It was Black Friday, and Johnny Realtor decided to avoid the crowds. He wished his wife and teenage daughter luck as they left, bright and early, in search of the infamous holiday bargains. He was glad to have some much needed time to reflect, without the crowds, as he started the home decorating process.

The family was excited! Johnny had just closed on two sales, padding the savings account a bit just before the holidays. It was going to be a great Christmas. Up went the stockings. “There! Look at that Christmas tree – oh wait, where is that star? There it is!” Johnny climbs the step ladder, leans over to perch the family star… CRASH!!!

In our fictional, but not-so-made-up story here, Johnny may be able to pick himself up from the bottom of the fake balsam fir and finish decorating without the embarrassment of anyone knowing. Or he may have broken a hip requiring traction. You never know.

The scenario above is one we can all visualize as we read the words. The problem is, many of us can’t visualize it in our own lives. All too often, we think, “That won’t happen to me,” or “I’ll take care of that tomorrow.” But what if it was more than the proverbial Christmas tree incident?

Now, what if it was your broken leg. You’re now prevented from getting out to show homes, meet clients and network in person. Have you considered what you will need to continue to pay the bills and provide for your family if you can no longer complete the sales process? The examples of injuries and illnesses can fill this publication. You’re smart – you get it.

Johnny was smart, too. A few months back, he began doing research for just s uch a n o ccasion. H e’d s aved u p e nough t o cover expenses for about six months, but after that, things would get dicey. In his research, he found a variety of coverage that may cover someone like him, depending on the circumstances. He read about Workers Compensation Insurance that generally covers workplace injuries if the employer had or was required to have the insurance. He wasn’t covered there.

He read about Social Security Disability and the coverage available for long term injury or illness. He read on socialsecurity.gov that the approval process could take up to 3-5 months, if approved with the first application. Later, he found a disability approval guide website with a graphic depicting the timeline for approval to be 2.5 to 5-years, if multiple appeals were needed. Rolling the dice was not an option, even in Las Vegas.

His research continued. After a few stories about surgeons who couldn’t operate due to a hand injury and lawyers who couldn’t practice because of an illness, he ran across an article from the October 2004 issue of REALTOR Magazine that described a realtor who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and was out of the sales process for nearly a year. “Whoa! That could be me.”

The reality here is that not only could it happen to Johnny, it could happen to anyone reading this. In fact, according to the Council for Disability Awareness, one in four of today’s 20- year-olds will become disabled before they retire. Moreover, accidents are not the only reasons for long-term absences. The most common reasons for absence include back injuries, cancer, heart disease and mental disorders.

So how does disability insurance work? What does it cover? How long does it last? How much does it cost?

These are all great questions. The general principle is that the insurance will replace a portion of your income (60% as an example) for a given period (a few years or up to age 65, etc.), after a waiting period (14 days, 60 days, 1 year, etc.). Many insurance companies offer short and/or long term disability insurance on an individual basis for those who don’t have coverage through an employer. Short term disability is just that; it covers short periods, generally up to a year after a defined waiting period.

Long Term disability can cover injuries and illnesses for longer periods, up to age of retirement, also subject to a waiting period that is generally also longer than that of short term disability. Disability insurances vary widely by company. The cost also varies widely based on factors such as current health, age, selected waiting periods, payment periods/durations, amount of income being replaced, and more.

As you begin your New Year of excellence in the sales process, b e c onfident a nd a lways b e closing. But most importantly, be prepared! There are great resources available on this topic at www.dissabilitycanhappen.org. Be like Johnny and do your research. When you have questions, call your insurance agent for a personal review. If the unexpected happens, you and your family will be glad you did.