What Is a Disability Income Rider in Life Insurance?

A disability income rider offers a monthly benefit if you become unable to work due to an illness or injury.
Robin Hartill, CFP®
By Robin Hartill, CFP® 
Edited by Lisa Green Reviewed by Tony Steuer

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

A 20-year-old worker has a 1 in 4 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age, according to the Social Security Administration.

Social Security Administration. The Faces and Facts of Disability. Accessed Mar 29, 2024.
Insurance can provide valuable financial protection against loss of income while you’re disabled.

What is a disability income rider?

One option is purchasing life insurance with a disability income rider. A disability income rider is a life insurance add-on that provides you with a monthly benefit if you become disabled. Usually, the monthly benefit is a specified percentage of your policy’s face amount. For example, if you have a $250,000 life insurance policy with a disability income benefit of 1%, you could receive $2,500 a month if you meet your insurer’s criteria for disability.

If you’re diagnosed with a qualifying disability, you’ll typically have a waiting period (sometimes referred to as an elimination period) before you can claim the disability income benefit. For example, if your policy rider has a 90-day elimination period and you’re severely injured in a car accident, you would need to wait 90 days before you would start receiving payments. Some policies will pay benefits for a limited period only, such as 24 months.

If you purchase a disability income rider, it’s important to know how your policy defines disability, as the definition varies by insurer and can be different for two policies with the same insurance company. You may be ineligible for this life insurance rider if you work in a high-risk occupation, like law enforcement, firefighting or public utilities.

An alternative to a life insurance disability income rider is a stand-alone disability policy. Many employers offer disability insurance as a benefit. You can also purchase an individual disability policy if your workplace doesn’t offer coverage or if you want to supplement an existing policy.

Learn more about disability income and life insurance

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.