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Mortality Table Shift Pumps Up Life Sales

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U.S. life insurance sales looked great in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Annualized premiums from new individual policy sales were 15% higher than in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to new survey data from LIMRA.


  • A copy of the LIMRA life survey results is available here.
  • An article about what some life insurers said about the mortality table shift in documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is available here.

In the third quarter, sales were up just 2%, year over year.

LIMRA bases the individual life sales data on a survey that includes insurers that account for about 80% of U.S. individual life sales. The actual policy counts and premium totals are not available to members of the public.

Ashley Durham, associate research director at LIMRA’s insurance research arm, said in a comment about the results that all life insurance products were required to shift to the 2017 Commissioners Standard Ordinary (CSO) mortality table by Dec. 31, 2019.

Because of that shift, “many companies reported increased sales of products using the 2001 standard,” Durham said. “All major product lines recorded growth in the fourth quarter with more than half of U.S. life insurance manufacturers, including nine of the top 10, reporting positive results.”

Product Breakdown

The LIMRA sales summary includes results for term life, universal life, variable universal life and whole life.

Here’s what happened to annualized premiums from the policies sold in the fourth quarter of 2019, broken down by product type, when compared with annualized premiums for the fourth quarter of 2018:

  • Term Life:  +4%
  • Universal Life: +31%
  • Variable Universal Life:  +18%
  • Whole Life: +3%

— Read Individual Life Sales Grow, a Little: LIMRAon ThinkAdvisor.

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