While, hopefully, your disability policy will provide sufficient income to meet your essential expenses if you have to file a claim, benefit amounts rarely provide monthly income that is comparable to what you earned while practicing. Additionally, many policies have maximum benefit periods that expire at age 65 or 67, which means you will be without a monthly income for the remainder of your life if you haven’t established other financial resources. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, one option to ensure continued financial stability is to purchase a policy that includes lifetime benefits rider. Another option we are beginning to see offered with some policies is the lump sum disability rider benefit.
This rider is designed to provide a one-time lump sum payment at the end of the benefit period, much like being able to access a 401(k) or other retirement account upon reaching retirement age. This lump sum can also help to offset expenses that may be more likely to arise later in life, like the costs of needed surgeries or other medical care.
While lifetime benefits work by paying a claimant a continuing monthly benefit after the normal expiration date of a policy, under this type of rider, the insurance company pays a one-time payment at the end of the policy’s benefit period. The payout will typically be a certain percentage of the benefit payments the policyholder received prior to the end of the maximum benefit period under the policy. This calculation includes payments received both while on total disability and residual disability, over the life of the policy, whether continuous or not.
For example, say a claimant received a monthly benefit payment of $5,000 per month (or $60,000 per year) and remains on claim from age 48 to the end of the benefit period (age 65, for example) or 17 years. If the lump sum benefit is equal to 35%, the claimant would receive a one-time payment of $357,000 (17 x $60,000 x .35).
It is also important to note that these riders typically require that a claimant receive a minimum threshold amount of benefits to qualify to receive the lump sum payment. For example, the qualifying amount may be set at $60,000. If the monthly benefit payment is $5,000 a month, the policyholder won’t be eligible for a lump sum payment unless he or she remains on claim for at least 12 months over the life of the policy.
Thus, with a lump sump benefit rider, the longer a policyholder stays on claim, the larger the lump sum payment will be. It therefore stands to reason that insurance companies have an even stronger than normal incentive to get a claimant off claim. As insurance companies often use aggressive tactics to investigate claims in order to find justification to terminate or deny claims in an attempt to save money, having a lump sum benefit rider could result in greater scrutiny of a policyholder’s claim, particularly before the qualifying amount is reached. However, unlike lifetime benefit rider options (which typically require a policyholder to continue to submit proof of loss for life in order to continue receiving lifetime benefits), the insurance company’s ability to scrutinize a claim ends upon the payment of the lump sum under a lump sum benefit rider.
Thus, as with all policy provisions, there are pros and cons to keep in mind, and deciding whether the lump sum disability benefit rider is the right policy for you requires careful consideration of what you can afford in premiums, your age, other sources of income you and your household have, and your plans for retirement.
In our previous posts in this series, we examined why residents should not wait to acquire disability coverage and discussed some key provisions to look for when selecting an individual disability policy. In this post, we’ll be taking a look at a few more provisions you may want to look for when selecting a policy. More specifically, we are going to look at some policy provisions that can help you meet your monthly expenses in the event of disability, along with some policy provisions that can help you plan for your retirement.
Student Loan Coverage Rider
If you are like most residents, you have accrued a significant amount of student loan debt. The time it takes to pay off student loan debt varies widely based on income and other expenses. Many doctors must practice for several years before they are able to pay off all of their student loans, and student loan obligations can be a significant monthly expense to meet if you are disabled and no longer able to practice. Although not as common as other riders, a student loan coverage rider allows policy holders to insure their student loan for an additional amount each month, on top of their benefits.
This provision allows you to forego paying your policy premiums while you are receiving disability benefits, freeing up a substantial portion of the monthly income you would otherwise be paying back to the insurance company.
This provision, while not as common, entitles the policy holder to receive a refund of all premiums if he or she does not become disabled before the expiration of the policy term. This can be appealing to residents, whose plans will be in effect for a long time.
