Why Disability Income Insurance is so critical to your financial wellbeing

If forced to go without your paycheck, how long could you make ends meet? Would you be able to pay your mortgage or rent, purchase groceries, or pay your credit card bill?

This is where disability insurance can be crucial to ensuring that you and your family are taken care of during trying times. If you are unable to work because of an illness or injury, this coverage will replace your income until you are able to return to work.

There are several sources of disability benefits you may potentially access, however, most people are unaware of how little coverage they actually have.

  1. If you suffer a disabling illness or injury that is work related, you may qualify for Workers’ Compensation. It pays up to two-thirds of your pre-disability income up to a maximum of $870.61/wk, which equates to a maximum of $45,172/yr.
  2. State disability insurance programs are short term coverages put in place that typically last up to six months. For example, New York State requires employers to provide short term disability coverage to their employees, however the required amount of coverage is only $170/week!
  3. The federal government also administers Social Security disability insurance; however, qualifying for these benefits is not easy. According to the Social Security Administration, 65% of applications for Social Security disability benefits are initially denied because their definition of disability is so strict. If you do qualify for benefits, however, the application process can take 3 to 5 months before a decision is reached!

“I have disability insurance through work, so I’m covered.” It may be true that you have disability coverage through work, however, exactly how much coverage do you have? How long will it pay in the event of a long term disability?  How disabled do you need to be to qualify for benefits?  Not all disability contracts are created equal!

  1. Employee-Sponsored Coverage: The main source of disability income protection is provided by employers. However, with the exception of state-required short-term disability, employers are NOT obligated to provide disability benefits and most employers DO NOT provide coverage. If coverage is provided, there are two forms: short-term disability typically replaces a percentage of your income for up to three or six months. If an employer plan is rich enough to include long-term disability, it typically pays only 40% to 60% of your base salary, which is often capped at $5,000/mo or $7500/mo.  Most often, this benefit is TAXABLE.  The benefit period can either 2 years, 5 years, or until you reach age 65, depending on the contract.   So if you have lifelong disability, the money will run out during your retirement years, if not before.
  2. Individual Long Term Disability Coverage: Often the most secure coverage is an individual disability insurance policy that you purchase on your own. This policy is portable, meaning you will not have to worry about losing coverage if you change jobs. Most insurance carriers are willing to insure up to 70% to 80% of your take home pay, depending on your occupation and health status. When paid with after-tax dollars, benefits are received income tax free.

“Where do I start?” The first step is to get an understanding of your current level of disability coverage. You need to know (1) how disabled you have to be to qualify for the benefit, (2) how long you have to wait to receive a benefit, (3) how much money is coming through the door during a disability, and (4) how long the benefit pays.  This can be a daunting task, which is why we recommend utilizing the expertise of an experienced insurance advisor who can save you time and frustration in understanding your current coverage. 

It is important to understand all possible options, so that you can accurately support your income needs in the event you do not qualify for the above coverages.  Once you have a disabling event, there are NO OPTIONS to purchase additional coverage!  What you have is what you get at that point. This is why it is imperative to take control of your financial security and be proactive in putting coverage in place for yourself and your family.

We know how important it is for you to support you and your family. During times of medical and financial duress, it is critical to have income coming through the door. Want to have peace of mind and know you are protected in the event of a disabling injury or illness? Contact us today to evaluate your needs and ensure you have the disability insurance necessary to ensure you are best taken care of! Mathew Kryder, a contributor to this blog, is Petschauer Insurance’s Life & Disability Advisor and can be reached at (516) 419-4266 or mkryder@jpins.com.

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