More than half of Americans have life insurance.
Yet almost 40% of them leave their families with financial burdens when they pass away.
Not because they haven’t planned in advance either, but because most are underinsured.
Only 30% of Americans with life insurance have sufficient coverage.
Will your loved ones be safe when you’re gone? Or do you need to take further measures.
Read our collection of life insurance statistics to find out.
Do you have life insurance?
When you hear those words, what do you think? Does your inner monologue or list of excuses go something like this:
- It’s too expensive!
- That’s that stuff for babies and old people, right?
- I’m strong and healthy!
- I don’t have kids.
- Life insurance—it’s on my list…eventually.
But, read through our list of life insurance stats and you might find yourself thinking you’d like a policy.
Let’s start with a few interesting key stats:
- In 2019, companies issued $12.38 trillion worth of individual life policies
- The U.S. has the largest life insurance market in the world
- 54% of Americans had life insurance in 2020
- Only 30% of Americans with life insurance have sufficient coverage
- 84% buy life insurance for burial/final expenses
- 31% of Americans don’t have life insurance because they can’t qualify
- Life insurance can include an investment aspect
- Women typically pay 30% less for life insurance
- It pays off to start your life insurance as early in life as possible
How does life insurance work?
A life insurance policy is a contract between you and a life insurance company. You agree to make regular payments (called a premium) to the company, and they agree to pay a predefined sum of money (called a death benefit) to your chosen loved ones (called beneficiaries) when you die.
Getting life insurance means protecting your family should something unexpected happen to you.
And how does the saying go? Only two things are predictable in life, death and taxes.
With taxes we know when the due date is, with death not so much. So we get life insurance.
But, is life insurance worth it? Can’t you just put aside money instead?
Most people don’t like the thought of paying out premiums for decades, only to die of natural causes. So they ask themselves whether it’s worth it at all, or if they should just save instead.
Sure, you could just save. But let’s do the math, shall we?
- Say you’re paying $100 per month as your premium.
- Say you are a healthy person in your 30’s, your average payout would be $250,000.
- Now, you decide you want to save the monthly $100 instead of dishing it out.
- Let’s assume you get an interest rate on your savings of 2% and reinvest the interest.
- After 30 years you will have $49,536.78. Almost 1/5th that of what your insurer would payout.
And the kicker being, of course, is that should unforeseen circumstances manifest themselves, the insurer would have paid your loved ones the $250,000, but your savings would have been even less.
What types of life insurance are there?
The most important thing to know is that there are basically two kinds of life insurance policies out there: term life insurance and whole life insurance. As the name suggests, term life insurance lasts for a specific amount of time and then expires. While whole life insurance lasts you your entire life, it is a form of permanent life insurance. All other life insurance plans you come across are derivatives of these two fundamental categories, each offering its own pros and cons.
Here are eight types of life insurance policies you should know about:
Term life: Generally the most affordable option with lower premium costs. Last for a set number of years before they expire. You’re basically betting you’ll die before that period is up. Because once the period is up, so too is the policy. If you’re still alive, you don’t get paid anything.
Whole life: Considered permanent life insurance, it does not expire, and pays out upon the death of the policyholder. You are covered so long as you keep paying your premiums. They can cost up to 15 times more than term life for the same death benefit amount. These policies have something called a cash value, which is basically a forced savings vehicle that allocates a portion of your premium into savings that can later be tapped into.
Universal life: Similar to a whole life policy, except it lets you adjust the death benefit and premium amounts without getting a new policy. It has a cash value, and if you have enough money in the cash value, you can use it to pay the premium amount. Though the flexibility it offers is appealing to some, it’s more expensive than term insurance and is rather complex for most people.
Indexed universal life: Referred to as IUL, this policy type is differentiated from a universal life policy in the way its cash value behaves. Otherwise, the two have all the same bells and whistles. Basically, the difference between the two is that one (index universal life) sets its cash value interest rate by tracking the performance of an underlying stock market index (like the S&P 500), while the other (universal life) sets a variable rate that is determined by the insurance company.
Variable life: This policy takes the money allocated to its cash value and tries to invest it into a series of mutual fund type of sub-accounts. Thus, it involves risk while offering the potential for decent tax-deferred growth. But your mutual fund investment options are limited to your policy’s sub-accounts. Cash value is not guaranteed.
Variable universal life: Combines elements from universal and variable life policies. Allows you to adjust your death benefit and premium amounts and at the same time the investing the cash value.
