With soaring inflation in the last year, middle-class clients could be looking to cut expenses wherever possible. This means life insurance is under scrutiny.
With soaring inflation in the last year, middle-class clients could be looking to cut expenses wherever possible. This means life insurance is under scrutiny and more people are going uninsured or underinsured.
Most clients have never depended on a death benefit to cover their living expenses, and without seeing its importance firsthand, consumers often make life insurance the first cut or last purchase. Advisers must address the risk these clients and their loved ones face in case of an unexpected death.
Life insurance should remain a priority because we are in hard times, not in spite of them. It may be tempting for middle-class households to rely on employer-provided life insurance because employers often subsidize policies and make them inexpensive. However, these policies can come with several pitfalls.
First, economic turbulence increases the risk of job loss. Even if an employer-provided policy is portable, clients who lose their job no longer benefit from their employers subsidizing their premium and their life insurance gets significantly more expensive when they can least afford it, increasing the risk of policy loss.
Employer-provided policies also typically come with limits that catch beneficiaries off guard. Some policies cap death benefits entirely or lower them for employees over a certain age. Overall, group coverage isn't all bad—but it's supplemental, not foundational.
When clients insist they cannot afford adequate coverage, it's time for a frank conversation, preferably involving their partner. If clients cannot afford life insurance with 100% of their current household income, what happens if they die? How does their family continue to afford their lifestyle with reduced income? These conversations should be approached with care and grace. For clients who would leave dependents behind, life insurance is a necessity.
When a client's circumstances won't allow for the ideal, full-length term policy, start with a shorter-term policy or lower death benefit amount that still provides adequate coverage. Once a client's finances are in better shape and they have better habits, look at lengthening the term or increasing the death benefit. For middle-class households juggling competing priorities, permanent life insurance should wait until more foundational savings and insurance needs have been addressed.
During hard times, our job as advisers is to tell clients what they need to hear, not just what they want us to say. Being honest and upfront about what's best for our clients is the way we help them get through difficult times and set them up for future success.
Brenton Harrison is an eight-year MDRT member and the founder of New Money, New Problems. Harrison is passionate about teaching others the importance of financial literacy and aims to serve individuals looking to obtain wealth by teaching them the principles of budgeting and investing. Harrison resides in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife and son.