If you become disabled or laid off, how can you pay your bills?

(BPT) - The transmission on your car fails resulting in a trip to the repair garage. Your appendix bursts requiring an overnight hospitalization. A windstorm damages your roof causing a leak.

What do these situations have in common? They're examples of life's unexpected, expensive surprises that can easily result in a bill of $1,000 or more. Each has the potential to adversely impact your finances.

As shocking as it may sound, two-thirds of Americans today would have trouble paying an unexpected $1,000 emergency. More than half of adult Americans are considered financially unhealthy, according to the Center for Financial Services Innovation.

For many Americans, an unexpected expense can present an insurmountable challenge which can have a ripple effect on their bills. And it's not only low income families that are struggling. One in five households earning more than $75,000 a year are unsure as to whether they could cover an unplanned $2,000 expense.

The great crippler of Americans' financial health: Disability

Consider these disability statistics:

* More than 375,000 Americans become totally disabled each year.

* For a 32-year old, a disability lasting 3 months is 6 1/2 times more likely than death.

* More than 50 percent of disabled Americans are in their working years, age 18-64.

* Among 20-year-olds, more than one in four will become disabled before they retire.

* And 95 percent of disabling incidents are not work related so are ineligible for Workers' Compensation.

Will the federal government's Social Security Disability Insurance program come to the rescue? Don't count on it. Benefits are only available to Americans who have paid FICA taxes at least 10 years. Also, only 32 percent of applicants qualify for benefits and the average benefit paid by Social Security Disability is $1,130 a month.

If you have long-term disability insurance, typically it covers 60 percent of your base salary up to a maximum of $10,000 a month. Most income earners, regardless of income level, have fixed monthly bills that consume 65-75 percent of their paycheck. Even with a disability plan, a disabled person more than likely will have a difficult time making ends meet.

Aon Integramark, a financial services company, reviewed a number of disability products and found that many will not pay if an individual can work in another capacity other than their occupation when they became disabled. For example, if you are employed as a nurse at the time you become disabled, and after your injury, you are unable to continue as a nurse, but are able to work as a cashier at a retail store, you may not be considered disabled and eligible for benefits.

However, there are other policies specifically designed to address this situation, such as Aon Integramark's Income Assist(R), which provides benefits when you become disabled, regardless of the type of disability you suffer, as long as certain eligibility criteria are met.

"Consumers have been abandoned by a lack of affordable financial security products," says Doug Silverman, vice president of Aon Integramark. "Income Assist was designed to respond to consumer needs and help protect their financial health in tough times."

Loss of a job means loss of bill-paying power: Unemployment

Another unexpected situation that can wreak havoc on an individual's financial situation is the sudden loss of their job.

While the Social Security Act of 1935 established the federal-state Unemployment Insurance (UI) system, which pays benefits to workers who are laid off, the program is over 80-years-old and is showing its age. Generally, a person must work one quarter in the previous year to qualify, and the average UI payment is a little over $300 a week and lasts an average of 26 weeks. For many, that's not enough to make ends meet.

How you can be prepared for life's unexpected, expensive surprises

The ability to pay for an unforeseen auto repair, health care deductible or tax bill is critical to your financial health.

To help Americans improve their financial health, Aon Integramark has developed a unique insurance product called Income Assist. It provides short-term disability income benefits with unemployment benefits - financial peace of mind - at an affordable monthly rate.

For more information about Income Assist, visit www.incomeassist.com.)


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