By Cyril Tuohy
The financial burden of losing a spouse weighs more heavily on women than it does on men, and many women say they wish they had “some or more” life insurance at the time of their spouse’s death, new research by New York Life has found.
The “Loss of a Spouse Study” of 897 widows and widowers found that 47 percent of the widows said they wished they had some or more life insurance on their spouses, and 42 percent wished they had saved more, the survey found.
Many women remain underinsured for life insurance, but few surveys have documented the impact of underinsurance on widows.
The survey also revealed that 30 percent of widows said they wished they had conducted detailed discussions about the financial consequences of the loss of their spouse, 28 percent wished they had a better financial plan in place and 18 percent said they regretted not having all of their important documents in one place.
Among women whose spouses had life insurance when they died, the life proceeds from the policy lasted nearly two-and-a-half years, but these women said they wished the policy proceeds had lasted them 14 years, the survey found.
Chris Blunt, co-president of New York Life’s Insurance and Agency Group, said the results of the survey showed that women are not prepared for the loss of a spouse.
“These widows learned too late that they were underinsured,” Blunt said in a news release. “The message is clear: Life insurance proceeds are important, but the need for that financial security blanket is much greater than what exists in many financial plans.”
Women, who typically live longer than men, suddenly find themselves thrust into the role of head of household upon the death of their husbands. Many women in their mid-70s or 80s grew up at a time when husbands — for many years at least — were the sole breadwinners and handled family financial matters.
Two in five women whose spouses did not have life insurance struggled to meet basic needs within the first year of their spouse’s death, the survey found.
“These insights should serve as a lesson for couples," Blunt said. "There are actions that can be taken now to alleviate the future financial burden that comes with a loss.”
A survey released earlier this year by Life Ant, an organization promoting affordable life insurance, found that less than 20 percent of new mothers under 30 have life insurance, and that only 35 percent of fathers between the ages of 18 and 30 have life insurance.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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