Know Your Income

There are two basic types of income, earned and unearned. You need to understand them both to successfully manage your benefits while working.

Earned income is any money you get for doing physical or mental work. This includes salaries, hourly wages, tips, or fees for work you do as a self-employed independent contractor. Basically, if you are paid to do something, it is considered earned income.

Unearned income is money you get without having to work for it. This includes Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), veterans benefits, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation. It also includes child support payments, alimony, money you get as a gift, income from a trust or investment, or any other money you get that is not from work.

Stay Organized

When you get benefits, you need to keep your benefits information and records organized. And when you get a job, you also need to keep track of your work records.

Keep copies of these records for up to five years:

One way to organize your benefits records and information is to buy a three-ring binder, a three-hole punch, plastic sheet protectors for binders, and a three-hole spiral notebook that you can put inside your binder. Use the hole-punch to put your documents in the binder, placing smaller items in the plastic sheet protectors. Use the notebook to write down anything you do that’s related to your benefits, such as when you mailed in a copy of your pay stub or talked to somebody at an agency (be sure to include the date and the name of the person you talked to). Take your binder with you whenever you meet with a case manager, Benefits Planner, or Social Security claims representative.

You can also keep all of your information digitally on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer. Scan the documents and then save them into an organized Benefits and Work folder that has subfolders for things like letters, pay stubs, and notes. This way, you can look at your documents on your screen, print out copies when needed, or email or text information to people.

You can scan your documents using the camera on your smartphone or tablet. For good quality results, use an app like Google Drive, Scannable, or CamScanner. Many computer printers come with a built-in scanner, and prices for stand-alone computer scanners start at about $50 – $60. You can also use a scanner at an office supply or copy store for a small fee, or use one for free at some organizations, such as a Michigan Works! One Stop Service Center.

Self-employment income

If you are working as an independent contractor or have your own business, you need to keep good business records, including receipts for any work-related expenses (even if someone else paid for the expense) and records of any hours worked by volunteers or other unpaid help you get from others.

Keep copies of your tax returns in your Work and Benefits binder or your online or computer folder, so you have them ready to show when needed. Make sure you talk with the agency you are reporting to, so you know exactly how to report your independent contractor or business income.