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Life insurance has changed since the Cubs last won a World Series

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It was 1908 when the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series.

The Cubs beat the Detroit Tigers on Oct. 14 that year, winning the World Series for the second consecutive year. While the Cubs would make it back to the series seven more times (the team’s last World Series appearance was in 1945), they would not win again, earning the nickname the Lovable Losers.

The Cubs are back in the World Series this year, and Chicago baseball fans are hoping their team will break its fabled 108-year championship drought. In those 108 years, the world has seen two world wars, a human being walking on the surface of the moon, and technology advances that have dramatically changed almost every aspect of life.

The insurance industry has also experienced dramatic change during the more than a century since the Cubs last tasted World Series victory, including evolution in products and regulatory influences.

Related: How 10 life insurers got their start

Continue reading to see a decade-by-decade breakdown of how the insurance industry has changed in the 108 years since the Cubs last won a World Series.


Northwestern Mutual paid out $500,000 in death benefits for 13 policy owners who perished when the Titanic sunk on April 15, 1912. The Titanic is shown here departing Southampton on April 12, 1912. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


1911: Group life insurance is born when Equitable Life Assurance Society wrote a policy covering all 125 employees of the Pantasote Leather Co. without requiring individual applications or medical exams. In 1912, Equitable organizes a department to promote group coverage and soon begins insuring employees of Montgomery Ward.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that life insurance policies are an asset (Grigsby v. Russell). Like all assets, policies are freely assignable for value. This principle, upon which the viatical settlement and later the life settlement industry are based, remains little-used for almost eight decades until the onset of the AIDS crisis.

1912: When 13 policyowners perished in the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic, Northwestern Mutual paid out more in death benefits ($500,000) as a result of the tragedy than any other life insurance company.

The Pennsylvania Company for Insurance on Lives and Granting Annuities becomes the very first American company to offer annuities to the public (outside a group).

1914: Eleven years after Orville Wright made the first powered airplane flight, Northwestern Mutual pays benefits for its first death claim caused by an airplane accident when policy owner Frank M. Bell fell from his aircraft. The policy, amounting to $15,000, was purchased in 1907.

1916: LIMRA is founded to perform research and other activities to help member companies — businesses that market life, health, disability and long-term care insurance, annuities, mutual funds and retirement savings products — improve their marketing and distribution effectiveness.

1917: Harold Pierce, a Philadelphia-based general agent of New York Life, wrote a $2.5 million policy on J.P. Morgan. At the time, it’s the largest life insurance policy ever issued to an individual. The sale earned Pierce, known as the Million Dollar Policy Writer, $61,600 in first-year commission.

MassMutual’s assets under management exceed $100 million. The company begins offering annuity products.

1918: The Carnegie Foundation established the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA), a fully funded system of pensions for college and university professors. Incorporated as a life insurance company in the state of New York, 30 public and private institutions signed on by the end of its first year.

North American became the first company to offer a disability insurance policy for women.

Stock Market Crash 1929


(A solemn crowd gathers outside the Stock Exchange after the crash in 1929. James Cash Penney lost substantially all of his personal wealth in the crash and eventually borrowed against his life insurance policy to financially recover. Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

1927: The Million Dollar Round Table was created by 32 life insurance producers, each of whom had sold at least $1 million of life insurance. The goal is to produce an international idea exchange forum dedicated to fostering a high-standard, professional approach to life insurance sales and service. Paul F. Clark, CLU, of John Hancock, is the first president of the organization, which met at the Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee.

The American College of Life Underwriters was founded by Solomon Huebner of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, offering the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation. Now known as the American College and located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the institution has accredited more than 94,000 CLU recipients, and since 1982, more than 41,000 Chartered Financial Consultants (ChFC).

1928: MassMutual began offering accidental death insurance.

1929: James Cash Penney, founder of J.C. Penney Co. stores, loses virtually all of his personal wealth as a result of the 1929 stock crash. He borrowed against his life insurance policies to help the company meet its payroll and eventually recovered financially.

State Farm Life Insurance Co. was founded in Bloomington, Illinois, by G.J. Mecherle, who buys the first policy of $2,000 of ordinary life.


Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone. By the eve of the Great Depression, there were more than 120 million life insurance policies in place in the United States. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


1930: After coming through the crash of 1929 relatively unscathed, MetLife insured every fifth man, woman and child in the United States and Canada. The company’s financial stability enables it to aid in the financing of the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center.

Life insurance sales rose dramatically after World War I, peaking at $117 billion of insurance in force in 1930. By the eve of the Great Depression there were more than 120 million life insurance policies — equivalent to one policy for every man, woman and child living in the United States at that time.

1939: Following the 1935 passage of the Social Security Act, amendments were passed that add two new categories of benefits: Payments to the spouse and minor children of a retired worker (so-called dependents benefits) and survivors benefits, which are paid to the family in the event of the premature death of a covered worker. This change transforms Social Security from a retirement program for workers into a family-based economic security program.

