Every time someone tells me they don’t have disability insurance because they are healthy, or they workout or they eat organic I want to shake them. Unfortunately taking care of yourself or being currently healthy is absolutely no guarantee you won’t get sick and need to take time off work in the future. My husband and I are the sad poster people for this little bit of truth. I share our story here with the hope that it shows you the importance of disability insurance.
Not Healthy Anymore
8 years ago my husband (who worked out daily and took good care of himself) got what seemed like the flu. Several weeks and a bazillion lab tests later he was still sick. After a few months of continued pain he was finally was diagnosed with mercury poisoning. He had to take a year off work to rest and get the mercury out of his system with a brutal chelation process. I was staying home with our baby meaning we suddenly had zero income. Fun times – fortunately he worked for a large tech company and had good disability insurance. We survived but it was unbelievably stressful and it would have been a financial disaster without the disability insurance.
I wish that was the end of our story about the importance of disability insurance, but no. 3 years ago I started to feel dizzy, nauseous and deathly tired all the time. I ended up going to the hospital with chest pains – I was 37! After 4 months I was diagnosed with an autonomic disorder. I was told I would have this condition forever and would be on a cocktail of meds to try and control it. My doctor also recommended taking time off work. Unfortunately I hadn’t purchased additional disability insurance. I thought it was part of the basic insurance plan – it wasn’t. In California they offer short-term state disability so I was able to use that for 1 year.
After 6 months off work I still felt awful. Additional testing showed I had a genetic heart condition. 2 months later I was having open-heart surgery at 38. My short-term disability ran out before I was healed from heart surgery. Longer term Social Security disability only kicks in if you are totally disabled (can’t perform any work of any kind) and will be so for at least 1 year. My husband and I had to made it work on one income while I recovered. Again we survived, but man was it more difficult than it needed to be.
We all know we need life insurance, but we often forget about disability insurance. You are 3 times more likely to get sick or injured and need time off of work than you are to die before you turn 65. Nothing is easy when you are sick – it demands all of your time and attention. Not having to worry about money during that time is priceless.
The easiest way to get disability insurance is through your employer. In many cases disability insurance is something you need to choose to participate in – by default you are not enrolled. The premium payments will be taken directly from your paycheck. The general rule of thumb is to replace 60% of your wages with disability insurance, but everyone’s situation is unique. Here is a great article from PolicyGenius about choosing the right disability insurance in 15 minutes or less.
Don’t wait – you have a 25% chance of needing disability insurance and being healthy today is not insurance against future illness!
Is there anyone in your life who needs to understand the importance of disability insurance? Please pass this article along to them.
About the Author
Gretchen Caldwell is a Financial Planner in the San Francisco Bay Area. She helps professional women and their families get a clear picture of their finances. She uses a financial plan to help women answer the “Am I doing this right?” question about their money.