Final expense: This type of policy covers all things associated with one’s death. Expenses such as funeral arrangements, burial or cremation costs, medical care, etc. It’s typically considered by older people who are near death and don’t have enough savings for their funeral. These policies usually cover up to $50,000 but come with higher premiums.
- Simplified issue life insurance: Also known as the “no exam policy”, this is a final expense type of policy that doesn’t require a medical exam. They’re a lot more expensive, as one can imagine, and insurers are known to flat out deny those who are in very poor health.
- Guaranteed issue life insurance: This type of policy takes the “no exam final expense policy” and raises it a “no health questions asked” aspect. If you’re able to fill out the application and pay the premiums, you’re covered. An appealing option for older people with a terminal illness. However, if you’re unable to fill out the application due to dementia or Alzheimer’s, the insurer would disqualify you.
Group life: Also referred to as group term life insurance, this is an employee benefit that some companies offer. Technically, it’s not considered a life insurance type, and it typically provides fairly low coverage. At the end of the day, if your employer is offering it free of charge, by all means, take it, but do not dismiss other options either, that could provide your family higher coverage.
1. In 2019, companies issued $12.38 trillion worth of individual life policies
(Source: American Council of Life Insurers)
The 2020 Fact Book from the American Council of Life Insurers provides official life insurance statistics, facts, and trends. The 2019 figure of $12.38 trillion is a 2.2% increase from the 2018 figure of $12.12 trillion. On average from 2009 to 2019, individual life insurance policies issued increased by 1.8% per year.
2. Group life policies in America dropped by -0.1% between 2018 and 2019
(Source: American Council of Life Insurers)
A total of $7.358 trillion dollars worth of group policies was issued by American insurers in 2019. A drop of -0.1% from 2018’s figure of $7.366 trillion. In 2009 the figure was at $7.688 trillion and that figure has changed by -0.4% annually on average in the decade since.
3. The number of credit life policies issued in 2019 totaled $87.346 billion
(Source: American Council of Life Insurers)
These policies cover your outstanding debt if you die. They’re typically sold by banks when closing a mortgage, though there are many other use cases. The 2019 figure saw a 4.6% increase from the 2018 figure of $83.534 billion. Overall both of these figures are substantially down since the 2009 figure of $125.512 billion, a period (2008-2009) which was experiencing a financial crisis.
How many Americans have life insurance?
|Year||# of People|
4. The U.S. has the largest life insurance market in the world
(Source: Insurance Information Institute)
So, want to know an interesting life insurance fact? How about the fact that the U.S. accounts for almost 40% of the total world premiums as of 2019. A near 4% increase from 2018. China comes in second with a little over 9% of the world’s premiums, with Japan and the U.K. in the 3rd and 4th spots.
5. The average American will live to a ripe old age of 78 today.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the life expectancy for the average American increased to 78.8 years in 2019, prior to the global pandemic. But, despite an all-time high in annual deaths and an increase in drug overdoses. For comparison, 50 years ago in 1970, the life expectancy in the U.S. was 70.80 years.
6. 54% of Americans had life insurance in 2020
(Source: Statista 1)
But, roughly 46% of American’s don’t own life insurance. The percentage of those who do is at 54%, down from 57% in 2019 and significantly down from 2011 when 63% of Americans owned life insurance. The most common reason Americans bought life insurance in 2020 was for funeral expenses and wealth transfers.
|Year||% of Population|
7. Only 30% of Americans with life insurance have sufficient coverage
(Source: LIMRA: 2020 Insurance Barometer Study)
Despite almost 6 out of 10 Americans possessing life insurance, only 3 out of 10 carry sufficient coverage. So, 7 out of 10 American household will struggle to meet financial obligations after the death of an insured. LIMRA research estimates that there are a whopping 60 million uninsured and underinsured American households. The average gap in coverage estimated at $200,000.
8. Californians purchased the most coverage in 2018
(Source: Statista 2)
When it comes to the amount of coverage purchased, California leads the way in the U.S. with $356.9 billion. Considering its size, this comes as no surprise. Another big state comes in second, Texas. With almost $276 billion in purchased coverage. Followed by New York and Florida.
9. Wyoming purchased the least amount of coverage in 2018
(Source: Statista 2)
The residents of Wyoming purchased $4.59 billion in coverage in 2018. Quite a ways away from the amount California purchased, right? But keep in mind that Wyoming has just under 570,000 residents, while the population of California sits at almost 40 million. Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota followed Wyoming as the states who purchased the least cumulative amount of coverage.
What are the top reasons for buying life insurance in the U.S.?
