Paying Bills Even If You Can’t Work
If you are like most of our other clients with high incomes, the single greatest asset your family has is your earning power. This reality motivates most people to buy life insurance as protection against a premature death. For most people, purchasing life insurance is “common sense.” While most people with whom we speak are underinsured, they do have at least some protection against a premature death. However, most Average American professionals, entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives often overlook a more dangerous threat to their long-term financial stability—their own disability. What is the risk that the average individual will suffer a disability? According to marketing materials of more than one life insurance company:
“Probability of at least one long-term disability (90 days or longer) occurring before age 65 is: 50% for someone age 25; 45% for someone age 35; 38% for someone age 45; and 26% for someone age 55.”
Inadequate disability income insurance coverage can be more costly than death, divorce, or a lawsuit. Responsible financial planning includes planning for the best possible future while protecting against the worst possible events. No one ever plans on becoming disabled—though half of those aged 25 will have a disability of three months or longer at least once. This chapter explains not only why you need disability insurance, but also what to look for in a disability policy.
The Need For Disability Insurance
In our opinion, the disability of the family breadwinner can be more financially devastating to a family than premature death. In both cases, the breadwinner will be unable to provide any income for the family; however, in the case of death, the deceased earner is no longer an expense to the family. Yet, if the breadwinner suddenly becomes disabled, he or she still needs to be fed, clothed, and cared for by medical professionals or family members. In many cases, the medical care alone can cost hundreds of dollars per day. Thus, with a disability, income is reduced or eliminated and expenses increase. This can be a devastating turn of events and can lead to creditor problems and even bankruptcy.
If you are older (near retirement) and have saved a large enough sum of money to immediately fund a comfortable retirement, then you probably don’t need disability income protection. Of course, you may have some long-term care concerns, but that is covered in the next chapter. On the other hand, if you are under 50 years old, or if you are older than 50 and have several pre-college age children, you should consider the right disability insurance a necessity. The challenge is determining what type of disability income policy is “right” for you.
Employer Provided Coverage Often Inadequate
If you are an employee of a university, HMO, or other large corporation, your employer may provide long-term disability coverage. The premiums are probably discounted from what you would pay for a private policy. We advise you take a good look at what the employer-offered policy covers, and buy a private policy if you and the insurance professional on your advisory team decide you need it. For many people, this makes a lot of sense because employer-provided group policies are often inadequate. They may limit either the term of the coverage or the amount of benefits paid. For instance, benefits may last only a few years or benefit payments may represent only a small part of your annual compensation. Since this is most commonly an employer-paid benefit, the money received during your disability will be income taxable to you. For most, this arrangement would result in your taking home less than half of the original amount in your paycheck after taxes are paid!
Give Yourself a Check-Up
Most people with employer-provided disability insurance coverage will find the benefits inadequate. To help you determine where your existing coverage may be lacking, we have provided some questions for you to ask when you are giving yourself an insurance check-up. When you are ultimately working with the insurance professional on your advisory team, you should keep some of these questions in mind as well. They will help you better compare coverage options from different companies so that you can find the best policy for your specific circumstances and goals. Below are a list of some questions you should ask yourself as well as short explanations of the appropriate answers:
· How long does the disability coverage last?
· How much is the benefit? (Some plans may cap the benefits at $5,000 per month)
· What percentage of your income is covered? (Generally, you cannot receive more than 60% of income and the benefit is capped at $7,500 or $10,000, depending on your age). Though most group LTD plans are good for the purpose that they serve, they are only a partial cure. Because of the limitations or ‘cap,’ they have a built—in discrimination against higher income employees—like you!
· Who pays the premiums? (TIP: If you pay the premiums yourself, and not as a deductible expense through your business or practice, your benefits will be tax-free.) You may be seduced by the income tax deduction of the premiums, but the extra tax burden today is much easier to swallow than the tax burden will be if you suffer a disability and have a significantly reduced income and increased expenses. When you and your family need the money the most, you will have more.
· Is the policy portable, or convertible, to an individual policy if you leave the group? If so, do you maintain your reduced group rate?
· If your business distributes all earnings from the corporation at year-end in the way of bonuses to all owners/partners (typical of C-corps as a way to avoid double taxation), you should see whether these amounts are covered by the group policy. If not, and if bonuses or commissions make up a substantial part of your income (which we have seen to be the case with many people), you’ll More