On Tuesday, Twitter exploded with news that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a fractured collarbone in his Monday night match-up with the Chicago Bears. Ever since, all football fans can talk about is how the Packers will get along without their all-world play-caller.
But for everyday folks, Rodgers' injury draws attention to an important aspect of any well-devised financial plan: disability insurance. Sure, it's unlikely that anyone reading this is in an occupation as physically dangerous as football -- but that doesn't mean such protection is unnecessary. And to realize how quickly fate can change, you needn't look any further than Rodgers' teammate Jermichael Finley.
The story of a world turned upside-down
On Oct. 20, when the Packers faced the Cleveland Browns, Finley -- the team's starting tight end -- had a major collision with Browns defender Tashaun Gipson. After spending a scary day in the ICU and being diagnosed with a spinal cord contusion, Finley decided to share his story. That story, which appears on Sports Illustrated's website, includes an important tidbit about making smart financial decisions:
As athletes, we often feel invincible, which is why it is so important to have advisors who you can trust and who can also take the emotion out of any situation. ... I currently have a $10 million insurance policy in place. ... I can sleep at night knowing that regardless of what happens, my family is financially secure forever. ... Disability insurance is never a fun conversation, and writing those annual checks to protect myself is tough. But now, more than ever, I understand the importance of protecting yourself, protecting your family and protecting your future earnings.
Do you need disability insurance?
Of course, you probably won't need to take out a $10 million policy to protect your future earnings. But the Social Security Administration estimates that one in four 20-year-olds will experience a period when they are unable to work due to disability by the time they are 67. Knowing that, a reasonable disability policy offers some peace of mind.
Here are the basic steps you should take to put a policy in place:
1. Check with your employer
Many employers offer some type of disability insurance. These policies are usually cheaper than those sold independently on the open market, and they make a good starting point.
2. Read the fine print
Each policy can have its own peculiarities. If you have certain pre-existing conditions or general health concerns, make sure they are adequately addressed in your policy.
3. Shop on your own
Disability insurance can be a lot tougher to get if your employer doesn't already offer it. That's because there isn't a pool of employees paying into the premium pot, and each policy has to be geared toward an individual's specific circumstances.
Three of the better options for individual plans are MassMutual Financial Group, which operates in the American Northeast; The Hartford (NYSE:HIG), which caters primarily to businesses but also offers some options for individual policies; and AIG (NYSE:AIG)..
Though AIG endured some troubling times during the Great Recession, all three of these companies are in solid financial standing and have high ratings from consumer groups.
4. Do the math
Another thing to keep in mind is that disability insurance usually only covers 60% to 80% of your expected income. If you'd like to close that gap and have all of your needs covered, consider supplemental insurance.
The most well-known name in this industry is Aflac (NYSE:AFL). The company is the largest supplemental insurer not only in the United States, but in Japan as well.