This important provision in a policy controls the period of time the insured is eligible to receive benefits. Most plans pay benefits until age 65 or 67, some pay lifetime benefits, and others pay for only a limited amount of time, even if a claim is filed decades before the policy terminates.
The majority of doctors under 40 list preparing for retirement as their top financial goal. There are several different disability policy riders directed towards this goal, including the following.
Graded Lifetime Benefit Rider: This provision, based on its terms, extends some or all of your disability benefits past the normal end date of age 65 or 67.
Lump Sum Rider: This rider provides for a one-time payment once the policy expiration age is reached. Typically, policy holders must have received benefits for at least one year and the lump sum payment is typically a percentage of the aggregate sum of benefits received during the policy term.
Retirement Protection Insurance: Depending on the insurer, this may be offered as a rider or a stand-alone policy. If you become disabled and your claim is approved, your insurer will establish a trust for your benefit, where benefits are deposited and invested (similar to an employer-sponsored 401(k)), with funds likely becoming accessible after the age of 65.
Our next post in this series will discuss the importance of choosing a plan where benefits increase over time.
 2015 Report on U.S. Physicians’ Financial Preparedness, Young Physicians Segment, American Medical Association Insurance, https://www.amainsure.com/reports/2015-young-physician-report/index.html?page=5.
Lump Sum Rider
In our last post we discussed some of the ways a disability can impact your retirement planning and how a graded lifetime benefits rider can help mitigate some of those problems. A lifetime benefits rider certainly has its advantages, but it is not the only solution to the retirement income problems created by a disabling condition. A lump sum rider offers an alternative solution to the same problem.
A lump sum rider offers a different approach to the retirement income issue. Unlike the lifetime benefits rider, which simply pays a set monthly amount for the remainder of your lifetime after you reach your policy expiration age (generally 65 or 67), the lump sum rider provides a one-time payment once you reach policy expiration age. With this rider, in order to be eligible for the lump sum payment, you must receive benefits equal to twelve times the monthly benefit amount during your policy term. Generally speaking, this just means you have to receive benefits for at least one year.
The amount of your lump sum payment is typically a percentage of the aggregate sum of benefits you received during your policy term, in many cases between thirty percent and forty percent of total benefits received. For example, assume you have a policy that pays $10,000 per month in benefits and you become disabled at age 50. By the time you reach age 65, your policy will have paid you a total of $1,800,000 in benefits. With this rider, when your regular monthly benefits terminated, you would receive an additional one-time lump sum payment of $630,000.
This rider has its advantages and disadvantages over a graded lifetime benefits rider. Receiving a lump sum, especially one as large as the example above, can provide you with a degree of immediate financial flexibility that is not available with a set monthly amount like what you would receive with a lifetime benefits rider. For example, you can take your lump sum and turn it over to an investment manager, who will in turn be able to put your money to work for you and create passive income. Or, alternatively, a lump sum can provide you with capital necessary to pay off your mortgage, auto loans, and any existing debt, and use the remainder to supplement any retirement savings you amassed prior to your disability. A lump sum payment also provides a measure of security that lifetime benefits do not: with lifetime benefits the insurance company still controls your monthly payments, and there is no guarantee that your benefits will never be terminated.
The disadvantage to a lump sum rider is self-evident: it is a one-time payment. Unlike the lifetime benefits rider, which provides the security and certainty of a steady monthly income, once the lump sum is gone, it’s gone. The degree to which this is a negative characteristic of the lump sum rider largely depends on the type of person it applies to. For individuals more likely to save, invest, and exercise financial restraint, the lump sum rider may offer a greater degree of financial freedom and flexibility. For those more likely to splurge and spend the money they have, a lump sum rider may not have the structure and stability to ensure a reliable stream of income throughout their retirement years. For those individuals, a lifetime benefits rider may be a better solution.
However, if neither the lifetime benefits rider nor the lump sum benefit rider seem to suit your retirement needs, there is a third option. In our next post, we will discuss retirement protection insurance – a product that is specifically tailored to the problems that a disability can create for retirement planning.