Protecting your income from the unexpected

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management


Summary: Your ability to earn an income may be one of your most valuable assets, but an accident or unforeseen illness can put that asset at risk. Here’s how to help protect it.

Mother and daughter

Have you ever had friends or family suffer from an accident or unforeseen illness that left them unable to work for months or years at a time? Not only is it hard to see the people you care about struggle, it’s also difficult to imagine if it were you.

One way to prepare is by exploring disability insurance to help protect yourself and your family by helping to provide the financial breathing room to focus on your recovery. While many employers offer disability insurance, it can sometimes be beneficial to augment this coverage with a private policy. Here are three questions to ask yourself when evaluating whether private disability insurance is right for you:

1. Will my workplace disability insurance be enough?

Employer-based long-term disability policies typically replace 60% of income1 and may cap the dollar amount, which may not be enough. A policy with a cap of $120,000 per year, for example, might not provide adequate income replacement for an individual accustomed to earning more. Also, some workplace disability insurance plans only count salary as income,2 so they wouldn’t replace additional income from commissions, bonuses, or other sources. Private disability policies, in contrast, tend to be highly flexible in terms of both the amount of income and types of income they’ll replace.

Private disability insurance has some other benefits as well. It’s portable, so you can keep it if you change jobs. Plus, most group policies through an employer would be pre-tax,1 meaning you would need to pay taxes when disability benefits are received.  Since most private disability insurance policies are paid with after-tax dollars, the benefits you receive from private disability insurance are typically distributed tax-free. Additionally, if your employer doesn’t offer disability insurance, private disability insurance can help provide a basic safety net.

2. What kind of coverage should I have?

Your employer may offer short-term disability insurance, long-term disability insurance, or both.2

  • Short-term: Short-term disability coverage kicks in within a few weeks and covers lost wages over a period of three months to a year. If you have a fully funded emergency savings account, you may be able to skip this type of insurance.
  • Long-term: Long-term disability insurance provides wage replacement for two years or more. It typically kicks in after an “elimination period” that’s, on average, 90 days.

If you purchase a supplemental long-term disability insurance plan,3 carefully read the policy documents to understand the coverage it offers. Generally, there are two types:

  • “Any occupation”: A policy with any occupation insurance coverage will pay out only if you can’t work in any capacity.
  • “Own occupation”: Policies that offer own occupation coverage will pay out if you can’t perform the occupation in which you’re currently employed. If a surgeon has a hand injury and can no longer operate, for example, own occupation insurance would provide coverage, even if they could potentially perform other types of work. Some policies begin with own occupation coverage and transition to any occupation after a period of time.

3. Do I still need an emergency fund?

Even if you have short-term disability insurance at work, there’s typically a waiting period of 14 days before short-term disability insurance kicks in and 90 days for long-term disability insurance.4 Having an emergency fund will help you cover your bills in the interim.

Aim to have an emergency fund with enough liquid assets to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. The amount you need in the account will vary depending on whether you have dependents (you need more) or a spouse with a job (you may need less) or other sources you can ask for help (again, you’d need less).

There’s nothing more important than protecting you, your family, and your financial goals. E*TRADE, combined with Morgan Stanley and through their alliance with Covr5—a leader in digital insurance technology—can help you get the coverage you need.

The source of this article, Protecting Your Income from the Unexpected, was originally published on May 19, 2022.

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  5. E*TRADE from Morgan Stanley is offering access to insurance products through its relationship with Covr Financial Technologies, Inc. (“Covr”). Covr provides direct to consumer insurance solutions. E*TRADE makes no representations regarding the appropriateness or otherwise of the products or services provided by Covr and the insurance carriers on its platform. There are additional service providers for comparative purposes. If you choose to pursue coverage, you must do your own diligence and make your own independent decision. E*TRADE from Morgan Stanley and/or a licensed insurance agency affiliate may earn commissions or a referral fee or other forms of compensation for products purchased through Covr. Covr and E*TRADE are unaffiliated entities.

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