According to Anthem, there's a“gap between financial priorities and the use of life insurance asa financial planning tool.” (Photo: Shutterstock)

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They may say it's important, but only a little more than half ofAmerican employees actually have life insurance.

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That's according to a recent survey from Anthem,Inc., which found that although 67 percent of respondents saythat life insurance is “important to achieve financial well-being,” only 53 percent of themhave coverage. And younger people are less likely to have lifeinsurance than their seniors.

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The survey found that not only do younger people overestimate bya huge margin what a life insurance premium might cost them—by asmuch as five times the actual amount, which could be why they lackcoverage—they're far less likely to be covered, at just 24 percent,than the next older generation.

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Related: How to reach today's potential life insurancebuyers

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GenXers, on the other hand, at 58 percent, are more than twiceas likely to be covered by life insurance—a clear illustration ofthe generation gap. Of course, that still falls a bit shy of the 67percent overall who say it's important to be covered.

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According to Anthem, that means there's a “gap between financialpriorities and the use of life insurance as a financial planningtool.”

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Of course, there's also a range of definitions of financialwellness, which could also account for the apparent disconnect. Tomillennials, paying off credit card debt and student loans areregarded as major progress toward financial wellness, and lifeinsurance is only part of the picture for that 24 percent—eventhough if something happened to them, their families could behelped by a life insurance policy that could pay off thosedebts.

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In addition, GenXers are more focused on family and workresponsibilities than they are on the potential for life insurancecoverage to help, in a worst-case scenario, their families handlesuch lingering expenses as mortgage, funeral and other bills.

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When considering the 55-and-older crowd, not only does thedefinition of financial well-being shift to preparedness—which forthis group means having an emergency savings fund (93 percent) andprotecting their income in the face of catastrophic challenges (42percent)—insurance is a tad more important, with more than 66percent of those aged 55 and older enrolled in a life insurancebenefit.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.