Within any industry, data helps us to understand the big picture.
Life insurance statistics help us tell the story of:
- the progress for the life insurance industry as a whole
- the growth of well-known life insurance companies, as well as new entrants
- the consumers who are (or aren’t) purchasing life insurance products
Below you’ll find a comprehensive data set for each of these categories, as well as the primary figures we have found to be most important to every group.
- In 2020, 54% of Americans are insured, down from 57% in 2019, with 1 in 3 families remaining uninsured.
- 66% of Americans, or 2 in 3 individuals, buy life insurance to transfer wealth to other generations.
- 44% of Millennials overestimate the cost of term life insurance by 5x.
- In 2018, 28% of Millennials said they would buy life insurance online. Today, 29% of all consumers say they would.
- There are approximately 267 million life insurance policies in place in the United States.
- 80% of consumers say buying life insurance is a relevant financial planning topic for their household.
The following statistics primarily showcase the current state of each of the top categories we focused on in our study.
If no other information was given, these would help any person to get the main idea which encapsulates how each is trending or performing.
We’re going to look at five main focal points within these four sections:
Total Market Penetration
Starting at the top and looking at the industry as a whole, one statistic stands out among the rest:
The total percentage of market penetration for the life insurance industry is relatively stable at 54%, though it is has been trending downward over the past decade.
Since 2011, here’s the percentage of the adult population who has held a life insurance policy in each year:
Additionally, here’s the ownership gap in those same years, which shows a leap from 2019:
Something to note here is the relatively small ownership gap for the life insurance sector (when compared to other lines of insurance).
The ownership gap percentage is essentially the difference between how many people say they ought to own a life insurance policy and those who actually do.
This, therefore, suggests the industry is performing quite well and the vast majority of all consumers who feel they need coverage are making a purchase.
Life Insurance Company Market Share
Market share data is the leading indicator of how well life insurance companies are doing, showing which ones are performing best.
A life insurance company’s market share shows not only how well it is doing throughout the industry, but also comparative to its closest competitors.
Here is the most recent data published in March of 2020:
Based on an industry total of direct written premiums equaling $174,072,717,982, the top 25 life insurance companies wrote close to 2/3rds of all premiums, with more than 50% of the total coming from just the top 12 insurers.
|Company Name||Direct Premiums||Market Share (%)||Competitor Gap|
|Northwestern Mut Grp||$11,278,801,822||6.48%|
|New York Life Grp||$11,053,776,227||6.35%||-0.13%|
|Lincoln Natl Grp||$9,651,117,072||5.54%||-0.65%|
|Prudential of Amer Grp||$9,642,360,389||5.54%||-0.00%|
|Mass Mut Life Ins Grp||$7,984,470,423||4.59%||-0.95%|
|Aegon US Holding Grp||$4,868,457,551||2.80%||-1.79%|
|John Hancock Grp||$4,817,849,577||2.77%||-0.03%|
|State Farm Grp||$4,797,872,970||2.76%||-0.01%|
|Minnesota Mut Grp||$4,724,702,591||2.71%||-0.05%|
|Guardian Life Grp||$4,172,505,702||2.40%||-0.31%|
|Pacific Life Grp||$3,874,562,954||2.23%||-0.17%|
|American Intl Grp||$3,535,531,563||2.03%||-0.20%|
|Nationwide Corp Grp||$3,331,942,644||1.91%||-0.12%|
|Equitable Holdings Inc Grp||$3,099,092,783||1.78%||-0.13%|
|Voya Financial Grp||$2,646,846,575||1.52%||-0.26%|
|Mutual of Omaha Grp||$2,502,613,964||1.44%||-0.08%|
|Globe Life Inc Grp||$2,477,964,583||1.42%||-0.02%|
|Dai-Ichi Life Holdings Inc Grp||$2,450,639,110||1.41%||-0.00%|
|Brighthouse Holdings Grp||$2,385,778,456||1.37%||-0.01%|
|Sammons Enterprises Grp||$2,189,822,354||1.26%||-0.02%|
|Penn Mut Grp||$2,012,621,117||1.16%||-0.10%|
Table amounts in $thousands.
Among the top 5 alone, nearly 30% of the market share is already taken, and they more than double some of their closest competitors annually.
This speaks largely to how long some of these insurance companies have been in the market (some over 150 years), but also in their marketability. Many of those with large market share are very well known brands.
