Life insurance is financial Prozac

Serenity now. Owners of life insurance report being more fulfilled and optimistic in their lives compared to those without life insurance coverage, according to findings from the "Keep Good Going Report," a survey given to more than 2,000 Americans and sponsored by New York Life.

The survey explored people's attitudes and expectations and touched on how they cultivate goodness through work/life balance, personal finance and relationships. It was conducted by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, a public opinion and market research company.

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People who own life insurance are optimisticAccording to the survey, life insurance owners were significantly more optimistic than non-owners. Those with coverage were happier, reported a better quality of life and also felt their quality of life is better than it was five years ago.

  • 42 percent of life insurance owners are very happy with their lives vs. 32 percent of non-owners.
  • 64 percent feel their quality of life is better than the average American vs. 51 percent of non-owners.
  • 43 percent say are on track in terms of living life as a good person vs. only 37 percent of non-owners.

"We know from other research that life insurance ownership generally reveals a more financially prepared person, but the interesting twist here is that this financial preparedness also permeates to a person's positive outlook and feeling of overall goodness in their lives," says Brian Perlman, partner at Mathew Greenwald & Associates and a psychologist.

It's not just about money

While 92 percent of those surveyed felt having enough money to protect the family against life's uncertainties is important to living life as a good person and 91 percent said being self-sufficient in retirement is important to living life as a good person, obviously there are other factors that play a role in optimism.

Perlman explains life insurance isn't just about a pot of money you're going to give to your kids, but it's also the idea that you've taken care of them. It provides peace of mind and allows you to focus on other things, leading to contentment and optimism.

Aaron Nicklay, an agent for Farmers Insurance in Bloomington, Minn., says, "I've found that the majority of my clients misunderstand the cost of life insurance, and once they realize how cheaply they can acquire it and how well it works into a monthly or annual budget, they are relieved that they aren't going to have to make a choice between sacrificing something they want and doing what they know is right."

The best-laid plans

People typically buy life insurance when they are married and have kids.

"I think, overall, people with families are happier," says Liran Hirschkorn, an independent agent and founder of ChooseTerm.com. "In addition, people who buy life insurance are also responsible. When you are responsible with your financial life and take care of protecting your family, you get a certain peace of mind. I don't think that buying life insurance makes you happy, but I think happy people buy life insurance," says Hirschkorn.

Nicklay observes, "I think that we all feel a need to have a certain level of organization in our lives. We make lists and we plan for the future, we try to make sure that we anticipate the good and the bad, so that we are prepared for whatever life throws at us. Having life insurance seems to give my clients a sense of satisfaction that they can check this item off their list of things to do."

Facing mortality

There are countless sitcom episodes about men who just can't face writing a will or getting their life insurance squared away. Some people can't face planning for their own looming mortality. But taking steps to insure against untimely demise ironically makes people feel better about facing their own mortality, explains Nicklay.

"They hiked to the top of the hill and kept going down the other side, instead of standing there staring up at that hill worrying about how steep it is."

It's also an excellent first step toward setting up a will, organizing your documents, and preparing for the future -- things we all know we're supposed to do but often put off.

"The results of the survey validate what we hear from agents working with individuals and families across the country -- there is much more than a sense of checking a box that life insurance is in place. There is a sense that you've taken care of a key element of protection for your family, and that brings comfort and confidence that an important base is covered," says Mark W. Pfaff, executive vice president at New York Life.

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