Hartford says survey shows need for education on coverage

Americans believe life insurance is important but also admit they understand little about it and probably don’t have enough of it.

Those are some conclusions of a recently completed Life Insurance Literacy Study conducted among working Americans by The Hartford Financial Services Group, Hartford.

Hartford found an unexpectedly large gap between the coverage consumers say they want and what they actually have.

The survey of 750 employed individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 found that 63% consider life insurance “extremely” or “very” important to own, while an additional 25% identified it as important.

A strong majority also thought it was important for their spouse to be covered. Hartford found 74% of participants with a spouse or partner thought it was extremely or very important for their spouse to have life insurance, and another 17% said it was important.

About 50% of survey participants said they have life insurance coverage through their employer. But when Hartford looked solely at those who had life insurance available through their place of work, it found 75% actually bought it there.

Of those who bought life insurance at work, 40% said their employers paid the entire bill, while 15% picked up the whole tab themselves.

But 28% of those who bought through their employer didn’t know what type of life insurance they had.

Hartford found a great need to educate employees about life insurance. Sixty-nine percent said they understood life insurance “completely” or “mostly,” compared to 83% of those who said they understood health care insurance and 88% who said they understood automobile insurance.

Forty-four percent said their own coverage was inadequate. The typical employee in the survey had about $130,000 in coverage for themselves. This was despite the fact that 94% said life insurance was important to assure their family could maintain their accustomed standard of living in the event of their premature death.

Among other reasons to have life insurance, according to participants:

==covering funeral expenses (89%);

==having funds available for certain major expenses (87%);

==making sure their spouse would not have to work if they didn’t want to (77%);

==setting aside money for their children’s college education (72%).

Survey participants also underestimated how many people had life insurance.

The average respondent thought 46% of people between the ages of 18 to 85 have life insurance, well below the 70% who actually have it, Hartford notes.

One surprising result of the study was the differences about the most common causes for early death among those who had life insurance and those who didn’t.

Hartford found 60% of those without life insurance identified accidents or injuries as the leading cause of premature death, while 44% of those who have insurance thought the same. (In reality, accidents and injuries account for only 4% of premature deaths.)

Hartford is hoping its study will help push more employers to educate employees about their need for adequate life insurance, says Rob Berman, assistant vice president and director of product management for the company’s group benefits division.

“We want employees to be aware of how important life insurance is, whether employer-paid or employee-paid,” Berman says. “When they’re better educated, they will purchase more on their own.”

Only 38% of employees in the survey identified employers as a source that encourages adults to buy life insurance. Eighty-four percent identified insurance agents and 66% identified financial planners as sources encouraging life insurance purchases.

Berman says he hopes producers will use the survey to help employers see the need to explain to employees the need to secure adequate protection.

As for producers, the survey should give them ammunition to enlist more employers to support their efforts to build enrollments, he adds.

The message Berman would like them to get across to employers: Life insurance is part of a robust employee benefit package that will attract and retain employees.

84% in the survey identified insurance agents and 66% identified financial planners as sources encouraging life insurance purchases