10. 84% buy life insurance for burial/final expenses
The last thing anyone wants is for their death to be a newfound burden upon their loved ones. And it’s hard saying goodbye as it is, but it’s quite harder when the goodbye comes with miscellaneous expenses associated with burials, cremations, coffins, etc. This is the top reason why Americans buy insurance, to make sure their final expenses are taken care of when they’re gone.
11. 66% buy life insurance for wealth transfer
People with money are interested in life insurance products to efficiently maximize the distribution of their assets to their spouses, charities, children, etc. But what about building wealth using life insurance? Therefore, not having much in life savings, but leaving your loved ones with $500k or more upon your death will certainly build some wealth.
12. 62% buy life insurance for income replacement
What would happen to your family’s standard of living if you were to pass away? For instance, would they be able to afford their current lifestyle, the clothes, the food, the mortgage/rent, etc.? The average American savings statistics suggest most wouldn’t. This is why 62% of Americans list income replacement as the reason they buy life insurance and a way to protect their family.
13. 57% buy life insurance for supplement retirement income
Naturally, life insurance is primarily used to protect your loved ones when you’re gone. But some types can actually help you in retirement. They do this by allowing you a way to accumulate a source of funds by way of cash value, tax-deferred growth, and an option to make tax-deferred distributions. This method of retirement income should be viewed as purely supplemental.
14. 50% buy life insurance to pay off mortgage
Generally speaking, your home is your family’s biggest asset. Most likely it is your family’s biggest financial obligation as well. With a mortgage protection insurance policy, you can ensure your loved ones are protected long after you’re gone. With a mortgage life insurance policy, the lender ends up being the chosen beneficiary. Also, the balance of your mortgage decreases over time, yet you’re still paying the premiums on the policy. This is why some people opt for a term life insurance policy instead, to give their families a larger death benefit and the freedom to choose how to allocate the funds.
15. 31% of Americans don’t have life insurance because they can’t qualify
Why don’t people purchase life insurance? One-third of Americans say they don’t have it because they can’t qualify. Over two-thirds (67%) say they have other priorities, and 65% say it’s just too expensive. Over half (56%) say they don’t need it and 43% say they just haven’t gotten to it yet. Only a quarter of American’s said they have enough life insurance already.
16. Certain policies allow you to claim early if you develop a critical or terminal illness
(Source: ACLI – Accelerated Death Benefits)
If a policy includes something called an accelerated death benefit, it can allow you to draw upon your policy benefits before your death. Certain medical circumstances can trigger this early payout, including terminal illness, certain acute illnesses, certain catastrophic illnesses, the necessity for long-term care, permanent confinement in a nursing home.
17. Life insurance can include an investment aspect
(Source: Investopedia 1)
Certain types of permanent life insurance policies have a component called cash value. This serves as an investment benefit add-on versus a straight life cover policy which does not. The cash value option comes with a higher premium and allows a policyholder to accumulate a sum of money that is then invested and managed on their behalf. This option is best utilized by those with high net worth’s who are looking to minimize their estate taxes.
18. 44% of Millennials overestimate the cost of term life insurance by 5x
Why don’t millennials purchase life insurance? One reason is that they highly overestimate the costs. In fact, more than half of the millennials surveyed estimated the $250,000 term-life insurance policy cost for a 30-year old non-smoker to be over $500 per year. The actual figure is closer to $160 per year. It gets better, a whopping 42% believed the cost to be over $1,000 per year.
How much does life insurance cost?
19. Permanent life insurance costs 5 to 15 times more than term life insurance
Term life insurance is much less expensive than whole life insurance. The pitch for permanent life is the cash-value savings plan and that you get paid no matter what. Whilst if you outlive your term life policy, you don’t get paid. However, some people prefer the low-cost approach, saving the substantial difference in the policy premiums and investing it on their own.
20. 4.5% to 9% is the average percent increase in your insurance costs as you age, assuming good health
(Source: Policy Genius)
Age is one of the primary factors insurance companies take into consideration when writing policies. No matter the type of policy you’re after. According to Policy Genius, assuming your health stays the same, you can expect a 4.5% to 9% average premium increase every year as you age. In addition, the older you are, the higher this percentage increase becomes.
21. Being a smoker means paying two to three times the regular rate for life insurance
Insurance companies are betting on you not dying early. Anything that jeopardizes that bet, gets factored into the price. But the good news is that after a year of quitting smoking, most life insurance companies will offer you their non-smoker rates. The bad news is if you can’t quit, you’re paying double or triple the regular rate.