What Consumers Want Most
In order for the life insurance industry to continually close the ownership gap, it must first focus on what consumers want most out of their policies, and what they are most likely to purchase.
There are two main focal points here, neither of which is more important than the other.
50% of all people searching for life insurance tend to value convenience, speed, and simplicity in underwriting over all other factors.
Simplified underwriting means there tend to be fewer requirements and/or a faster approval time than a fully underwritten policy; the trade-off tends to be marginally higher prices.
Several new companies have come to market with what have been coined as “no exam life insurance policies,” which allow consumers to buy a policy with no physical exam or blood work, and computer-automated approval systems.
Aside from what consumers do, want, let’s take a glance at what they definitely don’t want:
Virtually no one cares to explore a life insurance purchase through social media, though they may use it for validation purposes when finding or switching financial advisors.
This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.
Social media interruptions from insurance companies and agents promoting products are akin to telemarketing calls of old at dinner time.
Most consumers are on social media to be entertained, not to be sold insurance.
A growing number of people use Facebook (26%), Instagram (11%), Twitter (9%), LinkedIn (9%), and even YouTube (17%) to verify the validity of an insurer, website, financial advisor, or life insurance agent before doing business with them.
This leads to the final focal point.
Industry Trust & Sentiment Markers
Perhaps the greatest measure for the likelihood of a life insurance policy going in force is trust.
A person who trusts their agent or advisor and the company they are placing their business with are the most likely to buy life insurance.
However, trust alone is not going to move the average person to get a life insurance policy; a consumer feeling the need for coverage has to be present.
Replacing lost income, funeral costs, or final expenses, and leaving money to heirs are the three least cited financial concerns among consumers this year.
In other words, life insurance is by far the least of a consumer’s thoughts when compared to retirement, monthly bills, or paying for healthcare.
Here’s how it all stacks up:
|Long Term Care||11%|
|Credit Card Debts||7%|
While most people are feeling better about their finances than ever before, at least since the most recent recession, life insurance is still the bottom of the barrel.
This leaves us with the idea that life insurance is still an emotional purchase, by and large. Many people don’t feel obligated to own life insurance until it “hits home” with a family member, friend, or someone close.
And, when they do shop, many get lost along the way.
It’s estimated 1 million fewer households will buy life insurance in 2019 when compared to 2017.
Not only are fewer people starting their journey for coverage, but a lower percentage are completing the task they originally set out to do:
The data shows the number of households beginning the process of buying life insurance decreasing from 19 million households down to 17 million.
Similarly, the number who commit enough personally identifiable information to get quotes dropped from 14 million to 13 million.
Finally, the number of households who eventually ended their search with a purchase fell from 9 million to 8 million.
Overall, while consumers are more savvy in their purchase than ever, fewer are making it a priority.
At the most macro level, there are quite a few statistics which encapsulate what is currently happening with the life insurance industry as a whole.
The data points may reflect one segment, but they are representative of performance for the industry as they work congruently.
Life & Health Insurance Companies Breakdown
Life and health insurance companies activities can be broken down by percentages of what type of business they pursue, and it looks like this:
Life Insurance Sold By State
In 2017, it was reported that California had the largest amount of life insurance value purchased, at $452.38 billion, while Wyoming had the least at just $5.1 billion.
Here’s an interactive map showing each state, represented in billions:
The average state purchased $58.53 billion, and the median was $36.27 billion.
Comparison of Ownership of Optional Insurance Policy Types
Less than 6 in 10 people own life insurance.
Less than 2 in 10 people own disability insurance.
Less than 2 in 10 people carry long term care insurance.
All of these numbers pale in comparison to health, home, and auto insurance, but none are mandatory.
Life insurance can be mandated, but applies only to a small number of consumers on a case-by-case basis.
It should be noted:
Of the 54% of Americans who own life insurance policies, 27% participate only in group plans offered by workplaces or organizations they are part of.
Credit Life Sales
Credit life production and sales have dropped for the 10th year running, according to data found by the S&P Global Market Intelligence, National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), and the Insurance Information Institute.
|Credit Life||Credit Accident/Health|
Table amounts in $thousands.
Credit life is an optional, decreasing term designed to pay off a tied liability, like a mortgage or personal loan.
Because these policies are generally considered defunct when compared to level term policies, the expectation is this trend will continue.
Consumer Preferences for Agents
Over the last 10 years, an increasing number of consumers found trust in working with independent agents, who now sell the majority of life insurance.
