While most people don’t think twice about insuring their cars and homes, they often leave one of their most important assets unprotected—their paychecks. Working Americans rely heavily on their paychecks to support their families and to fund their everyday living expenses, but few consider how their lives would be affected if they were unable to work due to an illness or injury and couldn’t bring home a paycheck. Ask yourself: Could you afford to live without your income?
“Your paycheck is clearly one of your most valuable assets. Just as you insure other valuables in your life, such as your home or car, it is crucial to insure your income,” says Garrett Wheeler, a disability insurance (DI) expert with Guardian in Honolulu, Hawaii. “Think of disability insurance as insurance for your paycheck. It provides an income if you’re unable to work due to an illness or injury.” According to the LIFE Foundation survey, nearly 50 percent of working Americans say they would not be able to make it a month before financial difficulties would set if a disability were to keep them out of work. More than one in four say they would face financial problems immediately.
While no one likes to think about becoming disabled, the chances of suffering a long-term disability are much higher than most people think. More than just a DI expert, Wheeler should know, he lives it daily. He remains partially paralyzed and in constant pain following a life-changing auto accident in 2005 (See below: “Case Study: A Professional with “Real Life”, First-Hand Personal Experience”). According to the consulting firm Milliman, Inc., U.S. workers have a three in 10 chance of becoming disabled for 90 days or more between age 35 and 65. That means disability insurance is something every working person needs to be thinking about, says Wheeler.
Because disability insurance is the most overlooked and misunderstood of the major forms of insurance, Wheeler provides the following three tips to help people assess their coverage needs:
Step 1: Determine if you need it. The general rule of thumb is: If you have a job, you need disability insurance. It provides replacement income if you’re unable to work due to injury or illness, helping you meet your financial obligations until you are able to return to work.
Step 2: Estimate how much you need. Determine what your monthly living expenses are and compare them with the money available to you absent your paycheck, such as current insurance coverage through work or purchased on your own, savings, and income from other family members. Oftentimes, these resources may not be enough to support your standard of living if you were no longer able to earn a paycheck. Use the LIFE Foundation’s Disability Insurance Needs Calculator to help you figure out how much coverage you may need: www.lifehappens.org/disabilitycalculator.
Step 3: Explore your options. There are several ways you can obtain disability insurance. The most common source of coverage is through employers. Your benefits manager can explain what coverage options may be available to you. You can also purchase an individual policy through a qualified insurance professional. If you belong to a professional organization, you may be able to purchase disability insurance through a group plan. Meeting with an insurance professional in your community or your benefits manager at work can help you sort through your various options and find a plan that fits your needs and budget.
Case Study: A Professional with “Real Life”, First-Hand Personal Experience
Mr. Wheeler is a licensed Financial Representative with the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. In 2005, Wheeler was involved in a life-changing accident that left him with a broken neck, which resulted in spinal cord injury and partial paralysis. He was in the hospital for six weeks and initially wasn’t moving his arms or legs at all. Needless to say, he didn’t go back to work for half the year.
For months, all Wheeler could do was lie in a hospital bed or get around in an electric wheelchair. For six over months, he could not drive. He utilized the Handi-van to get to appointments, taking up to four hours round trip. Ask yourself, could your income sustain months of no driving, no standing and enduring constant pain? Fortunately, Wheeler didn’t have to. His disability coverage provided the protection he needed to recover from his injury without the added stress of financial burdens.
I have always recognized the fact that next to your health, your greatest asset is your ability to earn a living. I feel very passionate about the responsibility you have to take care of yourself. It’s nice to think you will always be provided for, but the fact of the matter is that no one has a crystal ball. You owe it to yourself to protect that asset. We all have worked very hard to be where we are and it is not practical to assume everything will just work out.
Today, Wheeler has the desire to make sure that others don’t go without this crucial protection that safeguarded him and his family in their worst hour of need. In order to best serve others, Mr. Wheeler often partners with an experienced associate (an attorney who is highly trained in DI) in his Honolulu office. Together they recommend the appropriate coverage based on a client’s desires, finances and objectives. If you are considering Disability Insurance, don’t do anything until you call Wheeler’s office at (808) 955-6400 for a FREE informational pamphlet.