U.S. life insurers continued in
2019 to increase their holdings of commercial mortgage loans, an asset class that
industry participants say faces unique challenges during the coronavirus
pandemic, S&P Global reports. The long-term nature of
commercial mortgages makes them a good asset match for the long-duration
liabilities life insurers carry. However, commercial mortgage loans could be
under stress as the pandemic-sparked economic slowdown continues.
More than 50 Texas health policy
and industry groups are urging Gov. Greg Abbott to expand the state’s Medicaid
program to cover more than 1 million people as a way to slow the spread of the
coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19.
Millions of people have lost jobs
— and often the health coverage that came with those jobs. More still have had
their work hours reduced or have received drastic pay cuts, so monthly premiums
that may have been manageable before are now out of reach.
A great deal of uncertainty
surrounds how the COVID-19 epidemic will evolve, including how many people will
become infected and how many will become severely ill and require
hospitalization. The Kaiser Family Foundation provides a range of cost
estimates for the Trump administration’s proposal to reimburse hospitals for
COVID-19 treatments for uninsured patients, based on results from recent
studies and models.
The Triple-I blog received the terrific opportunity to ask State Farm life insurance agent, Robert Stevenson, a few questions about getting the most out of the often-misunderstood financial product.
What is your educational background and what was the path that led you to become a life insurance agent?
Robert Stevenson: I grew up in Savannah, Georgia and attended Hampton University in Virginia. I was working on my master’s degree when I accepted an opportunity with State Farm Insurance Corporate Headquarters. My job was to help the company expand its presence on the east and west coast. During that time, I learned about becoming a State Farm agent, and fell in love with it. I worked hard, and in December of 2000, opened my agency in New York, New York. As a State Farm agent, I’m a small business owner – I get to know people on a personal level. Helping them manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams is truly rewarding. I’ve never looked back.
What advice would you give students that are considering becoming life insurance agents?
RS: You have to listen and you have to care. This is more than a job. It’s helping people protect what’s most important to them. People don’t always want to talk about life insurance. It’s uncomfortable. But, let’s be honest. Someday you will die. No one in the history of the world has ever cheated it. That’s why, you have to make sure people are protected, and that they understand the bigger picture. You’re taking care of families and protecting the lifestyle they spent years building. While nothing can bring someone back, a family’s dreams can still be achieved because their loved one had life insurance. It’s truly a gift of love. You need to help people understand this.
What is the most common misconception that your clients have about life insurance?
RS: That they don’t need it. That they have enough. Often, I’ll hear the response, “I have it through my employer.” But, there’s a chance that benefit can be taken away. Also, if you have life insurance though an employer, and you get a new job, you might not receive the same coverage in your new position. Or, if you retire, it’s likely you won’t receive the same amount you once had. It’s wise to be proactive and read the fine print. Health and age also play a role in life insurance. I often hear, “I’ll wait till I’m married or have kids to get it.” Problem is, as we get older, our health tends to decline. Therefore, if you wait to get life insurance, you’ll likely end up paying more for it.
How do you help a client determine how much insurance they need and what type of policy is best for them?
RS: I start by forecasting. I ask customers questions like, “Where do you want to be in five, 10, 20, 30 years? Do you want to be married? Own a business? Have children? Travel? What’s your dream?” It’s vital for people to understand the importance of investing so they can generate more income as the years go by. Life insurance is not an afterthought. It’s the foundation of an investment strategy. You can’t invest in mutual funds, or stocks, or your child’s college, or buy rental properties, etc., if you don’t have the income. If something happens to you – your family is able to replace your income and still achieve their dreams.
It’s also important to help customers understand the difference between term life and whole life. Term does exactly what it sounds like – it covers you for a period of time. If you die within that period of time, your family is covered. But, think about this. Let’s say you’re 35, and you want to buy 20 or 30 years of term life insurance. Do you think you’ll be living 20 or 30 years from now? When I ask people that question, most answer, “Yes.” That’s when I remind them, when 20/30 years goes by and they’re still living, they won’t receive this payout. Whole life covers you for the entire length of your life. No matter what. It guarantees your family will get paid. It’s more expensive up front, but you’re guaranteeing a payment – it builds value you can cash out.
