Survey: Most Workers Underestimate Chances, Impact of Disability

March 14, 2007

While growing number of American workers are forecasted to experience a disability during their career, more than 80 percent of workers said they believe their chances of becoming disabled are far lower than actual statistics report, according to a new survey. The 2007 Disability Awareness Survey, released today by the Council for Disability Awareness (CDA), said the majority of workers are not concerned about the possibility of becoming disabled – an accident or illness that will keep them out of work at least three months.

Data from the survey underscores the need to better inform America’s workforce about the likelihood of experiencing a disability, as well as the potential financial consequences that may accompany a disability. The CDA is embarking on an outreach effort to increase public dialogue about disability awareness.

“Preparing for an unexpected disability has never been more important for America’s workforce – especially as more American workers are suffering from income-limiting disabilities that can leave them and their families vulnerable to severe financial hardship,” explained Robert Taylor, executive director of CDA. “It’s important that workers recognize the growing threat that disability can pose to their financial security.”

Since 2000, the number of disabled workers in America has increased by 35 percent according to recent Social Security Administration data. At the same time, the financial health of many American workers has declined. Workers are not only spending their earnings, but also are dipping deeper into their savings and going into debt to make ends meet. The overall 2006 U.S. savings rate was negative 1 percent – the worst since the Great Depression. These statistics are distressing, considering two-thirds of respondents with a 401k or IRA plan are unaware of what would happen to their retirement savings should they become disabled and unable to earn an income.

Given this unsteady financial situation, it’s alarming that nearly 60 percent of workers surveyed said they haven’t discussed how they would manage an income-limiting disability. In fact, almost half of these workers haven’t thought at all about the need to plan for the financial impact of a disability.

On the other hand, more than 80 percent of workers who have planned financially for a disability are confident about their ability to cover living expenses if a disability strikes.

The CDA survey also showed that:

* The majority of workers (56 percent) didn’t realize that their chances of becoming disabled had risen over the past five years.

* Nine out of 10 (90 percent) workers underestimated their own chances of becoming disabled.

* More than one-third (35 percent) of workers with 401k or IRA plans said they haven’t thought about or don’t know what would happen to their contributions if they were unable to earn an income for a period of time.

As responsibility for long-term financial security continues to shift to the American worker, the need to incorporate disability planning into each person’s financial security plan has become more critical,” Taylor said. “Fortunately, with good planning, American workers can dramatically improve their chances of financial stability should a disability strike.”

Source: Council for Disability Awareness,

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