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Uncomfortable truths about disability that may surprise you

Kelly Kowalski, Cliff Noreen, and Bronwyn Shinnick

Posted on September 15, 2023

Our executives and experts team up to write educational articles, covering a variety of financial topics such as life planning, college savings, and retirement.
Disability surprising facts
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Present some hard facts about disability and its consequences.

Note the potential financial loss a disability can inflict on one’s career.

List what presents the greatest chance of a disability — and it’s not what most people think.

What are the odds that you will become too sick or injured to work? Or that if such misfortune happens, it will cause significant financial strain for you and your family? Unfortunately, many people don’t face the uncomfortable truths about these questions. And it could cost them.

So, here’s some hard facts:

  • Just over one in four 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.1
  • 72 percent of American employees live from paycheck to paycheck without enough savings to cushion the financial impact a disability may cause.2
  • The average monthly benefit paid to all disabled workers by Social Security Disability Insurance at the end of 2022 was $1,358.3

Potential financial loss

Your income — when viewed over your entire career — is often your single most important asset. A permanent disability, therefore, can have a significant impact on you and your family. The figures below demonstrate the potential financial loss of future earnings if you were to become permanently disabled.

For example, a 35-year old worker with an annual salary of $75,000 who experiences a permanent disability may lose up to $2,250,000 in potential earnings by age 65.


How much could a disability cost you? You can use our calculator to find out.

Causes of disabilities

It is not uncommon for people to assume that most disabilities are the result of accidents. In reality, the majority of disabilities people suffer are due to various forms of illness.

chart 2 


These statistics show that over the course of a person’s life, it is not uncommon for one to become disabled. What may come as a surprise to many is not only the causes of disabilities, but the potential financial loss associated with a permanent disability. Disabilities can occur at any time.

Educating yourself about these uncomfortable truths is a good place to start to help you reduce your own personal financial risk of becoming disabled. A financial professional can provide suggestions and guidance for implementing a plan. (Need a financial professional? Find one here)


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Social Security Administration, “The Faces and Facts of Disability/Facts.”

American Payroll Association, “Getting Paid in America” Survey,” 2022.

Social Security Administration, “2022 Social Security Changes – COLA Fact Sheet,” 2022. Last data set available at time of publication.

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The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.