One conversation I’m glad to see happening more often, in my own friend groups and online, is about how women (mothers in particular) should value themselves. It can sometimes feel difficult as a mom to justify pursuing a hobby or getting a treat when this cuts into family time and resources. Over time, putting everyone else first can leave you feeling left behind.
This imbalance can sneak into other areas, too. Data shows a life insurance gender gap, with men outpacing women both in current life insurance ownership and plans to get coverage. Here are some reasons why the life insurance gender gap may affect your family and how you can take steps to make sure everyone has the coverage they need.
Research from the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association (LIMRA) found that in 2021, 47 percent of women had a life insurance policy, compared to 58 percent of men. Half (51 percent) of women with dependents under 18 had life insurance.
This gap is concerning, and what’s also troubling is that women’s life insurance ownership rates have been declining for the last 5 years. In 2020 alone, more than 20 million women lost their life insurance coverage. Meanwhile, 42 percent of men planned to get coverage in the next year, while only 31 percent of women said the same. If those numbers play out, the gap may continue to grow.
One study on Gender, Roles, and Life Insurance interviewed parents and found that men put double the financial value on their life as women did. It’s not as simple as families saying, “We’ll just cut the woman’s value in half compared to a male partner.” Various factors may influence how you approach financial decisions and can contribute toward the life insurance gender gap.
One reason women might lag behind men in life insurance ownership could relate to income gaps and women’s foothold in the workforce. The pandemic affected women’s jobs much more than men’s, with women accounting for 63 percent of jobs lost between February 2020 and January 2022. While men had largely regained their place in the workforce in January 2022, women still had a long way to go. If women are concerned about affording life insurance premiums or getting back to work, life insurance may slip down the list of priorities.
In some cases, families may assume that a stay-at-home partner doesn’t need much (or any) life insurance coverage. Only 7 percent of dads are stay-at-home parents, compared to 27 percent of mothers. Families that prioritize covering the primary earner may disproportionately cover men.
Financial literacy may also play a role. Women tend to score lower on financial literacy tests and may feel less confident than men in their decision-making when it comes to finance. In 2022, less than a third of women said they planned to purchase life insurance, compared to 42 percent of men, even though fewer women overall own a policy. Getting better informed about life insurance may help even out the financial literacy component between genders and get more women involved in considering life insurance.
In some cases, people truly might not need life insurance. But chances are, you play many roles in your family that are worth protecting financially. If any of these situations rings true for you, you might benefit from life insurance coverage.
Women’s homeownership rates have risen substantially from 1990-2019, from 50.9 to 61.2 percent. About 19 percent of single women are homeowners, compared to 9 percent of single men. A life insurance policy can be an important tool to cover a remaining mortgage balance.
Seven out of 10 American mothers will spend at least a year as the primary breadwinner before their first child turns 18. On average, they’ll spend 6 years being the breadwinner for their home. Work and finances are an evolving part of family life. Life insurance helps cover your contributions over decades, so if being a breadwinner is part of your present or future plans, it’s smart to have coverage to protect your income. (Here’s how to think about how much life insurance coverage you need.)
If you ever need to get your heart racing, do a little browsing for childcare costs in your area. It’s not uncommon for daycare to cost more than the mortgage. Forty percent of parents have gone into debt to pay for childcare, and a quarter had to move homes to make ends meet.
Stay-at-home moms don’t need to collect a paycheck to have a powerful impact on their family’s financial stability. A life insurance policy can reflect some of the financial value women provide through unpaid work at home. (Here’s how stay-at-home parents should think about life insurance.)
Taking action to close gender imbalances in life insurance can help families prepare a more secure future and recognize each partner’s true financial impact. Here are steps you can take.
A study on the financial literacy gender gap noted that confidence plays a big role. When women couldn’t select “I don’t know” as an answer, they scored much closer to men on financial literacy. In other words, don’t second-guess yourself. It’s always smart to run any questions by a trusted financial advisor or a qualified insurance agent, but you may also already know more about how to estimate coverage needs and apply for a policy than you give yourself credit for.
According to LIMRA, cost concerns are the top reason women name for not getting life insurance. But 80 percent of women overestimate what premiums will cost. Life insurance might be much more affordable than you expected. For example, as of February 2023, Fabric’s estimated premium rate for a 33-year-old woman in excellent health seeking a 20-year, $500,000 policy is $20.38 per month.
Sometimes misconceptions about life insurance can contribute to a gender imbalance, like thinking life insurance isn’t necessary for stay-at-home parents or that you can’t get life insurance when you’re pregnant. Getting life insurance is probably less complicated than you might think. Life insurance underwriters have experience with non-working spouses, and agents can walk you through health questions (e.g., “Should I put my 8-months-along or pre-pregnancy weight?”). Ultimately, insuring both partners is the best way to close a coverage gap.
Imbalances like a gendered insurance gap tend to happen because of many factors and decisions that go unnoticed and unquestioned. By speaking out about a life insurance gender gap, more families can access the information they need to look at their own finances with fresh eyes and make sure all partners’ contributions are valued fairly.
Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
Fabric by Gerber Life exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
Information provided is general and educational in nature and is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, financial, legal, or tax advice. Laws of a specific state or laws relevant to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. We make no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use, and disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, the information.
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