In 2018, 51% of all life insurance policies placed were written by independent agents. 38% were written by affiliated agents, and just 6% came from direct response marketing efforts.
Just 5% of life insurance sold came from a workplace, financial institutions like banks, or any other alternative origin.
Less than half of all consumers would prefer to research their needs online but would end up with one of these advisors.
Within Generation X (those born in the mid-1960s to late 1980s), however, as much as a third would trust to finish the process while still on their computer or mobile device.
Preferences for Purchasing a Policy
To look at things from a different angle, here’s a breakdown of consumer preferences for purchasing policies.
41% of consumers prefer to buy a policy in person, with 29% intending to purchase a policy over the phone. Next, people prefer to buy a policy through their workplace (11%), through email (8%), over the phone (6%), and by mail (5%).
Term Life Insurance Ownership
Whether simplified underwriting is involved or not, term life insurance is far more popular than permanent life insurance among consumers.
In 2019, 71% of consumers who owned life insurance had a term life policy, up from 63% in 2017. 44% of policyholders owned a permanent life insurance policy, which increased from 35% in 2017.
The numbers imply term life insurance is a far more popular policy for consumers overall, but that a growing number of people are more inclined to buy permanent policies than before.
This data also suggests an increasing number of households are purchasing both term life and permanent life policies for their families.
Whole Life Insurance Ownership
The most notable change to the distribution of permanent life policies is the decline of whole life policies.
While 57% of permanent policies purchased in 2017 were whole life policies, only 30% were in 2019. Variable life policies have risen in popularity, accounting for 32% of the permanent policies sold in 2019.
Combination Life Insurance Ownership
Combination life products offer customers the benefits of both life insurance and long term care. These policies are popular because they offer the security of a life insurance policy along with living benefits.
While many customers still opt for combination life products, their popularity is declining.
An estimated 42 million Americans, 1 in 17 people, say they would opt to buy a combination life policy.
While that number is high, it is 7 percentage points lower than in a 2016 survey, suggesting 18 million fewer people prefer combination life products.
Consumer Sentiment Towards Simplified Underwriting
The concept of simplified underwriting is popular.
50% of people are more likely to buy simplified life insurance, while 38% say they are neither more or less likely to buy life insurance with simplified underwriting.
People prize the convenience of these policies most, next to their objectivity and transparency.
Their next biggest benefits are avoiding doctors and medical exams, followed lastly by avoiding face-to-face interactions.
Ownership Gap for Annuities
In 2020, 46% of people say they need to purchase annuities, but only 18% report having them. These numbers could boost market penetration, as the data suggests 118 million people need an annuity but don’t have one.
Annuities also have a substantial knowledge gap, meaning consumers are less familiar with the product and its benefits.
Annuities have a 26-point knowledge gap, compared to a 9% gap for life insurance and a nearly 0% gap for health insurance.
Data suggests the knowledge gap could be responsible for the low percentage of annuity ownership, despite it being a core product for many life insurance companies.
To gain an even deeper insight into the life insurance industry, we can look to its leading companies, their sales, and their income.
Factors like the amount of premiums written and industry income statements can help us gauge the temperature of the best life insurance companies and the industry at large.
Income Statement for the Life and Annuity Industry (2013 – 2019)
The table below examines the industry’s collective income, revenue, and expenses, tracking changes over the last few years.
While expenses have increased over the years, so has revenue:
Table amounts in $billions.
Direct Premiums Written by Line (2015 – 2019)
So where does the life insurance industry profit most?
To answer, it’s helpful to look to the distribution of premiums among different lines of insurance. As mentioned earlier, annuities account for 48% of premiums, followed by accident and health, then life insurance.
Below is a more exhaustive look at the breakdown of premiums within each of those lines of insurance:
Table amounts in $billions.
To truly understand the life insurance industry, you have to understand the consumers at its core.
The mindset with which they approach purchasing life insurance and their conceptions (and misconceptions) are crucial to the future of the industry.
Why Consumers Purchase Life Insurance
The first and perhaps most valuable insight about life insurance from the consumer’s perspective is why individuals purchase it to begin with.
Knowing the reasons why consumers purchase life insurance can help companies, agents, and financial advisors determine what factors to focus on as they target potential customers.
More than one-third of consumers purchase life insurance to substitute for lost income, providing one’s dependents with the means to live.
The most frequently cited reasons for purchasing life insurance, in order, are replacing income, paying for final expenses, and transferring wealth.