22. 35% is the average difference between the least expensive and most expensive rates, for the same person across insurance companies
According to the 2020 Insurance Barometer Study by LIMRA and Life Happens, it may help to shop around. This is generally good advice before committing to any life insurance policy.
23. Group policies offer savings opportunities but come with significant risks
(Source: Investopedia 2)
What happens to your group coverage when you change jobs? You could lose your employer-provided life insurance. Not good. Additionally, you may not be getting enough life insurance solely through your employer, due to the lower face values of the policies. If you have a large mortgage, a child with special needs, a non-working spouse, a larger family, or any other factor that would require a bigger policy payout, you may want to consider supplementing your company-sponsored policy with an individual term life policy.
24. Women typically pay 30% less for life insurance
As far as life insurers are concerned, men are high-risk customers! They’re more prone to risky jobs, risky lifestyles, and they die younger. Women live about 5 years longer than men, on average. All this and more gets factored into a life insurance policy with gender playing a significant role in the quote, resulting in women paying a third less than men in premiums.
25. It pays off to start your life insurance as early in life as possible
(Source: LIMRA: 2020 Insurance Barometer Study)
If you want to learn from other people’s mistakes, buy life insurance young. Abvoe all, results show that 40% of people who have life insurance, wish they could go back in time and purchase them at a younger age. This number doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon, with half of the millennials being deterred from purchasing life insurance because they overestimate its costs.
The younger you are, the better deal on life insurance you are going to get. Whether you get a permanent life insurance policy and build up the cash value over time, in hopes of hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax-free income down the road. Or whether you want to be covered at a very low cost throughout your career through a term life insurance policy lasting 20, 30, 40 years.
What are some interesting industry-wide life insurance trends?
|Company||J.D. Power Rating|
|Mutual of Omaha||789|
|New York Life||784|
26. The percentage of senior citizens in America is projected to double by 2060
The number of Americans over the age of 65 is estimated to double by the year 2060. And thus raising the 65-and-older demographic from 16 percent to 23 percent of the total population. Combined with the increased average life expectancy in the U.S., this should be an interesting trend for the life insurance industry.
27. 41% of Americans would rather discuss their insurance needs in person
How would you prefer to buy life insurance? If you’re one who needs a face-to-face with an agent, you’re not alone. In fact, only 29% intend to purchase a policy over the phone. Most Americans want the human aspect when buying a policy, whilst 11% of them prefer to buy a policy through their employer. So, the next time someone says something along the lines of, “nobody wants to speak with a life insurance agent”, remember this handy stat.
28. 50% of all people searching for life insurance tend to value convenience, speed, and simplicity in underwriting over all other factors
No surprise here, people prefer those three when it comes to most things in life. But with something as seemingly complicated and important as a life insurance policy, can it even be achieved? With the exception of the “no-exam policies” which require little input from the user. The most likely answer is that it will not just be achieved, but it will be knocked out of the ballpark. For instance, as insurers invest in computer-automated approval systems, getting a quote won’t be such a chore.
29. Buying life insurance online is prefereed by 29% of baby boomers and 28% of millennials
This counter-intuitive life insurance statistic reveals that almost a third of boomers and millennials prefer to do buy their policies online. In other words, the internet has opened up the possibility of instant policy comparison across multiple insurers in the industry, allowing consumers to choose the best policy for them.
30. The global market size for improving the processing of insurance claims was $72.53 billion in 2020
(Source: Statista 3)
The race is on. Insurance companies want you to view them in a more positive light and have a better customer experience when processing a claim. Therefore, with newer tech really starting to come of age such as Blockchain, AI, Chatbots, Internet of Things, and others, insurers are pouring money into making the necessary improvements to their products and services.
31. The Insurtech industry market is expected to grow 10.8% per year and reach $10.14 billion by 2025
(Source: Research and Markets)
Surely by now, you’ve heard of Fintech companies, right? Well, Insurtech is an offshoot of those. They offer customers an entirely untraditional approach to buying insurance by using technology to make underwriting policies and processing claims much more efficient. And along the way, they gather data, lots of data, and they then use that data to get to know you better than you know yourself. These companies aim to fulfill a dire demand for underwriting improvements in the industry.
32. Automating claims could reduce costs for insurers by 30%
In turn, speeding up processes. In other words, you better believe a business will pursue automation if it means reducing costs by 30%, so expect to see more of it in the coming years in this industry. But automation also benefits the customer as it simplifies the process and can identify malicious activity better. Just imagine Amazon’s “1-click-buy feature” applied to insurance claims one day. It’s headed our way.
