Thirty-nine percent of U.S. adults do not have life insurance, according to survey results released by InsuranceQuotes.com. And many of the 2,000 Americans surveyed who do have life insurance appear to be underinsured and not as knowledgeable as they should be about their policies.

These results and other survey results from ING and MetLife, all announced in conjunction with Life Insurance Awareness Month, suggest that a substantial number of Americans are inadequately prepared for end-of-life issues.

Today, ING announced findings from a consumer study of attitudes and behaviors toward life insurance. According to the research, “Insurance Revealed,” 78% of respondents — 1,006 adults over the age of 25 — viewed life insurance as a valuable tool for estate or financial planning, and 53% believed that the current economy makes life insurance even more important today than in past years. However, 51%  of respondents cited other priorities, such as paying off debt or a mortgage, as major obstacles to purchasing life insurance.

The study also revealed individuals who purchased life insurance face-to-face with a financial professional felt the most confident and knowledgeable about their coverage, and 49% look to their employer as the only source for insurance coverage. Employees without access to life insurance benefits at the workplace were seven times more likely to have no coverage at all than employees who did have access.

Meanwhile, 61% had never calculated their life insurance needs and 44% had little or no confidence that the amount of life insurance coverage they had was sufficient.

The study also showed communication is an area for further opportunity. While 62% identified family as the number one reason to purchase life insurance, many couples confirmed that they avoid discussing the issue. Among married respondents, 45% had rarely or never talked with their spouse about what would happen to the family finances should one of them pass away.

MetLife’s 10th Annual “Employee Benefits Trends Study,” released last week, highlighted similar findings. It found that marriage appears to be a catalyst for working men and women to obtain life insurance protection. However, when children enter into the equation, parents are not adjusting life insurance coverage to accommodate the change. About half of single working men and women without children have some amount of life insurance, a percentage that climbs to 72% for married workers without minor children but only increases marginally, to 75%, for married couples with youngsters.

The study found that workers both with or without minor children have, in general, only about three times their annual household income covered by life insurance. This amount may be inadequate with the addition of children as the number and age of dependents should be taken into consideration when determining the amount of coverage needed.

Carrie Burns is the editor in chief of Insurance Networking News, a SourceMedia publication.

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