Thoughts on Long-term Disability for White Collar Workers

I have had the misfortune of reading this post, “Young Office Workers Don’t Need Long Term Disability Insurance” by Kevin McKee at Thousandaire.  His thesis is that one needs to be tremendously disabled to not be able to work at an office job, and since he has difficulty thinking of scenarios that would make it impossible for him to perform office work, long-term disability insurance would be wasted money.  I’d like to add a few thoughts to his analysis.

First, I bet you need more than, as you say “a functioning brain, vision to see the computer screen, and fingers to type with” to work in an office job.  Maybe this is all you need, but may white-collar jobs require that the employee be able to:

  • lift a certain amount of weight (usually 20-30 lbs.)
  • stand or sit for extended periods of time
  • speak with customers and staff
  • hear instruction or receive phone calls
  • enter data into a variety of systems that require some amount of mobility
  • and (sometimes) be able to travel to and from a physical location to interact with customers.

I strongly suspect that you do more physical movement than you think you do at your job.  But, let’s assume that you truly only need to be able to operate a computer.  I think that you’ll find that you still need more than functioning eyes, brain, and fingers.  You also need to be able to sit upright for many hours at a time, hold your body in position to type.  Even if you use dictation software, you will still need to be able to type corrections into the system, and it will have to enter data into a variety of programs, which may or may not be the ones you need to do your job.

I notice that you were only able to come up with a few, very unlikely scenarios that would stop you from doing your job.  I think I can expand on that with a few of my own:

Blindness

  • Glaucoma and cataracts
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Trachoma (granular conjunctivitis)
  • Injury to the eye or optic nerve
  • Poisoning or chemical blindness
  • Assault

Mental debilitation

  • Mental illness
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Infections
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disease
  • A variety of psychological trauma

Inability to type

  • Carpal tunnel injuries
  • Injury to the fingers, wrists, forearms, shoulders, or back
  • and so much more!

I can also think of some other problems that could cause you to be unable to type at a computer, such as chronic pain and a cornucopia of autoimmune diseases.  I’m sure there are more, but this post is getting long.  The point is that there are plenty of diseases and injuries that can cause you to become disabled to the point that you won’t be able to do even the least physical of jobs.

Finally, you ask if the cost is worth the benefit.  While your conclusion is “no,” I would look at it from another perspective:  “is the risk something you can reasonably bear?”  If you were to become disabled such that you couldn’t work, do you have a plan for caring for yourself?  Judging by your flippant treatment of schizophrenia and personal finance, I strongly suspect you haven’t thoroughly considered the consequences of long-term disability (especially at such a young age – meaning you may become disabled for the majority of your life.)  Remember, insurance is bought to protect against (generally) unlikely events that have devastating financial consequences.  Hoping something bad doesn’t happen isn’t much of a plan.

So, please, please, get competent financial advice that’s tailored to your own situation.  Judging by your post, you probably need it.

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