Most professionals working in the insurance industry know how essential disability insurance is to financial wellness. However, as a general rule, out of all working age populations Millennials (ages 23-38) are the least likely to understand the value and be enrolled in disability insurance. So it’s easy to see how Millennials can benefit from a deeper understanding of how and why disability insurance is a vital part of an individual’s financial and personal safety net.
It starts with education. Research from Anthem shows that 34 percent of Millennials are unfamiliar with short- and long-term disability insurance. Add to that their youthful sense of invincibility, focus on other priorities and misconceptions about the value of this relatively small paycheck deduction, and we in the disability insurance market have our work cut out for us. One effective method to begin the education process is to simply present the facts in a caring manner. The educational foundation is enhanced when you pair this with the reality that employers care about the well-being of their employees, including their mental health, and have a desire to help Millennials (and all employees) connect the dots between financial protection and disability insurance.
Many Millennials have a misunderstanding about what disability is. They believe that a disability event is an injury that renders someone unable to ever work again. However, 90 percent of disability claims are caused by illnesses such as arthritis, back pain or cancer, but one of the most common reasons for short-term disability is pregnancy. The fact is, one in four of today’s 20 year-olds will experience a disability before they retire so, considering how likely they are to become disabled during their careers, Millennials need to know more about disability insurance.
Additionally, according to a recently published Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index,1 one third of Millennials have a health condition that reduces their quality of life and life expectancy and that the major decline in their health, on average, begins at age 27. The study also found that, compared to Generation X, Millennials have substantially higher diagnoses of eight of the top 10 health conditions, including major depression, hypertension, hyperactivity and Type 2 diabetes, and are more likely to be less healthy when they’re older compared to Gen Xers.
Educating Millennials on these statistics could help underscore why they should consider disability insurance. Additionally, sharing examples of how disability insurance covers lost income during temporary and relatable life events—like having an injury, surgery, pregnancy, extended medical treatment or mental illness—from which people routinely recover and return to work, presents the opportunity to spell-out the difference between short-term versus long-term disability.
One common scenario is that many Millennials are saddled with unprecedented levels of student loan debt, live paycheck-to-paycheck and have little to no savings. So, of course, they are rightfully worried about how even a small disruption in their income would create major problems keeping up with their living expenses and credit card debt.
While focused on their futures, Millennials, like generations of young people before them, may not be prepared for the ramifications of short- and long-term income disruption. The potential of wiped-out savings, damaged credit rating, repossessed automobile or even bankruptcy not only hurts in the moment, but also affects longer-term goals like the ability and the price of credit to buy a home later in life. An unprotected disability may force postponement of personal dreams such as buying that first home or starting a family.
Link Financial, Physical and Mental Wellness
Tying the role of disability insurance to not only financial wellness but also physical and mental wellness is one way to make a proper and impactful impression on Millennials.
This type of education is essential in helping Millennials to take important, positive steps to safeguard their personal health. However one argument Millennials often make is that, because they are young, healthy and already doing all the right things to stay that way, they don’t need disability insurance. But that’s precisely why strong education about unforeseen events and injuries—especially injuries sustained while enjoying an active lifestyle, or perhaps a sudden cancer diagnosis– is needed.
Employers looking for ways to attract top young talent must show Millennials that their personal and mental wellness benefits are an important part of their compensation and that the financial safety net that disability insurance offers is integral to maintaining their personal and mental wellness. It’s important to emphasize that, when it is needed, disability insurance will help them focus on recovery from an illness or accident rather than stressing out about how to pay their bills.
In addition, Millennials are the first generation to enter the workforce since passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which increased the numbers of people with physical, mental and neurological disabilities entering the workforce. Due to additions to and changes in diagnostic criteria in recent decades, a significant portion of this age group has diagnoses for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD/ADD), dyslexia and Autism Spectrum Disorder. They are aware of many of their rights under the ADA, but may not be aware that disability insurance can help pay for some workplace accommodations for these conditions and in many cases remove some of the financial burden.
Disability insurance can certainly ease the potential financial stress of any generation, but it may be even more critical for Millennials. As professionals working in the insurance industry, taking the time to help employers educate this generational age group, using empathy to demonstrate that the employer really cares about their well-being, will ultimately help Millennials plan for and protect their financial future.