Women need life insurance more than men do, yet we are less likely to be covered.
According to the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association, 56% of women and 62% of men had life insurance coverage in 2016 — down from 57% and 61%, respectively, 6 years prior.
Why is that? According to LIMRA, above, women presume that because men tend to earn more than women, and in homes with kids, the man may be the primary breadwinner, he should be covered. Among millennial — more than 4 in 10 think they wouldn’t qualify anyway — a rate 2X greater than any other age group. (I debunk these myths below, don't worry!).
So why should women and moms prioritize health insurance, no matter their family status, or earning? Read on!
Women live longer than men
This is old news: Women outlive men. This is true in every country in the world. In the United States, male life expectancy was 73.4 years, and 80.1 years for females — a difference of 6.7 years.
Men — including those with young children living at home — die earlier than women. The reasons: more dangerous jobs, higher suicide rates (the reasons are many and complex), higher propensity for risk taking, that leads to aggressive driving and traffic fatalities, violence and homicide.
Biology means men are more susceptible to fatal disease, while also less likely than women to seek out medical care.
Women are more likely to be primary custodian/parent to children
When fathers die, their wives, partners and exes are then left fully responsible for the care of any children or other dependents. Because of divorce and separation, 27 percent of fathers live away from their children's primary residence, a recent Pew study found. In military families, fathers are more likely than mothers to be deployed. Fathers are more likely to be incarcerated than mothers.
In all of the scenarios, mothers are not only the primary caregiver to the children, statistically, they are also the primary financial provider, too. Even in cases where child support is mandated by courts, less than 40 percent is actually received by the custodian parent, and the average sum last year was less than $400.
In other words: While we may be working on more equality between moms and dads (both in terms of financial and logistical care of kids), today the fact remains: If you are a mom, you are likely to be primarily, if not solely, responsible for your kids. A full financial plan includes life insurance.
Women are more likely to be the caregiver to aging or sick loved one
Historically, and around the world, women have taken on the role of caregiver of aging and ill adults in the family.
The number of men taking on this role in the United States has risen dramatically in recent years, but the fact remains: Women still care for the dependent more than men.
Women may soon be more likely to be the breadwinner in married families
While women are the breadwinners by a landslide in single-parent families, this may soon also be the norm in families with partnered parents.
A full quarter of wives in heterosexual marriages make more than their husbands. This figure has been on the rise for decades — and is expected to continue to climb as women gain more power in the workforce and government, and men continue to struggle with unemployment at a higher rate.
Life insurance is less expensive for women
Because women are less likely to die than men, life insurance coverage is cheaper for us. That means less excuses not to buy it!
Do I need life insurance if I'm a full-time stay-at-home mom?
Women often mistakenly believe that life insurance is not for them since they might not have an income today, or their income is low. The reality is that all moms need life insurance if your kids are still in school or college.
If you are a stay-at-home mom, married to a high earner, your contribution to the family still has a monetary value that would need to be replaced in the even you die. Should you pass, there will be more need for child care, house cleaning, errand running, food preparation, transporting kids, and other tasks that you do that are uncompensated.
Further, as noted above, while you may not be earning a salary today, or your income is low, that does not mean that you will not one day be a primary breadwinner for your family — even if you continue to enjoy a long marriage.
Not only can you start working again, build a fully career for which your income (and the lifestyle it affords your family) exceeds your husbands, you also may be forced to work to support the whole household.
After all, men are more likely than women to become unemployed (because of various factors, including that recent downsizing trends affect male-dominated industries more). Your partner may also become disabled — temporarily or permanently — fall ill or otherwise be unable to earn.
In all of the scenarios, the family begins to depend on mom's income. These scenarios may happen in the future. But the sooner you buy life insurance, usually the cheaper it is. As you age, develop health issues, perhaps gain weight, then the premiums go up.
Thankfully, there are many affordable life insurance options for women and men, moms and dads. Use this calculator to get a quick quote.
How much life insurance do I need?
This is the most common question about life insurance.
Here is a quick-and-dirty formula: for most moms, multiply your income x3 to arrive at the amount of life insurance you need.
For example, if you are 40-year-old woman earning $50,000 per year at your job, buy a term policy with a $750,000 payout. Of course, there are many variables, including how much you have left on your mortgage, whether you want to fund your kids' college, the age of your kids (the younger they are, the more insurance you may want to buy), whether you are responsible (or want to take responsibility for) an aged or disabled loved one.
A life insurance agent can help you find the right answer and the right policy.
Should I buy term or whole life insurance?
The second-most-common life insurance question! Term life insurance is straight-forward and more affordable. An example might be a payout of $1 million, with a 30-year term, for $600 per year, a rate that stays the same for all 30 years.
Whole life insurance premiums are much higher, but the coverage lasts for a lifetime, and the policy has cash value, with a guaranteed rate of investment return on part of the premiums (this rate is almost always lower than investing what you would typically earn over a long period by investing in a diversified stock portfolio).
Long story short: Term life is the easiest, most affordable way moms can buy the life insurance your family needs.
The lessons related to the need for women to take responsibility for their life insurance needs can be applied to all areas of personal finance.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.