Half of America's households (about 58 million) claim to be underinsured when it comes to life insurance, according to a new study from LIMRA. In fact, there's as much as $17.5 trillion in untapped sales potential for the life insurance market.

With life insurance ownership at a historic low, the opportunity in the industry has nearly doubled since a similar study was conducted in 2004. At that time, LIMRA estimated life insurance sales could increase $9.5 trillion if the 48 million households claiming to be underinsured purchased the coverage they said was needed.

"The underinsured life insurance market offers financial professionals tremendous opportunity, with 35 million underinsured middle market households in total—half of them (17 million) thinking they might be ready to buy life insurance in the next year," says Cheryl Retzloff, senior research director, LIMRA Markets Research .

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