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How to Protect Your Income as a Freelancer

August 10, 2020

The life of a freelancer can be very exciting and fulfilling. You don’t have a time clock to punch, there’s no supervisor to answer to, the potential to grow your business is seemingly unlimited, and your income potential is exciting.

But, like anything else in the business world, freelancing has its drawbacks. Chief among them, for many freelancers, is not having group health, life, and disability insurance benefits available. It falls on the freelancer’s shoulders to search out good, affordable insurance coverage, which is no easy task.

How to Protect Your Income as a Freelancer

Do I really need long-term disability insurance?

As a freelancer, you may be concerned about having health insurance to pay doctors and hospitals if you needed medical attention. You have no doubt read about the skyrocketing prices for health care, and you purchase health insurance to pay your medical bills to protect yourself from a financial disaster.

Most freelancers protect their bodies and checking account with health insurance, but don’t protect their income with long-term disability insurance coverage. It makes good sense for you to make sure your healthcare providers get paid when you’re sick or injured, but how are you going to get paid if you can’t work for a prolonged period of time because of a serious illness or injury?

Yes, a disability can happen to you

Buying life insurance to protect your family financially when you die is a smart, responsible move. In fact, over half of adult Americans have purchased life insurance coverage. But, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the probability of dying before retirement age for a 20-year-old is 13 percent, while the likelihood of becoming disabled is 25 percent. You’re about twice as likely to become disabled during your working life as you are to die.

Most of us can’t see ourselves laid up in a hospital bed for a prolonged period of time because of a serious illness, or we can’t picture ourselves convalescing at home for weeks because of a severe injury. Unfortunately, none of us are immune from the potential for a serious medical event that can keep us from earning our freelance income.

What are my financial options if I become disabled?

If you became disabled tomorrow and you had no longer had an income, what would you do? That is a very unnerving question for a high percentage of people. Still, for freelancers whose income is totally dependent upon their ability to work and earn an income, it’s a question that needs to be considered.

What are my financial options if I can't work?

As a freelancer, the options to replace your income if you become disabled include:

  1. Live off of savings. This is not a viable option for most people, considering that 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. It’s apparent that most people are living paycheck-to-paycheck and would be facing a financial disaster if they couldn’t work.
  2. Get help from family and friends. Considering that most Americans have difficulty setting money aside for themselves each month, how realistic is it to expect that a close relative or friend to support you if you become disabled? Plus, you certainly don’t want to be a burden on your loved ones.
  3. Claim Social Security disability benefits. According to the Council for Disability Awareness, only 34% of claimants had their applications approved from 2006 to 2015, and two-thirds of these were only approved after being initially declined and going through a lengthy appeals process. It is extremely challenging to meet the SSA’s strict definition of disability.
  4. Buy individual long-term disability insurance. Having a long-term disability policy means having a portion of your income replaced if you can’t work because you’re sick or injured. As a freelancer living off of the fruits of your labor, this is very reassuring if the unexpected happens.

This last option is clearly the most effective way for you to fortify your financial safety net against serious injuries and illnesses. But how exactly does long-term disability insurance work?

How individual long-term disability insurance works

As a freelancer, your best bet for getting long-term disability insurance coverage is to buy an individual policy. The younger and healthier you are, the lower your premium rates will be. That’s why it makes good financial sense to put a policy in place early on in your career and adjust your coverage as your needs change.

First, you will want to compare long-term disability quotes to evaluate your needs. Once you find a plan that works for you, submit your application online. If you are approved for coverage, now all you have to do is pay your premiums to keep your income safe and sound.

When you buy long-term disability insurance, your carrier is obligated to pay you the monthly benefit amount selected on your policy if you experience a covered disability. Because your premiums are paid with after-tax dollars, any benefits you receive will be treated as tax-free income that is paid directly to you. This means

In addition to your benefit amount, there are two key decisions you need to make: when benefits will start paying out and how long benefits will last.

  • Your policy’s elimination period is the amount of time you need to wait before you start to receive disability benefits. Typical elimination period options include 30, 60, 90, 180, and 365 days. The shorter your elimination period, the higher your monthly payment you make for the insurance will be.
  • Your policy’s benefit period is the length of time benefits will be paid if you experience a covered event. Typical benefit period options include one, two, five, and ten years; or until ages 65 or 67. The longer the benefit period, the higher your premium.

It’s important to note that your job occupation will also impact the cost of your disability insurance policy.

Be proactive about protecting your income
Perhaps your greatest asset is your ability to earn a living doing what you love.

Protecting what you earn requires you to be proactive by putting a policy in place when you are healthy and working, rather than waiting until something bad happens.

To evaluate your income protection needs, there’s Breeze, the easy way to buy disability insurance online.

Not only will you be able to enjoy your freelance career with greater financial security, but it also might be the easiest thing you do today.

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