By Marli D. Riggs
June 12, 2012
Women – whether they’re a working or stay-at-home mom, single or married – are most at risk both financially and physically when it comes to disability, according to a new study conducted by The State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at The American College.
Half of women respondents say that if they were to become disabled, the impact on their household’s finances would be at least “somewhat devastating.” In fact, 18% of women (compared to only 12% of men) are “extremely concerned” about the impact a disability could have on their financial situation.
Women are almost twice as likely as men to think their cash reserves would last less than one month in the event of a disability (22% versus 12%.) Furthermore, women are not only more apt to experience financial hardship due to a disability; they are also significantly more likely than their male counterparts to develop a disability in the first place.
Arthritis, the leading cause of disability among adult Americans, is twice as more likely to affect women than men. The incidence of disability for females has risen at a disproportionate rate relative to males. Between 1999 and 2009, Social Security Disability Insurance applications for women grew by 72% versus 42% for men.
Single women are especially financially vulnerable —more than one in four (28%) see the consequences of disability as “totally devastating.” Married women are also at risk; they are more likely (20%) than married men (11%) to say they are concerned that their spouse will become disabled and unable to work.
Employer-sponsored plans are the most common means of disability insurance, however less than half have this benefit with women less likely than men (45% vs. 51%) to be covered. Female entrepreneurs are at even greater risk.
Another survey’s data, released by The American College in January 2012, reveals a gap in coverage for many women who own or work for a small business. It found that roughly 22% of women small business owners own, and offer their employees, short and long-term disability coverage.
“The implications of this research are startling. Financial services professionals need to start educating their clients – especially their female clients – about the steps they can take to prepare for disability,” says Mary Quist-Newins, director of The State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at The American College. “These professionals have the unique opportunity to empower women to make sure they’re fully prepared and aware of their options.”