Rarely does an opportunity present itself to record a significant shift in priorities among populations within a relatively short period of time.
But, this was recently the case for Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Minneapolis, when it repeated a survey on the financial priorities of American Gen Xers and Baby Boomers that had initially been taken shortly before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The result of the two surveys of 800 American consumers between ages 25 and 45, “Report on American Priorities,” is a picture of a nation going through “a wake-up call,” says Charles M. Kavitsky, senior vice president, chief marketing officer, Allianz.
“Prior to 9/11 people were more concerned about living too long and not having enough money than dying young,” he says. “Mortality was pretty far down as a concern.”
In other words, people were more interested in building their 401(k)s and investment portfolios than buying sufficient life insurance, Kavitsky explains.
The majority of those surveyed in August said their financial well being is a higher priority than their mortality, but that number has fallen 10% since the tragedy. Meanwhile, those who say they are more concerned about their mortality than their finances increased 8%, according to the survey.
While the findings show a shift in priorities, concern for family members was a consistent motivator for the majority of respondents, Allianz says.
Most said family concerns were the number-one reason for their priorities, regardless of whether they identified financial well being or mortality as the more important issue in their lives.
More than half of those consumers who said financial well being was most important to them cited stress or concern about family security as the number-one reason. For those consumers who said they cared more about their mortality than their finances, nearly three in 10 (29%) identified events, likely including Sept. 11, as the reason.
“Typically the way for someone to wake up and wonder whether they have the protection they need is the loss of someone they know or love and then it hits home and they say What would happen if that were me, ” Kavitsky says.
“What happened with 9/11, instead of a personal experience, you had an incident that took place on a national scale.”
Also unveiled by the survey is an apparent disconnect between how respondents perceived their own level of financial preparedness and how long they could support themselves if they suffered a financial setback, such as serious illness, accident or death.
More than 65% said they were “very” or “somewhat” prepared for such an occurrence (virtually unchanged from August 2001). Yet when asked how many months they believed they could continue their current standard of living in the event of a financial setback, 58% said they would need financial assistance after less than six months; 38% after less than three months; and 13% within a month. All of these numbers have increased since August 2001, suggesting that many more Americans are more aware since the attacks that they might not have an adequate financial safety net.
More than one-third (35%) of survey respondents said they are now frequently or occasionally thinking about life insurance. Within this group, 36% said they are thinking about it due to family concerns and one in five (20%) said it was because of recent personal events or world events, likely including Sept. 11. Sixty percent of all survey respondents already had life insurance through their employers and 44% had purchased it separately.
Among those who had not yet purchased life insurance separate from their employer, 17% said they had either considered or inquired about purchasing life insurance since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, February 4, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.