The New Demographics

Women & Life Insurance

Why advisors should focus on this important client subset

by Caroline McKay, JD

Ms. McKay is AVP and Counsel, Advanced Markets with John Hancock. Visit

Women today are more highly educated and financially empowered than ever before, but evidence suggests that their financial planning needs are not being met.

In fact, multiple studies indicate that women, more so than their male counterparts, are unhappy with the current level of service and engagement being provided to them by their advisors. For example, in one study, only one out of three women indicated that they trusted financial services professionals.1 Another study found that while most women said they did not intend to leave their financial advisor if their husband died, within a year of being widowed as many as 70% did so.2

This unhappiness may be related to the fact that many advisors do not speak to the unique risks and challenges that women face or are most concerned about. Or, it could be that advisors are just not speaking to women very much at all. Despite the prominence of women in today’s society- in terms of population representation, professionally, as household decision makers, and so on – it is still not uncommon for the husband to be an advisor’s primary contact when working with married clients or for females to be prospected far less than similarly situated males.

Given that women currently control 51% of U.S. private wealth and are expected to control two-thirds of private wealth by 2020, advisors who are willing to take a different approach stand to win a substantial piece of this market.3

Relationship Building is Essential

While men often look to their advisors solely to act as an expert or help resolve an issue, women tend to be more relationship focused. Women often are looking to work with someone who takes the time to understand their unique needs, provides personal attention, and provides education or information as to why the advisor is recommending a strategy or solution. The importance of relationship when working with women is supported by the fact that women tend to pick advisors based on a referral from a family member or friend or based on a shared interest with an advisor.4

For the advisor, spending the extra time to build these relationships often pays off in spades, as a female client will make 26 referrals to their financial advisor over their lifetime, compared to 11 by a typical male client.5

Planning Challenges Unique to Women

In broad terms, women are no different than men in terms of their financing planning needs, including risk protection, wealth management, retirement planning, and insurance. However, women face different risks and challenges than their male counterparts, which can have a significant impact on their ability to achieve financial planning goals.

Women today still earn noticeably less than men. A gender wage gap of nearly 20% means that women are saving less, and are more likely to leave the workforce to care for children, elderly parents, or disabled loved ones.
Women earned, on average, $0.80 to every $1.00 earned by men in 2016 for annual earnings.6

Women are likely to have less saved for retirement due to lower incomes, time out of the workforce, serving as caregivers, etc. This means they may have less saved for retirement and may need to rely on Social Security more than men.
63% of women say they have no savings or less than $10,000 in retirement savings.7

Women statistically live longer than men and therefore have a greater concern about outliving their retirement assets.
Almost 70% of women 75 years and older are widowed, divorced or never married compared to about 30% of men.8

Moreover, multiple studies indicate that women suffer from more disabilities after age 65 and have a greater need for long-term care assistance. More than 70% of nursing home residents are women, 75% of residents in assisted living facilities are women, and almost two-thirds of paid and unpaid home care recipients are women.9

The Life Insurance Opportunity

A 2016 LIMRA study found that only 56% of women have life insurance coverage as compared to 62% of men, even though most families heavily rely on a woman’s income, child and family care, or other services to be financially secure.10

One reason for this lack of insurance is perception, often held by women, that life insurance is unaffordable. As consumers often overestimate the cost of life insurance, advisors can work to dispel this concern by providing realistic cost estimates based on the insurance need, but they must get in front of those that need the coverage most.

With respect to the women marketplace, permanent life insurance is a unique asset in that it can help address many of the financial planning concerns and challenges faced by women, including:

  • Protecting the family by replacing lost income, paying for child care expenses, funding college education, and providing retirement security for surviving spouse;
  • Providing tax-advantaged supplemental retirement income; and
  • Providing a source of funds to help pay long-term care expenses.

For example, consider the benefits that a permanent life insurance policy could offer to Susan, a full-time working mom with two young children. While Susan is in her working years and her kids are at home, life insurance will help her protect her family by providing a much-needed source of cash should anything happen to her. As she approaches retirement and her children graduate from college, that same life insurance policy could also serve as a supplemental retirement vehicle, allowing Susan to make withdrawals or take loans against the cash value in a tax efficient manner.

Moreover, if that same policy also included a qualified long-term care rider, she now also has access to the entire death benefit while she is alive should she experience a long-term care event.

Alternatively, consider Courtney, a stay-at-home mom who takes care of her three young children ranging in age from 1 years old to 6 years old. Similar to the concept of a business insuring the life of a keyperson, Courtney is her family’s “keyperson” even though she does not earn an income. In fact, a quick needs analysis indicates that $300,000 of insurance would be required to help pay for all the extra help and services her family would need if something happened to her. Term insurance in this case would be an affordable way to help protect her family and give her piece of mind.

