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As Americans focus on disability in May, national survey finds people forced into choices they would "hate" to make


People would tap retirement savings if disability prevented them from working.

(Springfield, Mass.) - There is a troubling prospect for people who become disabled and unable to work: many would be forced to make choices they would “hate”1 -- raiding their retirement savings, according to a survey by Harris Interactive® for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

Disability Insurance Awareness Month in May is prompting many people to wonder how they would pay their bills if they suffered from an illness or injury that kept them from working. The Harris/MassMutual survey results suggest many Americans are unprepared for disability and unhappy with their choices.

Harris asked more than 1,000 people what expenses they would “hate having to eliminate” if they were disabled and couldn’t work. While 36 percent said they would not want to stop contributing to their retirement savings, a surprising 61 percent of survey respondents reported they would likely crack into their retirement nest egg to fulfill their financial obligations.

“When people become disabled and are out of work, they’re forced to make tough choices,” said Melissa Millan, senior vice president of product management for the U.S. Insurance group at MassMutual. “But proper planning can protect a portion of your earned income if you’re unable to work because of an unexpected illness or injury, and that can spare you from making some tough choices.”

Disability income insurance replaces a portion of income when people become so sick or injured they cannot work. People can use this money for any reason including paying their bills, adding to their savings, or simply enjoying life.

“A disability doesn’t have to disrupt your financial plans as long as disability income insurance is in place. It can help people stay in their homes and continue meeting other financial obligations,” said Millan.

Over half of the people questioned in the MassMutual survey said they would worry about their quality of life and financial situation if they were disabled: 59 percent said they would feel “anxiety about their future financial situation” and 51 percent said they were “afraid I could not live life the way I used to.”

Forty-four percent of people surveyed said they don’t think they need disability income insurance. But in its December 2007 Fact Sheet, the U.S. Social Security Administration reports that “3 in 10 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67.”

“Most people don’t realize the risk of becoming disabled or how it can affect their ability to work, earn income and provide for themselves, their families or their businesses. Disability can happen to anyone, anytime. Disability income insurance has helped many people through the devastating effects of a disability,” said Robert Taylor, executive director of the Council for Disability Awareness (CDA), a non-profit group dedicated to helping the American workforce become aware of the growing likelihood of disability and its financial consequences.

For a free on-line calculator that can help determine how a disability could affect your ability to cover your typical monthly expenses, how long your savings could protect you, and how a disabling injury or illness could impact your retirement savings, visit

For details about the MassMutual survey, entitled MassMutual Benefits Barometer Survey: Disability Perceptions, published in December 2006, visit


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