I'm self-employed -what are my options for disability insurance?

By Insurance.com Posted : 01/01/2011

You can buy disability insurance even if you're self-employed, and you should. This is one type of insurance no one should go without. Your income-earning potential is your largest asset, providing everything from food on the table to a comfortable retirement. You should take steps to protect that income.

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Disability insurance pays you a portion of your income, typically 60 percent, if you can't work because of an illness or injury. There's a decent chance that you'll need this safety net at some point in your life. Of today's 20-year-olds, more than one in four will become disabled before retirement, forcing them to take a long-term absence from work, according to the Council for Disability Awareness in Portland, Maine.

The average long-term disability is 2.5 years. A study by the LIFE Foundation found that 70 percent of Americans wouldn't make it one month without their income before financial problems set in.

Most people who have disability insurance obtain the coverage through group plans offered at work. As someone who is self-employed, you can buy an individual policy, or you might be able to purchase coverage through a group plan offered by a trade association. Check to see whether an industry or trade group to which you belong offers access to coverage, and compare those plans and quotes to those you get through insurance agents who sell disability coverage.

Things to consider about disability insurance

Consider the following as you shop for disability insurance:

• Think about how much coverage you need. Many policies are available in two- and five-year increments, and some guarantee coverage until age 65.

• Some plans, called "own occupation," cover you if you cannot work the specific job you had before you became disabled. Others cover you only if you can't work any job.

• Disability coverage does not kick in immediately. Policies include an "elimination period," usually between one month and a year, after you become disabled. You can't collect benefits until the elimination period expires.

• Keep in mind that as a sole proprietor, you'll need to show business records to an insurance company to prove your income.

For more, see How much disability insurance do I need?

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