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Segmenting The Boomer Disability Market

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Affluent U.S. boomer parents already own a fair amount of disability insurance and say they hate Internet ads.

Meanwhile, mainstream boomer parents are more likely to need to disability insurance–and they like Internet ads and already are quick to read about term life insurance online.

Researchers at Claritas Inc., San Diego, have published data to support those conclusions in a report based on a 2005 telephone survey of 35,000 U.S. households, including 9,000 that say they have disability insurance.

Claritas is preparing to release the next batch of survey data in June. Firm researchers recently tried to whet disability insurers’ and marketers’ appetites for the new data by sharing samples from the vast collection of 2005 results.

Claritas can break the data down by age group, and it also can break data down using “lifestage groups.” Claritas does not segment the lifestage groups by age, but many of the lifestage groups–such as the Accumulated Wealth group, which includes many parents in affluent suburbs, and the Mainstream Families group, which includes parents in middle-income neighborhoods–are dominated by younger boomers.

Other lifestage groups, such as the Affluent Empty Nests group, are dominated by older boomers, who may not believe they need disability insurance or may no longer be healthy enough to buy disability insurance at a reasonable price.

The insurance, “psychographic” and leisure preference results for the lifestage groups include everything from how likely members of the groups are to buy credit card mortgage disability insurance through agents to how likely they are to do needlepoint.

Making careful use of demographic data and other forms of survey data is especially important in the insurance market because “people want to feel that the agent understands their needs,” says Candace Thornton, insurance practice leader at Claritas.

When marketers are thinking about selling disability insurance to boomers, for example, “you could think that boomers are a homogeneous cohort, but they’re not,” Thornton says. “They’re in desperate need of segmentation.”

The 4.5 million households in one frequently targeted Claritas lifestage group, the Claritas “Accumulated Wealth” group, include some Generation X parents but also include most affluent boomer parents.

About 42% of the Accumulated Wealth households already have some type of disability insurance, in part because they have median household incomes of about $106,000 per year; but, even in that group, 58% of the households have no disability coverage.

Survey participants from Accumulated Wealth households are 44% more likely than other survey participants to say, “Internet ads have no credibility.”

Disability insurers might have better luck reaching the Accumulated Wealth households through efforts to sponsor country club events or moves to underwrite shows on PBS affiliates; survey participants in this group were about 3.5 times as likely as typical survey participants to belong to country clubs and more than 2.9 times as likely to contribute to PBS or to National Public Radio.

Another group that includes most middle-income boomer parents, Mainstream Families, includes about 14 million households with at least 1 child and a median income of about $46,000.

Although these families might have a harder time paying for disability insurance than the Accumulated Wealth families, they also have greater need: Only about 30% of these households report having any disability coverage.

Members of the Mainstream Families group are 25% more likely than typical Claritas survey participants to say they have learned about term life insurance online, and they are 16% more likely to agree that “Internet ads are amusing.”

Although Mainstream Families households have less money to spend on insurance than the Accumulated Wealth households, about 10 million of them still need disability insurance, while fewer than 3 million of the Accumulated Wealth households are completely uninsured.