with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
I feel like I’ve gone through many stages as a freelancer since first deciding to “try it” about six years ago. Let’s face it: I had no idea what I was doing when I first started out. Opening my first business bank account felt like a huge deal. Getting my first business license from my town felt like I was finally official. Hiring an account, and later, incorporating my business… all of that always had an undertone of, “Holy crap, it’s like I’m a real professional, or something.” (I cannot be the only person who always looks around and wonders when in the world I became a grownup, can I? Please tell me I’m not.)
One of the things I’ve never found weird or had trouble with, though, is socking away money. I am totally Chicken Little, but without the mania and crying about the sky falling. I am always preparing for the day the sky falls. I put as much money into savings as I can, all the time, and I max out my IRA contribution for the year by the second week of January. I’m hoping to be able to retire, someday. And if I was hit by a bus tomorrow and couldn’t work for a while, well, we have a comfortable cushion in savings.
But. What I don’t currently have is disability insurance, and I’m getting to the place where I think that needs to change.
Honestly, my initial reaction to the idea is that it’s absurd. I don’t build houses for a living. I don’t do demanding physical labor of any kind; I sit at a desk with my computer. I can work anywhere, and nearly any time. Furthermore, although this year holds a milestone birthday for me (hint: it starts with 4 and ends with 0!), I’m pretty healthy. I don’t have any chronic health problems, and save for my propensity to catch every cold that comes along, it’s not as though I’m looking at potential complications from a lifelong illness or anything. So I’m 1) not likely to suffer a health crisis and 2) even if I did, the chances of my being completely unable to work are slim.
And that’s exactly why I need insurance. It’s exactly why you might need it, too.
The fact of the matter is that it’s extremely unlikely that I will ever need to take advantage of disability insurance. But as a freelancer, I don’t have a company that’s going to step in and keep the paychecks coming if the unthinkable does happen. Yes, we have two incomes in my household (though, again, if we want to go the dire catastrophe route—what if, say, my husband and I are both in a terrible accident?), and yes, we have some buffer in savings. But I need to think about this as catastrophe insurance. Say something really awful happened and I was unable to work for longer than our savings would cover. What then?
My primary business task for this month is to research and then buy a disability policy. I’m finally in a place where I should be able to afford a modest policy, and where, furthermore, I think it would be fiscally irresponsible not to have it.
For some disability insurance basics, check out Jen Whitten’s Why Freelancers Need Disability Insurance, and then move on to Tamara Rice’s Disability Planning for Freelancers and Contract Workers. Rice gives some very practical bullet points of items to consider and/or ask about, which is particularly useful as—I’m discovering—this is not like buying life insurance. Disability policies can essentially pick and choose what they will and won’t cover, and they calculate risk based upon every detail of your health and your field.
So, for example, it’s unlikely I’ll end up with a work-related back injury, right? But I type all day long, so carpal tunnel is basically a huge red flag to these companies when dealing with people like me. Some won’t cover it for me at all, others have a separate, much higher, premium to include it.
Rice also mentions the Freelancers Union and the benefit plans they make available to their members; I need to do some more number crunching to determine if their disability plan premiums plus union dues represent a savings over an individual plan (though my initial research suggests it may).
A little part of me hates spending money on something I may never need. But a bigger part of me knows it’s better to spend it and not need it than to potentially be without it if crisis strikes.
Being a responsible grownup is exhausting.
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