We already know that women face more financial hurdles than men, especially when it comes to retirement. They earn less, (1) save less, (2) live longer, (3) and spend more time out of the workforce to care for children or other family members. (4) Unfortunately, the obstacles don’t end there. Women are more likely to face disability than their male counterparts, but only 20% of American women are aware of this looming threat. (5)
Now that we’ve got the doom and gloom out of the way, let’s look at the silver lining. If we know the facts, we can do something about them. If we prepare ahead of time, we can protect our finances from being destroyed by the hard-hitting impact of a disability.
The Reality of Disability
The majority of disabilities aren’t caused by risky undertakings like skydiving or accidents that occur at work. Currently, the leading cause is arthritis (which women are twice as likely to get than men), followed by back and spine problems. Together these conditions are responsible for more than one-third of all disabilities. (6)
Less than half of Americans own disability income insurance, and 61% of women have never done any research on disability coverage. (7) As a result, this lack of protection has become a significant gap in women’s financial plans. Is there a solution to this financial dilemma?
Know Your Sources
Income sources, that is. Now that you’re convinced you need to take disability seriously, let’s look at the steps you can take to prepare.
Employer-sponsored plans are the most common sources of disability insurance, but only about 45% of working women are covered under this benefit. (8) If your employer offers both short and long-term disability coverage, take it, but be sure you understand the ins and outs of the plan. Group coverage generally includes only a percentage of base salary (usually 50 – 60%) and excludes income from bonuses or the value of employer-paid benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plan matching or life insurance.
The majority of group plans also have other important limitations to be aware of, such as no provisions for inflation, broad definitions of disability, and integration with Social Security. Finally, it is essential to know if your company’s benefit will be subject to income taxes. If the employer pays all or part of the premium, chances are the benefit is taxable. These limits can potentially erode the value of benefits.
If you don’t have access to disability insurance through your employer, or you are self-employed (as 7.5% of working women are (9)), you may need to look into purchasing outside disability insurance for a premium. Whatever form of insurance you have may not cover your wages completely, but it’s better than being left with nothing but your savings account.
Women are twice as likely as men to think their cash reserves would last less than one month if they experienced a disability. (10) Creating an emergency fund equal to six months of wages would establish a solid buffer that can be used, along with disability insurance, to prevent financial ruin.
The Social Security Administration offers two programs to assist those with disabilities. If you have a condition that falls under their definition of a disability, have worked long enough, paid into Social Security, and have not been able to work for a year or more, you might qualify for government income. Since they only offer income assistance to people with long-term, or total disabilities, you’ll need at least a year’s worth of income from other sources before you can tap into this benefit.
Money makes the world go ‘round, whether you can work or not. Plan ahead, assess your risk, and have a strategy in place for a potential disability. Remember, what you don’t know can hurt you. Start the conversation with a financial professional to today to start planning for tomorrow. If you’d like to discuss how disability income may play a role in your financial plan, click here to schedule a phone call.
Richard Archer is a financial advisor and the President of Archer Investment Management with more than eighteen years of industry experience. Largely working with successful individuals and couples, he specializes in providing comprehensive investment guidance and personalized care and attention to each client. Along with holding a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a MBA, he is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certificant and a Chartered Financial Analyst®. He combines his advanced industry education and knowledge with his genuine care for people to provide clients with an exceptional experience. To learn more about Richard, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.archerim.com.
(3) Social Security Actuarial Life Table, 2016.