A disability often occurs when you least expect it. If it happens to you, you could find yourself in a shaky financial position without disability insurance coverage according to a new study.
Market researcher Opinauri, Inc., conducted an online survey on behalf of The Hartford that questioned 971 U.S. adults, aged 18-64, during February 2008. The majority of the participants were married with children, working full time and earning between $50,000 and $100,000 annually.
Seventy percent of those who responded to the survey said that they were meeting their expenses with little or nothing left over after paying bills. Eight percent said they were unable to meet current household expenses. But a staggering ninety-five percent admitted that they would need to alter their lifestyle if they lost part of their family’s income for three to six months. However, despite this admission, only half of those polled said they had short- or long-term disability insurance to cover their needs should the unexpected happen.
It’s easy to conclude from the survey data that many Americans are trying to make ends meet while juggling significant debt. Walking this kind of tightrope makes them extremely vulnerable if a disability strikes.
Even more disconcerting is that many Americans are facing this risk without any form of income protection because they don’t believe they need it. One in four survey participants said they are more likely to win a lottery than suffer from an injury or illness for three to six months. However, the Social Security Administration paints an entirely different picture. The agency says U.S. workers have a one-in-three chance of becoming disabled at some time during their working life, putting the odds squarely in favor of experiencing a disability over collecting a lottery payout.
Given how real the possibility is that you could experience a disability, it makes sense to investigate your insurance options. The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) says that about half of all mid-sized and large employers provide some type of long-term disability income insurance. Even if you are fortunate enough to work for a company that offers group disability coverage, the plan likely only pays 50-60% of your current income in the event of a disability. If you’re like most Americans, a 50-60% income replacement is not going to suffice, so you should explore a supplement to your group policy.
Here are some items to consider if you need to find a private policy to supplement the long-term disability coverage provided by your employer:
· How does the policy define “disability?” – Are you considered disabled if you can’t perform your specific job, or if you can’t perform any job, for which you are qualified by training, experience and education?
·When do payments begin? – Is the waiting period pre-determined, or can you choose the length of time you wait before benefits begin? The longer you can wait for payments to start, the lower your premiums.
· To what extent must you be disabled before benefits begin? – Must you be totally disabled, or can you receive benefits for a limited time if you are partially disabled? In order to receive benefits for a partial disability, must it follow a period of total disability for the same cause?
· Can you receive residual benefits? – If you resume work on a modified schedule because of your disability, does the policy pay you residual benefits to make up the difference in your income?
· How long will you receive benefits? – You can receive benefits for two years, five years, ten years, or until you turn 65. The longer the benefit period, the higher your premiums.
·Does the policy have a “waiver of premium” provision? – Policies containing this provision permit the insured to stop paying premiums if they are disabled for 90 days or more.