Disability insurance is one of the most important financial investments you can make. If you’re ever injured or if you suffer an illness that prevents you from being able to work, your disability insurance policy will activate and compensate you with a portion of your pre-disability earnings. With the right disability income insurance policy in place, you can cover your expenses while recovering—or even sustain yourself indefinitely if you’re no longer able to work, period. 

However, choosing a disability insurance policy can be challenging. There are many different providers to choose from, and many different factors and variables to consider. Where do you begin? And how can you make the best choice? 

Tips for Choosing the Right Policy

Follow these tips and best practices for choosing the right disability income insurance policy: 

1. Get quotes from multiple providers. First, make sure you get quotes from multiple disability insurance providers. While many insurance providers use similar underwriting techniques, you may find that one provider offers significantly more coverage for the same monthly premiums—or that one provider has a much more favorable policy. Get quotes from at least three providers, and keep shopping if you’re not satisfied with what you’ve found. 

2. Don’t assume your sponsored policy is the best policy. Many people work for an employer who offers a sponsored disability income insurance policy. In this scenario, your employer offers you disability insurance; they may cover the premiums entirely, or you may be responsible for paying a portion of the premium. These can be highly beneficial, but don’t assume that your sponsored policy will cover you in all situations, or in the right ways. 

3. Consider short-term and long-term coverage. Short-term and long-term disability insurance payouts are different; short-term disabilities are injuries and illnesses that last 3 to 6 months. Long-term disabilities could last for the rest of your life. Make sure you have coverage to protect you in both scenarios. 

4. Weigh premiums and payouts. Next, think about the premiums you’ll be paying and the potential payouts of the policy. Short-term disability insurance will cover something like 60 to 80 percent of your salary, while long-term insurance will cover 40 to 60 percent in most cases. These policies will each cost about 1 to 3 percent of your yearly income to maintain. Compare each policy apples to apples, and see if you can figure out which policy gives you the most favorable cost-to-benefit ratio. 

5. Choose the right coverage length. You’ll also need to consider the coverage length of your policy. Short-term disability insurance policies usually last 3 to 6 months, but you may find some variance here. Long-term disability policies often last for several years, but the exact length is down to the policy. If you’re nearing retirement, a period of 10 years may be plenty to keep you financially secure. However, if you’re young, you may want a policy that can protect you all the way up to age 65. 

6. Review the disability evaluation. Different companies and organizations define “disability” in different ways, so make sure you understand which definition you’re working with and how the company is going to make that determination. For example, the Social Security Administration has strict definitions for what constitutes a disability, and it’s therefore often difficult to qualify for disability coverage through them. Don’t make an assumption that you know what qualifies as a disability; you don’t want to be taken off guard when you need coverage the most. 

7. Look at the waiting period. In most disability insurance policies, you’ll need to go through a waiting period before you can begin to claim benefits. For example, you may need to wait up to 90 days before you can begin to capitalize on the benefits. This is a standard for the industry, but it’s still a good idea to compare different waiting periods—especially if you’re torn between two otherwise competitive providers. 

8. Evaluate payout options. Different policies pay out in different ways and in different circumstances. For example, some policies will only protect you if you’re unable to work in any job; others will protect you if you’re unable to work in your current occupation only (allowing you to work elsewhere). 

The Perfect Policy? 

There’s no such thing as a perfect disability income insurance policy, because there are pros and cons to every option. If you want more coverage and a more lucrative policy overall, you’ll end up paying higher premiums. If you want lower premiums, you’ll end up sacrificing some coverage to do it. That said, you can get closer to finding the best fit for you as an individual if you shop around and consider these points carefully.