Life Insurance Isn’t a Waiting Game

by | April 12, 2021 | Financial Education, Financial Planning, Life Insurance

Americans can no longer make excuses for why they haven’t purchased life insurance. According to the 2021 Insurance Barometer Study, those who are uninsured appear to want more convenience in the life insurance process, citing that they haven’t been approached about it (46%), it isn’t offered through their employer (42%), and they haven’t gotten around to it (62%) as reasons they don’t have coverage.

But a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic is that obtaining life insurance has never been simpler. This means that no one—especially the 31% of people who say they’re more likely to buy life insurance because of the pandemic and the 47% who say they haven’t gotten around to it—has a reason to wait to purchase life insurance.

Plus, our data shows that people don’t regret purchasing life insurance. In fact, they regret not purchasing it earlier, with 39% of those who have life insurance saying they wished they’d purchased it at a younger age.

These findings are from the 11th edition of the annual Insurance Barometer Study released jointly by LIMRA and Life Happens, which examines the financial attitudes and behaviors of Americans, with an emphasis on life insurance.

Heightened Interest, But Little Action

We also found via the survey that interest in life insurance is at an all-time high. Currently, more than half (59%) of those who don’t own life insurance say they need it. For the uninsured, the top five reasons for not owning it include:

  1. It’s too expensive (81%)
  2. Other financial priorities right now (75%)
  3. Not sure how much I need / what type to buy (65%)
  4. Haven’t gotten around to it (62%)
  5. Don’t like thinking about death (51%)

Results reveal that the obstacles stopping uninsured Americans from purchasing life insurance really shouldn’t be preventing them from getting it. Here’s why.

Myths not Real Roadblocks

One of the biggest myths around life insurance is that it’s expensive. But more than half of people overestimated the cost of a term life insurance policy, believing it’s three times or more than it actually is. This was especially true for Millennials, with 44% estimating that the annual cost of 20-year $250,000 level term life insurance for a healthy 30-year-old would be more than $1,000, when it’s closer to $165.

Despite these myths and reasons for not owning life insurance, the pandemic did lead some to purchase life insurance for the first time, with Millennials (24%) and Black Americans (17%) the most likely to have done so in the last year.

Another myth is that it’s difficult to obtain life insurance. In the past year, in response to the pandemic, life insurance companies pivoted to help consumers expedite the buying process online, from their homes. Streamlining the process with simplified underwriting has also influenced the consumer’s likelihood to buy coverage: 48% of people said that they are more likely to buy via simplified underwriting, with the top benefits of this process being that it’s fast and easy (64%) and avoids the medical exam, blood and urine samples (56%).

The Financial Gender Gap

The Barometer findings show more men than women agreed with common myths around life insurance. In particular, men (35%) believed the myth that life insurance coverage through an employer is generally enough, 13% more than women (22%). Additionally, just 22% of women said they were very or extremely knowledgeable about life insurance compared with 39% of men. This may contribute to why only 11% of women obtained life insurance for the first time in 2020 with the impact of COVID; instead, paying monthly bills (29%) and saving money for an emergency fund (26%) ended up being the top concerns for women.

Shifting Priorities and New Concerns

COVID-19 has changed the financial concerns and priorities of all Americans. The research shows 42% of Americans would face financial hardship within six months if the primary wage-earner were to die unexpectedly. This just underlines how critical adequate life insurance coverage is in protecting a family’s financial future. As people’s overall financial concern continues to rise—up 20% over the past two years—life insurance can be a source of security. With nearly have (45%) saying that they have put off purchasing life insurance, it’s clear that there is no better time to act than right now.

We All Have Our Reasons

In recent years, there have been changes in why Americans say they own life insurance, with the most common reason for owning life insurance—burial/final expenses—showing a sharp decline in 2021 to 83% from its peak of 91% in 2018. At the same time, supplementing retirement income increased to 63%, along with transfer of wealth/inheritance, which came in as the second most popular reason for owning life insurance at 68%.

More findings from the 2021 Insurance Barometer Study can be viewed here.

Study Methodology

In January 2021, LIMRA and Life Happens engaged an online panel to survey adult consumers who are financial decision makers in their households. The survey generated over 3,000 responses. The results were weighted to represent the U.S. population.

Faisa Stafford, LUTCF

Faisa Stafford, LUTCF

Faisa Stafford, LUTCF, is president and CEO of Life Happens. She has been with the nonprofit since 2003, serving in various roles, and has always been passionate about Life Happens’ mission to educate all consumers about the importance of life insurance and related products.

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