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Whole life sales surge; variable products struggle

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With Thanksgiving last week, perhaps you missed LIMRA’s 3Q U.S. Individual Life Sales Summary Report. Want a quick summary of the summary? You came to the right place.

Whole life surging. Term life steady. Universal life slide slowing down. Variable products still tanking. Overall, 3Q individual life sales dropped 11% to end the first nine months of the year down 19%. Not good, but certainly a dramatic improvement over 1Q (down 26%) and 2Q (down 20%) total sales. Remember, the first half of the year marked the steepest six-month decline since 1942.

Individual whole life sales actually grew 12% in 3Q, giving the category a 1% growth rate year-to-date. Term life sales were completely flat in 3Q and are down 2% through three quarters. Universal life was down 14% – it dropped about 30% in both 1Q and 2Q. Then we come to variable products, and all I can say is “ouch.” Down 52% in the quarter, and 55% for the year.

Overall policy count increased 1% for the quarter and is down 4% for the year. Whole life again led the way with policy sales growing 7% in the quarter.

“Whole life’s combination of features, such as simplicity, premium and cash value guarantees and low risk, is proving to be a winning one,” says Ashley Durham, LIMRA senior analyst for product research. “Mutual companies, which represent two-thirds of whole life sales, continue to fare better than the public companies, growing 14% for the quarter.”

Want to delve deeper into the numbers? View the latest table on U.S. life insurance sales trends by clicking the link.

LIMRA’s 3Q U.S. Individual Annuities Sales Summary is also out – overall individual annuity sales were down 17% from 2008, and are down 8% year-to-date. For more on that report, click this link: Annuities Industry Estimates Chart.