In two of the pandemic’s most hard-hitting impacts, more than 900,000 Americans have died from the virus and nearly 10 million jobs were lost in 2020. Thankfully, COVID cases are finally falling, jobs numbers are climbing, and the only interruption to their work that most federal employees experienced involved the transition from office to home.
Yet still, these numbers should serve to remind us of how impactful the sudden loss of our income could be — and how important it is to protect our families from as much uncertainty as possible with the right type and amount of life insurance.
While this is true for all federal employees, there are a number of reasons why having adequate coverage may be especially crucial for female members of the federal workforce.
Here’s a look at many of those reasons, along with why many women might want to consider options to supplement Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance.
Coupled federal working women need it
Although the Office of Personnel Management reports that women currently comprise 44% of the federal workforce, recent data indicates that this number is continually rising. In addition, the average age and salary of a female federal employee is 40.1 and $80,213, respectively, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Government Accountability Office. Add to this the fact that, nationally, nearly half of all married-couple families rely on two incomes, and the conclusion is clear: a growing number of households would be swiftly and significantly impacted by the sudden loss of income provided by their federal female partner.
Working federal moms need it
Of course, the loss of the income provided by a mother who works for Uncle Sam would be even more devastating considering that nearly 70% of mothers contribute an income to the home and 41% of mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners for their families. And this is doubly true for single mothers, especially given that 80% of children who live in single-parent households live with their mothers. Lastly, with the recent celebration of Mother’s Day in mind, it’s important to recognize that mothers make substantial financial contributions to the home beyond their income that must be accounted for as well, for example childcare and caring for their own parents or in-laws. A surviving partner or parent would need to either pay for or take care of all of these things himself or herself, reinforcing how important it is for federal moms to have a comprehensive policy.
New federal moms need it the most
Last but certainly not least, it’s important for new moms in the federal workforce to have a life insurance policy that’s large enough to help cover the costs of raising kids, last reported to average $233,610 through the age of 17. Furthermore, tuition and fees at public universities and private colleges range from $11,260 to $41,426 per year, respectively.
By now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, I sure am happy I have (or my federally-employed wife has) life insurance through FEGLI.”
And indeed, at a time when many public sector employers provide no life insurance, automatic enrollment in the “basic” level of the FEGLI program, which provides group term life insurance to most federal employees, and the ability to add additional coverage is a compelling benefit.
However, with all of the above in mind, it’s also essential for federal working women to regularly evaluate their life insurance needs and ask themselves how well FEGLI is, or isn’t, meeting them.
If they’re single, could their parents pay for their funeral and any outstanding debts? If coupled, could their partner do the same, plus maintain mortgage payments and, perhaps, provide or pay for the same services that they contribute to their household or their parents’ care? And finally, if they’re a parent, would their policy provide enough to help cover one or more children’s living expenses, current or future educational expenses, and more?
For many federal employees, the assumption is yes but the answer is no.
Consider: people who only have group term life insurance through their employer have, on average, $225,000 less coverage than they actually need.
Federal employees belong to this group and many likely face a similar or perhaps even greater shortfall because, as with most employer insurance programs, the basic level of coverage provided by FEGLI is based on and limited by their salary. And while their salary may be enough to live on now, it’s probably not the level of coverage that those who rely on them would need if they were gone.
Fortunately, a multitude of supplemental plans, which may not only offer a greater level of protection but also provide additional advantages, exist.
Among these features are:
- Flexibility — As discussed, the amount of coverage under FEGLI is based upon one’s salary level and has a limit. Option B coverage, for example, maxes out five times one’s salary, while coverage exceeding this maximum is generally recommended for those who carry a mortgage and/or have children. In contrast, alternative plans offer the ability to purchase a policy with higher levels of coverage, regardless of salary, and may be surprisingly affordable.
- Affordability — FEGLI’s premiums do not depend upon one’s level of health, so those in good health may be missing out on the significant cost savings that alternative plans may offer. This is especially relevant for women, who are more likely to live past a policy’s term length and are likely to be rewarded for their better health and longevity with a lower-premium policy from most providers. For example, a healthy 35-year-old woman who does some shopping around could get a 20-year term life insurance policy with a $500,000 death benefit for roughly $29.23 a month.
- Strong family protection — FEGLI offers limited levels of family protection, which can be quite difficult to secure, at a time when most households rely on two incomes. For example, while Option C allows a spouse or child to be enrolled, this must be done within a tight timeframe and may require a “pass/fail” form of underwriting that provides little to no gray area for people who have medical conditions, such as sleep apnea or a history of mental illness. Therefore, it may make sense for many feds to supplement their FEGLI policy to offer stronger and more customizable, yet still affordable, spousal and child coverage.
- Portability — Federal employees cannot take their FEGLI policy with them when they resign from the federal government, so they would need to undergo a new, potentially more difficult, underwriting process and restart their coverage if/when they join a new employer. However, alternative policies “go with you,” allowing feds to maintain their coverage and premium rate as long as they continue to pay it.
When considering all of the above, it’s clear that women in the federal workforce don’t just need life insurance, they need enough life insurance — and that there’s never a wrong time to review their evolving needs, and how a personalized policy can meet them, with a trusted expert.
As the Sr. Product Manager for the Government Employees’ Benefit Association — a nonprofit promoting access to insurance and investment options — Shelly Giuliano is the subject matter expect for insurance products. With a broad knowledge of products available in the market and a focus on awareness and education, she is responsible for research and evaluating insurance plan features to support the needs of GEBA members and all federal employees.