Some ominous news, just as Life Insurance Awareness Month officially kicks off today.

Ownership of individual life insurance has hit a 50-year low, according to a study released this week by LIMRA. Just 44% of U.S. households have individual life insurance, and 30% of households (35 million) have no life insurance coverage whatsoever. Back in 2004, the last time the LIMRA study was conducted, that last figure was 22%.

The underlying concern in these survey results – which are regarded as the most reliable measure available – is that despite the industry’s stepped-up efforts in recent years, consumers are just not feeling compelled to actually do something about what they know is a problem. These people – and particularly the 11 million Americans with children under 18 who have no life insurance – are essentially playing a game of Russian Roulette, banking on the hope that nothing bad will happen while they are uninsured.

Figures in the study support that most Americans readily acknowledge that they do, in fact, need adequate life insurance coverage. But 40% of the uninsured and underinsured say they have other financial priorities right now, such as paying off debt or saving for retirement. Meanwhile, 40% also say they would have “immediate trouble” meeting everyday living expenses if the primary breadwinner died today.

And far too many are uncertain about how to obtain coverage – not to mention how much coverage they need. According to the study, almost eight in 10 U.S. households currently do not have a personal life insurance agent or broker to turn to, and most of them say they never did.

“As an industry, we need to reach out to consumers and educate them about the various ways they can purchase life insurance,” said Robert Kerzner, CLU, ChFC, president and CEO of LIMRA. “Whether they buy from an agent, get coverage through their employer or make an online purchase, the important thing is that they get the coverage they need to protect their loved ones.”

On the bright side, you have no shortage of life insurance prospects out there. Your challenge is to help them take that next step beyond knowing they need adequate coverage to actually taking action to correct the problem.

There are many resources, especially during Life Insurance Awareness Month, that can help you get through to prospects. To view the 2010 LIAM Fact Sheet and other resources, visit www.limra.com/LIAM/.

More blog entries from Brian Anderson.