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Will Santa Congress Hand Out Lumps of (Helpful) Estate Tax Coal?

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What You Need to Know

  • A Build Back Better law could boost life-insurance-based advanced planning strategies.
  • COVID-19 looks as if it will still be here in 2022.
  • Flu is still here.

Three years ago, the last time we provided a separate list of questions for guiding coverage of the life insurance market, we illustrated the list with a picture of oatmeal.

We included one question that touched on the possibility that mortality could rise, but, for the most part, we looked out on a calm, seemingly predictable world.

Now, well …

One driving question that looks grim but could be cheerful relates to the Build Back Better bill drafts that members of Congress have been debating.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., looks as if he might have killed it, but the legislation that eventually created the Affordable Care Act died many times before the ACA became law, and Congress has been on the verge of killing it many times since.

Many other proposals have died dramatic deaths and then returned from the legislative underworld.

Any measures that emerge from the Build Back Better process or its children and become law could increase taxes and other costs for life insurers and their customers, but any Build Back Better law could also help life insurers, by bringing back some of the life-insurance-based advanced planning strategies that wealthy families once used to manage and pay estate tax obligations.

Here are four other key questions we expect to shape our life insurance market coverage in the coming year.

1. COVID-19?


Aside from wanting to know if it’s over yet, we’ll want to know about whether long COVID-19 really exists, in any form that life insurers’ medical exams can detect; whether, if long COVID-19 does exist, it correlates with disability insurance or life insurance risk; and whether COVID-19 might somehow reduce some forms of disability or life risk caused by other factors.

2. Flu?

Now that we’ve seen that pandemic risk is a real thing, we might be more attentive when public health agencies talk about outbreaks resulting from illnesses other than COVID-19. Influenza, Ebola and AIDS are just some of the illnesses that could affect mortality, too.

3. Agents?

After years of operating in a work-from-home world, will the people looking for work have the energy and skills to persuade other people to buy life insurance?

4. Tomorrow?

Policymakers have focused on using low interest rates and other emergency measures to keep things going now.

Will the new federal infrastructure bill and other forces work to get consumers, policymakers and others thinking more about the long term and creating an environment that’s conducive both to providing life insurance and to the idea of people creating some kind of legacy.

How We Did Two Years Ago

Here are the questions we came up with in 2019, for 2020, and how we’d answer those questions now.

1. Will volatility change how consumers see annuity product guarantees?

Answer: Yep.

2. How exactly are life insurers supporting their annuity guarantees?

Answer: Apparently, well. If most of them could make money in 2020 and the first three quarters of 2021, they must be doing something right.

3. Will financial professionals with roots outside the life insurance sector ever warm up to guarantees?

Answer: Maybe?

4. How well will the new, proprietary investment indexes available in some indexed annuity products work in a year of increased investment market volatility?

Answer: Well enough, so far.

5. Will interest rates continue to increase, and, if so, will that change the relative appeal of annuities when compared with bonds?

Answer: No. COVID-19 stopped the increases.


(Image: Cinema Stock/Shutterstock)


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