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Critical Life Needs

A whole life or term life policy is a valuable tool to help you protect your family from the unexpected. However, life is full of surprises…and other tools such as critical illness insurance and disability income insurance can help provide extra protection and peace of mind.

Disability Income

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Importance of Disability Income Insurance

Your most important asset is not your home, your car, your jewelry or other possessions. It’s your ability to earn a living. All of your plans for the future are based on the assumption that you will continue to earn a paycheck until you retire. But what would happen if those paychecks stopped? That’s where disability insurance comes in. It provides income to you and your family if you are unable to work because of illness or injury.

Think about how much you earn in a year and what that would be over a lifetime. The financial consequences of a disability could cost you millions. A 25-year-old worker who makes $50,000 a year and suffers a permanent disability could lose $3.8 million in future earnings.1 You don’t hesitate to insure your home, car and other valuable possessions, so why wouldn't you insure something that is much more valuable than all those things?

If you’re still not convinced that your income is worth insuring, think about how long you’d last without your paycheck before you’d have trouble paying for everyday expenses. In the event of a disabling illness or injury, disability insurance provides you and your family with a source of replacement income to help make ends meet until you’re able to return to work.

Explore this section to learn more about disability coverage, including the different sources of disability income protection and ways to get coverage. The Disability Insurance Needs Calculator can help you determine how much coverage you need.

1 LIFE Foundation, 2015

How much disability income insurance do I need?

Your chances of becoming disabled are far greater than your chances of dying. It may surprise you that in December of 2012, there were over 2.5 million disabled workers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s receiving Social Security insurance benefits due to a disability.*

* Source: Social Security Administration, Disabled Worker Beneficiary Statistics, ssa.gov

How much disability income insurance will you need? View our calculator to find out.

View the Calculator

Who needs it?

If you have a job, you may want to consider disability insurance. Just over one in four of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled at some point during their working years.2  And one worker in eight can expect to be disabled for five or more years before retirement.4

For many, a sudden interruption of income could have serious financial consequences. Most of us have some kind of personal debt, typically a mortgage or credit card bills. Would you be able to maintain your standard of living if you were too ill or injured to work? Nearly half (46%) of all home foreclosures in the United States result from disability4, as do an alarming number of personal bankruptcies.

Determine your chances of becoming disabled and see how much you will earn in your lifetime by using our calculator tools in the coming steps.

2,3,4 Council for Disability Awareness, 2015

Life events

From time to time, things happen that create a need for you to reevaluate your disability insurance coverage. This section examines the most common types of life events that trigger the need to reassess your disability insurance needs.

Changes at Work

If you have group disability insurance through your employer, benefits typically replace a fixed percentage of your salary. If you get a raise, your disability benefit will adjust upward. An exception would be if you are a well-compensated employee and your income already places you at your company's maximum monthly cap for disability payments, often set around $4,000 or $5,000. In these instances, if you get a raise and you're concerned about the loss of income that would occur if you were to become disabled, you can always seek to supplement your group coverage with an individually purchased policy.

If you work for a company that provides a group benefit but decide to go into business for yourself, individual coverage is available. If you're self-employed and your income increases significantly, you can increase coverage you already own or purchase a supplemental policy.

Changes at home

If you become disabled and are unable to work, you'll be in trouble if you don't have a source of replacement income to help make ends meet. That need becomes even more pronounced when other people depend on your income. So every time there's a change in your family situation, either in your immediate or your extended family, make sure you carefully consider whether that change should trigger a reevaluation of your disability insurance needs.

Changes in your finances

As your income increases, you can increase your disability insurance coverage because you would have to replace a higher amount of income to keep pace with the higher standard of living to which you and your family have become accustomed. You can also purchase individual disability income insurance (or increase existing coverage) every time you assume a significant amount of new debt.