How does one make sure that their life insurance policy does not get lost and that their beneficiaries get paid as quickly as possible after their death?
RS: When we sell a life policy, we tell our clients, “Make sure your loved ones are aware of the policy and each of you know where important documents are located.” For example, the safe in your house. Also, as life changes, periodic updates with your State Farm agent or financial planner are a smart idea to ensure everyone is on the same page.
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
RS: That’s a tough one. I’d say, when I got my securities license. It allows you to sell packaged investment products like mutual funds and variable annuities. Getting this takes a lot of work and involves rigorous testing. I had one opportunity to pass it. That was a lot of pressure. But it was worth it. Getting my securities license gave me the opportunity to open my office and help people.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
RS: I enjoy reading and golf. Having activities like these lets me to unwind. But more so, I love spending time with my family. I have a son and a daughter who keep me busy. Family time is important. All things in equal parts. That’s what keeps life joyful.
I came across this from Swiss Re around 2 a.m., which helps explain why it caught my (sleepy) eye:
Consider these two facts: Firstly, two out of three man-made losses worldwide are due to human failure. Based on Swiss Re’s sigma research, this would mean that people trigger a loss volume of around USD 3 billion per year.
Secondly, life insurance generated premiums of USD 2.6 trillion in 2017. These two facts are linked because tired people make more errors and insomniacs are at a greater risk of dying earlier than would otherwise be the case.
That’s right – the insurance angle on sleep.
The lack of sleep is associated with increased rates of heart attacks, strokes, obesity and other diseases. Sleeping less can also contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. And recent research found that chronic sleep restriction increases risk seeking behaviour.
If these trends change the loss patterns in property and casualty or mortality rates, this could have a multi-billion dollar impact on the insurance industry in the long run.
The lack of sleep has caused some high profile accidents, the most notable in my world being a New Jersey Transit train that in 2016 crashed into Hoboken terminal because the engineer, suffering from sleep apnea, zoned out at a crucial moment. One woman died, dozens were injured.
Swiss Re posits that society, ever accelerating, robs us of ever more sleep. The less we sleep, the woozier we become. And the more errors we make. (Our bodies wear out faster too, becoming susceptible to the maladies Swiss Re mentions above.)
A good dose of resilience helps here. New York area railroads are installing (by federal mandate) positive train control systems, which automatically stop trains in any sort of peril, including that of a tired engineer. The illustration above describes how the system works.
As for my own struggles – an e-book of white text on black background, and perhaps a cup of chamomile tea.
The Insurance Information Institute’s Chief Economist, Dr. Steven Weisbart offers his insight on the impact on life insurance and retirement of the demographic trends highlighted in a recently released Census report.
The report projects that by 2030, the year when all baby boomers will be older than 65, one in every five Americans will be of retirement age. By 2035 older adults will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.
On life insurance: The population age 25-44 (the main life-insurance-buying group) was 85.15 million strong in 2016. The Census Bureau projects it to grow to 88.8 million in 2020, to 94.4 million in 2030, and 95.1 million in 2040. The number of children under age 18 was 73.6 million in 2016. The census bureau projects it to grow to 73.9 million in 2020, to 75.4 million in 2030, and 76.8 million in 2040. Thus the size of the “breadwinner with children” segment of the population is projected to grow very slowly in the next two decades, meaning that the market for life insurance will grow very very slowly.
On retirement: the population age 85+ (the main long-lived retirement group) was 6.4 million strong in 2016. The Census Bureau projects it to grow to 6.7 million in 2020, to 9.1 million in 2030, and 14.4 million in 2040. You can see the explosive growth in these projections. We can only hope that people age 63 today, many of whom will live to 85 in 2040, have saved enough to draw sufficient retirement income to pay all of their bills then. Otherwise, this could develop into a massive social problem.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) announced on Monday that its Life Insurance Policy Locator has matched 8,210 beneficiaries with lost or misplaced life insurance policies or annuities – totaling $92.5 million returned to consumers – since the launch of the consumer tool last November. More than 40,000 consumers have conducted searches since the policy locator was launched.