However, Courtney also is worried about the cost of long-term care as she is currently helping to take care of her mother, who cannot bath or dress on her own. Consequently, a combination of both term and permanent life insurance with a long-term care rider may be a cost-effective way to provide insurance coverage specifically tailored to Courtney’s needs.
To life insurance professionals, it may seem obvious how important life insurance is and how it can help address of number of different concerns. However, many consumers do not realize that the benefits of life insurance go well-beyond providing just a death benefit. Perhaps increasing efforts to promote or highlight the “living” benefits of life insurance would go a long way to increase life insurance sales. In fact, one life insurer, John Hancock, now offers policyholders savings and rewards for living healthy.

Next Steps

Similar to the concept of a business insuring the life of a keyperson, Courtney is her family’s “keyperson” even though she does not earn an income

How can advisors better engage existing female clients and attract new prospects to their practice?

To start, advisors should evaluate their practice to consider how successful their current business model is at attracting and retaining female clients. Some questions to consider include “how many female clients have left your practice in the last year? Last 5 years?” or “do you tailor your client experience any differently for your female clients than for your male clients?” This initial fact-finding can offer key insight into the concerns and needs of female clients and how the advisor can offer an even better experience.

Some additional ideas for engagement and recruitment include:

Engage a non-participating spouse:

If you are not already meeting with a spouse, make it a priority to request a joint meeting and encourage that spouse to participate.

When sending out emails and cards make sure to address the communications to both spouses.

Focus on relationship-building

Find new ways to strengthen the relationship that are more personal than just sending a birthday card. For example, consider taking a female client out to lunch on her birthday or send her flowers on the anniversary of the date she became a client. Simple but unexpected gestures go a long way in helping to build a relationship.

Build flexibility into the planning relationship:

Suggest meeting before or after normal business hours or offering alternative ways to meet, such as video/web conferencing or by phone.

Offer to meet at her home or another place that is easily accessible/convenient for her.

Customize marketing strategies to generate referrals:

Offer Family/Friends Events for Women: Consider hosting a wine and cheese night where female clients are encouraged to bring a friend to learn more about the importance of planning topics of interest to women – e.g. long-term care, planning for retirement, etc.

Client Appreciation Events: Host a client appreciation event that may be more appealing to a broad range of interests, such as a charity event, a family outing at a children’s museum, or a cocktail party.

Women-Only Educational Seminars: Consider holding women-only seminars on a regular basis. Educational events are a great way to not only enhance engagement with female clients, but may also pique their interest in topics related to planning and investments.◊



The John Hancock Insurance Planning for Women Guide
To help advisors learn more about the tremendous opportunity female clients can bring to their business practice, John Hancock recently created the “Insurance Planning for Women” guide. This guide highlights many of the key planning concerns and objectives discussed in this article and provides advisors with the tools necessary to help optimize the financial service experience for women.
1 “Women of Wealth: Why Does the Financial Services Industry Still Not Hear Them?” Family Wealth Advisors Council, 2011 at
2 “What do women want? Financial advisors who get it.” Kelley Holland, CNBC, March 18,2014 at
3 Why do advisors have such a hard time reaching women?, CNBC, Jennifer Barrett, February 2015 at
4 “Survey Proves, it all comes down to trust,” Ellie Zhu and Liz Skinner,, July 26, 2015 at
5 “Female clients more likely than men to make referrals,” Andrew Osterland,, April 24, 2012 at
6 “America’s Women and the Wage Gap,” National Partnership for Women & Families, October 2016 at
7 “Why are Female Baby Boomers Working Longer?” Casey Dowd, Fox, May 13, 2016 at
8 “Long-Term Care- Important Information for Women,” American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance at downloaded on 4/7/2017
9 “Long-Term Care- Important Information for Women,” American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance at downloaded on 4/7/2017
10 “LIMRA: Women Still Lag Men in Life Insurance Ownership,” LIMRA, November 16, 2016 at:



For Agent Use Only.  This material may not be used with the public.
Insurance policies and/or associated riders and features may not be available in all states.
Loans and withdrawals will reduce the death benefit, cash surrender value, and may cause the policy to lapse. Lapse or surrender of a policy with a loan may cause the recognition of taxable income. Policies classified as modified endowment contracts may be subject to tax when a loan or withdrawal is made.  A federal tax penalty of 10% may also apply if the loan or withdrawal is taken prior to age 59 1/2.
The Long-Term Care (LTC) rider is an accelerated death benefit rider and may not be considered long-term care insurance in some states. There are additional costs associated with this rider. The Maximum Monthly Benefit Amount is $50,000. When the death benefit is accelerated for long-term care expenses it is reduced dollar for dollar, and the cash value is reduced proportionately. Please go to to verify state availability.
Insurance products are issued by: John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.), Boston, MA 02210 (not licensed in New York) and John Hancock Life Insurance Company of New York, Valhalla, NY 10595.  MLINY041817105