The premature death of one’s spouse or partner brings even greater financial consequences than it did several years ago, according to findings released today from MetLife’s 2015 Study of the Financial Impact of Premature Death. Previously conducted in 2009, the study found that fewer surviving spouses or partners report being very financially secure, and about one in three (32 percent) report being not at all financially secure a year after their partners’ deaths. The study looked at impacts to the surviving spouses or partners of individuals who died prior to age 63 over the past seven years, which is further illustrated in this infographic.

Many who thought themselves relatively well-insured found their insurance coverage insufficient in today’s economic climate—only two-thirds (68 percent) of those with life insurance benefits representing three times the annual incomes of their late spouses or partners found the proceeds very helpful, down from 81 percent in 2009. Surviving families’ financial vulnerabilities extend beyond the immediate aftermath, as well. Surviving spouses’ incomes one year after their partners’ deaths are lower than in 2009, and they are more likely to report a marked impact on overall financial security and lifestyle (e.g., having to move, reducing spending or borrowing money). In total, only about half (49 percent) of families say they have completely or somewhat recovered financially from a death that occurred as many as seven years ago.

“We tend to avoid talking about our own mortality, but openly discussing how we will financially protect our loved ones has only grown in importance,” says Stephen Pontecorvo, senior vice president, MetLife Group Life Products. “The solution is preemptive action, starting with a discussion with your partner and a little planning—not only about life insurance options, but also about documenting end-of-life wishes, especially through a will.”

This year’s results point to room for improvement when it comes to communication and planning. Only 49 percent of surviving spouses said they were involved in selecting their partners’ life insurance policies and values, and only 26 percent of deceased spouses had a will at the time of death.

As economic pressures have raised the downside risks of being underinsured, employees remain largely dependent on workplace policies. The survey showed three in four deceased had policies through their employers, and 71 percent of all insurance proceeds that survivors received came from group policies. With coverage fully paid by the employer less common now than in 2009, it has become more important for employees to have the opportunity to purchase life insurance in the workplace, where they often have the convenience of payroll deducted premiums and competitive group rates.

"In today’s improving job market, employers are again focusing on attracting and retaining talent. A robust benefits package is critical, and life insurance is a cornerstone for any benefits offering. But it’s not enough to simply offer life insurance. Employees are looking to services like will preparation and grief counseling to help them communicate their wishes and reduce the burden on their loved ones,” adds Pontecorvo.

According to MetLife’s 13th annual Employee Benefit Trends Study, four in five employees think that life insurance is an important benefit to offer, and 57 percent of employees would like the option to buy more life insurance coverage through work.

During the fall open enrollment season—and often during other times of the year—many employers offer their employees the opportunity to buy additional life insurance coverage at competitive group rates. In addition to purchasing life insurance at work, individuals can choose to work with a financial advisor to further understand the importance of both group and individual life insurance as part of their overall financial planning. To determine how much life insurance coverage they need and the types of policies most appropriate for their circumstances, consumers can refer to this handy guide.

About the Study 
MetLife’s 2015 Study of the Financial Impact of Premature Death was fielded July 24 - August 7, 2015 by Zeldis Research Associates. The study was comprised of 1,000 individuals who had lost spouses/partners within a period of six months to seven years prior to the survey, and the spouses/partners were between 25 and 62 years old at the time of death.

About MetLife 
MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), through its subsidiaries and affiliates (“MetLife”), is one of the largest life insurance companies in the world. Founded in 1868, MetLife is a global provider of life insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management. Serving approximately 100 million customers, MetLife has operations in nearly 50 countries and holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit


David Hammarstrom