the Primary Breadwinner Died Today
ARLINGTON, Va., and WINDSOR, Conn., Aug. 30, 2010 — Despite the fact that most American families have less to fall back on financially than when the economic downturn began , ownership of individual life insurance has hit a 50-year low, according to a new LIMRA study.
The Trends in Life Insurance Ownership study, conducted every six years by LIMRA, found that only 44 percent of U.S. households have individual life insurance. The number of U.S. households that have no life insurance whatsoever is growing. Today, 30 percent of households (35 million) have no life insurance coverage, compared to 22 percent of households in 2004. Among households with children under age 18, which arguably have the greatest need for life insurance, 11 million have no coverage.
"Clearly, more American families are living on the edge — surviving paycheck to paycheck — and, as our new study suggests, too many without the safety net that life insurance provides," said Robert Kerzner, CLU, ChFC, president and CEO of LIMRA, LOMA, and LL Global. "The numbers tell a grim story. Today there are 11 million fewer American households covered by life insurance compared with six years ago. A majority of families either have no life insurance or not enough, leaving them one accident or terminal illness away from a financial catastrophe for their loved ones."
Families Focusing on Other Financial Priorities in Difficult Times
More than 40 percent of Americans say a major reason they have not bought more life insurance is because they have other financial priorities right now, such as paying off debt or saving for retirement. However, the drop in life insurance ownership is not because families are not feeling vulnerable. Among households with children under 18, four in 10 say they would have immediate trouble meeting everyday living expenses if the primary breadwinner died today. Another three in 10 would have trouble keeping up with expenses after several months.
Record Number of Americans See Need for Life Insurance
Half of households feel they need more life insurance — the highest level ever. Moreover, 24 percent of households with children under 18 want to speak with a financial professional about their life insurance needs; and a quarter of all households plan to buy life insurance in the next year. According to LIMRA's study, life insurance beat out all other sources of financial assets or income that Americans expect to use to help pay bills and to maintain their lifestyle in the event of the primary wage-earner's death.
"With so many families continuing to struggle financially, there has never been a more critical time for people to own an adequate amount of life insurance," said Marvin H. Feldman, CLU, ChFC, president and CEO of the LIFE Foundation. "This study shows that Americans place great value on the need for protection and half of all families recognize that they need more life insurance than they have, and that's good news. Now they need to take the next step, and get the coverage they lack before it's too late."
Families Don't Know Where to Turn for Help
About one in four middle-market households admit they don't know how to obtain or reach their financial goals, including buying life insurance. One of the biggest obstacles is lack of information. Almost eight in 10 U.S. households currently do not have a personal life insurance agent or broker to turn to and most of them say they never did. Most individual life insurance policies are sold by insurance agents and many Americans want to keep buying in this manner. For instance, 60 percent of Baby Boomer households prefer to buy life insurance face-to-face. Younger generations say they also are interested in gathering information about life insurance online and at their place of work.
"As an industry, we need to reach out to consumers and educate them about the various ways they can purchase life insurance," said Mr. Kerzner of LIMRA. "Whether they buy from an agent, get coverage through their employer, or make an online purchase, the important thing is that they get the coverage they need to protect their loved ones.
Added Mr. Feldman of the LIFE Foundation, "September is Life Insurance Awareness Month, the one time each year when the insurance industry comes together to remind Americans of the need to include life insurance in their financial plans. Hopefully these findings will help us get people's attention and serve as a wake-up call that now is the time to take action."
For more information about Life Insurance Awareness Month, please visit www.lifehappens.org/liam.
LIMRA is a worldwide research, consulting and professional development organization that helps more than 850 insurance and financial services companies in 73 countries increase their marketing and distribution effectiveness. Visit LIMRA at www.limra.com.
The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) was founded in 1994 in response to the public's growing need for information and education on life, health, disability and long-term care insurance. LIFE also seeks to remind people of the important role insurance professionals perform in helping families, businesses and individuals find the insurance products that best fit their needs. To learn more about these topics, please visit www.lifehappens.org.