Life insurance sales projected to increase in 2005, consumer survey says

In a broad survey of American households, nearly half said they believe they need more life insurance and more than one-quarter said they actually expect to purchase more in the coming year - a decision that would add trillions of dollars of coverage to the amount already in force.

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Research and consulting association LIMRA International presented these findings at the annual Life Insurance Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The information came from a 2004 survey of two groups of consumers, those who own life insurance and others who actually bought life insurance in 2003.

LIMRA reported that 44 percent of U.S. households said they need more life insurance and 27 percent of households said they expect to buy life insurance in the coming year, although no one can predict how many will actually buy. If all 27 percent did, it would increase total coverage by $4.8 trillion and add an estimated $9 billion to industry revenues, almost double the amount of new premium now written each year.

"These findings show us some important trends about consumers and life insurance," said Robert A. Kerzner, president and CEO of LIMRA International. "They also reveal a wide gap between the amount of insurance that households own and the amount they feel they need for adequate financial protection. The life industry has a clear obligation and opportunity to try to fill this unmet need, but we have to do a better job of reaching consumers."

LIMRA reported that 44 percent
of U.S. households said they need more life insurance and 27 percent of households said they expect to buy life insurance in the coming year.

The surveys revealed several trends:

  • The 30-year decline in household ownership of individual life insurance coverage has ended. Fifty percent of the households surveyed owned some individual life insurance, the same as in the last survey in 1998, but still far less than the 72 percent recorded in 1960. Twenty-two percent of households have no life insurance.
  • Ownership of group life insurance, provided chiefly through employers, has held steady at 52 percent of households, the same as in 1998. However, the number of individual workers with life insurance benefits has declined from 56 percent in 1999 to 48 percent today.
  • Term and whole life insurance lead in policy sales, accounting for 80 percent of the policies sold. In the 2004 survey of individual life sales, term accounted for 43 percent of policies sold and whole life 37 percent. Individually insured households owning only term insurance increased from 20 percent in 1992 to 36 percent today. Those owning only permanent insurance decreased from 58 percent to 41 percent.
  • Product guarantees are most important to consumers. Fixed premium, guaranteed death benefit and lifetime coverage are the most important policy features consumers cited.

Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said replacing the lost income of a deceased wage-earner was their reason for buying life insurance. Forty-two percent cited burial expense and 33 percent cited paying off a mortgage. Seventy-five percent of households agreed that life insurance is the best form of family financial protection against premature death of a primary wage-earner.

Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said replacing the lost income of a deceased wage-earner was their reason for buying life insurance.

On the other hand, those surveyed cited many reasons for not buying additional life insurance, including cost (74 percent), difficulty deciding how much to buy (52 percent), procrastination (50 percent), worry about making the wrong decision (43 percent) and preferring to put money in other financial products (40 percent).

An estimated 29 million households may be primed to buy more life insurance in the coming year. The survey indicated that on average the households who plan to buy more insurance in the next 12 months have enough to replace 3.7 years of income but need 6.1 years of income replacement. On average, those households need to buy an additional $163,000 of insurance to meet that goal. Among other findings:

  • The consumers most likely to buy life insurance in the next 12 months are younger households (under age 45) and married households with children.
  • More than half of consumers said they would like to review their life insurance needs at least every two years.
  • Buyers say tax-free death benefits and cash value are important, but many are not aware of the tax benefits.
  • Consumers said, in choosing a company, familiarity and company reputation are more important than a friend's recommendation or a company's financial ratings.

Source: LIMRA Internationa, a worldwide association providing research, consulting, and other services to nearly 850 insurance and financial services companies in more than 60 countries. LIMRA was established in 1916 to help its member companies maximize their marketing effectiveness.

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