Since the economic downturn of 2007-2009, when plummeting equity values prompted many a client to jettison risky market bets for more conservative investment vehicles, no-nonsense whole life insurance has enjoyed a marked upswing in sales. But the verdict is out as to whether whole life is riding a short-term fad or a long-term rise in interest among consumers.
In the estimation of Guardian Life, which hosted the Whole Life Media Forum 2010 in Manhattan on October 5, the trend line clearly leans long-term. Michael Ferik, a senior vice president for individual life sales at the carrier, pointed out a new Guardian survey that highlights the reasons underpinning whole life’s growing appeal, and not just among older policy owners.
The survey pegs the median age for whole life insurance buyers at 37. Those in the 35 to 44 age group make up the largest percentage of buyers at nearly 35%. The 25 to 34 crowd constitutes the next highest block of buyers at more than 30%, followed by 45- to 54-year-olds at just over 20%.
Why are young buyers attracted to this oldest of permanent life insurance products? Guardian cites several motivating factors, starting with the primary one for purchasing life insurance: the desire of breadwinners to protect their families. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of survey respondents flagged this reason, as did 79% of buyers over age 40.
Also figuring into respondents’ enthusiasm for whole life is the product’s guaranteed cash value (the answer of 66% of policy owners under age 40 and 71% over age 40); and the need for a secure retirement income (54% versus 50%-plus). The survey notes, too, that younger buyers explored other savings vehicles, including mutual funds, stocks, CDs and other types of insurance, before opting for whole life.
The good fortunes of mutual life insurance companies that sell whole life as a core product stem in part from a heightened concern among post-recession consumers about the strength of firms backing the financial products on offer.