Insurance Read Time: 3 min

Get the facts about disability insurance

Diving into a pool and becoming paralyzed, riding your bike and being hit by a truck door swinging open, being diagnosed with cancer. No one dreams these things will happen to them, but people experience injuries and illnesses every day that leave them unable to work.

How do you protect the one asset — your ability to earn an income — that makes your lifestyle possible?

That’s where disability insurance comes in. It may be the most misunderstood insurance around. Let’s clear up common disability insurance myths with facts about why an income protection plan is so important, especially for younger people.

Myth: A disabled person is confined to a wheelchair or has some visible impairment.

Fact: You can’t tell if someone is disabled just by looking at them. In terms of insurance, a disability is an illness or injury that prevents you from working. Many disabilities are invisible and can even include mental health conditions.

Myth: I’m careful. I won’t get hurt.

Fact: Almost 90% of long-term disabilities are caused by common illnesses, not injuries or catastrophic accidents.1 Every year, thousands of people leave the workforce due to illnesses like cancer, heart disease, arthritis and depression.2

Myth: Disability is rare, especially among young people.

Fact: One in four of today’s 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least one year due to a disabling condition before they reach normal retirement age.3 The onset of many debilitating diseases — such as rheumatoid arthritis and MS — occurs before age 45.

Myth: My employer has me covered.

Fact: Employer-sponsored group disability insurance is becoming harder to find — and most plans will replace only about 40-60% of your income, leaving you with a coverage gap. Imagine having no way to pay 60 percent of your monthly expenses like groceries or rent. Also, group disability insurance sponsored by your employer is not portable, meaning if you leave for a different job or to start your own business, the coverage doesn’t follow you.

Myth: My savings will support me.

Fact: How much money is in your emergency fund? Over half of Americans can cover less than three months of living expenses with their savings — and 25% have no savings at all.4 The average long-term disability claim lasts 34.6 months. That’s just under three years.5 A disability lasting a year or more could deplete your savings, drive you into debt, and put other long-term goals, like retirement, out of reach.

Myth: Disability insurance is too expensive.

Fact: Having an income protection plan designed for your specific needs is a smart way to protect the lifetime value of your earning power. What if you’re hitting your peak earning years and find yourself unable to work because of illness or injury? Consider this: A college graduate with a bachelor’s degree will earn a median income of $2.8 million over a lifetime.6 But if you can’t work, earning stops. You may have to use your savings, retirement fund, or both, to make up for the loss in income. And once that runs out, you may start taking on debt. That break in your earning power can have a long-term effect on your financial well-being.

Myth:  Waiting to purchase a plan won’t matter.

Fact: It makes economic sense to purchase disability insurance when you’re young. A 30-year-old who waits 10 years could see coverage costs rise by 40%.7 You can lock in a lower rate at a younger age and the coverage stays with you even if you change jobs. Plus, the time and money you’ve invested in your career will be protected — giving you greater confidence and peace of mind.

Perhaps the biggest myth about long-term disability is that “it won’t happen to me.” None of us want to believe an illness or injury that leaves us unable to work will happen, but we can protect ourselves financially in the event one does. By helping to protect your greatest financial asset — your income — disability insurance can help you live more confidently now and cover you for the future.


1 Integrated Benefits Institute, Health and Productivity Benchmarking, Long-Term Disability, 2018.

2 Integrated Benefits Institute, Health and Productivity Benchmarking, Long-Term Disability, 2018.

3 U.S. Social Security Administration Fact Sheet, June 2022.

4 CNBC, Over half of Americans have less than 3 months’ worth of emergency savings, 2021.

5 Chances of Disability, Council for Disability Awareness, 2022.

6 CNBC, More education doesn’t always get you more money, report finds, 2021.

7 Occ class 4, 90-day elimination period, generic rates for 30- and 40-year-old males and females, to age 65 benefit.


Material discussed is meant for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, the information should be relied upon only when coordinated with individual professional advice.

Brought to you by The Guardian Network © 2017, 2022. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America®, New York, NY

2022-147712 Exp. 12/2024 *pre-approved content*

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