Disability Insurance Fundamentals

Disability Insurance Awareness Month

May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to consider how your disability insurance policy factors into your overall financial plan. According to the Council for Disability Awareness, just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds entering the workforce will become disabled for three months or more before they retire. Disability insurance provides a lifeline of cash in the event you’re unable to work by paying you a portion of your income. Read on to learn more about this type of insurance.

Disability insurance pays benefits when you’re unable to earn a living because you’re sick or injured. Most disability policies pay you a benefit that replaces a percentage of your earned income when you can’t work.

Why would you need disability insurance?

Consider what might happen if you suffered an injury or illness and couldn’t work for days, months, or even years. If you’re single, do you have 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’s income support your whole family? In addition, remember that you don’t have to be working in a hazardous position to need disability insurance. Accidents happen not only on the job but also at home, and illness can strike anyone.

What do you need to know about disability insurance?

Once you become disabled and apply for benefits, you have to wait for a certain amount of time after the onset of your disability before you receive benefits. If you are applying for benefits under a private insurance policy, this amount of time (known as the elimination period) ranges from 30 to 365 days, although the most common period is 90 days. Group insurance policies through your employer will generally have a waiting period of no more than eight days for short-term policies that pay benefits for up to six months, and 90 days for long-term policies that pay benefits up to age 65.

You can purchase private disability income insurance policies that offer lifetime coverage, but they are very expensive. Most people buy policies that pay benefits up until age 65; however, two- and five-year benefit periods are also available. Because many injuries or illnesses do not totally disable you, many policies will offer a rider that will pay you a partial benefit if you can work part time and earn some income.

Where can you get disability insurance?

In general, disability insurance can be split into two types: private insurance (individual or group policies purchased from an insurance company), and government insurance (social insurance provided through state or federal governments).

Private disability insurance refers to disability insurance that you purchase through an insurance company. Many types of private disability insurance exist, including individual disability income policies, group policies, group association policies, and riders attached to life insurance policies. Depending on the type of policy chosen, private disability policies usually offer more comprehensive benefits to insured individuals than social insurance. Individually owned disability income policies may offer the most coverage (at a greater cost), followed by group policies offered by an employer or association. Check with your employer or professional association to see if you are eligible to participate in a group plan. If not, contact your insurance broker to look into individual coverage.

Workers’ compensation and Social Security are two well-known government disability insurance programs. If you are a civil service worker, a military service member, or other federal, state or local government employee, many disability programs are set up to benefit you. In general, however, government disability insurance programs are designed to provide limited benefits under restrictive terms, and you should not rely on them (as many people mistakenly do) as your main source of income if you are disabled.

Interested in learning more? Meet with one of our CFS* Financial Advisors at Elevations Credit Union.
*Insurance products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, Inc. (“CFS”). Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are licensed through CFS. The credit union has contracted with CFS to make certain insurance products and services available to credit union members. For specific tax advice please consult a qualified tax professional.
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016.

Author John Marx

John has been in the financial services industry since 1986 and is currently Elevations VP of Wealth Management, in addition to being a registered Financial Advisor through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. He shares helpful tips on investments, insurance and money management.

More posts by John Marx