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Betty's Corner


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Campaign has Betty White pitching ‘hot' life settlements

Investment News

Everyone's favorite Golden Girl is encouraging baby boomers to start thinking about life settlements as a retirement-planning strategy — and it seems to be working.

Famed actress Betty White is the celebrity pitchwoman for life settlements provider The Lifeline Program. She also stars in the firm's viral YouTube video, “I'm Still Hot,” which features the nonagenarian break dancing and sitting on a throne, surrounded by muscled, scantily clad men.

In life settlement transactions, policyholders are paid in cash the equivalent of a fraction of the policy's amount. In turn, investors continue funding premiums into the policy and collect the death benefit when the insured person dies.

Boomers appear to be listening to Ms. White's pitch, according to a survey performed by International Communications Research Inc. and commissioned by Lifeline.

A recent phone poll of 356 baby boomers 47 to 65 showed that 79% of them feel that financial planners and life insurance agents should be informing policyholders that life settlements are a potential option, rather than having a policy lapse due to failure to pay premiums. “Many people didn't know selling their life insurance policy was even an option,” said William Scott Page, chief executive of Lifeline. “Boomers are demanding more education from their financial advisers.”

Fully 23% of the polled boomers said they would consider selling their life insurance policy for a portion of the face amount. Meanwhile, 29% said they would consider selling a life insurance policy to help pay for retirement.

In the trenches, however, advisers said clients' interest in selling their policies has waned.

“If I had two inquiries about life settlements in 2011, it was a lot,” said Rita Robbins, president of Affiliated Advisors Inc. and life settlements expert. “The lack of credit and liquidity in the market has made the offers [for policies] unattractive, so advisers realize selling isn't as lucrative as it once was. The extension of life expectancies has also had a huge impact on the amount people are being offered.”

A recent flurry of bad press, including the Securities and Exchange Commission's charges against life settlements provider Life Partners Holdings Inc., has dampened interest in the secondary market for life insurance policies, Ms. Robbins added.

In life settlement transactions, insured people who live longer crimp the investor's profitability, as the premiums must continue to be paid. For example, if Ms. White had sold a policy when she was 70, that investor would be locked into paying 20 years' worth of premiums thus far.


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