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Do robots need life insurance?

By Jay MacDonald ·
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Posted: 9 am ET

What does life insurance have in common with computer programming? My inner wise guy would probably answer: You can't understand either one. And while that may be true for many, if not most, Americans, the answer I had in mind was: Both depend on "if/then" scenarios.

Anyone who has visited robust insurance comparison sites like (a Bankrate company) to explore insurance rates or compare insurance quotes online knows how the standard "if/then" questionnaire works. In computer code, the "if" or condition creates the "then" or result. If it didn't, you wouldn't be reading this.

Life insurance companies like to apply "if/then" conditional programming to help us make up our mind on a life insurance policy: If you're a 45-year-old married man with three kids, X income and a mortgage, then you need Y amount of coverage.

Ah, that life were that cause-and-effect simple! The fact is, most of us can't decide what to have for dinner, much less how much life insurance we might need, now or in the future.

We have to have auto insurance by law, home insurance to get a mortgage and health insurance to avoid financial ruin. But life insurance? Oh, my head hurts just thinking about it!

MetLife confirms our brain lock. According to its figures, although 60 percent of middle-income households recognize the need for life insurance and half of those say they plan to purchase coverage in the next year, 80 percent will fail to do so.

Why? Because they go online and become confused by widely varying advice, assume they can't afford the whole, universal or term life insurance rates for the coverage they need, or apply and grow frustrated with a "complicated and cumbersome" process that is more time-consuming and complex than they anticipated.

And this from a major life insurance company! Remarkable, no?

MetLife is trying to simplify things with its new "Straight Story on Life Insurance" tool that attempts to cut to the chase. Others are trying to streamline their processes as well. I for one hope they succeed.

But to paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault with life insurance is not with the product but with ourselves. We are each snowflakes, or fruitcakes, each on our own unique life journey. By our nature, we defy the very patterns that govern "if/then."

Insure our car? No sweat. Our house? Piece of cake. Our health? If we must.

But our life? Most of us are not ready to go there.

Got life insurance? I'd be most interested in hearing about your shopping experience!

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