How do I get affordable disability insurance?

To get affordable disability insurance, you can shop around, purchase less coverage, get disability insurance through your employer, and improve your health.

Disability insurance can be pricey. For coverage that replaces between 60% and 80% of your income, you can expect to pay between 1% and 3% of your salary in premiums. But if you get sick or disabled and lose your job, that cost may end up being a lifeline while you recover and need an income to pay your bills.

There are a few things you can do to make disability insurance more affordable for you. You can shop around for different plans, purchase less coverage or coverage with fewer features, get disability insurance through your employer, and improve your health. Some of these alternatives may leave you with less disability insurance than you need, so we only recommend them if you truly can’t afford coverage otherwise.

Disability insurance benefits should be high enough to pay for all your financial needs while you’re too disabled to work. To avoid underinsurance, you should make sure your disability insurance is affordable while still providing you with the right amount of coverage.

You can take the following actions to make disability insurance more affordable for you:

Shop around for the lowest rates

It was not that long ago that you couldn’t shop around for disability insurance rates without enormous difficulty. You could call up carriers and get a quote, then compare the results, but that would take hours. These days, you can get disability insurance quotes online.

By plugging in your personal information, health issues, and coverage needs, you’ll get a quote instantly. Then, you can work with an expert, who will present you with a range of quotes from different disability insurance companies to help you find the rate you can afford.

Do background research

Disability insurance can be confusing, but knowledge is financial power. Read up on what disability insurance is, how to get coverage, and how you can maximize your benefits without breaking the bank. Our learn center can help you understand just what you’re paying for and what you maybe don’t need to pay for.

Get less coverage

Your premiums are determined first and foremost by how much coverage you need. The higher the benefit amount, the more it’ll cost to purchase a policy. While you’ll want to save on premiums, it may end up hurting you in the long run if you find that the monthly benefits don’t replace enough of your income. Still, having some disability insurance is better than having none, so follow some of these steps to get coverage.

Lower your monthly benefit

Long-term disability insurance should replace 60% to 80% of your income, roughly around the amount you earn in take-home pay. (Disability insurance benefits are tax-free if you pay for the policy with your pretax dollars.) If you purchase a policy at the lower end of that benefit range, you could get away with paying a lower rate.

This may be especially helpful if you already have savings you can rely on if you lose your job due to a disability. Lower benefits can supplement savings to help you keep paying the bills and continue your standard of living.

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Long-term disability is the best type of disability insurance for most people.

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However, you can’t predict how long a disability will put you out of commission. That’s why we don’t recommend getting less coverage than you need. Saving on lower premiums now won’t necessarily make up the difference between your financial obligations and your monthly benefits when your savings starts to run out in the future.

Reduce your benefit period

The benefit period is the amount of time you receive monthly disability insurance payments. Under a long-term disability insurance plan, the benefit period may last from two years to as long as retirement. (Short-term disability insurance benefit periods only last up to a year.) You can choose the length of your benefit period at the time you take out the policy, and if you select a shorter time, you’ll pay less in premiums.

Increase your elimination period

As with reducing your benefit period, any action you take that decreases the carrier’s obligation to pay insurance benefits to you will result in a lower premium. The elimination period, also called the waiting period, is the time you have to wait until the disability insurance company has to start paying you benefits. The recommended elimination period is 90 days, but the longer you allow the disability insurance company to delay paying you, the lower your premiums will be (and the more likely you’ll recover from your disability or illness and no longer need benefits). As with the benefit period, you select your elimination period when you take out the policy.

Select a less strict definition of disability

In order to be eligible to receive disability insurance benefits, you need to satisfy the carrier’s definition of disability. There are two main definitions of disability:

  • Own-occupation disability insurance, also called regular-occupation, lets you receive disability insurance benefits only if you can’t work at your current or most recent occupation. If you can take a less physically demanding job, you may still be eligible for benefits.
  • Any-occupation disability insurance won’t let you receive disability insurance if you can do any other job besides your regular job. That means you have a higher bar to clear if you want benefits.

