Skip to main content

Worksite Smarter.
Living benefits may mean more to women

Shefali Desai headshot

By Shefali Desai

Head of MassMutual Worksite — leading the transformation of today's group voluntary benefits for working Americans.

Posted on: March 21, 2023

As many are aware, March is National Women’s History Month. It’s an opportunity to commemorate the accomplishments women have made historically, encouraging women and men alike to recognize the vital role women play at home, at work, and in the world. And while there has been much progress on many fronts, I’d like to dedicate time to a challenge that relates to our industry. While understanding the implications of gender are part of the underwriting process, we may overlook the deeper implications of women tending to live longer than men in terms of financial risks.

group of five woman holding one another running through the ocean water

According to the National Centers for Health Statistics, men on average will live 75.1 years versus women who on average are expected to live 80.5 years.1 When you consider men have the potential to live shorter lives, it may be no surprise that women are less likely than men to own life insurance (47% vs. 58%).2 Perhaps it’s because we often refer to life insurance as a “death” benefit, but not all life insurance is the same in terms of advantages for women. I’m talking about the additional features associated with permanent life insurance known as the “living” benefits. These are the types of benefits that may get overlooked, which may offer additional value to women over their potentially longer lifetime.

Living longer equates to more exposure to longevity risk. As a refresher, that’s the possibility of outliving the funds in your retirement savings, pensions, annuities, or other retirement income streams. It’s where these living benefits become very valuable.

Late last year I had an Op-Ed feature in the Washington Post that expanded on how living benefits may help to address longevity and other financial risks, as well as the advantages of various protection products. I think it’s important to call attention to a few specifics about permanent life insurance during National Women’s History Month and some additional features that may add even greater value to women.

First, no one ever plans on running out of money in their lifetime. I’m sure many working women who are leveraging their company retirement programs, or have placed a portion of their bonuses or regular paycheck into savings and investments as a way to accumulate wealth, utilize or have considered financial planning. For those working women who have stuck with one or more of these financial habits, or at minimum have an emergency fund in times of need, I say “great job!” Unfortunately, life is filled with potential unexpected pitfalls—often resulting in the need for money to help overcome an unforeseen financial burden.

There is, however, an additional resource that may help. I mentioned leveraging company retirement programs as a means to accumulate wealth, but I wonder how many of your clients and their female employees recognize the additional value of their voluntary benefits, such as those associated with MassMutual’s Group Whole Life Insurance (GWL)? I feel producers have an opportunity to help improve education around Group Whole Life when it comes to women’s potentially greater need for financial security.

Many of your clients may be familiar with the guaranteed death benefit to protect an employee’s loved ones, but how many are familiar with the guaranteed cash value? Are employees aware that the cash value continues to grow over time, and the accumulated value is available for borrowing, for any reason, such as in times of financial stress?3 It may never be needed, but again, for women who may live 5 years longer than men on average, it’s comforting to have the additional financial security and resource.

But GWL doesn’t stop there in terms of access to funds over the course of a lifetime. There are other considerations: What if in later years a woman is afflicted with a chronic health issue that renders her less mobile? And most caretakers of others tend to be women.4 Who takes care of them if they fall ill? Were you aware that the chance of experiencing a chronic illness is 6 out of every 10 Americans?5 Even more startling is that 6 out of 10 women between the ages of 18 and 34 will experience a chronic condition!6

Those who suffer from a chronic illness may struggle, have difficulty performing daily living activities or require substantial supervision. Getting help is costly, which is another reason, especially women, should look to the living benefits of GWL. MassMutual’s GWL has a Chronic Care Benefit that can help reduce the financial stress should you have a qualified chronic illness.7,8 The point is that there are things working women can do to help reduce the unique risks they may face. And some of those solutions are easily accessible at work when offered through their voluntary benefits.

I think National Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to revisit with your clients some of the benefits of GWL as it relates to working women. It’s also an occasion to reshare some additional statistics in our infographic.

Let’s make Worksite Smarter for women and for all working Americans.

Keep on top of the latest worksite insights and updates

1 According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a female born in 2020 can expect to live to an average age of 80.5, compared with men who live to an average age of 75.1.


3 Access to cash values through borrowing or partial surrenders will reduce the policy’s cash value and death benefit, increase the chance the policy will lapse, and may result in a tax liability if the policy terminates before the death of the insured.


5 CDC National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPH): About Chronic Disease Feb 2023.

6 CDC, Chronic Conditions Among Adults Aged 18─34 Years — United States, 2019, Weekly / July 29, 2022 / 71(30);964–970

7 An acceleration of the death benefit for Chronic Illness (Chronic Care Benefit) will reduce the certificate’s death benefit, any cash value and any loan values. If the Chronic Care Benefit has been exercised, the certificate’s premium payments will then be based on the reduced amount of insurance at the current rate.

8 Riders and other benefits under the certificate, such as the Chronic Care Benefit, may be available for an additional premium or have a fee when exercised. The Chronic Care Benefit is not approved in MA.



The product and/or certain features may not be available in all states. State variations may apply.

Group Whole Life Insurance (GPWL), (policy/certificate forms MM-GPWL-2014 and MM-GCWL-2014, and MM-GPWL-2014(NC) and MM-GCWL-2014 (NC) in North Carolina), is level-premium, participating permanent life insurance. The GPWL policy and GCWL certificates are issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA 01111-0001.