It’s No Shock that Thomas Edison Had Life Insurance

Feb 20, 2020

[Life Insurance Spotlight: This series showcases famous people and their little-known connections to the life insurance industry]

Every Feb. 11, there’s a birthday party in Thomas Edison’s honor at his winter home in Fort Myers, Fla.

It’s no wonder that Edison’s birthday is still celebrated 173 years after he was born. After all, he was America’s greatest inventor with discoveries including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the light bulb. Ultimately, Edison held 1,093 U.S. patents, including one for electricity distribution.

In addition to his scientific acumen, Edison clearly understood the importance of life insurance. He bought two policies from Mutual of New York in 1874 and 1893. But due to Edison’s risky ventures with electric currents, the policies contained a provision so the insurer didn’t have to pay a death benefit if Edison died of an electrical accident.

Fortunately, Edison avoided a fatal electric shock and lived until he was 84. One year after his death in 1931, John Hancock Insurance honored Edison’s legacy with a Benefactor of Mankind pamphlet, which is available on eBay.

Edison’s legacy will never be forgotten. Neither should the legacies of millions of Americans who, like Edison, wisely purchase life insurance policies to protect their families from financial hardship. 

But many others could use a “light bulb moment.” As we recently cited, less than 60 percent of Americans have life insurance, and those who do typically don’t have enough. A survey by LIMRA and Life Happens showed that if faced with the loss of an income-earner, 35 percent of U.S. households would experience financial adversity within one month. And almost half would face financial hardship within one year.

Another LIMRA study showed that 80 percent of Americans overestimate the cost of life insurance. When you consider that 93 percent of life insurance applications are approved by the first insurer consumers apply to, life insurance is easier to get than many think.

David Nielsen

David Nielsen is Senior Director, Strategic Content/IMPACT at the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). His responsibilities include IMPACT and other ACLI publications, notably News Now & News Now International. A former bank examiner, business analyst and journalist, he joined ACLI in 2013.