Beyond the breadwinner: Is your household protected?

Do you think of your spouse or life partner as your “better half”? If so, you know that your relationship is more than just two people meeting halfway. In a life partnership — and in the family that grows from it — the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

One spouse may go out into the world and earn a paycheck, while the other stays home and keeps the household running. Each person has an important role separately; but together, they create a family and a home. If either spouse were suddenly unable to contribute, the entire family would suffer.

Each partner brings important value

Society has been quick to acknowledge one part of the family equation: the breadwinner. But increasingly, people realize the understated value of the stay-at-home spouse. This person often handles the all-encompassing world of childcare. They may also manage household duties such as grocery shopping, arranging medical appointments and home cleaning, just to name a few.

Median stay-at-home salary: $184,820 per year

This work has a lot of value, even if it doesn’t deliver a paycheck. In fact, one survey in 2021 estimated that if stay-at-home parents were paid for their work, the median salary would be $184,820 per year.1 (And that’s before many parents started homeschooling during the pandemic!)

Accidents and illnesses can happen

Each spouse has a crucial role in creating the greater whole of a strong home and family life. But what happens if one of the partners can no longer contribute? Traditionally, income protection (also known as disability insurance) focuses on the income-generating spouse, but a partner who stays at home puts in a lot of work, every day, and if they couldn’t, hiring out to get those tasks completed would cost a significant amount.

It’s estimated that one in four 20-year-olds will suffer a significant illness or an injury before retirement age.2 This unforeseen event may make them unable to work, whether that’s inside or outside the home. Further, the average disability time is over two and a half years.3 When this happens to the stay-at-home spouse, it leaves a big gap in services needed.

Spousal coverage policies now cover stay-at-home partners

Several insurance companies are now offering spousal coverage policies in tandem with income protection programs. These policies go a long way in acknowledging the critical work that stay-at-home partners provide for a family. If the home partner is unable to work due to an injury or an illness, the policy will pay for outside services, like childcare, to support the family while the partner recovers.

Specifics of spousal coverage to consider

Spousal coverage policies can vary among providers. As an overview, the policies tend to cover stay-at-home spouses within a specific age range, such as 18–45 years old. They may also offer a set benefit term, for example, between 5 and 10 years. Plus, like traditional income protection insurance, there’s typically an elimination period of 90 or 180 days that must pass before the payments begin. And with some carriers, traditional and same-sex marriages as well as civil unions are eligible.

To ensure your family is protected, talk with a financial professional. They will take your whole financial picture into account, from your family’s current day-to-day needs, including income protection, to lifelong goals. Financial professionals understand that every family is greater than the sum of its parts.

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1 How Much Is a Stay-At-Home Parent Worth?, Investopedia, March 21, 2020

2 Social Security Administration Fact Sheet

3 The Average Duration of Long-Term Disability Is 31 Months. Are you Prepared?, Council for Disability Awareness, January 18, 2016


Individual disability income products underwritten and issued by Berkshire Life Insurance Company of America (BLICOA), Pittsfield, MA or provided by Guardian. BLICOA is a wholly owned stock subsidiary of and administrator for the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Product provisions and availability may vary by state.