Life Insurance and The Unmarried

One of the fastest growing markets for the sale of life insurance is the unmarried amongst us. It was reported in September of 2017 by the Census Bureau that the classification which included never married, widowed, or divorced made up 45.2% of all U.S. residents age 18 and older.

  • 53.2% of unmarried U.S. residents age 18 and older were women, while 46.8% percent were men.
  • 63.5% of unmarried age 18 and older in 2016 had never been married, with another 23.1% having been divorced and 13.4% were widowed.
  • 19.5 million were unmarried residents age 65 and older. These seniors made up 17.7% of all unmarried people age 18 and older.
  • The number of unmarried men age 18 and older was 88 for every 100 unmarried women in 2016.
  • The number of households maintained by unmarried men and women in 2016 was 59.8 million with these households comprising 47.6% of total households nationwide.
  • 35.4 million unmarried lived alone in 2016. This comprised 28.1% of all households, up from 17.1% in 1970.
  • A shocking statistic is the number of unmarried grandparents who were responsible for most of the basic care of a co-resident grandchild in 2015–a whopping 790,103.
  • The following three statistics reflect a major paradigm shift in our approach to marriage: 
  1. 35.7% of women age 15 to 50 with a birth in the last 12 months as of 2015 were widowed, divorced or never married; 
  2. 37.5% of opposite-sex, unmarried-partner couples in 2016 lived with at least one biological child of either partner; 
  3. 7.3 million were unmarried-partner households in 2015. Of this number, 433,539 were same-sex households. (

These individuals have the same basic needs for life insurance as any married couple. In fact, they may have a more urgent concern since there is not another adult in the home to offset the loss of the unmarried individual. Look carefully at the percent of households where one unmarried single has the responsibility for dependent children. What a responsibility for those who have within their means the tools to alleviate a great financial burden carried by those unmarried caregivers:

  • a financial plan which would allow another caring person to come into the home of a child giving them the stability of familiar surroundings, food, clothing, shelter, same school and same friends;
  • the ability to set aside resources for future education and marriages, even funds which would allow the new caregiver to upgrade his/her education or improve employment opportunities.

The ability to control the destiny of loved ones left behind an unmarried person is within the grasp of that individual through trusts funded by life insurance death proceeds. A few careful and thoughtful moments spent now with a financial advisor could make a lifetime of difference to the recipient of that planning. 

Many life insurance agents feel the burden of their responsibility to point out deficiencies in the financial planning of their clients even to the point that some may feel they are getting too pushy. Measuring your own motivation for selling to be for the welfare of your client should guide your efforts. 

I will long remember the comment made to me by my logging truck driver client as he careened off a bridge after being struck by a car in the wrong lane, “Thank God, Glen did his job.” Ten little children and an untrained mother could have been left alone; but fortunately the angel of life prevailed that night. Emotional, dramatic, scary–you bet, but absolutely true. Only a few months before, he had told me the only reason he was signing the life insurance application was to get me off his back. Yes, I got paid for my persistence but that little commission paled in the light of what could have been a tragedy. 

No amount of statistics or percentages will make a difference to an unmarried unless they can see their own vulnerability to certain financial loss and take steps to safeguard against that future loss. 

(Glen B. Marks, CLU, retired after 42 years of life insurance selling. He is solely responsible for the content of this article.)

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