Looking for that first professional position can be overwhelming and frustrating for those with positive attitudes and a great deal of resilience. Add the complications that come with living with a disability and the job hunt may feel like climbing a summit. Here are eight ways to establish a disability income or basic income.
One of the kindest things you can do for yourself is take the pressure off. Recognize that you may not have enjoyed the same opportunities as your peers without disabilities. You may need to acknowledge:
- You may not have been able to work while attending school. Your energy level may have been too low or your studying took all of your spare time.
- You may have taken more years to complete your degree because you needed to take fewer hours each semester.
- You couldn't work during the summer because you needed to rest for your physical or mental health.
- Despite the ADA, you may not have had access to the same opportunities because of your disability.
Without the experience that comes from pre-professional jobs, you may need to be creative to demonstrate that you are responsible, personable, and have much to offer. It may take longer to land the right fit for you.
Basic Income for Disability
To take pressure off the job hunt, establish a "basic income". You may be able to get some income by:
- Consider filing for Supplemental Social Security Income - If you have not worked in the past and your disability may prevent you earning an income, you can apply for SSI and Medicaid. While the financial limits are extremely low on SSI, you can use the Ticket to Work program to launch you attempt to work. You may be able to continue to receive SSI to meet expenses needed to allow you to work.
- Consider filing for Social Security Disability - If you are under the age of 26, yet you have worked for at least one and a half years and made more than $1,300 each three months of that period ($5,200/year), you may qualify for SSDI on your own work record. If one or more parents are retired and collecting Social Security, you may file for SSDI on their work record. Working does not prevent you from qualifying for disability, but there is a limit to what you can earn while collecting. However, you may have access to Medicare and/or Medicaid for several years while working.
Basic Income by Working
- Work part-time, temp, or freelance - If you were unable to work much prior to launching your career, you may need to gain some experience in a pre-professional job. Consider working part-time, doing freelance work, or working with a temp agency to gain valuable "soft skills" needed for your professional career.
- Set up a side hustle - Turn your freelance work record into a part-time business with quality work and high reviews. Elevate your rate as your work speaks for itself.
- Tutor or work as a teaching assistant - WyzAnt and VIPKids allow you to tutor online and make a reasonable part-time income. Teaching assistants and local school tutors often earn a low hourly wage, but such jobs provide medical insurance, a two-week winter break, and summers off without the stress of classroom management. Search the area school district websites in the spring and early summer for jobs in the fall.
- Trade your services for living expenses - Services such as pet sitting, house sitting, or remote work may allow you to cover some of your living expenses while job hunting. Other arrangements include trading child care for living arrangements, but be sure the services you provide are within your energy level!
Ways to Reduce Expenses
- Move back home - One of the most difficult decisions can be to "move back home" during a period of unemployment or waiting for that first professional job. Take the initiative to form an agreement for your room & board, set appropriate boundaries, inform your "landlords" of your progress, and set a reasonable deadline for moving out. You can amend your agreement at any time, but it will empower you to take control and make progress.
- Save, save, save! - Working part-time may not meet your expenses even if you are frugal. However, if you do earn a fair bit right after graduation, remember that student loans payments and other expenses may only be deferred so long. Consider trying to live as though you are still a student and arrange for income-based repayment on your student loans where appropriate.
If you have more ideas for creating a "basic income" so that you can take your time looking for that professional gig without pressure, comment below!