Usman Ahmad is in no hurry to insure his own life, even after buying protection for his gray BMW and the house he bought in Toronto.
“I’m not planning on dying any time soon so it’s a waste of money,” the 30-year-old said while eating lunch and browsing his iPhone at a food court in Toronto’s financial district, where he works for Gemini Aviation Inc. as a manager. “When I get married and have kids, maybe then I’ll consider it.”
Young adults who wait longer to start families are also putting off death planning, pushing insurers like MetLife Inc. in the U.S. and Canada’s Manulife Financial Corp. to expand in regions such as Asia or Latin America and push into asset management or retirement planning. Companies are also investing in technology and advertising, hiring younger agents and expanding at workplaces to help stem the sales decline.
“The industry needs to learn how to better communicate with that generation,” Bob Kerzner, chief executive officer of insurance trade group Limra, said by phone last week. “Frankly, it’s a lot easier to market an iPod or a consumer good on the Internet.”
Individual life insurance sales in the U.S. slipped 45 percent to 9.7 million policies in 2012 from a high of 17.7 million in 1983, according to Limra. About 18 percent of people age 18 to 29 had life insurance, compared with 43 percent for baby boomers, Limra data from 2010 show. The coverage is optional, unlike auto coverage, which is mandatory for drivers.
Insurers have been investing at a “much heavier pace” in the past 12 to 18 months to reach the population of more than 80 million in the U.S. who were born from 1980 to 2000 and comprise a group known as millennials, Kerzner said. One of those firms is Toronto-based Sun Life Financial Inc., which said about a third of its agents are younger than 40 and is expanding its presence at colleges and on the Internet while seeking to reach young adults at their workplaces.
“It’s an extremely important market,” Kevin Dougherty, president of Sun Life’s Canadian operations, said in a phone interview. “It becomes more important as these individuals go through various life stages and need financial security.”
While people can often lock in lower annual rates by starting coverage as young adults, potential customers are taking longer to reach the milestones that typically trigger the purchase of a policy. The median age for U.S. women at their first marriage was almost 27 in 2010, compared with less than 21 in 1950, U.S. census data show. For men, the figure climbed to more than 28 from 24.