HOW ARE DISABILITY PREMIUMS DETERMINED?
Disability premiums are based on your age, sex, occupation and the amount of potential lost income you are trying to protect. In general, the lower the chance that your occupation puts you in harm’s way, the lower the premium. The higher the chance of injury, the bigger the premium. So, for instance, an accountant working in an office would have much lower disability premiums than a construction worker.
HOW CAN I SAVE MONEY?
There are two ways to keep the cost of disability insurance down:
1. Electing a longer waiting period before benefits begin
If you have enough resources to cover expenses during the first three months of disability, your premiums will be lower than with coverage that starts after 30 days.
2. Electing a shorter benefit period
In this case, benefits are payable to age 65—the age at which you would normally retire—instead of for a lifetime. However, choosing a benefit period of two-to-five years, ending before normal retirement age, could be penny-wise and pound-foolish. You might save money on premiums, but you could be without coverage when you need it most. Disability of long duration poses the greatest financial hardship.
WILL MY EMPLOYER PROVIDE DISABILITY COVERAGE?
Most employers offer some kind of disability insurance, but you should find out exactly what your employer offers before you have to file a claim. Most allow some short-term sick leave, which might last from a few days to as much as six months. In some states, such as Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, state law requires employers to provide disability benefits for up to 26 weeks.
Check with your benefits department to see if you are covered and if so, how long you must wait before benefits begin and how long payments will last while you are still disabled. Also, ask if your employer’s disability plan takes other disability programs, such as Social Security, into account when calculating your disability pay.
No laws require employers to offer long-term disability (LTD) coverage, but about half of large and mid-sized employers offer it to their workers. Typical group long-term disability benefits replace about 60 percent of the worker’s usual salary. These benefits usually start when short-term benefits are exhausted and continue from five years to life. Usually, group long-term disability insurance is fully paid for by employers, with no contribution expected from employees. When you receive employer-paid disability income, you must pay federal and state income tax on the benefits, unless your company pays it for you.
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