These motivations are at the top of life insurance consumers’ minds from year to year, whereas several other reasons have become increasingly popular.
Namely, there is a growing concern among life insurance shoppers to pay off mortgages, meet business needs, and replace former policies.
In 2020, 57% of people say they own policies to save for retirement, up from 45% in 2018.
Why Consumers Don’t Purchase Life Insurance
The above are the motives which drive people to purchase a policy, but what are the leading deterrents which stand in their way?
The results below can help industry professionals to improve their approach to apprehensive consumers.
|Don’t Need It||56%|
|Uncertainty About Products/Amounts||52%|
|Haven’t gotten to it||43%|
|Lack of trust in companies||35%|
|Haven’t been approached||35%|
|Lack of trust in agents||34%|
|Have enough already||25%|
The next and most telling reason people don’t purchase life insurance is prioritizing other financial needs and goals first, which supports the hierarchy of financial concerns cited earlier.
When asked why they don’t purchase life insurance, approximately 1/4 of consumers say they have adequate life insurance in place.
More than 6 in 10 people avoid life insurance because they have higher financial priorities or feel they cannot afford a policy.
Why Millennials Don’t Purchase Life Insurance
When we break down additional factors holding consumers back from buying life insurance at a generational level, we see a striking disparity between millennials and other age groups.
58% of millennials skip out on life insurance because they don’t know what policy type or amount of coverage to purchase.
38% of millennials refrain from purchasing coverage because they fear they won’t qualify, and 43% say they simply haven’t been approached about purchasing coverage.
Millennials appear to know less about the ins and outs of life insurance than preceding generations, and they may prefer more direct marketing attempts.
How Millennials Overestimate the Cost of Term Life
Data also suggests a considerable knowledge gap with regard to the cost of term life insurance.
Here’s what millennials believe, compared to the other demographics:
More than 50% of people surveyed think a $250,000 term life insurance policy for a healthy 30-year old non-smoker is over $500; the actual cost of that policy would amount to roughly $160 annually, far lower than the estimate.
What is more striking is the number of millennials who drastically overestimate the cost of term life insurance.
42% of millennials estimate a $250,000 term life policy for a young healthy individualwould cost $1,000 or more!
Insurers could attract more consumers, especially young adults, by clearly presenting information on the actual costs of term life policies.
Millennials Are In the Market for Financial Advising Online
While millennials may be misguided about the cost of life insurance, they are the age group most likely to look for a professional financial advisor online.
29% of millennials are more likely to seek out a financial advisor online, compared to 17% of Gen X and just 9% of Baby Boomers.
They’re also the most likely to turn to social media to research financial professionals.
51% of the 85 million adults using social media to scope out financial advisors are millennials.
Consumer Sentiment on the Need for Financial Advisors
In 2019, there was a 50/50 split among the population regarding the market for financial advisors.
That changed in 2020.
25% of the population say they are actively looking for a financial advisor.
That’s a potential market of 64 million people in need of advisement from a financial professional.
35% of Americans say they have a financial advisor, while the other 40% say they aren’t interested in looking for one.
What Consumers Think About Basic Underwriting Factors
At least 3/4 of the population is aware that one’s health and age impact the premiums they pay for life insurance.
When it comes to factors like their occupation and lifestyle, the number decreases drastically.
Only 1/2 of people surveyed think gender affects policy prices, with an even smaller number of people considering the effect of one’s credit score or driving record.
Despite the popularity of simplified underwriting, most consumers do not consider its impact on premiums.
Only 27% of people consider less underwriting to have an effect on the cost of the policy.
Along those lines, only 7% of people think life insurance costs more when it’s bought online.
These numbers suggest a major need to educate consumers, not just on the cost of life insurance policies, but the factors underwriting them.
Consumer Preference for Quotes from Professionals
The best way to dispel misconceptions about the cost of life insurance is to shop for policies.
Consumers shop for life insurance quotes through a number of channels, from websites to financial advisors and agents via phone and mail.
At 37%, the majority of consumers opt to get life insurance quotes from financial professionals.
23% get quotes from company websites and 19% inquire about quotes over the phone.
15% of individuals shop for quotes on group or association websites, and 11% get quotes in the mail.
These numbers and trends from previous years support the idea that consumers value the insight and reputability of financial professionals.
Where Consumers Shop Online for Life Insurance
More and more individuals use online sources to learn more about life insurance and shop for policies.
Consumers find some websites to be more useful than others, especially those which specialize in life insurance.