Jackie Robinson

Guardian Life board member Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, expected backlash resulting from his hiring of Jackie Robinson (pictured), the first African American to play in the major leagues. (Photo: Bob Sandberg/Wikimedia Commons)


1942: American National became the first Texas insurance company to claim $100 million in assets. Two years later, the company’s insurance in force passed the billion-dollar mark. During World War II, American National was a significant financial contributor to the military efforts of the United States, purchasing about $33 million worth of government war bonds.

1945: The McCarran-Ferguson Act was passed by Congress, partially exempting insurance companies from the federal antitrust legislation that applies to most businesses. It also allowed for the state regulation of insurance

Guardian Life board member Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, tendered his resignation in anticipation of adverse publicity resulting from his hiring of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in the major leagues. The board rejected Rickey’s resignation.

IBM 700 series computer

Northwestern Mutual deployed a large-scale IBM computer, similar to this one deployed at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, in 1957. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


1951: Metropolitan Life authorized its agents to solicit African-American business in New York, subject to the same rules on commissions that apply to white lives.

1952: As increasing life expectancies and high inflation rates changed the playing field for pension providers, TIAA created the world’s first variable annuity, the College Retirement Equities Fund. An editor at Fortune magazine wrote to a colleague: “I think this is the biggest development in the insurance-investment business since the passage of the Social Security Act.”

1956: Minnesota Mutual bought its first computer — a Burroughs Datatron 205 — which was expected to save the company an estimated $100,000 a year. Installed in July 1957, the bulky $355,000 13-unit computer occupied 1,000 square feet. The company housed the machine in a custom-built fourth-floor room with one glass wall, so visitors could see the futuristic machine in action.

Related: The power of technology in insurance

1957: In an effort to improve service as well as reduce costs, Northwestern Mutual became the first business in the country to own a large-scale IBM. Its new “electronic brain” arrived in a semi-trailer, and it takes several months to prepare the IBM 705′s climate-controlled home. By the time installation is complete, the total cost of the computer amounted to $1.6 million.

The American Association of Life Underwriters was founded by a group of leading producers with the sole purpose of influencing legislation on a single key issue — minimum deposit life insurance.

1958: Aflac introduced one of the world’s first cancer-expense insurance policies.

Apollo astronauts

Virtually uninsurable, Apollo astronauts signed postcards prior to missions that were expected to increase exponentially in value in the event they died. The makeshift insurance policy was never needed. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


1962: Bankers Life Co. ended its practice of terminating female employees when they marry and implemented the “9 to 3 Plan,” allowing women to work during the hours their children are in school from September through June.

1964: Aflac pioneered the “cluster-selling” technique of making presentations to groups of employees. Today, more than 96 percent of the company’s policies are purchased at work, most on a payroll-deduction basis.

1965: Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance was enacted into law to provide life insurance to members of the armed forces on active duty. The insurance is underwritten by a pool of commercial insurers, and the federal government pays administrative expenses and the extra cost resulting from the increased risk of military duty.

1969: As early Apollo program astronauts were virtually uninsurable, NASA devised a makeshift insurance in the form of “insurance covers” — essentially postcards signed by each astronaut and postmarked as close to launch date as possible (from Apollo 11 to 16). Each crew member received a number of these, and while the collector value was instantly high, it would rise dramatically should the astronauts never return. Surviving family members could cash in these makeshift insurance policies if necessary. (It never was.)

Federal Trade Commission building

A scathing Federal Trade Commission (headquarters pictured) report led to a downswing in permanent life insurance purchases. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


1971: Minnesota Mutual unveiled the industry’s first flexible life insurance policy — Adjustable Life. Designed to change with the needs of a policyholder, it allowed owners to set their own premium payment levels, which determined the cash surrender value of the policy.

1976: Variable life insurance was introduced in the United States.

Seventy-two percent of the adult population in the United States and more than 90 percent of all husband-and-wife families owned some form of life insurance.

1979: The scathing Task Force Insurance Report was published by the Federal Trade Commission, causing a downswing in the purchase of permanent life insurance. The study stated, “In far too many instances, consumers who use cash value insurance as a way to save receive a rate of return which is substantially below what is readily available in the marketplace.” The report also said effective price competition did not exist in the life insurance business and that most consumers bought life insurance without being given adequate information to allow them to understand the costs of the policy.

Early Apple Macintosh


(MassMutual purchased one of the first Apple Macintosh computers, similar to this one launched in 1984. Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

1981: Hartford Financial Services Group became the first major insurer to introduce universal life insurance coverage, four years after the first universal life policy was issued.

The National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies, or NAILBA, was formed to represent and serve as a resource for independent wholesale life brokerage agencies.

