NewsMaking It In San Diego


Making It in San Diego: Creating a financial plan before an unexpected injury hits

Posted at 12:16 PM, Sep 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-03 18:36:50-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - If you couldn't work, how far could you go without a paycheck? No one is immune to an unexpected injury or illness, and the financial hit can be devastating.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that one in four of today's 20-year-olds will become disabled for 90 days or more before retirement age.

Having a plan for the long term can relieve a lot of stress if the unexpected does happen.

One option is disability insurance; there's short-term and long-term. Disability insurance pays a portion of your income if you are suddenly unable to work because of illness, injury, or accident.

You can get coverage through an employer or buy it from an insurer.

According to State Farm, long-term disability insurance:

  • Pays monthly income directly to you when you're unable to work because of a covered total disability.
  • You choose the length of time you must be disabled before you start receiving benefits (Elimination Period) and the length of time you would receive benefits.
  • Options include a five-year benefit period or a "to age 67" benefit option.
  • Maximum monthly benefit amounts range from $500 to $20,000, based on your income and occupation. You can customize your coverage with different riders.

While different factors affect the cost, the annual price for a long-term disability insurance policy generally ranges from 1% to 3% of your annual income.

According to the Council for Disability Awareness, 34.6 months is the duration of the average long-term disability claim.

The nonprofit helps prepare people for unexpected injury through its five-step financial plan to give you a clearer understanding of your financial "big picture," including:

  • Your sources of income, monthly expenses, and lifestyle
  • The impact a long-term disability could have on them
  • Preparing a plan of action to address the crisis

Resources after life-changing disability

Most people never expect a life-changing disability will happen to them, including San Diego resident Kat Blue.

Blue was rear-ended at a red light on Feb. 1, 2018, and had previous head injuries before that.

"This one resulted in a concussion that just never went away," said Blue.

A few weeks after the accident, Blue realized she could barely complete simple tasks like writing an email or talking on the phone. She suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which would change her life forever. She constantly deals with nausea, dizziness, tetanus, and migraines.

Blue has struggled to navigate the healthcare system and because she cannot work is constantly seeking resources so she can remain in San Diego.

"You have to advocate for yourself because there's no one within the system who is going to do it for you," said Blue.

Blue says she does not have the resources to relocate and says San Diego offers a lot of support for TBI survivors.

She's relied on Medicaid for medical care, which has helped with resources like a nurse care manager, but she says there are holes in the system.

"I'm still fighting to get a TBI specialist, I'm still trying to get a lot of the treatments and specialists and therapies that I believe could help me," said Blue.

The San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency is ready to help San Diegans whose incomes have been impacted by an unexpected disability:

  • CalFresh: Food assistance:
  • Medi-Cal: Free or low-cost health coverage for children and adults with limited income and resources. If you qualify, you can enroll in Medi-Cal year-round.
  • CalWORKS: Public assistance program that provides cash aid and services to eligible families that have a child(ren) in the home.

"You may not need our benefits today, but in the future, if you do we're here, and we encourage everyone to apply," said Rick Wanne, Director of Eligibility for the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency.

Wanne says the County also has a close relationship with 211.

"211 is a great resource for a number of reasons, they can provide general information over the phone about a whole variety of resources here in San Diego, additional food assistance, housing resources, where to find a local medical provider," said Wanne.

Wanne said in addition to what the County offers many local nonprofits and other entities provide help.

Blue says she's found the following resources helpful when advocating for herself:

Blue says she's also taken advantage of recreation opportunities through Sharp, some of which are free. Sharp also offers support groups for people with various disabilities.

Another program that's been instrumental in Blue's recovery is Love Your Brain Yoga, a free program for TBI survivors.

"A good part of my day is spent just trying to feel better, just trying to get well enough to do what I need to do that day," said Blue.

Blue remains hopeful she'll get the care needed for her healing and says she'll continue to do everything possible to stay in the city she calls home.