For the first 26 of my 28 years in the financial services industry, I focused on helping individuals save for retirement. Two years ago, I was introduced to the income protection industry. I quickly learned the importance of having a strategy to protect one of our most valuable assets –our incomes – from the risk of disability. This is where my former world in retirement and my new world in income protection began to merge.
Many of us focus on building and protecting our retirement funds from an investment strategy perspective, laboring over investment decisions and diversification concerns. Many people’s eyes were opened, however, during the financial crisis. We found our retirement savings plundered as the market went into a sharp downward spiral. It was a stark reminder of how all our planning and savings could quickly and without warning be knocked off track.
The thing is, challenging markets and weak investment diversification aren’t the only threats to a well-deserved retirement. Even if you’re on track with your retirement savings, there is one aspect many haven’t considered: What would happen to your ability to save if you became too sick or hurt to work? You’d likely not be able to continue contributing to:
- Your 401(k) or other plans and receive any available employer match
- Social Security
- Your current pension
- Your personal savings for an emergency fund
Think about it – if you were no longer receiving an income and were incurring higher medical bills, would you be able to put aside money for retirement? Disability income insurance helps cover day-to-day expenses, but those policies are designed to get you TO retirement, not THROUGH retirement. If you simply stop saving, you could lose as much as 50 percent of your planned retirement funds. (And that may be a best-case scenario!)
Here’s the good news: you can protect your ability to save for retirement just like you protect your income from the threat of a disability. If you already have solutions in place to protect both, congratulations! You’re a rare breed and ahead of the curve. If you haven’t, let me pose this question: What will you do if you become too sick or hurt to work? What’s your strategy for protecting both current income and retirement savings potential?
If your financial advisor hasn’t discussed these issues with you, I encourage you to make retirement protection a topic of your next meeting. Don’t wait. Just like an unexpected drop in the market, a disability can strike at any time – putting your dreams of a happy retirement in jeopardy!