Most people view life insurance as a valuable financial planning tool but few have as much as they feel they might need and a lot have never even discussed the issue with their families, according to a new survey by ING U.S.

Financial advisors are missing a major opportunity in the life insurance market if they do not help educate their clients to these facts, according to Butch Britton CEO of ING U.S Insurance.

The survey, "Insurance Revealed," showed 78% of people surveyed view life insurance as a valuable tool for estate or financial planning and more than half (53%) believe the current economy makes life insurance more important now than in the past.

However, half say other priorities, such as paying off debts or a mortgage, are obstacles to purchasing life insurance and 61% say they have not calculated their life insurance needs. The survey included 1,006 people over age 25 with at least $50,000 in household income.

"Financial advisors are focused on the asset side of their client's finances, but no financial plan is complete that does not have life insurance in it," said Britton.

There are fewer life insurance sales people available now than in the past, the report noted. At the same time, people who buy life insurance face-to-face from a financial professional feel most confident about their coverage, with 70% saying they are very or extremely confident about their coverage.

"Most people are not educated about how inexpensively they can buy life insurance and about the flexibility of the coverage available," said Britton. Most policies can be converted from term life insurance to include a savings component or converted to a different type as a person matures, he said.

Among married couples, 45% said they rarely or never talk with their spouse about what would happen to the family finances should one of them pass away.

Close to one quarter of those surveyed think they are too young to need life insurance even though insurance can be locked in at a cheaper rate when a person is young, said Britton. Almost half rely on their employer to provide coverage.

About half have not calculated how much insurance they need and about the same number feels it is too expensive. The surveyed shows 27% think they should have five to 10 times their annual salary in coverage but only 17% actually have that amount.

ING is launching an educational campaign about the need for and benefits of life insurance in conjunction with September as life insurance awareness month. The firm's Web site has an educational tool to walk people through the details about life insurance at

-Karen DeMasters