Starting Monday, January 11 through Friday, January 29, eligible City of Tacoma employees have an opportunity to buy affordable additional long-term disability insurance coverage through the City. While this benefit may not sound too exciting, it represents essential insurance coverage that can protect your income in the unfortunate event that you become disabled.
City of Tacoma employees should sign-up and take advantage of this benefit.
Who am I? My name is Geoff, and I am a financial planner with Puget Sound-based Merriman Wealth Management, LLC. I got excited after seeing the special benefits notice my wife received as a City of Tacoma employee. I do not work for the City or the vendor, and I do not receive any personal benefit from you enrolling in this extra disability coverage. I am just passionate about helping families make the best financial decisions possible and wanted to provide additional information on a topic that can seem overly complicated or may often be overlooked.
The FAQ below illustrates just how important this additional long-term disability coverage is, whether or not you have dependents:
What is disability insurance?
This type of insurance is used to protect your income and financial livelihood in the event of an untimely illness or injury.
There are two types of disability insurance: short-term and long-term. Long-term disability coverage is the most valuable because it replaces a portion of your income starting 90 days after your disability until recovery or age 65, whichever is sooner.
Don’t I already have long-term disability coverage through the City of Tacoma?
You do. However, for most employees this basic employer-paid benefit only protects 60% of the first $1,500 in monthly pre-disability earnings. This means that if you earn $6,250 a month or $75,000 a year, you will only receive $900 a month in benefits. Will $900 a month cover your bills?
How much extra income protection will this additional benefit provide me?
Up to $4,100 of extra income per month of pre-disability earnings. Combined with the basic employer-provided benefit described above, you could receive up to $5,000 of income replacement (i.e., a total of 60% of $8,333 pre-disability earnings). The employee from question two above, earning $6,250 a month or $75,000 a year, would receive $3,750 a month in benefits, which would go much farther toward being able to cover bills.
Note: Employees earning $100,000 or more would receive the maximum benefit of $5,000 a month.
What is the difference between the 90-day and 180-day waiting period options?
This waiting period, otherwise called the elimination period, is how long you have to wait to start receiving long-term disability payments from the insurance carrier. Premiums are naturally higher for the 90-day waiting period option as you will start receiving benefits earlier. The difference in premium for choosing the 90-day waiting period over the 180-day waiting period is offset by starting to receive income 3 months earlier.
How much does this benefit cost and how is it paid?
The benefit costs 0.303% of pre-disability earnings up to the pre-disability earnings cap for the 90-day waiting period option. This means the employee earning $75,000 would pay an extra $18.94 per month or $227.28 a year (i.e., 0.303% X $6,250 pre-disability earnings). Employees earning $100,000 or more a year would pay an extra $25.25 per month or $303 a year. This extra benefit far outweighs the additional premium cost.
Note: This premium cost would be deducted via payroll as a post-tax cost.
What happens if I stop working at the City of Tacoma?
Generally, you cannot keep group disability benefits like this one offered through the City of Tacoma if you leave (i.e., not portable).
If I do become disabled, how does the benefit work? How long would the benefit last?
In the unfortunate event of an illness or injury that qualifies for disability insurance benefits, you would file a claim with the disability insurance carrier that includes medical evidence of your disability. If approved, you would start receiving the above-described benefits after the waiting period until recovering from the disability or age 65, whichever comes first.
Would the benefits received from this extra policy be taxable?
Because the premium is paid post-tax rather than pre-tax where you receive a tax deduction for the premium cost, the disability payment you would receive would be tax-free. SAID AGAIN: All of the income received from this extra long-term disability coverage would not be subject to taxation. The tax-free nature of the payments further helps replace your pre-disability income (as your pre-disability income is gross income or otherwise subject to taxes).
Note: Income received from the employer-paid basic long-term disability coverage (i.e., 60% of the first $1,500 in monthly pre-disability income) would be subject to taxation. This is because your employer pays the premiums for this benefit.
What if I earn more than $100,000 a year? Do I need additional income protection beyond this extra benefit offered by the City?
Maybe. Start by asking these questions:
- Does my contribution to covering household expenses exceed $5,000 a month?
- Do I expect these expenses above $5,000 a month to continue for at least another year?
- Do I expect my income and expenses to increase in the future?
If you answered YES to these questions (and be conservative on this), then it makes sense to consider buying an additional individual disability policy outside of your City benefits. This is especially important for households with a single earner.
An advisor can get quotes through an insurance broker to help you make an informed decision. It is also important to evaluate this decision through the lens of your overall financial plan, taking into account all of your goals and resources.
If you have questions about how much disability insurance coverage you need to protect your income or any other financial planning topics, like whether you are on track to achieve your financial goals, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other useful resources:
- Why Do I Need A Financial Plan?
- Making Work Optional: Steps to Financial Freedom (free e-book)
- How to Go about Prioritizing your Savings
Disclosure: The opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax or legal advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. As always please remember investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital; past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Merriman and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Merriman Wealth Management unless a client service agreement is in place.
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Geoff has always enjoyed talking with people about finance, learning about their investments, financial strategy, and business sense. His interest only deepened with time, and what began as a hobby has now become a life-long passion, with an unparalleled passion for continuing education that makes him an expert in many subjects from traditional taxes and investments to business succession planning and executive compensation negotiations.
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