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How Disability Insurance Works

How does Disability Insurance work?

First, the short version. If you become disabled and can no longer work, disability insurance will kick in and replace a portion of your paycheck.

Now, the details. The concepts central to understanding disability insurance are benefit period, waiting period, and definition of disability.

Disability Insurance Key Concepts

Disability insurance policies are a lot like auto insurance policies in that once you start them, they stay in place as long as you continue to pay your premiums. Unlike auto insurance though, disability policies have a pre-defined stopping point. Most policies end around age 65. DIME policies end on the first anniversary of your policy date on or after your 67th birthday.

If you become disabled while you have a policy in place, you’ll begin receiving payments after the waiting period dictated by your policy. The payments will continue for the length of the policy’s benefit period.

Waiting period

The waiting period in a disability policy defines how long you have to wait before benefits become payable. While your options for waiting period can range from 30 days to 365 days, nearly all disability policies are sold with a 90 day waiting period.

For example, if you suffer a disability on January 1st and your waiting period is 90 days, you’d become eligible for benefits around April 1st, If you’re still disabled at the end of that 90 day waiting period, your payments would begin at that time.

The waiting period that you select affects the price of your coverage. The longer the waiting period, the less expensive the coverage. (Conversely, policies with shorter waiting periods are more expensive.) If you can afford to go with a longer waiting period, you’ll pay slightly less for your disability coverage.

When it comes to choosing a waiting period, ask yourself “If I become disabled, how long can I survive without my paycheck” before my DI payments start?

DIME policies offer 30, 90, and 180 day waiting periods.

Benefit Period

The benefit period of your policy might be the most important piece of the puzzle. The disability insurance benefit period defines how long you’ll receive benefits if you become disabled.

Shorter benefit periods are less expensive and longer benefit periods more expensive. A policy with a 1-year benefit period will make maximum of 12 total payments, a 2-year benefit period- 24 payments, and so-on. (If your disability ends, your benefit will end.)

It’s important to note that the benefit that you receive is based on your income when you applied. If you apply at age 25, with an income of $50k, and become disabled at age 35, the benefit you receive is based on that $50k income.

DIME offers 1, 2, and 5 year benefit periods along with a to-age-67 policy.

Definition of disability

Merriam-Webster defines disability as “physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions”.

Disability insurance companies generally have two definitions of disability. They are total disability and partial disability. The definition that matches your situation will determine how much of your income is replaced.

Total disability

Disability insurance companies consider total disabilities to be those that prevent work in any occupation that one would be qualified to perform based on experience or training.

The portion of this definition to pay attention to is the qualifier “any occupation”.

While the definition of “total disability” varies by company, it most often means that the insurance company will only consider you to be totally disabled if your disability completely prevents you from working.

SOME insurance companies, however, have a more favorable definition that is often referred to as “own occupation” total disability. This means that your policy will define you to be totally disabled if you are unable to perform the material duties of your primary occupation. For example, if you are a dentist, and you lose partial eyesight in one eye such that you can’t perform dental work, you’d be able to make a claim for total disability even though you COULD easily work in many other jobs.

However the disability is defined, for total disabilities, most disability insurance companies will allow you to buy coverage that replaces approximately 60% of your income. DIME policies will allow you to do this up to $5000 per month. So, if you earn $100,000, you could cover up to $5,000 per month (or $60,000 per year).

It is also important to note that benefits paid under a personally owned disability policy are NOT subject to income tax, so the benefits actually represent a lot more than 60% of your pre-disability take-home pay.

Partial disability

A partial disability is one that prevents you from performing SOME of the duties of your regular job, OR perhaps you can perform all YOUR duties, but you cannot do them on a full time basis. As a result, you have a partial loss of income.

Most disability insurance policies pay a partial benefit for partial disabilities, and for a pre-defined length of time. DIME policies will pay 50% of the total disability benefit for up to 12 months.

For instance, if your policy has a total disability benefit of $4,000 per month, the partial disability benefit will be $2,000 per month.

What can Disability Insurance do for me?

Your income is what makes everything else possible. We insure our car, and our home, and perhaps other possessions. But without our income, we wouldn’t have these things, right? Disability insurance replaces your income. Call it paycheck insurance if you like.

If you become disabled and are no longer receiving a paycheck, disability insurance can kick in to ensure that you get to keep that car (and the insurance on it). Disability insurance might be the only thing that pays the mortgage while you’re healing from an injury, or during an extended illness. Disability insurance replaces income.

Consider the example below. In just 20 years of employment, an income of 75k per year adds up to over 1.5 million dollars… and that’s assuming you never get a raise!

Male (Age 45)            $75,000 x 20 Years        $1.5 Million of Lifetime Income!

For the person in the above example, a disability lasting just 2 years would result in the loss of $150,000 dollars. Disability insurance is a way to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Bottom line… your future income is a HUGE asset any way you measure it.

Disability insurance can be used to pay for anything you need. We always think about the big things, but the small things matter as much, if not more:

  • Healthcare
  • Groceries
  • College tuition
  • Utilities

Our DIME (Disability Insurance Made Easy) process allows you to get quotes in seconds and coverage in minutes.

Benefit amount
60% of your income up to a maximum of $5,000 per month
Benefit period
1 year, 2 year, 5 year, or to age 67
Waiting period
30, 90, 0r 180 days (not available with 1 year benefit period)
Cost of living adjustment rider
This optional rider increases the monthly benefit payable once you become disabled. Annual increases are based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) subject to a 4% maximum increase occurring on the anniversary of the date of disability.
Renewability of your policy
DIME policies automatically continue (renew) upon the timely payment of premiums, from the Policy Date to the first anniversary of the Policy Date on or after your 67th birthday.

To get your free disability insurance quote, click the button below.

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