Essential Facts About Home Insurance

Understanding the basic facts about home insurance is crucial to protecting your investment whether you are a first-time home buyer or an e...

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Disability Insurance: A Brief Introduction

Disability Insurance also called disability income insurance, protects your income if you become unable to work for several months or longer due to illness or injury. The income provided by a DII policy can help you maintain your standard of living and pay your medical bills while you recover – or pay them until the policy terminates, which may be at age 65 or when you die, if you don’t recover. It can also protect anyone who has cosigned on a loan of yours but who can’t really afford to make the loan payments on your behalf, such as a parent who cosigned for your private student loans, which may not offer forbearance, deferral or forgiveness if you become disabled.
We all ask questions such as: Why do I need a disability income insurance? Doesn’t the federal government pay benefits if I become disabled?
Yes – the Social Security Administration’s disability insurance program, also called SSDI, does pays benefits. Individuals must be eligible from their FICA payroll tax contributions, and the SSA has strict definitions of disability and low monthly benefit payments. While SSDI is certainly better than nothing, since not everyone will qualify for it or be able to maintain their usual standard of living off its benefits, private disability insurance is an appealing alternative or complement. If you collect benefits from a private disability insurance policy, you can still collect Social Security disability benefits!

Since you could become disabled at any point in your life, it’s definitely a good idea to purchase disability income insurance as soon as you start earning substantial income from work. The policy’s benefit is based on your earnings, so getting a policy when you’re earning $500 a month working part-time during college probably isn’t worthwhile (and you might not meet the insurer’s minimum income requirements, anyway), but getting a policy when you’re earning $36,000 a year after college makes a lot of sense. The younger you are when you purchase a policy, the lower your premiums will be. You can choose to have your premiums start off low and increase over time, which makes sense for a lot of people since they expect their income to increase over time, or your premiums can be the same each year, which might save money in the long run but might be difficult to afford in the policy’s early years.

Definitions of Disability
Insurers have several definitions of disability. It’s important to understand these definitions because they affect whether or not you’ll be able to receive benefits.
-Total disability means you cannot work at all.
-Partial disability means you cannot perform all of your job functions, but you can perform some of them.
-Permanent disability means that doctors don’t expect you to recover from your injury or illness, i.e, there is no hope for recovery. A permanent disability could be total or partial. If you were in a serious car accident and became paralyzed from the neck down, you would likely be considered totally and permanently disabled. If you became paralyzed from the waist down, you might be considered partially and permanently disabled.
-A temporary disability is one you are expected to recover substantially from. Maybe you had a serious car accident and will need multiple surgeries and months of physical therapy, but within a couple of years, doctors expect you to return to your previous level of functioning. A temporary disability could be total or partial.
-Presumptive disability means you’ve suffered from something that automatically qualifies you to receive immediate disability payments. If you’ve lost two limbs, lost a leg at the hip, become totally blind or deaf, or have suffered a spinal cord injury, to name just a few examples, your insurance company will presume you to be disabled.

Types of Disability Policies

Whether your policy will pay benefits when you become disabled depends not just on the type of disability you experience but also the type of disability coverage you have.
-An any-occupation policy only pays benefits if you are unable to work in any job whatsoever. This policy will be less expensive because it is less likely to pay benefits.
-A modified any-occupation policy only pays benefits if you cannot work in a job that you are reasonably well-suited for based on your education, training, or experience.
-An own-occupation policy considers you disabled and pays benefits if you can’t perform the primary duties of your own occupation. This policy will be more expensive because it is more likely to pay benefits.
-A split policy provides short-term own-occupation coverage but long-term any occupation coverage.
(Sources: and

Obtaining Coverage

Many employers offer disability insurance as a benefit to their employees but you can also purchase an individual policy on your own. While employer-provided disability insurance can be captivating and enchanting because you don’t have to qualify medically and the employer pays all or part of the premiums, it may not offer as much coverage as you need and you may not be able to take your coverage with you if you are laid off or change employers. Further, if your employer pays the premiums, any disability benefits you receive will be considered taxable income, whereas if you pay the premiums, the benefits will be tax free. (Source:
If you qualify for an individual policy, it is a good idea to get one since you can customize it to your needs, purchase the full amount of coverage you need and keep the policy regardless of where you work. However, some individuals may not qualify for disability insurance, depending on the insurer’s approved and sanctioned standards:
-Individuals younger than 18years or older than 60 years.
-Individuals whose incomes are below $15,000 a year, or whose income is high enough that they are able to self-insure.
-Individuals who work in dangerous, high-risk occupations.
-Individuals with a history of serious mental or physical illness.
-Individuals with a criminal history.
-Individuals with risky hobbies.

How Much Coverage Should I Buy

Buy as much disability insurance as you can afford, because an illness or injury could prevent you from qualifying later. Furthermore, any insurance you purchase later will likely cost more due to your age and any health conditions you might experience as you get older.
The amount of disability coverage you can buy will be based on a percentage of your income. Insurers will not cover 100% of your income because doing so would tempt people to file fraudulent disability claims (yes, there are people who would give up their physical capabilities or sacrifice their health if it meant not having to work!). Instead, a policy might replace 60% of your earned income.
You may wish to look for a policy that pays residual benefits, or a portion of your total benefit, if your work hours are reduced because of a disability or illness. Sometimes this feature is included with the base policy, and other times it must be purchased as a rider. (Source:, p. 12)

Structuring Your Policy

Insurers offer many options for structuring your policy. It will affect how long you have to wait before receiving benefits if you become disabled, how much your benefit payments will be and how much your premiums will cost.
Your policy’s elimination period, or disability insurance waiting period, determines how long you must wait after meeting the policy’s definition of disability to start receiving benefits. It is similar to a deductible in other types of insurance in that it represents your shared responsibility for the loss before the insurance company makes its contribution. The longer your elimination period, the less your disability insurance will cost.
To help prevent preexisting condition fraud, some disability insurance policies also have a probation period of 15 to 30 days during which the policy must be in force before coverage begins. (source:;

You can purchase various riders to augment a basic disability insurance policy. Here are a few of the more common ones:
-A future purchase option rider lets you increase your coverage as your income increases. You may need proof of higher income but you will not need medical underwriting. If the insurer increases your coverage, you will pay a higher premium. Without this rider, you will have to reapply for a new policy to increase your coverage and go through medical underwriting again, which might result in an even higher rate because of your age or changes in your medical history since you bought your original policy.
-An automatic increase rider gives you a higher benefit each year for the first few years of the policy without requiring medical underwriting.
-A cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider automatically increases your benefits to keep pace with inflation, which can be a valuable feature if you end up needing long-term benefits, though it can also increase your premiums significantly.
-A waiver of premium for disability rider means that the insurer will not require you to pay premiums while you are receiving benefits.

Read more: Intro To Insurance: Disability Insurance
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