By Guest Contributor: Nancy Behrens, Vice President, Life/Health & Mutual Funds, State Farm Life Insurance Company
As a parent of four, there have been conversations in my house for as long as I can remember. From school dances to weddings and life lessons and heartbreaks, it’s the talking that makes our family who we are.
In my job at State Farm, the life conversations don’t stop – especially when it comes to life insurance. Whether it’s me talking to my kids or agents to customers, thinking about and planning for how to talk about life insurance, when to talk about it and how much is needed isn’t always an easy conversation.
In fact, results of the new State Farm online survey showed just how difficult life insurance conversations can be for parents. Even though the primary source for children to first learn about the topic, the findings indicated that parents would rather discuss drugs and alcohol (55 percent), religion (53 percent) and politics (44 percent) before life insurance (38 percent).
The survey also found a discrepancy between the importance parents place on life insurance and their willingness to make adjustments to afford it. More than three-fourths of parents say life insurance plays a role in their overall financial plan (78 percent); yet only 59 percent of parents would be likely to adjust their budget to afford life insurance. A greater percentage of parents would make changes to afford cable TV (76 percent), a family vacation (69 percent) and cell phone/service for each family member (62 percent).
Consistent with the State Farm findings, a 2013 Insurance Barometer study by LIMRA found the top barrier to owning life insurance is other financial priorities, followed by uncertainty on the type/amount of life insurance to purchase and procrastination.
So the conversation about life insurance can be a tough one as can the topic of how much is needed and the benefits. In fact, another recent State Farm study revealed many people have misconceptions about life insurance, including 44 percent of Americans who believe that life insurance benefits are only accessible when an insured family member passes away. While in fact, many policies offer living benefits that can be accessed for qualified college, retirement and emergency expenses.
I have a responsibility to my family and in my job to help to continue providing life insurance education. As industry leaders, your efforts also help show families the benefits of discussing and owning life insurance. Families who’ve experienced the loss of a family member can tell you firsthand how life insurance proceeds have allowed them to grieve without the added stress of financial strain and enabled them to protect their dreams.
Nancy Behrens, ChFC, CPCU, CLU, FLMI, FSA, LLIF, is vice president for life/health & mutual funds at State Farm® corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Ill. Behrens joined State Farm in 1981 as a life actuarial trainee at corporate headquarters. After a series of promotions in life actuarial, she became director of tax planning and research in the life control department in 1987. In 2005, Behrens was named vice president of life/health and was promoted to her current position in 2012.