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Disability Insurance Makes a Big Difference If the Unthinkable Happens

Aug 17, 2007
Imagine being sick and out of work for a long period of time - not just a few days - but for several weeks or even months. And imagine not getting paid for that time spent away from work and how devastating that would be for you and your family.

Although most of us make sure to insure our car, house and lives - many of us don't understand the importance of insuring against lack of income from our jobs. More than 80% of American workers don't have any type of disability insurance. And almost 50% of home foreclosures in the United States are due to homeowners being out of work from long term medical issues.

Many employees assume that if they are sick, normal sick time pay will cover them and for a short term sickness, this is generally true. The problem potentially occurs when a worker is out sick for several weeks or months and has exhausted their sick time.

If you are out of work for a long time and have no more sick time, social security won't necessarily cover the lost wages. Not everybody is approved for social security disability benefits - and it can also take several months to determine eligibility. Even if a person qualifies, the social security benefit may not be enough to make up for the loss in salary. And most people don't have nearly enough in savings to cover a long absence from work.

That's basically where disability insurance comes in. As the name suggests, this type of insurance is designed to replace a percentage of your income lost from not working for an extended period of time due to illness or disability. If your employer offers a benefits package every year, chances are that disability benefits are one of the options.

There are basically two different types of disability insurance - short term (STD) and long term (LTD) insurance. Short term disability insurance generally covers a period of absence from work of up to two years; long term disability generally covers a period from two years until retirement age. The average length of time missed from work due to disability is around two and a half years.

Individual disability insurance will generally cover between around 50 to 70% of your normal income if you are out of work. Insurers don't like to cover the entire amount of a person's income for fear they will be inclined not to go back to work!

You also generally have the option of paying more in premiums to have a higher percentage of your salary covered in the event of you being out of work. Most disability policies cover the insured until the age of 65, after which time normal social security disability benefits will cover you.

The amount of disability premiums vary and are determined according to several factors including a person's age and sex. The amounts are also determined by what kind of work a person does and how risky it is - premiums for a construction worker are likely to be higher than for an office worker.

If you are in the market for disability insurance, try to take out what is known as a "non-cancelable" policy which locks in your benefits and rates. The insurance company can't make changes to the policy unless requested by the policy holder.

So the next time the opportunity arises, consider disability insurance carefully. It may be something none of us like to think about - but it could make a big difference if the unthinkable happens.
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