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LIMRA Probes Consumer Attitudes

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NEW YORK – The recession has had a visible impact on retirement expectations, a LIMRA International expert reported at the association’s annual meeting here this week.

Researchers at LIMRA, Windsor, Conn., found that 43% of U.S. adults says they will postpone retirement as a result of the economic downturn, and that, among those over age 45, 57% are planning such postponement, said Robert Baranoff, a senior vice president at LIMRA.

The study found that 12% of have cut their retirement contributions, while 8% have increased contributions.

Life insurance lapse rates have remained low during the current recession, although consumers are still cutting spending in general, Baranoff reported. About 25% of those surveyed reported taking some action on finances in response to the economic crisis, the most common being reallocation of investment assets. About 10% have sought more professional advice, while 8% have been taking less of it, he said.

Among those who have sought advice about life insurance, 34% have turned to financial advisors, 15% to a life agent or broker, 14% to their employer’s human resources department, and 27% to friends and family.

The survey also found some distrust, with 64% saying financial advisors are more interested in fees and commissions than in the client’s needs. However, 41% also said advisors could assist with their financial needs.

Trust has become more important than ever in selling financial services, Baranoff said. The chief ingredients of a trusting relationship are perceptions of the advisor’s competence, benevolence, integrity and dependability, according to LIMRA’s research.

As for trust in life insurance companies, consumers gave multiple answers: 49% are looking for a company whose products give peace of mind, 45% look for one they believe will still be in business when needed, and 40% examine the company’s financial strength. Other factors include a company’s reputation for settling claims without hassles, and the trustworthiness of the sales reps, both cited by 23% of survey participants, Baranoff reported.

Looking at who consumers primarily blame for the recession, 24% faulted the government, 22% banks, 11% other consumers, 8% insurance companies, and 7% nonfinancial companies.

Perhaps the best news for LIMRA members emerging from the study: 39% of consumers said they think they should have more life insurance.