Peers influence life insurance ownership, survey finds

New research shows life insurance purchases are often influenced by social customs.

Whether due to an invincibility complex or simply not getting around to it, many of today's millennials aren't in a huge rush to take care of their estate planning. As an example, nearly 66 percent of Americans say that they don't foresee themselves buying life insurance anytime soon, under the mistaken impression that it's too expensive, according to a polling numbers.

However, in a classic case of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," individuals are more likely to secure life insurance when they know that people similar to them are securing this financial protection, a new survey reveals.

The survey, conducted by worldwide research and trade group LIMRA, polled approximately 4,000 consumers, ranging in age between 30 and 50. The goal of the analysis was to see what factors played the most influential role in individuals' purchasing life coverage. In other words, under what circumstances would a life insurance policy be prioritized.

Peers played a persuasive role. This was determined after participants were presented with eight different statements that dealt with life insurance and why it was important to have, like replacing lost income, establishing wealth creation and covering funeral expenses, among others. While these were influential to varying degrees, the one that had the most impactful effect was the statement that referred to how people of their age or status were financially protected.

'Likely to buy' increases 39 percent for singles
For instance, among those who were single, only about 1 in 4 said they were "likely to buy" when presented with traditional life insurance marketing messages. Their inclination rose to 39 percent when the "social norming" statement was posed, the one that referred to how people like them were buying.

Jennifer Douglas, associate research director of developmental strategy, pointed out how it was interesting to see the different reactions, especially after the statement that elicited the biggest response.

"This was the most successful message we tested," Douglas referenced. "Attitudes about life insurance improved for all demographic groups in some way when having coverage is perceived as a social norm."

Difference negligible among married couples
The social norming message wasn't uniform in its influence, however. Married couples were also tested to see how they would react. There wasn't much of a difference between the control statements and the social norming one, as 37 percent said they'd be likely to buy in the former and 38 percent for the latter.

At the same time, though, the study furthered the notion that people who are married are more inclined to buy life insurance than singles.

"30 percent believe they need more life insurance than they have."

"We don't want to believe that other's behavior influences us, but it certainly does," Douglas said. "We're often better off for it."

At 132 million, roughly one-third of Americans have a life insurance policy, according to the most recent statistics compiled by LIMRA. Of these, most bought it in order to help their loved ones pay for final expenses, such as funeral arrangements and unpaid debt. Approximately 34 percent have it to replace income that's lost due to health concerns.