'm guessing you're on SSDI, not SSI, but if I'm wrong and some part of what you receive is need based instead of something you're entitled to because of your work history then that opens up a whole new set of issues in making sure this $22k doesn't make you ineligible for benefits.

Are either of your parents collecting social security? If so you may be eligible to collect on their record, which might increase your benefit (probably not, but could be worth looking in to).

At what age were you diagnosed? If you can show you were disabled before the age of 26 you might be able to open an ABLE account which could be helpful.

Knowing yourself, will financial penalties for withdrawing money from an account in a way that's against the rules help with impulse control, or do you need it locked away more securely than that (such that you literally can't access it)?


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2018, 03:07:46 PM »
Question, did SSI award you with a rep-payee? and/or is that something that you can request?

I only know this from the banking standpoint, Rep payees are for people that cannot manager their own funds. The check would be written "to you/for you" but only your rep-payee could disperse/cash and withdrawal the funds from a financial institution. 
For obvious reasons, you wouldn't want that person to be your parents. If they're abusive don't tell them shit!! But I think we are all interested to see if your brother treats you right? or if there is someone more removed (cousin  or aunt) but still a trusted person that could help?


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2018, 08:50:57 PM »
Where I live in Canada, we have something called a Substitute Decision Maker that can be assigned for any or all areas of life, such as financial, medical, etc.  Obviously this must be someone you trust and someone who is willing to do it.  It can be revoked or changed whenever the person wants.  This is done through the Vulnerable Person's Office.  Usually, the person is someone with a cognitive disability, but perhaps there is something similar where you live.  You could also ask your psychiatrist for a resource or check with your local Mental Health Association or equivalent.
I agree that you should keep the payouts to yourself, given your past difficult family relationships.  If you do not have sound financial judgement, you do not want to put yourself in a position to be influenced or taken advantage of.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2018, 10:08:10 PM »
Could you set up automatic monthly payments to cover your regular bills, such as rent, and leave the rest of the money in a savings account that can only release a few transactions per month?  Would that be enough to limit the impulses?

A monthly payment could be used to purchase a debit card every month for daily living expenses such as groceries. Would that system work for you?

Similarly, could you invest the bulk of the $22k in an investment account, such as a mutual fund at Vanguard, which only releases funds after delay of 48 hours or more? In theory, the investment could provide somewhat for the future, while the monthly payment covers your regular bills.  Would the 48 hour delay be enough?

Or is a trustee needed - someone who controls the money so that it's impossible for you to spend too much of it?


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2018, 10:44:33 PM »
+1 to a trust.

But FIRST, become profoundly familiar with the laws and policies of the income source. They may have specific rules about:

*what level of savings is acceptable
*what kind of trust would be acceptable
*who can and cannot be a trustee
*how any amount can be disbursed
*what record-keeping and/or reporting of that is required, and when

Their rules about these will determine what kind of trust you will set up, and under what terms.


1. Usually best to have a lawyer experienced with Trusts and SSDI set it up.

2. For many people, it's better to have a nonfriend/nonrelative be a trustee. Then if you disagree with any limits they set on your requests, there is no relationship lost. An agency can act as trustee. They often take a percentage (e.g., 1% of the trust's capital per year), though.

3. The amount in the trust, you can invest. When you're ready to do so, make a new thread about the best allocations, etc.

4. If all the money will be used up at some point (e.g., deposit on a house), don't end the trust. Leave $1 in it to keep it open, so you don't have to pay fees to collapse it...nor big fees to create a new one if more money comes.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2018, 03:19:00 PM »
I have made appt with a financial planner I met with previously.  He talked not in depth about having a brother with mental disability he had made arrangements for. We did not address my needs that way because I was still working.

I also do not want to run afoul of legal requirements of these things.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Bipolar & Disabled -- money questions
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2018, 04:27:00 PM »
SYW, there may be a disability advocacy/support agency in your region, too, that will be familiar with the related laws and steps.