Global Atlantic Study Highlights Shifting Financial Priorities and the Need for Planning Amid Pandemic

New research from Global Atlantic Financial Group found that more than eight out of ten Americans (83%) say making sure their loved ones are financially protected is important to them right now, yet two in five (43%) have no life insurance and only one third (33%) believe they have enough life insurance or other assets to protect their family in the event of their own death.

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The “Perceptions of Life Insurance During a Pandemic” study was conducted in August by Artemis Strategy Group on behalf of Global Atlantic, among 1,065 American adults to examine their views on life insurance, estate planning and shifting financial priorities.

Aside from contracting Covid-19 personally or having a family member or close friend contract the virus, the top concern among those surveyed was to ensure their family’s financial wellbeing.

A full two thirds (67%) of Americans say the Covid-19 pandemic has made them think about their own mortality, while seven in ten (69%) have reassessed at least one financial aspect of their life during the pandemic. These areas include their emergency savings situation (54% have reassessed), long-term savings and investments (49%), employment situation (39%), and life insurance (28%).

When asked how many years of income they would replace with life insurance in the event of an early death, nearly six out of ten (57%) said at least two years. More than half of those with $150K or more in household income would replace five or more years of income (54%).

Only one third of Americans had a will in place before the pandemic, but nearly three out of ten either made changes to it during the pandemic,

  • Many firms have noted double-digit increases in the number of life insurance policies they’ve sold during the Covid-19 pandemic relative to last year. 
  • The increase is largely due to a fear of death and greater awareness of financial risks associated with mortality, experts said.
  • Insurance sales have been dwindling for years. In 2020, just over half of American adults reported having a life insurance policy, down from 63% a decade earlier.





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Life insurance is enjoying something of a renaissance as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Consumers, especially younger adults, have been buying insurance in elevated numbers since the spring, when thousands of Americans began getting ill and dying from Covid-19.

That result is logical, experts said, given the core use of life insurance: as a financial backstop in the event of death.

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For example, what if the breadwinner of a family dies unexpectedly from Covid-19? Insurance is meant to plug that immediate gap in household income.

“It’s forced the idea of financial protection and mortality to the top of mind for consumers in a way very few events have,” said Jennifer Fitzgerald, the CEO and co-founder of Policygenius, an online marketplace for life insurance.

‘Panic buying’

Insurance sales have been dwindling for years. In 2020, just over half of American adults reported having a life insurance policy, down from 63% a decade earlier.

But Google Search traffic for “life insurance” jumped 50% between March and May this year compared with the same period in 2019, said Fitzgerald, whose firm gets a large share of business from such internet

If we want to radically improve insurance and health care in our country to ensure that every American receives the care they need, we have to be bold. And that begins with divorcing insurance from where we work.



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Not only would that improve the choices of consumers, but it would also help lower costs and provide more options for people who aren’t covered in the current system. That would empower individuals to choose their health plans according to their needs.

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As of March 2019, the U.S. Census estimates that 91% of the population had health insurance. Nearly one third receive coverage from government health insurance, whether Medicare, Medicaid or state employees. Left out are approximately 29.9 million Americans without health insurance — public, private or otherwise.

The number of uninsured is an important metric because it is the target group for most substantial health insurance reforms of the past decade, including Obamacare at the federal level and the expansion of Medicaid eligibility at the state level, both problematic in their own right.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 45% of the uninsured say the cost is too high, while 31% of the uninsured lost their coverage because they made too much money for Medicaid or they changed employers.

The single largest category of the insured in our country is those who receive insurance through their jobs, approximately 54%. Why is that?

Since 1973, the federal government provided incentives to employers who set up Health Maintenance Organizations for their employees. Since then, our health insurance market has pivoted to match having a job with health insurance. Incentives to employers to cover health care for their employees is good policy on its face, but it has led to unforeseen economic consequences.

Employee

Amid all the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19 over the past six months, one thing is assured: the pandemic has re-ordered real estate markets across the board on an unprecedented scale.

Some of this may be irreversible. Real estate’s re-sorting this time isn’t just based on markets crashing (the Great Recession), political turmoil (the 1979 oil embargo), or financial speculation (the first and second dot.com busts)—after which there’s generally confidence that overall consumer demand and buyer preferences will sooner or later snap back to normal.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, more deep-seeded, tectonic-sized questions beyond markets and interest rates are being asked this time around that no one really has the answers to yet—like will people feel safer living in the south and southwest where they can spend all year social distancing outside? What if companies let workers work remotely for the rest of their lives? Why go back to retail shopping when I’m already ordering everything online? What’s the point of living “downtown” if half of the restaurants, bars, and museums never open back up?

How these questions get answered will fundamentally re-order how Americans live in the “new” pandemic normal, and as a result will play a huge X-factor in which cities and states will experience growth, demand, and price appreciation over the next 3-5 years, and which ones will stagnate and lose. More broadly for large metropolises like Washington, D.C., New York City, Portland, and Philadelphia, the answers risk slowing or even reversing a wave of gentrification and wildly profitable downtown revitalization that’s been accelerating since before the Great Recession.

The national personal saving rate is now running at double the pre-pandemic levels, in part due to government relief money that flowed into American households.

Among those driving that number is Melissa James, a 31-year-old diversity consultant in the Boston area. Prior to the pandemic, she led the life of a single professional whose spending habits supported the economy in Boston and beyond. Heading into her office at the We Work by South Station, she would grab a grande Starbucks iced caramel macchiato and order lunch from SweetGreen. She would eat out at a restaurant or get a drink at a bar four or five times a week, and take three to four international trips a year.

Now James works from home, and isn’t getting on a plane anytime soon. She bought her first cookbook and learned how to cook.

“I have perfected the chicken piccata,” said James, adding that she also knows how to whip up her family’s traditional Jamaican dish of salt fish and fried dumplings.

A financial planner had once advised her to change her lifestyle to save money, but James declined. Now, she estimates she is saving about $2,000 a month. “Apparently, all I needed is a stay-at-home advisory,” James quipped.

Then there is Gary McNabb, a retired registered nurse in Groton. He grew up “really poor” in Brighton public housing, he said, one of four kids whose father, a Boston Police officer, was killed in the line of duty in 1968. As an adult, he and his second wife lived frugally in a cramped condo until they got his children through private school and college.

Now 63, McNabb and his wife are hunkering down again because they don’t want to get COVID-19. The couple no longer eats out three or four days a week or