Life Insurance: Like ‘Deal or No Deal’ Without the Drama

Windsor, CT, March 14, 2006 – What does the NBC-TV hit game show “Deal or No Deal” have in common with life insurance? They both bring out the same – sometimes irrational – behavior in people who face a hard choice involving a lot of money.

“We see the contestants sweating out their decision, wishing they had more time to choose, torn about the risk of losing what they’ve gained, yet excited that they could win more,” said Bob Kerzner, president and CEO of LIMRA International, a financial services organization that studies consumer behavior.

“Believe it or not, people experience the same things when it comes to buying life insurance – or making any big financial decision. It’s just not on national TV and it’s not nearly as dramatic,” Kerzner said. “Sadly, many people just put off making any decision, sometimes until it’s too late.”

LIMRA research shows that many people procrastinate, even when they know they need more life insurance. In a LIMRA survey of both buyers and nonbuyers of life insurance, 4 in 10 of the nonbuyers said they were afraid of making the wrong decision, half said they couldn’t decide how much to buy, and 70 percent said they couldn’t afford it.

And it’s not just life insurance. The same dynamics come into play when people are trying to decide how and how much they should save for retirement. The decision is complex and requires sacrificing immediate gratification for potential future benefits.

The explanation lies in the principles of behavioral economics (What is it?), or behavioral finance, a blend of psychology and economics.

“Behavioral economics tells us that when people say they can’t afford life insurance, even when they admit they don’t have enough, there’s more to it than a straight budget calculation,” Kerzner said. “The negative feelings of ‘losing’ the premium for more insurance are often a lot stronger than the positive feelings of buying the needed protection.”

Those clashing feelings are at the heart of the decision to deal or not deal, as contestants, egged on by friends and audience members, weigh their choice to risk all for higher gain or stick with what they have.

One powerful emotion that can sway insurance buyers wrestling with the conflict is love. Behavioral economics research has shown that buying life insurance — with its guarantees of protection and security — is for many people more than a financial decision. It’s a way of expressing feelings of love for their families.

“The decision on ‘Deal or No Deal’ is immediate and involves high stakes, but it’s simple compared with the decision to purchase life insurance,” Kerzner said. “For that, people need information and expert advice to make a choice that will affect their family’s well-being for years to come. After all, life is not a game show.” (A few tips!)

About LIMRA International

LIMRA International is a worldwide association providing research, consulting and other services to more than 800 insurance and financial services companies in 60 countries. LIMRA was established in 1916 to help its member companies maximize their marketing and distribution effectiveness.