Market researchers at Unum Group Corp. (NYSE:UNM) have come out with survey results that hint at which parties could really benefit from increased worker use of disability insurance: the credit card companies.

For a major report on the U.S. employee benefits market and employee benefits education efforts, Unum commissioned an online survey of 1,890 working adults ages 18 and older. 

The company found that only 50 percent of the participants said they were “very confident” or “somewhat confident” that they would have enough savings to handle future expenses or to cope with an accident or illness that interfered with their ability to work. di

The percentage who said they were confident about their finances has dropped from 54 percent in 2011, and the percentage who said they were “not at all confident” increased to 22 percent, from 19 percent. 

The researchers also asked workers about the resources they would try to tap if they became disabled. Here are the top five.

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1. Personal savings

The most common answer given by survey participants of all ages was “personal savings.”

About 56 percent of the participants of all ages said they think of their personal savings as being a key part of their safety net.

That may not be much of a safety net, because other researchers have found that the typical worker is living paycheck to paycheck.

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2. Family

The second most popular source of protection against loss of ability to work was “immediate family.”

The popularity of that answer varied widely with age.

About 62 percent of participants ages 18 to 34 and 58 percent of participants ages 35 to 44 said they would ask relatives for help in a crisis.

That percentage dropped to 48 percent for workers ages 45 to 54 and to 36 percent for workers ages 55 and older — possibly because many workers ages 45 and older already are acting as caregivers for grandparents, parents or even ailing brothers and sisters.

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3. Disability insurance

Disability insurance, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), was the third most popular source of protection against disability overall. 

Workers ages 45 and older were more likely to mention insurance than younger workers — possibly because they have better benefits, and possibly because they’re more aware of the employer-sponsored insurance benefits that they actually have.

The percentage of workers who said they would turn to disability insurance was 26 percent for workers ages 18 to 34; 28 percent for workers ages 35 to 44; 42 percent for workers ages 45 to 54; and 39 percent for workers ages 55 and up.

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4. Banks

The nature of the fourth most popular source of disability assistance might give bankers’ pause: About 33 percent of the workers said they would try to cope with the loss of ability to work — and, presumably, to earn the income needed to pay back loans — by increasing credit card debt and taking out personal loans.

The percentage of workers counting on the kindness of bankers to help them cope with serious illnesses or accidents was close to 30 percent for survey participants in all age groups.

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5. The government

The nature of the fifth most popular source of disability assistance might cause taxpayers to pause: About 29 percent of the survey participants said they would turn to government agencies for help.

About 26 percent of workers in the 18-34 and 35-44 age groups named government agencies other than SSDI as a source of help.

About 31 percent of workers in the 45-54 age category and 35 percent of workers ages 55 and older said they would seek help from government agencies.

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