WINDSOR, Conn.--The head of LIMRA International, a financial services research and consulting association, is urging the life insurance industry to help American households bridge the wide gap between the amount of life insurance they own and the amount they believe they need for adequate family financial protection.
"LIMRA's latest consumer survey shows some important trends about consumers and life insurance," said Robert A. Kerzner, president and CEO of LIMRA International. "It also reveals 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, and we have to do a much better job of reaching consumers."
LIMRA conducted consumer surveys in 2004 that show that 44 percent of American households believe they need more life insurance and 27 percent expect to buy more insurance in the coming year, although no one can predict how many will actually do so. LIMRA presented the findings at the Life Insurance Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
LIMRA estimated that if everyone who said they plan to buy life insurance in the coming year actually did, it would increase total coverage by $4.8 trillion and add an estimated $9 billion in new premium to industry revenues, almost double the amount of new premium now written each year.
Kerzner noted that the survey found that 78 percent of consumers said they do not have a personal life insurance agent and 73 percent do not have a personal financial advisor or planner. Further, 29 percent of households who do not have enough coverage said they have not been approached to buy life insurance.
"This is not a product that people buy on their own, even though three-fourths of Americans agree on the importance of life insurance for family protection," Kerzner said. "Unless our industry can get in front of more people to help them make a decision, this gap will remain unfilled."
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).
"If people don't understand our product, they won't buy it," Kerzner said. "So we need to spend more time with people, to help them answer the questions of how much insurance they need and what kind to buy. We need to help them see how life insurance fits into their total financial plan.
"We have a challenge," Kerzner added. "To get agents talking to more people, but also to encourage other financial professionals -- whether bank representatives, stockbrokers, planners or others -- to talk with people about life insurance.
"The good news is that people believe in the need for life insurance, and many realize that they don't have enough," Kerzner said. "They expect to buy more and they are interested in talking with someone about their needs. That's a clear call to our industry to help fill that need."
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