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Putting life insurance on the millennial shopping list

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While life insurance companies are eager to capture the millennial generation, they appear to be having limited success. Millennials are 33 percent less likely than typical adults to have policies, and less than two in ten are planning to buy coverage in the next 12 months, according to GfK MRI’s “Survey of the American Consumer.” Furthermore, even those with insurance may have under-purchased — a typical challenge in this industry — with just 12 percent covered for more than $500,000.

Though much has been made of this generation’s delayed adulthood, their profile aligns well with the life insurance proposition. Many millennials should be in the market to buy insurance: 42 percent are parents; 35 percent are married; and 9 percent are engaged.

Even those who have purchased insurance may have done so without much thought. Most insured millennials (57 percent) get policies through their employers; a purchase environment that is often characterized by subsidized policies, little to no underwriting requirements, and bundled decision making.

So, even though insurance companies have been successful at selling something to some Millennials, have they really made the connections that they seek? And how do they capture the attention of Millennials who do not have insurance?

Understanding what moves this generation to make financial decisions — particularly those who plan to buy life insurance — may help marketers break those barriers.

Here are psychographic insights that focus on millennials buying insurance (MBIs). This group plans to purchase coverage within the next 12 months.

The millennial money mindset

Overwhelming financial burdens, the social nature of financial decision-making, living in the moment and their digital lifestyle shape how MBIs buy financial products and services.

The debt problem: MBIs (78 percent) agree that investing for the future is very important, but this is a generation saddled with debt, particularly from school loans. More than half (59 percent) of MBIs say they are overwhelmed by financial burdens. They are 16 percent more likely than typical adults planning to buy insurance to feel that way.

Being underwater may affect both their perceived ability to plan for the future and their aversion to risk:

  • 57 percent: “Investing in the stock market is too risky for me.”

  • 58 percent: “It is better for me to put my money in a low-risk investment, even if the return may not be as great.” (Millennials and typical adults agree similarly.)

Despite their “live in the now attitude” they are noticeably low risk in their approach to finances, making insurance a possible good alternative.

In the now: Millennials live in the moment. GfK Consumer Trends data report that they value fun first and hard work next, ranking “enjoying life” and “having fun” higher among their core values than the general population.

And getting what you want, when you want it, feeds the fun. According to GfK MRI, 53 percent of MBIs agree that, “You are better off having what you want now as you never know what tomorrow brings.” 

Unfortunately, these attitudes are usually not in synch with the process off buying insurance.

With a little help from my friends (and parents): MBIs turn to others for guidance when making financial decisions. Their parents, in particular, are their financial role models.

  • 56 percent: “The way I deal with my finances reflects how my parents dealt with theirs.”

  • 50 percent: “I often ask the advice of others when it comes to financial products or services.”

  • 48 percent: “I enjoy learning about financial products or services from others.

Digital natives

More than one-third (37 percent) of MBIs used smartphones to visit a website for financial information in the past 30 days. Nearly eight in ten (80 percent) of MBIs use Facebook and 70 percent visit YouTube for a range of purposes. They are more likely than typical adults planning to buy insurance to visit these sites (YouTube index: 145; Facebook index: 137).

Their shopping on smartphones has also increased 9 percentage points in the past year, according to GfK’s Futurebuy.

Closing the deal

Life Insurance is a tough sell, but innovative marketing for this generation may help:

  1. Launch social media campaigns that invite MBIs to share success stories. Tailor and target stories to “people just like you” by tapping into the range of scenarios to which millennials relate: traditional families, same-sex partners, single parents, living with parents, etc. Make the messages fun to optimize sharing. Consider rewarding for referrals.

  2. Acknowledge their financial pain. The fact that millennials are under financial pressure can actually work in insurers’ favor. The consequences of limited or no life insurance can be costly to their families.

  3. Meet their parents. Embed messages in the strong millennial/boomer bond. Arm the parents of MBIs with information to help their sons and daughters make wise choices.

  4. Make it snappy. Invest in mobile apps and websites that expedite buying. Combine this digital buying process with more products that employ simplified underwriting. This will appeal to millennials’ desire for instant results.

Getting Millennials to buy life insurance requires marketing that breaks through sales barriers. Talk their talk (and their parents’ talk), make it fun and be where they are to increase the likelihood that when they do sign up, it will be with you.


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