There are two key forces driving this risk.
First, women are significantly more likely than their male counterparts to develop a disability in the first place. The incidence of disability for females has risen at a disproportionate rate relative to males, according to data from the Social Security Administration. Arthritis, the leading cause of disability among adult Americans, is more than twice as likely to affect women as men.
Second, women aren’t prepared for the financial impact of that disability. Half of women surveyed said that if they were to become disabled, the impact on their household's finances would be at least "somewhat devastating." Women are almost twice as likely as men to think their cash reserves would last less than one month in the event of a disability (22 percent versus 12 percent).
Single women are especially financially vulnerable – more than one in four (28 percent) see the consequences of disability as "totally devastating." Married women are more likely (20 percent) than married men (11 percent) to say they are concerned that their spouse will become disabled and unable to work.
"The implications of this research are startling. Financial services professionals need to start educating their clients – especially their female clients – about the steps they can take to prepare for disability," said Mary Quist-Newins, director of The State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at The American College. "These professionals have the unique opportunity to empower women to make sure they're fully prepared and aware of their options."
We believe it also represents an opportunity for benefits professionals, as employer-sponsored plans are the most common means of disability insurance. Women were less like than men (45 percent vs. 51 percent) to be covered by this crucial benefit. Offering disability insurance as a voluntary benefit to employees, and taking the time to educate workers about its value, can help improve your workers’ sense of wellbeing.
Among the other highlights from the study:
- While more than half of men have done some research into how much disability insurance they need, only about 4 in 10 women have researched the issue.
- 52 percent of men have discussed the possibility and implications of a disability with a financial advisor, compared with 37 percent of women.
- Women are less likely than men to feel confident about job security (28 percent vs. 39 percent), covering basic expenses (25 percent vs. 25 percent), and being able to afford medical care (17 percent vs. 25 percent), if they were to become disabled.
Download the full report at WomensCenter.TheAmericanCollege.edu/DisabilityStudy on The American College's State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services website.
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