Bret Anthony Barger, DDS
Okay, let’s be honest: one of the reasons you are going to dental school is for the financial security and lifestyle that is provided by a career in dentistry. When I chose dentistry at the age of thirteen, the two main reasons were to help people and to have a lifestyle that other careers did not provide. So you spend four years in college and another four years in dental school and invest an average of almost $200,000 obtaining this great education. What do you do if the unimaginable happens, and you are unable to practice dentistry? I know what you are thinking. “That will never happen to me.” It wasn’t that long ago that I was in my mid-twenties and thought that I was “bulletproof” and “indestructible” too!
Did you know that one-in-three people will be disabled for at least 90 days, that one-in-five will be disabled for five or more years, and that one-in-33 people will become permanently disabled? Did you know that dentists are even more likely than the average population to become disabled due to the need for fine motor skills?
When I was in dental school we were never taught anything about disability or “income replacement” insurance. I was fortunate that an insurance agent contacted me right out of school and explained the importance of protecting my most important asset, which was my ability to practice dentistry. Although what he explained made sense to me, I never imagined for a moment that anything would keep me from practicing in the profession I love. I purchased a disability policy never dreaming that someday I might actually need it for my financial well being!
So what do you want if something prevents you from practicing dentistry? Do you want to be able to continue the lifestyle you would have earned as a practicing dentist? Do you want the homes, the cars, the education and retirement accounts, the ability to travel the world, and the overall financial security that you would have as a practicing dentist? If the answer is yes, then you need to understand how to correctly set up a disability income policy that will properly protect you and your family.
The following are the most important aspects of a disability income policy:
- The most important feature is the “True” own occupation definition of total disability. This protects you specifically as a practicing dentist. Most companies offer only a modified version of this which will reduce and/or totally eliminate your benefits if you chose to work in a new occupation.
- Future increase options allow you to increase your coverage as your income grows without having to prove good health.
- Having a policy that is both “non-cancellable” and “guaranteed renewable” means that both your premium and contract are guaranteed.
- A cost of living adjustment (COLA) is an inflation fighting device that allows your benefit to increase every year with inflation if you become disabled.
- A benefit period to at least age 65 and preferably for life is recommended.
- Many policies have a one or two year limitation for “mental/nervous and stress” claims. You need to make certain that the policy you purchase does not have this limitation!
Did you know that 25-35% of all graduating dental students are unable to qualify for a personal disability income policy? I recommend that you find out if you are insurable BEFORE graduating from dental school by applying for a personal disability income policy. If you are uninsurable, ASDA has a special program that you can purchase while you are a dental student, and your school may also provide options to you.
So what does comprehensive disability insurance like this cost? There are several variables, including gender, age, amount of coverage, and the options chosen. The typical range is about one hundred to two hundred dollars per month.
Finally, you need to understand if an insurance agent is looking out for your best interest or their own. If they say that having “True” own occupation coverage is not that important, then they probably represent a company that does not offer this vital feature.
Make certain that you fully understand what you are purchasing when you set up your disability income policy, and do it properly the first time. You have spent a long time and a lot of money to get where you are. Don’t gamble with your financial well being!
About the author:
Dr. Barger speaks at more than half of the denial schools around the country and is considered one of the foremost experts on disability income planning for the dental profession. Dr. Barger also helps the ADA with their disabled dentists program and taws a featured .speaker at the ADA s annual session in San Francisco last fall. Barger helps dental students around the country in setting up their personal disability insurance.
If you have any questions or concerns or would like Dr. Barger to help you set up your personal disability income policy or to speak at you school you can contact him at 1-877-482-7755 or on the web.