Photo credit: <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2664">Stuart Miles</a>

Americans feel “secure” when they take steps to protect themselves against financial risk, according to a new research.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, disclosed this finding in a summary of results from a new survey unveiled in conjunction with Life Insurance Awareness Month. Harris Interactive conducted the survey of 2,097 American adults, ages 18 and older, on behalf of Northwestern Mutual in August.

The poll finds that more than two out of three people say that owning auto, health, homeowners/renters and/or life insurance makes them feel “secure.” However, the poll also finds that individuals are missing the opportunity to use life insurance to meet broader long-term financial goals such as education funding, longevity planning, charitable giving and other uses.

According to the poll:

• People who purchased life insurance are most often prompted to buy life insurance as a result of marriage (32%), retirement planning (25%) or the birth of a child (22%).

• Among all individuals, 30% say they get the greatest peace of mind “knowing that their family will be provided for in the event of unexpected death” and also “knowing that all debts would be paid.”

• When asked about the expenses they would consider in determining the amount of life insurance needed, few people who do not have life insurance factored in education (15%) or childcare (11%) expenses. And a third of people weren’t certain what expenses they would need to cover.

• More than half (52%) of people who purchased life insurance say they were motivated to buy it to provide for loved ones. But only 6% were motivated to purchase a policy to fund an inheritance for heirs or charities/non-profit organizations.