How Disability Insurance Helped Us

You often hear financial professionals talking about how disability insurance is very important. The thing is, you never really realize how important it is until it pays out the first time. That or the first time that you need it and don’t have it.

We were in the lucky group because  my fiancee was covered by her employer’s disability coverage the first time we needed disability insurance.

Why We Needed and Used Disability Insurance

Bad feet run in my fiancee’s family and this is a problem for her because of her profession. My fiancee is a Registered Nurse (RN). Her job involves standing and walking almost all day (unlike my desk job in accounting). Bad feet and having to be on your feet all day is a bad combination.

Basically her feet kept getting wider due to bad ligaments. This was fine until it got to the point where she could no longer find shoes that comfortably fit her for 12 hour shifts.

We were surprised to find out if her problem didn’t get fixed in time there would be a point where they could no longer fix it. It was at this point that we realized she had to have surgery to fix it before it got worse.

The Problem with Surgery

There is a major problem with foot surgery if you’re a nurse. You can’t work if you can’t be on your feet. There is no light duty option like my desk job. No work = no income… unless you have disability insurance and your surgery is covered OR you have a ton of paid time off to take.

Honestly though, who wants to take PTO to have surgery? Doesn’t sound like a vacation to me! What saved us was her employer offers disability insurance as part of her benefit package. It honestly wasn’t even something we had thought of until this surgery came up.

Well, we didn’t consider it until we figured out she’d be off her job for at least 8-10 weeks. It was at that point we knew we had to come up with a solution.

Disability Offerings From Her Employer

Her employer’s disability coverage was paid for by her employer. It covered 60% of her standard paycheck and increases the longer she stays with her company. On top of that, you could buy an extra 20% of coverage for just a couple dollars a paycheck.

When they began offering the disability insurance we made sure to call and ensure her surgery qualified. After getting it cleared through disability insurance and planning for a good time to get it done we decided to purchase the extra 20% as it would pay out more than we’d pay in. No brainer there.

How Much Disability Insurance Helped Us

Instead of receiving 0% of her paycheck for 10 weeks or saving up multiple years of paid time off just for a surgery, we ended up receiving 80% of her paycheck for those 10 weeks. This was a huge benefit for us. Without this benefit she would have used a ton of her vacation time and we still wouldn’t have anywhere near a normal income.

I also have disability insurance through my employer and definitely understand the value of this benefit now. If I ever end up becoming self employed it is definitely something I’m going to have to look into getting on my own.

Keep in mind, we only used short term disability insurance. If something happened and we could no longer work in our field for the rest of our lives think how much that’d mess you up. That is what long term disability insurance is for and I hope I never have to use it.

Have you ever thought about disability insurance before? Do you have any? Why or why not?

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. I thought about cancelling ours – since it’s not cheap, but ended up deciding against it for now.

    • It isn’t cheap. You can go without short term disability if you have a sizable emergency fund but there is no way you can save enough to replace long term disability unless you are near to retirement.

  2. We have thought about disability insurance. However, it is really expensive so we haven’t done it yet. Our plan has been to become debt free so that we could live off of one salary – thus we would be (semi)self-insured. My work doesn’t offer particularly good insurance benefits of any sort, so it is something that would have to come completely out of pocket. However, it sure would come in handy if we ever needed it.

  3. I can imagine this would be a major issue with your fiancée being a RN. We were able to have ST disability when my wife had our first two kids and it helped out a lot. We also need to look at buying our own coverage now that we run our own business.

  4. Most people don’t buy disability insurance because of the cost. The problem is this: the reason it’s expensive is because insurance companies think you’re gonna use it. For this reason alone, disability coverage should be #1 on your list.

  5. I never thought about it until recently. With the pinched nerve, I was facing surgery if it did not get better. Luckily, that is put off. Unfortunately, I am now ineligible thanks to my age (over 65 y.o.). The good news is I have over 120 days of sick time accumulated. I am self insured in that respect although I want to save it to add to my retirement.

  6. I have long term disability through my employer and so does my wife. We also have a short term policy for her (through Aflac) which we used while she was on maternity leave (yeap giving birth is considered a disability). Since we think we might have one more kid we will keep paying for it. After that we will cancel the policy and just continue with long term since we have enough savings to cover the 90 days before long term kicks in.

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