By Cyril Tuohy
As its name implies, life insurance is connected to life, but also to what the Greek philosopher Aristotle called “the Good.” That proper life insurance coverage is synonymous with a life that is good, as well as the good life, is a foregone conclusion.
Just in case there was any doubt, the latest analysis of life insurance data from a survey sponsored by New York Life reaffirms the central role that life insurance provides as a platform from which policyholders can spread their pro bono wings.
The more an individual’s “floor” is secured through life insurance, the more he or she is likely to turn his or her attention to other people, think about helping or guiding others, or furthering the common good, according to a recent analysis of data.
“It’s easy to be altruistic when you’ve got things taken care of,” said Brian Perlman, a partner with Greenwald & Associates, which analyzed data taken from a survey of 2,069 individuals 21 years or older conducted last year. “Having peace of mind with things having been taken care of, it really frees you up.”
Perlman, likely one of the few practitioners in the country with a Ph.D. in psychology and holder of the Chartered Life Underwriter and Chartered Financial Consultant designations, said the recent findings exemplify Abraham Maslow’s theory that people can’t move to higher goals without having basic needs met.
Life insurance, Perlman said, fulfills that basic need for security. Once met, people are free to explore broader, more altruistic goals. Like the passengers in the airplane cabin facing decompression, those having secured oxygen masks on themselves first are ready to help others.
Perlman said life insurance bestows a special kind of wealth. It is the kind of wealth that is not so much built on compound interest — though, like all financial products, that is one benefit. Life insurance gives policyholders peace of mind and delivers predictable wealth and a wealth of predictability. Only when people are at peace with themselves can they then be at peace with others.
Life insurance offers a quiet, intangible wealth, one that precisely avoids the earthly, material trappings of everyday showiness. Life insurance frees the mind, unshackles the soul.
“Life insurance and ‘the good’ — that just makes inherent sense,” Perlman said. “To me, one of the hallmarks of advanced society is the predictability of wealth. This idea that large masses of people can have predictability of wealth, this idea that wealth is permanent and predictable … to me it’s part of a major mindset.”
Greenwald’s analysis of the survey data sponsored by New York Life for its Keep Good Going Report, found a correlation among owners of life insurance policies, happiness and quality of life.
For instance, the study found that 42 percent of life insurance owners report being happy with their lives compared with only 32 percent of people who don’t own life insurance reporting they are happy with theirs.
Among people who owned life insurance, 64 percent report that their quality of life is better than the average American. Among people who didn’t own life insurance, just 51 percent reported feeling that their quality of life was better than the average American, the survey found.
In addition, 43 percent of life insurance owners report that they are “on track in terms of living life as a good person,” compared with 37 percent of people without life insurance who report they are on track living life as a good person.
Admittedly, the survey isn’t scientific, and many of the answers are self-reported. Yet the correlation between life insurance and “the good” offers more evidence that there is a link between the two, a link confirmed by previous studies.
The “sticky” kind of wealth offered by life insurance is a wealth that you can hang on to if need be, or pass on to inheritors when the time comes and sets up policyholders for a healthy work-life balance, Perlman also said.
“The results of the survey validate what we hear from agents working with individuals and families across the country — there is much more than a sense of checking a box that life insurance is in place,” Mark W. Pfaff, executive vice president and head of agency, New York Life, said in a news release. “There is a sense that you’ve taken care of a key element of protection for your family, and that brings comfort and confidence that an important base is covered.”
While the good news points to the fact that societies that have provided a floor for their well-being are poised to reach even greater heights, the bad news is that many people in the U.S. remain uninsured and underinsured for life coverage.
For even in death, it is worth noting, life insurance allows the policyholder to rest in peace. The death benefits, also referred to as survivor benefits, pay beneficiaries the day the policyholder dies.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. He can be reached at [email protected].
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