Overall life insurance coverage remains low in the United States, with 30% of households nationwide having no life insurance at all, according to LIMRA. That's due to a variety of reasons, those in the business say, but the gap presents an opportunity for brokers.

People are simply not buying life insurance because other priorities take precedence. In a LIMRA study, everyday expenses such as energy costs, food, clothing and transportation were cited by more than half of consumers as limits on their ability to save for their financial goals.

Life insurance is just something that consumers do not want to think about, says Kim Landry, an analyst in the research department at LIMRA in Windsor, Conn. "[It] is not exactly a consumer good in the way that people shop for a television because they want a television," she says. "It's something they don't want to think about all the time. The case needs to be made to them why they need it and why it's so important."

During open enrollment - which the average employee spends about 30 minutes on, according to Prudential - they think about benefits they have an immediate need for, such as an FSA to cover childcare expenses, says Jim Gemus, SVP group and voluntary benefits, at Prudential Group Insurance in Roseland, N.J.

"Some of these other benefits where the benefit is a long-term benefit and a little harder to think about on the day-to-day basis," he says. "Very often they leave that to the end and if they have questions, they tend not to act."



Selling in the worksite

Landry explains that the more you can make it about the consumer, the more likely you are to make a sale, and that is why the worksite is becoming a big channel for selling the product.

"There is this overall trend where employers are feeling the pressure of increased costs, the economy ... and more and more benefits like life insurance are being offered on a voluntary benefits basis," Gemus says. "Individuals more and more have to choose the level of benefits they want, as well as pay for it. We think this is a great opportunity because voluntary benefits are a good way to buy life insurance.

"But having said that, you still have to get individuals to make those choices, and it really 00matters how you do that," he adds. "If you approach it with best practices, you can get very good results. But if you don't, you get fewer and fewer people focusing on life insurance."

The broker therefore becomes "very, very important in this" process, Gemus says. "There is significant need for life insurance. ... A lot of times what happens is individuals know they have the need but they are not quite sure how to choose the benefit," failing to think of their families' continued financial needs.

A broker, he says, can help drive awareness of the product and then help support enrollment best practices. One of those best practices includes making a checklist on why the enrollee might need life insurance, particularly for young people.

"When you do that, you materially change how people make a decision," Gemus says. "[But] you can't put that on a separate page or a separate click. It has to be right there. If you do that, it makes a difference."

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