Stop the Press! AIG Down but Not Out

QuickQuote Term Life Insurance Blog

Surely you have heard of the current volatility in the financial markets. And most likely you’ve also heard the name AIG mentioned extensively throughout the extraordinary media coverage these recent events have received. As AIG is the parent company of one of our life insurance marketplace partners, American General Life Insurance Company, we believe it is important to communicate what we know to the many American General life insurance policy owners and current applicants we call our customers.

As you can imagine, we have received a considerable amount of concern over the recent developments at AIG and the media attention the company has received. Although we have heard directly from American General Life on this matter, the most direct answer we can provide at this point is we just do not yet know how all of this will shake out. Of course, as a subsidiary of AIG, American General is vulnerable to any negative developments its parent company experiences. Whether the company will be held by AIG, acquired or spun off in some fashion remains to be seen.

However, American General is still the nation’s largest term life insurance company, and for that reason, we remain confident the company will come out of this in good shape.

For current policy owners, it is highly unlikely you will lose your existing coverage. There are many layers of protection for you, including cash reserves on hold to pay claims and state government guarantees. The articles listed below include more details on this. We recommend you continue to pay the premiums on your policy at this time.

For current applicants, we recommend you continue along with the application process. Keep in mind, despite these events, your original need for life insurance coverage still exists.

With that said, we certainly understand if you have your doubts or remain concerned. If so, we will work with you to move your policy or application to another A-rated company within our marketplace. However, please understand there is no rush to do this. In most cases, it is better to take a wait-and-see approach before making any drastic changes.

The following links may be helpful to you in learning more about recent developments at AIG and the possible effects of these events.

Finally, I’d like to close this blog with a copy of an article posted on CNNMoney.com earlier today. Please note this is a copy of the article as it is written by Chris Isidore, Senior Writer at CNNMoney.com (article link), and does not necessarily represent the views of QuickQuote.

5 Questions:  Why AIG Matters to You

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — American International Group is the world’s largest insurer and at the moment, Wall Street’s biggest worry.

The insurer is struggling to raise cash while economists and investors debate whether or not it should get a government bailout. Despite the company’s importance, the average American is probably not sure how, or why, its problems will affect them.

Here are five key questions and answers about AIG’s current woes and what they mean to you.

I have insurance through AIG. How worried should I be about the problems at the company?

At least in the short term, you probably don’t need to be worried at all. The problems are with the AIG holding company, not the individual insurance company subsidiaries that you do business with, according to a source with New York State’s insurance regulator.

Even if AIG’s holding company is forced to file for bankruptcy court protection, there’s a good chance that the subsidiaries will continue to operate normally with no disruption in claims payments. That has happened in the case of other insurance holding companies bankruptcies in the past, such as Conseco.

What guarantees are there that my claims will be paid?

Typically, if an insurance company falls into financial distress and is at risk of having claims that exceed the assets it holds to make those payments, the insurance regulator in its home state will take control of the firm and make payments.

The state regulator will not only use the firm’s assets to make those payments but if necessary can also make payments out of a state fund into which all insurers in the state are required to pay.

This guarantee applies not just to traditional insurance policies but also to retirement products that have a promised payout, such as annuities.

But there are limits to the payments that will be made to customers that vary depending on which state a particular AIG subsidiary is based, according to Joseph Belth, professor emeritus of insurance at Indiana University and editor of The Insurance Forum, a newsletter often critical of the industry.

Should I be thinking about changing my policy away from AIG to another insurer?

While credit rating agencies downgraded debt held by AIG on Monday, AIG’s ratings are still considered investment grade and the company’s insurance subsidiaries are considered to be secure, at least for now.

Belth said changing insurers is not a simple decision.

“A lot depends on what kind of insurance you talk about,” he said. “If you’re talking about life insurance, you have to think about whether you can qualify with a new insurer if your health has changed. But it’s something you have to consider if the ratings decline into the vulnerable range.”

Why should I care about problems at AIG if I’m not a customer?

AIG is by far the world’s largest insurer, and its stock is found in many mutual funds, including any S&P 500 index fund. It is also a component of the Dow Jones industrial average. All by itself, it’s been responsible for dragging the Dow down more than 400 points so far this year.

AIG is also active in the business of credit default swaps, complicated financial instruments used by investors to protect themselves from bond defaults. Lehman Brothers was another major player in that field. If both go away, it will create a tighter credit market for consumers and businesses trying to get loans.

For this reason, there is a debate about whether the Federal Reserve will agree to lend the company the tens of billions of dollars it needs to cover its short-term funding needs or if the Fed will try and get private firms to assist AIG instead.

AIG is an insurer, not a lender. Why do I keep hearing about its problems with subprime mortgages?

All insurers take the money they collect in premiums and invest them in different forms of assets. The idea is to make money on those investments so that the insurer can keep their premiums low and attract more clients.

But AIG made a bigger investment in securities that were backed by subprime mortgages than most other insurers. As defaults and foreclosures of those loans rose, the value of those securities fell, creating big problems for the firm.

In the past nine months, AIG has reported net losses of more than $18 billion, largely due to its exposure to bad mortgages.

Credits: CNNMoney.com, The Wall Street Journal

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