1982: Amid high inflation and competition from investments offering short-term returns, Guardian Life developed Direct Recognition, which gives whole life policyholders higher dividends in exchange for not borrowing against the cash values of their policies.

1984: Apple introduced the Macintosh computer. MassMutual purchased Unit #1.

1988: According to the American Council of Life Insurers, the number of U.S. life insurance companies peaked at 2,343. It has since fallen steadily because of mergers and consolidations.

Graham Leach Bliley

Sen. Phil Gramm and Reps. Jim Leach and Thomas J. Bliley, Jr. co-sponsored the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act that allowed financial institutions to join together to offer more comprehensive services. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


1990: After pioneering the Living Needs Benefit in Canada, Prudential introduced it in the United States.

1991: Executive Life Insurance Co., once the largest life insurance company in California, failed, shocking its policyholders and the financial world. The failure resulted primarily from money-losing investments in junk bonds.

1997: Securian became one of the first insurance companies in the 401(k) market to offer an interactive online service. AccuServeOnline gave 401(k) plan participants secure access to check their retirement accounts and conduct transactions anytime via the Internet.

1999 The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 legislated that banks, brokerages, insurance firms and other types of financial institutions can join together to offer their customers a more complete range of services. The main function of the act was to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act from the 1930s that prohibited banks and other financial institutions from offering financial services, such as investments and insurance-related services, as part of normal operations. In the insurance business, this leads to a flurry of merger and acquisition activity.


More than $1.2 billion in life insurance claims were paid as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Northern Virginia and Pennsylvania. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


2000: The Aflac duck was introduced to America in TV ads. The award-winning campaign, sometimes featuring celebrities in addition to the duck, was a huge success. In 2004, the duck was inducted into Madison Avenue’s Advertising Walk of Fame as one of America’s favorite brand icons.

The Women Life Underwriters Conference, formed in 1979, changed its name to Women in Insurance & Financial Services and moved forward with a renewed emphasis on the membership, education and corporate and public initiatives. The organization has more than 1,200 members and is headquartered in Albany, New York.

2001: A total of 2,996 people perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Northern Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Insurance Information Institute estimates $1.2 billion was paid out in life insurance claims. For example, Northwestern Mutual paid death benefits (most within five days of the claim) of about $125 million to the beneficiaries of 157 policyowners who lost their lives.

The purchase of life insurance policies from senior citizens became known as life settlements, and grew from a $2 billion industry to a $10 billion industry by 2005.

2004: Life Insurance Awareness Month debuted in September. Created by the LIFE Foundation in response to growing concern about the large number of Americans who lack adequate life insurance protection, LIAM is an annual industrywide effort that is coordinated by the LIFE Foundation.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer led an attack on the contingent commission practices in the U.S. insurance industry, and the fallout from his investigations led to worldwide changes. The attack centered on allegations that insurance companies have an oligopoly agreement between each other (not at will, but caused by the immense influence of the largest brokers) to submit false prices to stifle real competition. The ensuing negative publicity damaged the credibility of the industry.

2006: By the end of 2006 there are fewer than 80 mutual life insurers in the United States. More than 200 U.S. mutual life insurance companies have demutualized since 1930, converting from customer-owned organizations to form publicly traded stock companies.

2007: Northwestern Mutual, celebrating its 150th anniversary, became the first direct provider of life insurance to reach $1 trillion of individual life insurance in force.

2008: On September 16, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York extended American International Group a two-year emergency secured loan of up to $85 billion. Because of its size and substantial interconnection with financial markets and institutions around the world, the government recognized that a failure of AIG would have severe ramifications. It is the largest government bailout of a private company in U.S. history, though smaller than the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac a week earlier. AIG subsequently sold a number of its subsidiaries and other assets to pay down loans received and continues to seek buyers of its assets.

Independent agents held 56 percent of the new individual life insurance sales market, followed by captive agents (36 percent), direct marketers (3 percent) and others, including stockbrokers, according to LIMRA.


The final U.S. Department of Labor fiduciary rule, released in April 2016 under the watch of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, ended a process that began in 2010. (Photo: Nick Ut/AP Photo)


2010: The Federal Insurance Office was created under the Dodd-Frank Act. The FIO advises the Secretary of the Treasury on major policy issues, consults with state insurance regulators, monitors all aspects of the insurance industry and identifies gaps in regulation that could contribute to a systematic crisis.

LIMRA’s “2010 Life Insurance Ownership Study” found that 30 percent of U.S. households (35 million) have no life insurance protection at all, and only 44 percent of U.S. households have individual life insurance. This is a 50-year low.

Nearly 5 million people had long-term care insurance, according to a study by LIMRA International. The average first-year premium for individual long-term care coverage purchased in 2010 is $2,235.

2016: The U.S. Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule was released.

Do you have questions about the DOL fiduciary rule? LifeHealthPro’s Fiduciary Resource Center is the go-to destination the latest developments related to the rule.

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