Why High-Earning Professionals Must Prioritize Disability Insurance

James Schofield - Nov 07, 2023
Disability insurance is a cornerstone of a sound financial plan, offering crucial income protection if you become unable to work due to an injury or illness.

Picture this: you're a skilled surgeon, ready for another day in the operating room. But as you bend down to secure your three-year-old daughter in her car seat, a sudden jolt of pain shoots through your lower back, leaving you doubled over. After undergoing diagnostic tests, the verdict arrives – a herniated disc that may take months to heal. When you do eventually return to work, you worry that the physically demanding nature of your job increases the risk of a reinjury. This unlucky accident threatens your income and casts a shadow of uncertainty over your future. It's a situation no one wants to think of, yet it's precisely why occupation-specific disability insurance exists.

Disability insurance is a cornerstone of a sound financial plan, offering crucial income protection if you become unable to work due to an injury or illness. However, not all disability insurance policies are created equal, and many professionals require a more tailored approach that factors in their unique training, skills, and income profile.

Occupation-specific disability insurance acknowledges that every profession comes with its distinct set of risks and special considerations. Here are a few examples of professions will benefit from customized disability insurance policies:

  1. Medical Professionals: Surgeons, physicians, and other healthcare providers invest years in education and training. A disability could not only jeopardize their income but also the substantial financial investment they've made in their careers. 
  2. Dentists: Like physicians, dentists have devoted considerable time and resources to their profession and must ensure the protection of their highly specialized skill set. 
  3. Small Business Owners: Entrepreneurs often have personal and financial stakes deeply intertwined with their businesses. If a disability prevents them from running their enterprises, their financial well-being is at stake. Occupation-specific policies can provide a crucial safety net for their livelihoods. 

To illustrate the unique considerations for these occupations and the customizable features of disability policies, let's explore how a policy could be tailored to a resident surgeon.

In Canada, a resident surgeon's salary ranges from $70,000 to $110,000, which even at the lower end exceeds the national average household income of $67,000. Post-residency, a surgeon's income typically experiences a significant surge, with the average income in Canada exceeding $500,000. To accommodate this income growth, a resident surgeon should consider an affordable disability policy that not only replaces their resident income if they were forced to make a claim, but also allows them to scale their coverage as their earnings rise. This scalability feature, known as a future income option or FIO, permits the surgeon to increase their disability benefit annually by a specified amount.

Another vital feature, particularly for highly specialized professions, is the 'own occupation rider.' Think of this rider as an extra add-on, like heated seats in your car. For surgeons, the own occupation rider is like adding heated seats to a vehicle when you live in Winnipeg – a must have! Many disability policies will only pay benefits if the insured individual cannot return to any gainful occupation. In simpler terms, if a surgeon could not perform surgeries due to a hand injury, but could work as a truck driver, the policy wouldn't pay out. The own occupation rider ensures that if the surgeon cannot perform their specific job, they will receive benefits, regardless of their ability to take on a different role.

Additionally, professionals should consider the cost-of-living rider, which safeguards the disability benefit against inflation. This is particularly critical for young professionals because if they were to experience a long-term disability early in their career, the benefit might not keep up with the rising cost of living over time.

Lastly, professionals should explore partial disability and residual disability features. These features allow individuals to receive benefits if they cannot return to full-time employment, helping to compensate for any lost income.

Occupation-specific disability insurance policies aren't just an added expense; they are a strategic investment in your financial well-being. If your profession carries unique risks and demands, it's essential to explore these specialized policies to ensure that you have the coverage you need in case of a disability. Protecting your income and securing your financial future is a decision that can make all the difference during challenging times.