How to Tell the Difference Between the (Super Confusing) Income and Resource Rules for SSI

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Robin Mead

Are you feeling confused about SSI financial policies?

Did you ask the same question ten times and get ten different answers from ten different people?

There are two very common reasons this happens.

🌷One: Someone is confusing SSI with SSDI. Learn the difference.

🌷 Two: Someone is confusing the income rules with the resource rules. Learn the difference:

Income and Resource Rules

🌷Anything you earned this month is treated as income. Anything someone gave you this month is treated as income. It doesn’t matter what it is: Cash, bonds, checks, presents, cars, houses, tigers, rocks. It’s income. Social Security will apply the income rules.

🌷Anything you got last month is a treated as a resource. On the last second of the last day of the month, your income magically turns into a resource. Now your cash, bonds, checks, and tigers are all treated as resources. Social Security will apply the resource rules.

🌷 Once something is a resource, it keeps being a resource forever. Apply the resource rules forever (or until you no longer have that thing).

🌷 Links to income and resource rules are at the bottom of this page.

Calendar Month

Social Security goes by calendar month.

🌷 If you get something on January 1 and no longer have it on January 20, you’ve had it for one month.

🌷 If you get something on January 29 and still have it on February 2, you’ve had it for two months.

What happens if you spend your income before the last day of the month?

Nothing happens. It is treated as income for a little while, and then it is gone. It is never treated as a resource.

Exception

One rule to watch out for is the “transfer of resource” rules. These rules can apply any time, even when you first receive something at it is not yet a countable resource. Transfer of resources is when you give money or items away. Transferring resources can cause problems in some situations. More information on transferring resources is on this page

Will Income and Resources Affect My SSI Check?

Maybe. Maybe not.

🌷 Many kinds of income do not count. These are called “excluded income.”

🌷 Many kinds of resources do not count. These are called “excluded resources.”

🌷 Some non-cash items are excluded as resources. If an item is excluded as a resource, it is automatically excluded as income as well. Neat trick!

🌷 You can learn all about excluded income and excluded resources in the links at the bottom of this page.

Here’s a few examples that will (we hope) show the difference between income and resources:


Suzy Pays a Bill

Suzy receives $5,000 from her mom in January 15. On January 20th she pays a medical bill. The money for the medical bill clears out of her checking account on January 25. By close of business on January 31, all the money has been spent.

Suzy has income for 1 month and resources for 0 months. She loses 1 month of SSI.

Suzy Waits and Pays a Bill

Suzy receives $5,000 from her mom on January 15. She keeps the money and on February 2 she pays a medical bill. The money for the medical bill clears out of her checking account on February 16.

Suzy has income for 1 month and resources for 1 month. She loses 2 months of SSI.

Suzy’s Mom Pays a Bill

Suzy receives $0 from her mom in January 15. On January 20th her mom pays Suzi’s $5,000 medical bill. According to SSI regulations for bills, someone else is allowed to pay your medical bills and this is excluded as income.

Suzy has income for 0 month and resources for 0 months. She loses 0 months of SSI.

Suzy Buys a Savings Bond

Suzy receives $5,000 from her mom in January 15. On January 20th she buys a Savings Bond. She keeps the savings bond for one year. After one year, she cashes out the savings bond and spends the money.

Suzy has income for 1 month and resources for 12 months. She owes back money for 13 months of SSI.

Suzy Buys a Car

Suzy receives $5,000 from her mom in January 15. On January 20th she buys a car. The money for the car clears out of her checking account on January 25. By close of business on January 31, all the money has been spent. This is Suzy’s only car and according to the SSI regulations for countable resources, one car is excluded as a resource.

Suzy has income for 1 month and resources for 0 months. She loses 1 month of SSI.

Suzy Gets a Car as a Present

Suzy’s mom has a car worth $5,000. She gives Suzy the car as a gift. According to the SSI gift regulations, a non-cash gift that is excluded as a resource is also excluded as income.

Suzy has income for 0 month and resources for 0 months. She loses 0 month of SSI.

Suzy’s Wife Buys a Car

Suzy receives $5,000 from her mom in January 15. On January 20th she buys a car. The money for the car clears out of her checking account on March 25. By close of business on March 31, all the money has been spent. However, Suzy’s wife already has a car, so now they have two cars. According to SSI regulations, a second car does count as a resource. Both cars have a high equity value. Eleven months later, Suzy comes up for a financial review. When SSI sees that she has two cars, they request money back.

Suzy has income for 1 month and resources for 10 months. She owes back 11 months of SSI.


SSI Resource Rules

How Do the Resource Limit Rules Work?

What Counts as a Resource?

How to Handle If You Are Over the Resource Limit

Safe Ways to Save or Spend Money

How Am I Allowed to Spend Money While on SSI?

How Am I Allowed to Save Money While on SSI?

SSI Income Rules

How Does Income Affect My SSI Check?

How You Can (and can’t) Make Money While on SSI

I’m On SSI. Can Someone Else Pay My Bills?

I’m on SSI. Can someone give me a gift or inheritance?

I’m on SSI. Can I Start an Online Fundraiser?

Learn More

How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI – All SSI regs

How to Survive on SSI – Financial survival, life survival, the whole shebang