There If They Need It

Two families share how disability income insurance has provided protection and peace of mind.

Michelle Bost enjoying time with her husband, John, son, Colby, and dogs Oliver and Holly. Daughter Lynea is not pictured, as she's away at school. This article (PDF) | Current issue (PDF) | Archive

By Amy Merrick, photo by Michael D. Wilson and Chris Kelly-Stewart

When your life is running like clockwork, it’s easy to believe it always will be that way. But it can change – quickly.

Recovering from an accident

When Michelle Bost was raising two young children, her Thrivent Financial representative suggested she consider disability income insurance. Bost, a physician’s assistant in Newmarket, New Hampshire, was the primary breadwinner while her husband was self-employed.

“I was thinking of it in terms of what would happen if I got cancer or was in a car accident,” she says. Bost decided to purchase a disability income insurance contract that covered 60 percent of her income.

In August 2007, Bost injured her back while at home. Her children were 10 and 3 years old. She was out of work for six months, and she could only work part time for three more months until she fully recovered.

During that time, her insurance helped her family stay afloat. The economy was down, so her husband’s business was bringing in less income than usual. He also had to take time away from work to drive Bost to doctors’ visits and physical therapy. “There would have been no way we would have been able to pay the mortgage,” she says.

Coping with an illness

Like the Bosts, Dale and Janel Busacker of Lake Elmo, Minnesota, purchased a disability income insurance contract when their children were young. At that time in 1989, their sons were 2 and 5 years old.

Kevin Bonine, the Busackers’ Thrivent Financial representative, reminded them that both spouses contribute to the household in important ways. Dale works full time as an attorney. Janel has been a stay-at-home parent who has held part-time jobs.

Dale had disability benefits through work. But he wanted to have disability income insurance that didn’t depend on an employer, he says. In addition, Thrivent is one of a few organizations that offers disability protection to stay-at-home spouses, so Janel also was able to get disability protection. “Kevin did a great job explaining to us that your income is not the only asset you bring into your household,” Janel says. “It’s all the other things you do that provide value.”

In February 2001, Dale was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease in which the immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. For two and a half weeks, he was in the hospital in intensive care. Janel was there with him every day.

“You put all your energy into helping that person,” Janel says. “The last thing you want to think about is how you are going to buy groceries or make a car payment.”

Dale was out of work for six months. Fortunately, he was able to go on short-term disability through his employer.

Even after Dale returned to his job, he was unable to drive and needed Janel’s help with daily tasks. That made them realize they were thankful for her disability protection, should they ever need it. “Once I became disabled, it just gave us the assurance that if something happened to Janel, we would have some income protection,” Dale says. “If she were disabled too, we would probably have to hire somebody to help at home.”

The Busackers say the insurance has given them peace of mind during a crisis and in the years since then. “We always had trust in the Lord that he’s going to take care of you, but you also need to do some financial planning,” Dale says.

Amy Merrick teaches journalism at DePaul University in Chicago. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker online and the Chicago Sun-Times.