“State insurance regulators identified the scattershot, intensely manual process of helping consumers search for lost life insurance policies,” said Ted Nickel, NAIC President and Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner. “.. we leveraged innovation and technology to develop a bespoke solution providing an easy way for consumers to access nearly all life insurers and search for lost life insurance policies.”
The I.I.I. raises an important point. A national poll by wholesaleinsurance.net found that 43 percent of adult women have no life insurance and among those that are insured, many are severely underinsured, carrying just one-fourth of the amount that would likely be needed by their life insurance policiesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ beneficiaries.
Indeed, women who are a familyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s primary breadwinner carry 31 percent less life insurance than their male counterparts, even as a growing number of women earn as much, if not more, than their husbands, says the I.I.I.
However, the tendency for women to be underinsured is not due to a lack of awareness about life insurance. Metlife reported that 50 percent of women who earn $50,000 or more in income believe they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have as much coverage as they need, versus 39 percent of men.
Instead, the report found that more women than men find the process of choosing the right life insurance product to be complex. Some 67 percent of women believe that selecting the right life insurance product is a complicated process, compared with 59 percent of men.
MetLife noted that this belief also extends to selecting the right amount of coverage, where some 59 percent of women feel it can be a complicated process, compared to 50 percent of men.
Another key takeaway from the MetLife study is a difference in the perceived purpose of life insurance among men and women.
Not only do men place a higher value on insuring their income and protecting their financial security than women, but about half of women view life insurance primarily for burial and final expenses, compared to 40 percent of men.
The increased regulatory scrutiny follows a Bloomberg markets magazine article that focused on how the industry practice affected the beneficiary of a $400,000 life insurance policy Ã¢â‚¬“ the mother of an army sergeant killed in Afghanistan.
A life insurance industry practice that has served beneficiaries well for a quarter century and has generated few if any complaints to state insurance departments came under withering fire last week via an article published online and scheduled to appear in the September issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine. The article focused on how the industry practice affected the beneficiary of a $400,000 life insurance policyÃ‚ Ã¢â‚¬“ the mother of an army sergeant who died in Afghanistan while saving the lives of three others.
What practice caused this furor? In the absence of any other selected settlement option, life insurers place death benefits in the equivalent of an interest-paying checking account. Beneficiaries get checks with which to withdraw/spend the money, which stays in the life insurerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s general account until itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s withdrawn. Materials provided to beneficiaries make clear that the account is not FDIC-insured and periodically report on interest credited and the remaining balance.
So whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wrong with this? According to the Bloomberg article, virtually everything. The article suggests the practice cheats the families of those who die, stealing money from the families of our fallen servicemen. This unregulated quasi-banking system operated by insurers has none of the protections of the actual banking system, the article reports. Next, life insurers are accused of not disclosing that the funds arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t FDIC-insured, so beneficiaries are misled into thinking the funds are in an FDIC-insured bank. The industry does this to hold onto death benefits that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not entitled to. The article notes that life insurers earn interest on the funds at their corporate rate yet credit uncompetitive rates on death benefit balances, resulting in secret profits for insurers. And so on.
The article is such a one-sided diatribe that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to know where to start. It treats an FDIC-insured bank account as safer for death benefits than the general account of a life insurer, ignoring the state guaranty laws that insure death benefits for $300,000 to $500,000, depending on the state (vs. FDICÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s $250,000 limit, which was $100,000 at the time the death of the army sergeant occurred). It ignores the bank failure rate of the past few years vs. the superior rate of almost no life insurer failures. It says life insurers shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t earn a higher rate on the funds and credit a lower rate, but says the money should go into a bank account (where it ignores the fact that the bank would do the same thing). It says the insurer should send the beneficiary a check for the entire amount instead of holding onto the money, ignoring the likelihood, based on long insurer experience, that when insurers did that the checks often either went uncashed for long periods of time or were spent/invested unwisely and effectively lost. This practice, at least, credits interest uninterruptedly at a rate that is comparable to accounts with instant liquidity.”
If you have questions or comments, please email Dr. Weisbart at firstname.lastname@example.org.