An Individual Development Account (IDA) is a type of account that allows you to save up money to buy a home, pay for higher education, or fund your small business. To open an IDA, you must find an IDA program in your area and meet certain eligibility requirements.

There are more than 250 IDA programs nationwide and their eligibility requirements vary. Usually, your annual income must be within 200% of the Federal Poverty Level ($24,280) and you must have some form of earned income. You must also take financial education training once you’re enrolled in the program.

The biggest benefit of an IDA is that, after a you have been enrolled for a sufficient amount of time, matching funds will build up for you with the IDA program. Once you are in good standing, have completed all of the financial literacy classes, and are ready to start using the money in your IDA, the IDA program will pay your matched funds directly to the school, business, bank, or whomever you need to pay to achieve your goal. Another benefit is that some federally funded IDA programs allow you to save up money without having to worry about Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medi-Cal asset limits.

Example

José is in an IDA program which offers a 2:1 match. That means that for every dollar he puts into his account, he gets $2 from his IDA program. He decides to deposit $50 into his account each month for 6 months.

José’s deposits: 6 months x $50 = $300

His IDA program’s match is: 6 months x $100 = $600

The total amount of money available to Jose at the end of 6 months:

$300
+$600
$900

The IDA allows José to save 3 times as much money as he otherwise would have done. It’s enough money for him to start attending community college in the fall.