Disability Plans Emerge To Protect Retirement Contributions
What happens to your clients retirement plan contributions if he or she becomes totally disabled?
Pure and simple, the contributions stop and the worker stands to experience a “dramatic loss” in retirement plan value, says John L. Newell, manager-DI training for Berkshire Life Insurance Company of America, a Pittsfield, Mass., subsidiary of Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.
A few disability insurers have come up with an insurance solution to the problem: a rider or stand-alone policy that pays the plan contributions of totally disabled workers.
The idea is not new. Somewhat similar plans popped up in a few group disability policies in the mid-1990s. But the new versions are more varied, providing solutions for different markets. Consider:
Berkshire Life has been marketing Retirement Protection Plus since the first of the year. This is a stand-alone individual disability income policy that pays the employees contributions to the defined contribution plan, plus employer match, in event of total disability.
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, Mass., has started selling RetireGuard, a rider for two of the insurers individual DI policies. This product also pays the employee plan contributions plus employer match in event of total disability. The design mirrors that of MassMutuals stand-alone individual retirement contribution DI, which bears the same name.
Corporate Compensation Plans Inc., Danbury, Conn., is marketing the 401(k) Disability Wealth Protection Feature. This is a contribution program designed for group long term disability insurers to offer to retirement plan sponsors. The product embeds the insurers group LTD policy into the plan sponsors retirement plan [a 401(k) or profit-sharing plan]. In event of an employees total disability, the embedded LTD pays the employees plan contributions directly into his or her retirement account.
The first two approaches use individual DI insurance to accomplish the goal. The monthly payments are additional disability benefits, paid over and above other disability benefits the person may receive.
The third approach uses group LTD insurance, but it, too, pays in addition to any other disability insurance the employee may receive.
What is driving disability insurers to offer these products? For one thing, says Phil Davis, president of Corporate Compensation Plans, the plan sponsors he routinely works with have told him they would like such a product.
In fact, he says, the reason he started developing products for this market was a discussion he had some years ago with a human resource executive. That executive cited research his company had conducted showing large retirement plan losses suffered by workers who go on disability. Davis says his firm did arrange a supplemental disability program to address that need.
Now, however, the new product goes well beyond that by LTD insurance as the coverage vehicle and targeting distribution through LTD insurers who then take the program out to plan sponsors.
Another reason for developing these products is demographics. “One need not be a professional demographer to see that America is graying and intent on financing a comfortable retirement,” explains a Guardian statement.
Individuals age 55 and up now number 59 million, the company points out, and that number is growing. Meanwhile, the number of new 401(k) plans (and thus new plan participants) has grown steadily in the past five years. Hence, more people will be facing this exposure.
Furthermore, “we are hearing a lot of buzz about health insurance costs continuing to rise,” notes Paul Gribbons, vice president-DI product development at MassMutual. This is eroding net income levels, he says. Meanwhile, the costs of benefits continue to shift to employees; dual-income households are at record levels; and voluntary worksite sales are increasing–with the result that many families increasingly focus on preserving assets.
Information gleaned from consumer focus groups conducted by MassMutual confirms this, he says.