33. Spending on AI technology and software in the insurance industry is forecast to reach 571 million by 2020
(Source: Statista 4)
What will the insurance industry look like by the year 2030? As it currently stands, the massive investments into AI and its related technologies will have a seismic impact on most (if not all) aspects of the insurance industry. From faster distribution and automated claims processing to advanced algorithms creating detailed data profiles of customers for a much more personalized experience.
34. Northwestern Mutual has the largest life insurance market cap in the United States
(Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence)
Continuing its reign for the sixth straight year, United Health Group is yet again the world’s largest insurer having written $189.7 billion in net premiums written in 2019. However, when it comes to ranking life insurers in the U.S., by the total amount of premiums written in the U.S., Northwestern Mutual is at the top with 10.3% of the market share in 2019. New York Life was the runner-up with 7% of the market.
35. Insurers in the U.S. are required to keep cash reserves between 8% — 12%
(Source: Investopedia 3)
As is common practice in most developed nations. Above all this regulation attempts to ensure that a company has enough money to pay future claims, no matter what. Because, not many people know that insurance companies actually reinvest the premiums you send their way. In hopes of generating a positive return in the markets using various financial instruments. Thus, to ensure they don’t get too greedy and let it all ride, regulators impose a percentage figure which they must keep in liquid cash.
Which life insurance companies are out there?
These are the top 10 largest life insurance underwriters in the United States.
|Rank||Company||Total premiums written||Market share|
|1||Northwestern Mutual||$15.37 billion||8.6%|
|3||New York Life||$13.39 billion||7.5%|
|5||Lincoln Financial||$9.68 billion||5.4%|
|7||John Hancock||$5.19 billion||2.9%|
|8||State Farm||$5.10 billion||2.8%|
36. In 1759, The Presbyterian Ministers Fund became America’s first life insurer
(Source: iii.org – Insurance Handbook)
The first insurance legislation was enacted back in 1601 to protect merchandise and ships. A little over 150 years later, a fund was formed in Philadelphia to protect the families of deceased Presbyterian ministers. Making it the first life insurer on U.S. soil.
37. In 2019, there were 837 companies selling life insurance in the United States
(Source: iii.org – Industry Overview)
The most popular distribution channel for life insurance policies is independent agents. The most preferred way of buying being face-to-face with a financial advisor or insurance agent.
38. The total number of life insurers in the U.S has been dropping steadily since 2001
(Source: PWC – Insurance 2020)
Since the ’90s the life insurance industry has witnessed some significant consolidation. In fact, there were north of two thousand life insurers in the U.S. back in the ’90s. The general consensus is that the consolidation has been good for efficiency and PWC predicts mergers and acquisitions to continue in the United States as the desire to build scale remains a popular strategy among firms.
39. There were 962.5 thousand life and health insurance employees in the United States in 2020
(Source: iii.org – Industry Overview)
In 2011 there 788.9 thousand life and health employees working for direct insurers. By 2020 that number jumped by 22%. The total number of employees in this field continuously increased on an annual basis from 2011 to 2020, with the exception of 2016. The only year where the trend paused.
40. Lincoln Financial is one of America’s largest life insurer but has below-average customer satisfaction
(Source: J.D. Power)
The overall customer satisfaction rating for underwriting individual policies in the U.S. life insurance industry is 763. Both Prudential and Lincoln Financial, two of America’s top underwriters of life policies, are below that threshold, with 759 and 749 respectively. Lincoln Financial did better in the Annuity sector, however, landing in the top five.
41. Two American companies are among the top ten largest life insurers by market capitalization
Ping An Insurance Group, a Chinese company, had the overwhelming lead in market cap. Considering the population difference between China and most other countries this is understandable. The second-largest company is AIA Group from Hong Kong. The two U.S. firms in the top ten are MetLife and Aflac.
Note on the numbers used in the article: In an effort to paint a fuller picture, the figures in this article were aggregated from numerous credible sources, who reported the results of their surveys at various points in time.
American Council of Life Insurers | iii.org – Insurance Handbook | CDC.gov | Statista 1 | LIMRA | Statista 2 | PolicyGenius | Bestliferates.org | ACLI – Accelerated Death Benefits | Investopedia 1 | NerdWallet | Forbes | LIMRA: 2020 Insurance Barometer Study | Investopedia 2 | Insure.com | PBR.org | NoExam.com | Statista 3 | Research and Markets | McKinsey | Statista 4 | S&P Global Market Intelligence | Investopedia 3 | iii.org – Industry Overview | PWC – Insurance 2020 | J.D. Power | Statista 5