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Military families keep buying permanent life insurance

November 5, 2020

 FORT WORTH, Texas – Demand for permanent life insurance continues to grow in America’s career military families, according to the latest findings of the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®.

 First Command's tenth annual life insurance survey reveals that 86 percent of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and senior NCOs in pay grades E-5 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) own some form of permanent life coverage. That’s a record high, up from 83 percent last year. And 64 percent of those without permanent life coverage say they are likely to consider buying a policy for themselves or someone in their household.

 “Demand for permanent life insurance is on a long-term, upward trend,” said First Command President/CEO Mark Steffe. “Our first life insurance survey in 2011 revealed that just 42 percent of military respondents owned some form of permanent coverage, and 28 percent said they were likely to purchase. Clearly, military families keep buying these products because they feel this is the right type of insurance to meet their unique needs."

 Permanent life insurance is highly valued for the lifetime protection it provides. Military families are using it to cover permanent needs, like final expenses or income for a spouse and children in the event of premature death.

 The most popular type of permanent life insurance among the military is whole life, which is owned by 49 percent of survey respondents. Less common types of permanent coverage include variable life and universal life, which are owned by roughly one in four military families.

 Demand for permanent life insurance is notably lower in the general population. The Index reveals that 54 percent of middle-class civilian families own some form of permanent coverage. The most popular product is whole life, which is owned by 38 percent of families. Ownership rates are 13 percent for universal life and 7 percent for variable life.

 Ownership rates for term life insurance products are 35 percent in military families and 34 percent in the general population. Demand is relatively steady, with ownership rates little changed from the previous year.

 “Term life insurance is a cost-effective option, but it lacks the lifetime protection of permanent life insurance and therefore has a more limited use," Steffe said. “Because these products provide coverage for a set number of years, they are best used to cover temporary needs, like paying for a child’s college tuition or making mortgage payments.”

 Military families are buying commercial insurance products to beef up their government benefits. Active-duty personnel are eligible for up to $400,000 in Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, commonly known as SGLI. They may add optional spousal coverage of up to $100,000 and dependent coverage of up to $10,000.  After leaving the service military personnel may convert SGLI to Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI); however, premiums may be higher and are based on the age of the insured.

 “Permanent life insurance is a flexible and valuable product, and that’s one of the reasons we continue to see the strong demand recorded in these surveys,” Steffe said. “Permanent life insurance allows career military families to more effectively and confidently strengthen their family’s financial security.”

About the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®

Compiled by Sentient Decision Science, Inc., the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000. Results are reported quarterly. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence. For more details on our research, please email

About Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

Sentient Decision Science was commissioned by First Command to compile the Financial Behaviors Index®. SDS is a behavioral science and consumer psychology consulting firm with special vertical expertise within the financial services industry. SDS specializes in advanced research methods and statistical analysis of behavioral and attitudinal data.

About First Command

First Command Financial Services and its subsidiaries, including First Command Brokerage Services and First Command Bank, coach our Nation’s military families in their pursuit of financial security. Since 1958, First Command Financial Advisors have been shaping positive financial behaviors through face-to-face coaching with hundreds of thousands of client families.

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