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MetLife highlights need for adequate life insurance, especially among women

by Bruce Shutan

Women may live longer than men, but that doesn’t mean that they should have less life insurance protection than their male counterparts. However, MetLife research finds that a gender gap persists with regard to life insurance ownership.

“One of the most common trends we see in the benefits space is that Americans are underinsured for life insurance and that it’s even a bigger issue for women than for men,” says Todd Katz, senior vice president of MetLife U.S. Business.

MetLife’s 7th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study found that working women generally hold only about two years worth of their salary in life insurance, whereas working men have about three years worth of their salary. Those amounts are considered insufficient in most cases, regardless of gender, and can leave families unprepared. The impact of being underinsured on an employee’s beneficiaries can be long-term.

Additional MetLife research shows that about two-thirds of women are concerned about their family’s financial future in the event of their own premature death while about half of men voiced such worries. A key place to make an impact on a family’s financial safety net is in the workplace with employee education, since more than half the women surveyed don’t believe or aren’t sure that the amount of life insurance coverage they have is adequate.

Raising awareness

The economy has led to greater employee appreciation of workplace benefits, and non-medical benefits, such as a life insurance, are a growing influence on employee loyalty. For example, according to the MetLife study, 69% of employees say non-health benefits are a strong influence on their workplace loyalty up from 51% in 2007 – and despite difficult personnel decisions, employee retention remains employers’ top benefits objective.

To help eliminate the differences in life insurance coverage, ensure appropriate coverage levels and improve benefits satisfaction, employers and brokers can do a great deal to empower female employees to be more aware of their needs and make more confident decisions about their financial future, according to Katz. “We think a few strategic actions can increase the overall value of the employee benefit plan for all stakeholders.”

He further observes that the economy has become “a catalyst for employees to move from intent to action in terms of taking steps to determine their needs to deal with a premature death or disability. It is important to encourage these employees’ actions with effective benefits communications, particularly as they are looking to their employers for information and assistance to help guide their benefit decisions.”

Women especially have said they welcome personalized information about the right amount of insurance to purchase and how much it will cost, as well as learning more about their employee benefits. In fact, according to MetLife’s 7th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study, 49% of working women and 43% of working men said it would be easier to make benefits choices if they received a personalized benefits package.

Strategic Steps

Employers are uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in helping their female employees maximize their life insurance coverage, to take action and solidify their financial safety net. MetLife suggests a variety of strategies to help both employers and their employees accomplish this goal.

For example, Katz encourages employers to tailor communications specifically for their female employees. “Life events such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child remind employees that their financial needs can change as their lives change. Creating unique messaging tailored specifically for female employees around particular life events can increase awareness around the need and benefits of life insurance."

In addition, employers should offer the opportunity to purchase supplemental life coverage through the workplace. This gives all employees a method to purchase additional levels of coverage based on their personal needs with the ease and convenience the workplace provides.

Katz also suggests promoting life insurance during a period other than during the annual open-enrollment season. For example, he believes that an off-cycle enrollment, which includes ongoing communications with employees throughout the year, helps employees feel more engaged in the benefits process.

Finally, MetLife suggests employers offer a variety of online tools and other educational resources to help all employees understand the amount of life insurance coverage they need and help them easily enroll in the right plan.

“By understanding and implementing these strategies, employers can help their female employees make more confident decisions about planning for their financial futures,” says Katz. “Focused, engaged and confident employees are the end goal for all involved.”

To learn more about how to make a long-lasting impact on the financial security of women and their families, visit

About the author
Bruce Shutan, former managing editor of Employee Benefit News, is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.


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[All States]

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