What Makes a Smart Insurance Consumer?

Most consumers have limited understanding of life insurance

A survey by LIMRA found most consumers have a limited understanding of life insurance and identified what factors make for an informed consumer.

Out of 4,000 respondents, less than a third could pass a 10-question test about life insurance, and most got less than half of the questions right.

Unsurprisingly, though, consumers whose primary source of information was through an advisor, or who had referred to multiple sources of information on insurance, had a “higher insurance IQ” than other respondents.

“With life insurance ownership at an all-time low, it is important that the industry not only overcome consumers’ lack of knowledge about life insurance but address the misinformation that is out there confusing them and possibly having a negative impact on their image of the industry,” Jennifer Douglas, LIMRA associate research director for strategic and developmental research, said in a statement.

Older respondents and those who own individual coverage were also more likely to have a better understanding of insurance. More education and higher levels of investable assets also contributed to a better score.

The survey also found that men were more likely to understand insurance than women. A recent paper by Genworth that found women are often underinsured—if they’re insured at all—supports that finding.

As of Thursday, more than two-thirds of consumers understood that their premiums would be invested by their insurer and paid to their heirs upon their death. However, less than a third knew that beneficiaries do not have to pay taxes on a death benefit from a life insurance policy, and only a quarter were aware that their policies were protected if the insurer were to go bankrupt. Just a third understood that with variable or variable universal life products, the policyholder was responsible for the risk of the investment.

“One of the top reasons consumers give about why they don’t buy life insurance is because it is ‘too confusing,’” Douglas added. “The study shows that consumers with a better understanding of life insurance have a higher level of confidence in insurance companies than those less knowledgeable about life insurance.”

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