By Amanda K. Lettmann
Disability comes quickly and very unexpectedly. One moment you are healthy, another moment you are having open heart surgery — at least that’s what happened to me. In the early 1990’s, I learned dearly the importance of having sound financial health.
At the time I was 29, an avid runner, cyclist, and fitness aficionado. In other words, healthy as a horse, and certainly not thinking I would end up in the hospital for almost a year. I felt run down, had a few doctor’s visits and with no real diagnosis, I self-diagnosed as just being stressed from work. I took a much needed trip to see family and what was going to be a four-day weekend, turned into many months of living in a hospital bed. I was the one in a million person that caught a virus which infects blood cells and essentially tears organs apart.
Thankfully many of my organs gained full health again during that time, however, my heart did not and I required open heart surgery. After my heart reconstruction, I went into recovery for months. As I was too ill to tie my own shoes, let alone to work and draw an income, all in all, I was “on disability” for ten months.
After returning home, I had the shock of seeing $400,000 of medical bill receipts (partially covered by medical insurance). And while that may seem daunting, thankfully one thing I did not have to worry about during that extended illness was how I would be paying my mortgage or providing for my family. I was grateful to have purchased a disability insurance policy prior to becoming ill. 90% of my income was covered for the ten months I couldn’t work — I did not go into excessive debt and I did not lose my home — I had peace of mind, the peace I needed to get better.
What financial health means to me is being aware, educated, and prepared. Unfortunately many Americans are not in the same position of preparedness that I was many years ago. Only 35% of Americans have disability insurance, yet income loss from disabilities account for nearly 50% of today’s mortgage foreclosures. There are nearly 100 million American workers today that don’t have disability insurance and 72% of them don’t have enough savings to cover even short-term emergencies, let alone a longer period of disability. I like to call disability insurance “income protection insurance,” because the loss of income all too often can trigger the snowball effect of financial devastation that millions and millions of Americans have experienced.
Thankfully today I am both physically healthy and financially healthy. Currently, I am the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Simple Disability Insurance. I use my deeply personal experience with disability insurance, and my twenty years of knowledge and skill with business transformation, to deliver innovative technology to financial institutions that allows disability insurance to be sold and purchased in a Simple way. I am inspired to provide the American consumers with knowledge, awareness, and a way to financially prepare themselves — all components of good financial health.
This blog post originally appeared June 29, 2016 on LinkedIn. It was one of 10 winners of a national #FinHealthMatters Day essay contest created by Financial Health Network. MetLife Foundation is a major sponsor of Financial Health Network’s ongoing consumer financial health work. To learn more about FinHealthMatters from Financial Health Network, sign up here.
By Financial Health Network on September 6, 2016.