In the late 1990s and into 2000, several carriers and third-party providers began to recognize online calculator tools as invaluable in helping consumers perform needs analysis for life insurance."We have come to believe that few consumers have the patience or the understanding to spend a lot of time filling in forms to get the information they need," says Terry Burt, president of Canton, Mich.-based Interlinx LLC. Interlinx operates a Web site, www.budgetlife.com, that provides dynamic marketing and pricing data on a stable of life insurance products from more than 150 carriers.

"Our needs calculator is a simple interest-adjusted cash flow analysis to get consumers to understand what life insurance is about and how to replace your income if you die," Burt says.

New York City-based MetLife also appreciates the value of an online calculator in assessing an individual's needs, a process that can be extremely daunting.

MetLife has received a great deal of traction on the development of a calculator within its group life insurance division. In late 2000, MetLife began to offer a program called Mybenefits, which is available to employees who want to acquire life insurance upon enrollment in the group plan.

The MetLife Life Insurance Calculator provides customized recommendations on life insurance coverage, taking into account monthly expenses, planning expenses, outstanding debt, assets and savings.

"More than half of households that have life insurance tend to be underinsured-where their insurance coverage is equal to or less than three years of household income," says Mike Witwer, vice president of life products management, institutional business department at MetLife.

"When asked why, employees indicated they just don't know how much coverage is enough to fit their situation," he says. The calculator was developed to provide a personalized assessment that is easy to understand and easy to update as a person's circumstances change.

Presently, 75% of employees in MetLife's various group life programs have chosen the Internet to select and maintain their insurance coverage. The solution is also designed with an e-signature feature than helps expedite the policy issuance process.

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