Here’s what people find the most useful during their search for coverage:
Nearly 50% of life insurance shoppers find company websites and online aggregators to be the most valuable informational resources.
On the other end of the spectrum, just 2 out of 10 shoppers turn to social media and even fewer to general financial websites.
3 out of 10 people value agency websites and calculator tools in their research, leaving them with ample room to improve.
Consumer Concerns Over Life Insurance
As referenced earlier, life insurance is the least of people’s financial concerns.
While it’s true people worry more about living expenses, their savings accounts, and health coverage, the consistent level of concern regarding life insurance is favorable.
Financial concerns over income replacement and final expenses have remained steady over the last two years where other concerns have declined.
Relatively speaking, these concerns are holding a high position, meaning more consumers may be looking to address major life insurance needs.
One life insurance consideration which has declined over the last few years is leaving an inheritance, which doesn’t bode well for the estate planning market.
People Have Mixed Feelings About How Much Coverage They Need
55% of people who have life insurance feel confident they have enough coverage in place, yet 1 in 3 are worried they don’t have enough.
Among consumers who don’t have life insurance, 33% are aware they don’t have enough protection, and another 10% aren’t sure how much they need.
That’s over half of uninsured individuals who recognize a need for coverage and could be open to purchasing a policy.
Consumers’ Likelihood of Recommending Life Insurance
While the majority of people agree that life insurance is an important need, only 20% of people are very likely to recommend it to someone else.
Among that 20%, respondents 25 and younger are the most likely to recommend life insurance.
These considerably low numbers may be related to people’s general hesitancy to broach finances and morbid topics in discussions with friends and coworkers.
Consumer Concerns over Their Partner’s Coverage
When it comes to a couple’s own finances, there is a lack of clarity and agreement about the need for life insurance.
When asked about their partner, many agreed their partner didn’t have ample coverage, and a small percentage had no idea what their partner even had.
Here’s how it broke down:
1/3 of consumers fear their spouse or partner’s life insurance coverage is insufficient.
That number is highest among millennials, where 42% wish their partner would buy additional coverage, and lower among Boomers, with only 21% wishing their partner had a bigger policy.
Across all the generations, 16% of consumers are unaware of how much life insurance their partner or spouse actually has.
The Uncertainty Surrounding Life Insurance for Children
Along with uncertainty about their spouse’s coverage, many consumers are on the fence about insuring their children.
Only 1/3 of people feel they have a solid understanding of children’s life insurance, yet when the product is explained to them, 47% of people agree to the need for insuring a minor with a permanent policy.
Just 1 in 5 parents or grandparents surveyed has actually purchased a permanent children’s policy for their loved ones.
Asked their likelihood of purchasing a policy in the next year, 67% of respondents say they are not at all likely to.
Those who do purchase life insurance for their children say they do so to:
- cover funeral expenses
- provide their children with funds for the future
- secure a low-cost policy, and
- protect them against unexpected health changes
Interestingly, 1 out of 3 policyholders have increased their coverage over the years, and the same number has borrowed from the juvenile policy their parent or grandparent purchased for them.
Life Insurance Owners’ Likelihood of Protecting Against Loss
There is an interesting correlation among people who hold life insurance policies and other types of protective coverage.
The table below showcases how many people have other types of insurance, based on whether they hold an individual life insurance policy, a group one, or both:
|Long Term Care||6%||15%||24%||27%|
Consumers who value the protection of life insurance are more likely to pursue other types of coverage as well.
Taken a step further, policyholders who possess both individual and group life insurance are typically even more likely to have other protection products in place.
86% of individuals with individual and group life policies have homeowners insurance. 64% of individual life policyholders have homeowners coverage, as do 43% of individuals with no life insurance.
Conversely, this data presents marketers and agents with potential pools of clients as a significant number of people see the value of loss protection yet don’t have any life insurance in place.
- 2020-2015 Insurance Barometer Studies, in partnership with Life Happens, Limra, LOMA.
- 2019 Life Insurers Fact Book, American Council of Life Insurers.
- Facts + Statistics: Life Insurance, Insurance Information Institute.
- 2018 Top 25 Groups And Companies By Countrywide Premium, NAIC.
- Life Research & Development, SCOR.
- Insurance Sales Agents, United States Dept. of Labor.
- Occupational Employment Statistics, United States Dept. of Labor.
- Labor Force Statistics From Current Population, United States Dept. of Labor.
- Some data and interpretation our own.
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