There is a universal truth to women, no matter what size employer they work for: they tend to be under-insured. This was the message of opportunity that Jean Wiskowski, chief marketing officer at Prudential, had for advisers gathered in New Orleans at the 7th annual Workplace Benefits Summit.

In her session, "Voluntary Benefits: Gender Matters," Wiskowski pointed out to the mostly female audience that, according to LIMRA, 43% of women have no life insurance coverage at all. The industry research group also notes that although seven in 10 U.S. households are dual-income households, one in three wives own no life insurance at all.

As for women who are insured, 72% of them don't have enough of it, Wiskowski said, attributing the statistic to MetLife.

For example, LIMRA data show life insurance will replace higher-income wives' incomes for about eight months less than it will for husbands with similar incomes.

This is important, said Wiskowski, because Prudential found that 53% of women are now the primary breadwinner for their household.

Additionally, she referred to a March 2013 Time cover story, "The Richer $ex," that found the majority of working wives will out-earn their husbands in the next generation - seeing as in most U.S. metro areas single 20-something women with no children now out-earn their male peers $1.18 to $1.00.

According to salary.com, the work done at home caring for her family would earn a full-time working mother an additional $63,472 a year. This is especially noteworthy, said Wiskowski, because three out of 10 Americans entering the workforce today will become disabled before they retire, according to the Council for Disability Awareness.

Hence, a disabled working mother is hit twice by that disability - in the workplace and at home.

Adding to the burden of not being able to perform work and household duties, the Council for Disability Awareness finds 65% of women believe they would only be able to pay bills for less than a year if their income stopped, Wiskowski said.

Additionally, LIMRA finds that seven in 10 families with children under 18 would have trouble paying their bills if their primary wage earner were to die unexpectedly.

Wiskowski used an example of two typical women, one in her 40s and the other in her 60s, to demonstrate three common truths about many women today:

1) They don't understand why they need insurance or how much they need.

2) They're wearing so many hats in life, busy taking care of others.

3) This is all happening as they are trying to advance at work and retire comfortably in the future.

The need behind proper coverage for women is apparent, and Wiskowski said there is much an adviser can do to help.

 

How to help

Helping women improve their financial wellness starts with enrollment communications, and those communications need to get the message behind the need for insurance to women quickly, said Wiskowski. "Create enrollment communications for her, not to her," she said.

For example, Prudential focus group research found that women don't like generalizing phrases such as, "Women are at the heart of it all," but they do respond well to messages that are about "people like me," said Wiskowski.

However, women respond negatively to images of sadness such as a mother missing from a family photo, she cautioned. More so than men, women are concerned about becoming a financial burden to their family and want to be sure they have money to leave behind after they are gone.

When it comes to purchasing benefits at work, women are more likely than men to value the convenience of payroll deduction and appreciate their employer's due diligence in shopping for a voluntary vendor, according to Wiskowski.

Advisers must take advantage of this, she said, by moving away from the format of a one-page rate quote letter to a very short self-mailer.

Even better, women prefer work emails to home mailings, said Wiskowski, because they find they have more time to focus on such communications away from the distractions of home. Although women like social media, Wiskowski noted that carriers are "having trouble getting employers to move there," she said.

 

Communication that works

One platform that has worked for Prudential, said Wiskowski, is the use of microsites that incorporate life stage messaging customized to an employer's look and feel. Such a website allows a woman to connect with "people like me" through materials based on where she is in life. The same works for personalized life stage fliers that are mailed home.

The design of such websites and paper mailings should be a structured, clean look, said Wiskowski, and be formatted for quick reads. Because women choose how they want to learn and when they want to do it, the following tactics are very effective, said Wiskowski:

* life stage microsites

* interactive tools and presentations

* short "real life" videos

* quick-read fliers

All communications must answer the following questions:

* Do you need (or have enough) life insurance?

* How much do you need?

* How much will it cost?

* How do you enroll?

Wiskowski reminded the audience to keep in mind that, "Women are rapport talkers and men are report talkers."

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