May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. This is an opportunity to review your disability insurance and determine your financial capacity to weather a serious illness or injury. With the advent of new medical technologies, we are all more likely to be disabled than to die. The truth is that during the course of your career, you are three and a half times more likely to be injured and need disability coverage than you are to die and need life insurance.

Here are five things to know now:

1. You are your most valuable asset

Your most valuable asset is not your home or your car. It’s you. Your ability to make a living allows you to enjoy the riches and opportunities associated with your life. A roof over your head, eating food you enjoy, paying your child’s educational expenses, taking that next vacation—this is all based on your continuing ability to earn income, whether you are working for yourself or someone else.

2. Life happens

Forty-one percent (41%) of long-term disability recipients between 2009 and 2012 were younger than 50, with a third of those under 40 (according to Unum, an insurance provider).

3. Don’t I have disability insurance through my employer?

Employer-provided disability is usually short-term disability, which kicks in after you have exhausted your sick time. Benefits are usually available for one year. If you believe you have disability insurance through your employer, check your policy. What is the maximum monthly benefit you can receive? How does that coincide with your monthly expenses? Many employer policies allow you to purchase more insurance. If your expenses are greater than the maximum benefit, consider purchasing additional insurance. And note: there could be a cap on the monthly benefit amount, regardless of your income.

4. What about private disability insurance?

Private long-term disability insurance can pay benefits until you reach age 65 or the end of your life. As with all insurance, the time to buy it is when you don’t need it. Speak with a financial advisor, insurance broker, or contacts through professional groups and affiliations to gather additional information about the types of disability insurance available and what meets your need.

5. What should I do now?

Review your ongoing expenses and your take-home pay. Thoroughly check out your options during your next open enrollment. Disability insurance and its myriad possibilities can be confusing. However, the time to act is now—you might not be eligible to purchase disability insurance after an injury or illness has occurred.

About the Author

Diane Manuel is a former UWM advisor. She worked closely with René for 5+ years, helping grow the Smart Women Savvy Money Club. In 2021, Diane joined Adasina Social Capital as Director, Foundation & Client Relationships, pursuing her passion of creating investment strategies that support racial and social justice. Diane has been active in service and philanthropy most of her life, from her first job at the Watts–Willowbrook Boys’ & Girls’ Club to current roles with the Carter Center Philanthropy Council and the Women’s Foundation of California. Diane holds a BA from USC and a PhD in Psychology and MBA from Claremont Graduate University. She has authored articles in Investopedia, MarketWatch, and Financial Planning Magazine on finance, women, and philanthropy. An LA native, she enjoys 5Ks, the beach, wine tasting, photography, and walking with friends.