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MassMutual offers free life insurance for working parents
$50,000 policies offered for free to benefit children
Buffalo News
Saturday, July 19, 2008

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. is offering free $50,000 life insurance policies for 10 years to benefit the children of low-income working consumers in Buffalo.

The offer is part of a nationwide $1 billion initiative.

The company’s program, known as LifeBridge, is designed to provide some financial protection for working parents and pay for the education of their children should something happen to the parents.

It’s also designed to promote the company’s national philanthropic focus on education, while helping Mass-Mutual create goodwill among communities and potential customers.

“We realized several years ago that there were a lot of folks who don’t buy our products, either because they can’t afford them or think they can’t afford them,” said Cindie St. George, director of LifeBridge.

“Here you have working individuals who could benefit from the protection that life insurance offers.  So we, as a corporation, decided to figure out a way to give it away.”

Under LifeBridge, MassMutual provides 10-year term life insurance policies at no cost to qualifying working consumers.  The insurer absorbs the premiums, and the agents who take applications get no commissions.

And the company promises there will be no extra pitch to listen to.  “They’re not going to be asking anyone to purchase more insurance.  It’s not a sales opportunity,” St. George said.  “It’s completely free to the parent and their children.”

“This is one of the few things that brings our entire organization together to support one charity and one community,” said Joseph L. DiLeo, general agent of The Buffalo Agency, MassMutual’s local group with 60 full-time agents.  “It’s a great giving-back-to- the-community program. No strings attached.”

To qualify, a consumer must have a child under the age of 18 when they apply, and the child or children must be designated as the beneficiary.  Parents can be married or single, but the total family income must fall between $10,000 and $40,000.

If a parent dies during the 10-year term, MassMutual will set up a trust and put the money in it for any of the child’s educational needs, ranging from private school and high school through college or technical schools.  However, only one $50,000 policy will be provided per family, so if there’s more than one child, benefits would be split in multiple trusts.

A MassMutual subsidiary would administer the trust, which will accrue interest over time.  MassMutual absorbs all trust fees, and makes any payments directly to the educational institution based on invoices submitted to the trust company.

The children have until age 35 to use all of the money.  If they don’t, they can divert remaining money to other children in the family.  If the money still isn’t used up, it will go toward an educational scholarship fund designated in advance by the parents from among five choices selected by MassMutual.

To apply, contact the company’s local agency. So far, only five claims have been paid out nationwide — including to a family in Buffalo that could not be reached to comment.

LifeBridge was first introduced in the fall of 2002 in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and North Carolina, and was rolled out to the rest of the country over the next few years.

Since then, the company has issued 8,700 free policies worth $435 million — including 1,323 in New York state for $66 million, and 44 policies in Buffalo Niagara for $2.2 million.

That’s nearly halfway to the its national goal of giving away 20,000 policies totaling $1 billion by December 2009.

The coverage has been available since 2002 through the company’s local agencies, but MassMutual hadn’t been aggressively pushing the program until recently.

MassMutual will be meeting local leaders in Buffalo on Wednesday, but has not yet scheduled an event to promote the program. It has secured the endorsement of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, however.