Four years ago, Bob Page's car was hit head on by a drunk driver. The drunk driver died. Page survived, but suffered 15 broken bones and a bruised heart.
For five months after his release from the hospital, Page had to use a wheelchair, depending on his parents, friends and employees to keep Replacements Ltd. going. His Greensboro, N.C., firm, which specializes in supplying customers with obsolete china, crystal and silver patterns, survived his personal disaster and has flourished.
Hard-driving, passionate entrepreneurs are especially reluctant to think about what would happen to their businesses if they were disabled. So persuading them to buy personal disability insurance is tough, according to insurance agents and executives.
Yet a busy entrepreneur risks losing everything if he or she is unable to work and is not properly insured.
Insurance executives believe that 60 percent to 70 percent of the nation's small-business owners have no personal disability coverage. This is a chilling estimate when you consider that at age 37, the prime age for an entrepreneur, the probability of becoming disabled is 3 1/2 times higher than the probability of death.
Virtually all personal disability policies offer the same kinds of benefits. Disability insurance policies generally pay a monthly benefit that is less than what you would earn if you were healthy and working. This gap is intentional; insurers want you to have an incentive to get well and back to work.
You can save money on the premium by being willing to wait 60 to 90 days after the disabling event for the insurance benefits to kick in. The purpose of this waiting period is to remove some of the incentives for the insured to begin collecting disability benefits.
Normally, disability benefits are tax free. But if your company pays for the premium and takes a tax deduction for the expense, your benefits will be taxed.
It also is important to make sure the policy covers your specific occupation, not just any occupation. This means if you are president of a tool manufacturing company and you suffer a heart attack that prevents you from doing your old job, you can still be paid your benefits even if you take up a less-taxing, lower-paying occupation later.
Jane Applegate welcomes letters from readers. Write to her at the Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.