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Only about 40% of single mothers have life insurance, which is 11 points below the general population rate, according to the 2023 Insurance Barometer Study released in April 2023. The study, an annual look at the perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors of insurance consumers, is produced by LIMRA, a research firm backed by the insurance industry, and Life Happens, an industry non-profit.

Since single mothers are often the only source of financial support for their families, they have a “heightened sense of financial concern,” according to LIMRA. And, the organization says, their need for life coverage is high.

To find out why more single mothers don’t have life insurance, and to discuss the importance of life coverage for all mothers, spoke with Alison Salka, Ph.D., LIMRA senior vice president and research director. A lightly edited version of the conversation follows.

You can read more about why mothers need life insurance here. The recent Insurance Barometer Study found that only 41% of single mothers have life insurance. What’s holding back single mothers from buying life insurance?

Salka: Single mothers are not a niche market. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21% of children in our country live with a single mother. 

There are many barriers to purchasing life insurance. Single mothers are busy and have a lot of financial concerns. According to LIMRA’s Consumer Sentiment Survey, almost a third of Americans had high levels of financial stress, and women’s stress levels are even higher. Four in 10 mothers say they don’t own life insurance because it is too expensive, yet two-thirds overestimate the cost. The majority of mothers also feel they don’t know enough about life insurance. 

According to the 2023 Insurance Barometer Study, only a third of mothers feel very knowledgeable about life insurance. This perceived lack of knowledge undermines their confidence in making a decision on how much life insurance they need or what to buy. With perhaps less of a financial support network to rely on, life insurance is often an excellent investment for many single mothers. How important is it for a family to have life insurance on mom?

Salka: Life insurance is very important for mothers, but mothers can sometimes be overlooked in financial and insurance planning. Mothers are the cornerstone of a family. They take care of their families, and being insured is another way to do this. First, they want to make sure burial expenses are covered if something unexpected were to happen. The average funeral costs are over $10,000.

Moreover, they may want to leave an inheritance to their children. Insurance can help clear debts and leave assets for education or other needs children have or will have.

Many mothers work for pay, and many do not. Just because a mother is not working for pay does not mean her work is unimportant. It would require payment if someone else had to do it. The average annual cost of childcare is almost $15,000 – $14,760, to be exact. Many sources estimate the value of a stay-at-home mother is more than $100,000 per year.

There are many different options when it comes to choosing a life insurance policy that best fits each family and many have living benefits to help defray education costs. No parent plans to leave a child with no financial security and one of the best ways to provide a family that peace of mind is by including life insurance in any financial planning portfolio. Do mothers who are employed or self-employed and mothers who are not employed –  full-time caregivers – need the same amount of life insurance coverage?

Salka: That’s a complicated question but an important one. 

Life insurance needs vary based on financial circumstances, goals, personal preferences and risk tolerance. All mothers should determine their life insurance needs as part of a holistic financial plan. 

A good understanding of their financial circumstances, goals and risks is a first step. This will inform a discussion of insurance needs and products that will meet those needs. There are a number of different shortcuts to estimate need based on income replacement needs, debts to cover, or future needs to prioritize. 

No matter how it’s determined, it’s important to have. 

There are a variety of different product types and face amounts that can meet needs and help people feel financially secure. According to the 2023 Insurance Barometer Study, almost seven in 10 Americans – 69% – with a life insurance policy feel financially secure vs. 49% of those who do not. At what stage of their life should mothers purchase life insurance?

Salka: In general, the younger a policyholder is, the less expensive insurance is. There really isn’t a bad time to buy life insurance. The best time is when you have people you want to protect and take care of. 

For mothers, that is every day.

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John McCormick
Editorial Director


John is the editorial director for, and Before joining QuinStreet, John was a deputy editor at The Wall Street Journal and had been an editor and reporter at a number of other media outlets where he covered insurance, personal finance, and technology.



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