You probably have insurance policies to protect important things like your house and car. You might even have life insurance to protect your family if something happens to you. But what about your most valuable asset - your ability to work?
Disability is an unpredictable event, and if you become disabled, your ability to earn a living could be severely restricted. Although you may have enough money saved up to meet your short-term needs, how long would that money last if you weren't working? Could it last for months...or even years? The real value of disability income insurance lies in its ability to protect you over the long haul.
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The Odds of Becoming Disabled
Let's take a quick look at the odds of becoming disabled. Here are some important disability statistics to keep in mind:
- Over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire.*
- There's a huge correlation between the number of people who experience a disability and the number of people who declare bankruptcy. Almost 78% of debtors surveyed said their loss of income contributed to their bankruptcy. Also, 44% of debtors surveyed said medical problems caused that loss of income.**
- Most injuries happen off the job, meaning they don't qualify for Worker's Comp. In fact, over 86% of injuries that required a doctor's care happened to workers off the job.^
As these statistics show, your chances of being disabled are actually pretty high. Of course, statistics can be misleading - you might never become disabled. But then again, how many of your friends and family members have been in car accidents? Disability can be caused by illness as well as injury. How many people do you know who have suffered a heart attack or stroke? If you became ill, how would you support yourself or your family?
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What Would Happen if You Were Disabled?
What would happen if you suffered an injury or illness and couldn't work for days, months, or even years? If you're single, you may have no other means of support. If you're married, you may be able to rely on your spouse for income, but you probably also have many financial obligations, such as supporting your children and paying your mortgage. Could your spouse really support you and your family?
Remember that you don't have to be working in a hazardous occupation to need disability income insurance. Accidents happen not only on the job but also at home, and illness can strike anyone. For these reasons, everyone who works and earns a living should consider purchasing disability income insurance.
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What about Government Disability Programs?
You might think that you're protected because you have disability coverage through your employer or through government programs such as Social Security and workers' compensation. However, many employers (especially small employers) do not offer disability benefits, and government programs may pay benefits only if you meet a strict definition of disability. Here's an idea of the benefits you may already have, as well as their limitations:
- Social Security: Although you shouldn't overlook the disability benefits you may be eligible to receive from Social Security, you shouldn't rely on them, either. Social Security denies many claims, in part due to its strict definition of disability. Even if you are deemed eligible for benefits, you still won't begin receiving them until at least six months after you become disabled because Social Security imposes a waiting period. In addition, your benefit may replace only a fraction of your pre-disability income.
- Workers' compensation: If you're injured at work or get sick from job-related causes, you may receive some disability benefits from workers' compensation insurance. The amount you receive depends on the state you live in. However, when you review your disability income insurance needs, remember that workers' compensation pays benefits only if your disability is work related, so it offers only limited disability protection. Some states also cover only the diseases or disabilities outlined in that state's workers' compensation laws.
- Pension plans: Some government and private pension plans pay disability benefits. Often, these plans pay benefits based on total, permanent disability, or reduce your retirement benefit in proportion to what you have already received for a disability. In addition, remember that these benefits are usually integrated with Social Security or workers' compensation, so your benefit may be less than you expect if you also receive disability income from these government sources.
Disability insurance pays you when you can't work because you're sick or hurt. You don't have to worry about Social Security rejecting your claim, or paying tax on any benefits you receive from them. Private disability policies offer tax-free benefits that protect your paycheck.
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*"Overview," Council for Disability Awareness, accessed 5/3/23
**"The Connection between Bankruptcy & Disability: What You Should Know," Thrivent.com, accessed 5/3/23
^"Worker Off-the-Job Safety," National Safety Council's injuryfacts.nsc.org, accessed 5/3/23