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  • How is the performance of a life insurance policy determined?
  • July 16, 2013
  • Tony Steuer

    By Tony Steuer, CLU, LA

    The performance of a life insurance policy is determined by four basic components, which are earnings (interest rates), mortality, administrative and overhead expenses, and persistency, also known as the lapse component.

    Interest rates tend to change the most, which has a greater impact on the performance of a policy than most of the other components. However, a small change in mortality rates will have the greatest impact on the policy performance, but this doesn’t occur very often.

    What components should you use to measure the performance of a life insurance policy?


    There are three basic types of earning – dividends and credited interest rates on traditional life insurance products, participation rates in a certain equity index on equity-indexed universal life, and fixed and variable accounts on variable life insurance products.


    This is the cost of pure life insurance protection – basically, how much the company charges for providing life insurance (i.e., how much they feel there is at risk and how much they can lose). This figure is based on experience tables developed by actuaries and on actual mortality experiences, which can vary from company-to-company.

    Larger companies determine their own mortality charges, while smaller companies rely on industry-wide statistics.

    Administrative and Overhead Expenses

    Includes all the operating costs that the life insurance insurer incurs in the course of doing business.

    These costs fall into four basic categories: cost of facilities, data processing, employees/labor, and sales expenses, which includes commissions, marketing costs, sales offices, etc.

    Persistency (sometimes referred to as lapse component)

    This is a measurement of how long a life insurance company’s policies are staying in-force (active). This is an important consideration for life insurance companies, because of the impact it has on the company.

    When policy owners terminate their coverage prematurely, this can result in a loss to the company, especially on permanent policies that only have been in-force for a short period.

    If a company has a high level of early lapses, which is the same as low persistency rate, then there is a problem somewhere. Watch out if this is the case with a company you plan on using.

About Tony Steuer

Noted insurance author Tony Steuer has spent over 25 years in the life insurance industry. Steuer’s leadership roles include serving on the California Department of Insurance Curriculum board and the National Financial Educator's Council Curriculum Advisory Panel as well as having served as President of the San Francisco Chapter of the American Society of CLU & ChFC, President of the leading Life Insurance Producers of Northern California, and as a board member of the San Francisco Life Underwriters Association. Mr. Steuer is the author of Questions and Answers on Life Insurance: The Life Insurance Toolbook, The Questions and Answers on Life Insurance Workbook and The Questions and Answers on Disability Insurance Workbook - the first two were awarded the “Excellence in Financial Literacy (EIFLE) Award from the Institute of Financial Literacy. Steuer holds a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation and also holds the Life and Disability Insurance Analyst License, a designation that is held by less than thirty people in California.

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Questions & Answers on Life Insurance by Tony Steuer, CLU, LA, CPFFE is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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