Propelled by 26% fourth quarter premium growth, total life insurance new annualized premium grew 20% in 2021, representing the highest annual growth since 1983, according to LIMRA’s Fourth Quarter U.S. Retail Life Insurance Sales Survey.
“Our research shows that the pandemic raised consumer awareness and demand for life insurance protection. Three in 10 Americans tell us they are more likely to purchase coverage due to COVID-19,” said David Levenson, president and CEO, LIMRA, LOMA and LL Global. “This interest has translated into record sales. Nearly two thirds of carriers reported significant positive gains, including nine of the top 10 carriers.”
Policy sales improved 2% in the fourth quarter. For the year, policy sales were up 5%, which is the highest annual growth since 1983. With the exception of term products, all major product lines experienced policy sales growth in the fourth quarter and for the year.
Whole life (WL) new premium increased 27% in the fourth quarter, representing the strongest quarterly premium growth for WL in 30 years. Two thirds of WL carriers reported gains and half (including eight of the top 10) posted double-digit growth.
In 2021, WL new premium grew 20%, year-over year. WL held 35% of the individual retail life insurance in 2021. LIMRA is forecasting whole life sales to grow as much as 10% in 2022, with continued growth in 2023.
Variable universal life (VUL) new premium leapt 65% in the fourth quarter. Protection-focused VUL sales jumped 33% in the fourth quarter, and accumulation-focused VUL sales more than doubled. Year-to-date, VUL new annualized premium increased 74%. VUL market share was 12% in 2021, which is the highest it has been since 2008.
Indexed universal life (IUL) new premium rose 29% in the fourth quarter, compared with prior year. For the year, IUL was 21% higher than 2020 results. IUL represented a quarter of all individual life premium in 2021.
Fixed UL new annualized premium grew 34% in the fourth quarter. While overall sales growth was primarily driven by current-assumption product sales, all fixed UL product types experienced positive growth. Fixed UL ended the year up 10% and held 8% of the total premium market share.
In 2021, term new premium increased 5%, compared with 2020 results. This represents the highest premium growth for term premium since 2007. In the fourth quarter, term new premium slipped 1%, compared with fourth quarter 2020. LIMRA is projecting term life premium to grow as much as 6% in 2022, propelled by continued consumer interest and online availability.
“While these results are encouraging, our research suggests there are more than 100 million Americans living with a life insurance coverage gap,” said Levenson. "Through the Help Protect Our Families campaign, LIMRA, in partnership with seven other trade associations, continues to work with more than 75 carriers and distributors to help more Americans get the coverage they need to ensure their families’ future financial security.”
LIMRA’s Fourth Quarter 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales Survey represents approximately 85% of the U.S. individual life insurance annualized premium market.