Building Your Assets and Wealth

Other Asset-Building Programs

Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

Social Security’s Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) program lets you save money without lowering your income. Usually, if you get SSI monthly cash benefits, your SSI benefits go down when you get income from other sources, like a job or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

If you are in this situation, you probably have to spend a lot of your monthly income on basic expenses like food and housing. This can make it hard to save for things like job training or school.

The PASS program helps make saving easier. It lets you save money for a work-related goal that will help you achieve self-sufficiency. It is easy to use because it protects your income while you save.

You can use a PASS to:

  • Help pay for the cost of school or training
  • Start a business
  • Pay for equipment, support services, and other expenses related to your goal

One of the things that make PASS unique is that it is completely consumer-driven. The PASS plan is about your work goal, what you want to achieve, and what you need to get there.

After you write your PASS, you ask Social Security to approve it. Your plan has to have a realistic goal given your abilities, experience, and educational background.

To set up a PASS, you must:
  • Be on SSI, or become eligible for the SSI program as a result of an approved PASS application
  • Have a source of income other than SSI (for example, SSDI cash benefits or wages from a job), or have assets over $2,000 that you can use to fund your PASS plan. (If you are not eligible for SSI because of the limit on assets, you may be able to move those assets into a PASS and become eligible)
  • Have a work goal that will help you earn enough money to lower your Social Security disability benefits, or get off benefits altogether
  • Be able to write down a plan that shows how saving a certain amount of money will let you reach your work goal. Social Security has staff called PASS Cadre who can help you write your PASS plan
  • Be under age 65. You may be able to set up a PASS if you are 65 or older, if you were getting a SSI cash benefits based on disability or blindness in the month before your 65th birthday

If you already go to college or have a job, you may be able to set up a PASS to help pay for your current work, school, or health expenses.

Income Sources for Funding a PASS

Once you have an approved PASS plan, you will put money into your PASS account to pay for each step along the way to reaching your goal.

You cannot put any money you get from SSI in your PASS account. You must use money from some other source such as income from a job, or money from a spouse or parent.

Applying to the PASS Program

There is a detailed description of how to set up a PASS in the DB101 PASS section. You have to fill out Social Security’s PASS application form. On the application you will describe your goals for work and how you plan to achieve them.

This description should be detailed enough to convince Social Security that:

  • You have a clear plan
  • The plan is something you can realistically do, and
  • If you completed the plan your need for SSI or SSDI would be lowered or eliminated.

Application Assistance

Creating your plan and filling out a PASS application can seem intimidating, but you can get help with every step of the process by talking with a PASS Cadre. A PASS Cadre is a professional who knows about the program and is available to help you take advantage of it. To find a PASS Cadre, click here.

Using a PASS

After your plan is approved, Social Security will send you detailed instructions about how to use your PASS. The instructions are mostly about keeping pass funds and expenses separate from your other money, and keeping good records. You have to follow the rules carefully. To learn more, see DB101's PASS section.

If a medical situation or some other issue comes up that impacts your ability to continue your PASS, talk to your PASS Cadre about your options. In many cases, you will be allowed to put your PASS plan on hold for up to 12 months without having to reapply.

Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program

The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program helps families who get help with their rent from programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

It helps families whose income goes up because of work. When the family income goes up and the program starts paying less for rent, the FSS program takes the money that it saves on rent and sets that money aside for the family. The family can use these savings for purchases, such as the down payment on a home or a car.

The FSS program can help people who get help from programs like:

Check with your public housing authority (PHA) or with the administrator of your housing program to see if the FSS can help you. Learn more about the FSS program.


Clyde and Bertha live with their two children and have $2,000 in monthly income. Due to their low income, they qualify for the Section 8 housing choice voucher program. With the voucher, they pay about $600/month in rent (30% of $2,000), even though their apartment costs $1,800/month. Section 8 pays the remaining $1,200/month.

Bertha starts doing some childcare work and the family income goes up to $3,000 each month. Because her earnings went up, after their annual reexamination they have to pay about $900/month as rent (30% of $3,000), while Section 8 pays the remaining $900/month for the family's apartment. This means that Section 8 is paying $300 less per month than it used to pay and Clyde and Bertha are paying $300 more.

Because the family is part of the FSS program, the PHA that administers Clyde and Bertha's Section 8 benefits takes that $300 extra that they are paying each month and sets it aside for the family. A year later, there is $3,600, which Bertha can use to make the down payment on a car.

Learn more