Sources of disability income protection

If you sustain a disabling injury or illness, there are a number of sources of disability benefits you might be able to tap into. For instance, the government offers disability benefits, as do many employers. You should take the time to understand the benefits that would be available to you through these sources. Just be mindful that there are limitations on the benefits available through these sources and sometimes the benefits won’t be sufficient to meet your income replacement needs. In those instances, you can obtain additional coverage, either through the workplace or on your own.

Workers’ compensation

If you’re employed and you suffer a disabling illness or injury, you might be able to count on workers’ compensation insurance to replace some of your salary. All states require employers to provide workers’ compensation coverage. It typically pays about two-thirds of your pre-disability income. However, it only pays in cases where your illness or injury is related to your work, and the vast majority of long-term disabilities are not job-related.

State disability insurance programs

A few states provide short-term disability coverage—typically for up to six months—that workers pay for through a payroll deduction. They are California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, as well as Puerto Rico. For those who live in these states, this can be an important source of short-term income replacement.

Social Security

The federal government administers a disability insurance program that covers most workers, but qualifying for benefits is far from a sure thing and the payment levels are fairly modest. About 70% of applications for Social Security disability benefits are initially denied5, and the average monthly payment of current beneficiaries is only $1,1656 – barely above the poverty line.

Employer-sponsored coverage

The main source of disability income protection in the United States is coverage provided or sponsored by employers. Many employers provide their employees with group insurance coverage. There are two forms: short-term disability (STD), which replaces a significant percentage of your income for about three months in most cases, and long-term disability (LTD), which typically pays 40% to 60% of your base salary (pretax) for longer periods.

Some companies don’t provide disability coverage but help their employees by giving them the opportunity to purchase coverage on a voluntary basis. With this type of program, employees, rather than the employers, pay the full cost of the coverage. Check with your employer’s human resources department or benefits manager to see what coverage and purchase options your company provides.

Individual disability insurance

The most flexible and reliable source of coverage is an individual disability insurance policy you purchase on your own. A privately owned policy is portable, meaning you won’t have to worry about losing coverage if you change jobs. Generally, most individual plans will pay between 40% and 65% of your pre-disability gross salary. When paid with after-tax dollars, benefits are received income-tax free.

6SSA Selected Data from Disability Program, 2015

Critical Illness Insurance

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Importance of critical illness insurance

People are living longer today, which leads to a good news-bad news situation: Survival rates are rising for many medical conditions, but the costs associated with surviving a debilitating disease can lead to medical bankruptcy.

Even with health insurance, if you are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, there is a possibility that you would not be able to afford the treatments. Plus, if you are unable to work during treatment, the loss of income could be devastating

Critical illness insurance can help

Critical illness insurance provides payment if you experience an illness that is covered under the policy. You don't have to be disabled to collect. Unlike disability insurance, you don't have to be employed to receive the benefits. Some medical conditions covered by critical illness insurance often include:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Paraplegia
  • Organ transplant
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cancer

Use the benefits as you see fit

A critical illness insurance benefit payment is usually made in one lump sum and can be spent however you please — for medical bills, your mortgage, home health care or any other way you wish.

Critical illness insurance can be purchased several ways, including:

  • On your own as an individual policy
  • As part of workplace benefits, either through employer-paid benefits or payroll deduction (where you pay the premiums and they are deducted from your paycheck)
  • As a supplement to a health insurance or life insurance policy

Before you purchase a critical illness policy, take a look at its exclusions and limitations. Exclusions usually include illnesses that are diagnosed during your policy's waiting period, self-inflicted injury, suicide or illness resulting from illegal activity. Other exclusions may include pre-malignant conditions or conditions with malignant potential, and most skin cancers.

Contracting a serious illness can be devastating - both to your health and to your wallet.. Critical illness insurance can help alleviate your financial concerns if you ever face a life-threatening health problem. It won’t cure your illness, but it does help you focus your attention on getting well, rather than on making ends meet.

Consult an Insurance Professional

Comments contained in this website reflect our understanding of current tax law. However, the laws are subject to different interpretations and changes. Our agents do not provide tax advice. Please consult with your tax advisor about your personal situation.