The number of working-age Americans who are receiving disability payments today is now a staggering 13 million. That’s almost twice as many as the 7.7 million who received disability payments in 1996, The Washington Post reported earlier this month, in an eye-opening piece on how rural Americans have turned to disability payments as jobs have dropped off.
To put this in financial terms, the US government is expected to spend $192 billion on disability payments this year. That’s more than the combined total for food stamps, welfare, housing subsidies and unemployment assistance.
While The Washington Post article zeros in on rural America, this story reflects global trends in many prosperous nations. Individuals in rural areas are especially vulnerable. For those who work manual labor, they are vulnerable to a loss of work compounded by a work-related disability. And for many, the problem only gets worse with age.
Consider the tale of the man who was a roofer, a key story in the recent Washington Post account. This man, who applied for disability payments for chronic knee pain. He went from making a decent living working for a roofing company to being unemployed in the blink of an eye when the recession of 2008 took hold. At that time, the poverty rate climbed to 24 percent.
Thinking about your own Financial Freedom when so many others are suffering from debilitating pain or injuries may be difficult. But now, as we learn about the suffering of others, is when we should think about creating a sustainable way of life for ourselves and our communities.
The good news is you can help to break the cycle of economic distress and contribute to prosperity for others. How? By working toward your own prosperity and Financial Freedom. That’s right. When you’re Financially Free, you’re free to help others find work and get out of the cycle of financial dependency.
Working toward your Financial Freedom, and saving for your future self is essential for two key reasons. First, if you’re not vulnerable, circumstances like this won’t be as impactful. If you’re building toward your future, you may not have to worry much, but you still have to plan for the unexpected. Many good people make poor choices or experience bad luck that can totally derail their livelihoods.
Second, by looking after our own financial welfare, and planning for our Financial Freedom, so the limited funds that are available go to those who truly need them.
We’re all connected. As a community, we have to make sure we’re financially strong and resilient. Because when someone is financially unwell and disabled, there is a strain on resources. So making sure the people around us are strong and resilient makes really good personal sense. Let’s make sure our fellow brothers and sisters are looked after as well as we can.
Of course, it’s important to note that many individuals who receive disability payments are absolutely unable to do any work at all, under any circumstances. This is heartbreaking for many of those individuals, too.
By looking out for our own welfare, and thinking of how we can help others achieve their own prosperity, we’re contributing to a better future for everyone.
Dr. Tony is the co-founder of MindShift.money and the best-selling author of three books on personal and business finances. Having achieved Financial Freedom at 27, Dr. Tony believes that through Financially Fit Bootcamp and Cash Flow Cure everyone can get there. He has made it his life’s mission to help others live a life where their money works for them—not the other way around.