Despite popular belief, disability insurance is not just for on-the-job injuries.
The most common disability insurance claims after work-induced musculoskeletal disorders (think: carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and back pain) are for cancer, pregnancy, and mental-health issues like depression and anxiety.
Many of these things can happen at any time without warning and hinder you from performing your regular duties at work or showing up at all. And more often than not, Social Security disability won’t cover your loss of income to the fullest.
Not everyone needs private disability insurance, but if you rely on a steady paycheck to pay your bills, stay out of debt, and save up for the future, you probably do, regardless of the industry or environment where you work.
Here’s why you should consider buying disability insurance:
1. You’re the breadwinner
If your career is your largest financial asset, you need disability insurance not only to protect against income loss for yourself, but for others who rely on you.
If you financially support a partner, kids, aging parents, or anyone else, disability insurance can help make sure they’re taken care of if you’re ever unable to work because of an injury or illness. When you apply for a policy, you choose exactly how much you want to receive each month as a benefit and how long you want it to last.
2. You’re paying off debt
Millions of millennials and Gen Xers are buckling under debt, mostly from credit cards and student loans. If you’re on the hook for big monthly payments, a sudden loss of income can affect your ability to make them in full and on-time.
Factoring how much you pay toward debt balances every month into your coverage amount will ensure you don’t fall behind if you get injured or sick, even if it’s temporary.
3. Your employer doesn’t offer enough coverage, or any at all
Most traditional employers offer short-term disability insurance, but that usually only replaces up to 50% of your income for about three to six months, plus you’ll have to pay taxes on the payments.
These policies are obviously contingent on your employment with the company. If your injury or illness leads to job loss, you’re out of luck.
That’s why experts at Policygenius recommend buying additional long-term disability insurance for the most “comprehensive and cost-effective” coverage. Long-term disability insurance can effectively pick up where short-term coverage or your emergency fund leave off, typically between 90 days and a year after the incident (this is known as the elimination or waiting period).
4. You work for yourself
Disability insurance is crucial for self-employed workers, freelance writer Jackie Lam wrote for Business Insider. An insurance benefit can help provide consistent income and help cover ongoing business expenses.
If you’re self-employed and shopping for disability insurance, you’ll have to provide tax returns from the past two years as proof of income, according to insurance-comparison site Policygenius. You may also consider paying a higher premium each month to shorten your elimination period, or the time you have to wait to receive insurance payments, since you don’t have short-term coverage from an employer to tide you over.