Any-occupation plans are much cheaper than own-occupation plans. But if you only become somewhat disabled, you may lose a high-paying job and still be denied disability insurance benefits if the carrier determines that you can take a low-paying job in a related field. You don’t want to be paying premiums at all if they don’t result in benefits when you need them.

Learn more about own-occupation disability insurance.

Choose the right disability insurance company for your profession

Depending on your profession, you may need more disability insurance than others. That’s especially true for people who work with their hands in highly paid jobs, like surgeons and dentists. But many jobs require years of expensive education, and losing your income could mean falling behind on your student loan obligations.

When you shop around for disability insurance, you should take into account how each company fares in providing coverage for people in your profession. We have a guide to some of the occupations that most benefit from disability insurance coverage and the best rates disability insurance companies offer to them.

Don’t add unnecessary riders

Riders are additions to your coverage that could enhance the terms of the polish or furnish you with larger benefits when you become disabled. Many riders are included at no extra charge, but some do cost extra to add. While they may be beneficial, there are some you can skip to save on disability insurance premiums.

The non-cancelable rider

Most disability insurance policies are guaranteed renewable, which means the carrier can’t change the terms of the policy. The non-cancelable rider enhances that coverage by adding that carrier can’t change your premiums, either. However, premium increases require approval from the state, so they’re unlikely to happen and probably not to such a degree that your policy becomes unaffordable.

The return-of-premium rider

The return-of-premium rider refunds you a percentage of your lifetime premium payments when you cancel the policy if you never claimed disability insurance benefits. This rider is very expensive, and you may find coverage more cost-effective and affordable if you skip the rider and invest the difference in savings.

The cost-of-living adjustment rider

The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider increases your benefits along with inflation during the benefit period. However, inflation doesn’t just happen overnight. By avoiding the COLA rider, you may save on premiums over the course of the policy rather than pay more for a modest increase in benefits later on.

Purchase a group disability insurance policy

Group disability insurance policies are provided by employers to their employees. Like buying a product in bulk, getting disability insurance coverage to everyone in a group lowers costs across the board. Employer-sponsored disability insurance policies are considerably less expensive than individually bought plans.

However, they could have much lower coverage amounts, often topping out at a fraction of the coverage you can get with an individual disability insurance plan. When employer-sponsored policies do provide adequate coverage, you may have to compromise on the benefit period, which could be significantly shorter than that of private plans. Additionally, if you lose your job, you can’t take the policy with you.

A short-term group disability insurance plan might be especially useful as a supplement for your individual long-term coverage. That’s because it may have a shorter elimination period, meaning you can start collecting disability insurance benefits sooner while you wait out the elimination period on your individual plan.

Improve your health

Your health is another major component of your disability insurance rates. If you’re less healthy, you may be quoted a higher premium. While some medical issues are impossible to change, here are a few health-related things you can do to get affordable disability insurance.

Buy sooner rather than later

Rates go up the older you purchase a policy. That’s because you’re likely to become less healthy as you grow older and more likely to suffer an income-ending disability or illness. You may save hundreds of dollars a year by buying when you’re young, and you can lock in those rates with the non-cancelable rider.

Quit smoking, including vaping

Like life insurance, disability insurance companies will check for nicotine usage. If you smoke or chew tobacco, use nicotine gum or a patch, or vape, you’ll be quoted a higher rate. If you’re planning to take out a disability insurance policy, you should consider quitting nicotine now. You’ll get a lower premium, but only if you’ve been nicotine-free for at least a year.

Treat your medical conditions

Some medical conditions will result in paying higher premiums for disability insurance coverage. However, if you can show that you’ve been receiving treatment, you may able to avoid paying higher premiums. Make sure your agent has all the information he or she needs to accurately assess the level of care you’re receiving for a medical concern.

Disclaimer: Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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