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Whole life sales fall for the first time in 14 consecutive quarters


WINDSOR, Conn., Dec. 4, 2017 – After 13 quarters of consecutive growth, whole life (WL) insurance new annualized premium fell 4 percent in the third quarter 2017, according to the LIMRA U.S. Retail Individual Life Insurance Sales Survey. This decline, coupled with another double-digit decline in lifetime guarantee universal life sales, drove total new annualized premium down 2 percent in the third quarter.

In the first three quarters of 2017, total life insurance new annualized premium remained positive, up 2 percent compared to prior year.  

Total policy count fell 3 percent for the quarter and year-to-date.

“Over the past several years, whole life has been a major driver of overall growth in the U.S. market,” said Ashley Durham, associate research director, LIMRA Insurance research. “However, in addition to a significant carrier exiting the market, 64 percent of whole life manufacturers - including 6 of the top 10 - reported declines in the third quarter.”

For the first nine months of 2017, whole life new annualized premium increased 2 percent, compared to prior year. Whole life represented 36 percent of the total life insurance premium year to date. 

Universal life new annualized premium was flat in the third quarter, resulting in a 3 percent increase year-to-date.

Indexed UL (IUL) new annualized premium rose 8 percent, with half of the manufacturers reporting positive growth. In the first three quarters of 2017, IUL increased 7 percent. Year-to-date, IUL premium represents 58 percent of UL premium and 22 percent of all individual life premium.

LTGUL new annualized premium fell 16 percent in the third quarter and fell 5 percent year-to-date. LTGUL premium represents 20 percent of UL sales and 7 percent of total life premium in the first three quarters of 2017.

In the first nine months, total UL premium held 37 percent market share.

Variable universal life (VUL) reversed course from the strong showing in the second quarter.  In the third quarter, VUL new annualized premium fell 9 percent. Over half of the VUL writers reported declines in the third quarter. As a result, VUL is down 2 percent year-to-date.

VUL market share is 5 percent of total premium year-to-date.

Term new annualized premium improved 1 percent for the quarter, and 2 percent year-to-date.  Just under half of all term manufacturers reported growth in the third quarter.

Term’s market share is at 22 percent. It has been in the 21-22 range since 2011.

LIMRA’s Third Quarter 2017 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales Survey represents approximately 80 percent of the U.S. individual life insurance annualized premium market.

View the latest data table on U.S. life insurance sales trends. For more statistics, visit the newly updated Fact Tank.


About LIMRA 

LIMRA, a worldwide research, consulting and professional development organization, is the trusted source of industry knowledge, helping more than 850 insurance and financial services companies in 64 countries. Visit LIMRA at

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