In the financials space, investors are finding that insurance companies and related exchange traded funds provide less of a safeguard as more Americans forgo life insurance all together.

Industrywide sales of individual life insurance plans are down 45% since the mid-1980s, and about 30% of American households do not have life insurance at all, up 19% over the past 30-years, reports Leslie Scism for the Wall Street Journal. MetLife (NYSE: MET) has revealed that premiums on policies sold to individuals last year was $409 million, a 26% fall from $553 in 2005, and

“As an industry…we need to change these [sales]trends,” said Mark Hug, an executive vice president in Prudential Financial Inc. (NYSE: PRU), said in the article.

So far this year, insurance-related ETFs have been underperforming the broader market. For instance, the SPDR KBW Insurance ETF (NYSEArca: KIE) is down 0.9%, iShares US Insurance ETF (NYSEArca: IAK) is down 0.9% and PowerShares KBW Insurance Portfolio (NYSEArca: KBWI) is 1.6% lower year-to-date. In comparison, the S&P 500 Financials Sector Index is up 4.7% year-to-date.

KIE includes a 24.9% weight toward the life insurance sub-sector, with a 2.1% position in MET and 2.1% in PRU. IAK allocates 37.0% toward life insurers, with a 11.0% weight in MET and 7.3% in PRU. KBWI includes MET 7.3% and PRU 6.3%.

Traditional life insurance companies are losing ground to mutual funds and 401(k)s as Americans turned to the markets to accumulate enough money for retirement.

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