The 6 Best Whole Life Insurance Companies of 2020

Permanent life insurance to protect your family

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Whole life insurance offers permanent protection for the balance of your life, however long that may be. This is different than term insurance that covers you for a defined period of time. One of the other big differences between term life insurance and whole life insurance is that whole life has the ability to accumulate cash over time. You may also receive dividends from your provider. Consider a whole life insurance policy if you prefer lifelong coverage with savings benefits.

You might choose whole life insurance because your family may need cash to pay for your estate taxes at death, you want coverage for your final expenses, or you'd like to fund a trust for the next generation. We looked at a dozen of the top life insurance providers and compared company history, types of coverage, riders, and more. Here’s our breakdown of which companies fared best.

The 6 Best Whole Life Insurance Companies of 2020

Best Overall: Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual

Pros
  • High customer satisfaction ranking

  • Plenty of customization options

Cons
  • No quotes online for whole life insurance

  • Lack of transparency on website

  • Must call local agent

Northwestern Mutual is a well-known insurance company founded in 1857. The company has an A++ rating with AM Best and only had eight complaints in 2019 with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Northwestern Mutual also earned the highest ranking of customer satisfaction from the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Life Insurance Study.

Northwestern Mutual offers two whole life insurance policies:

  • Traditional whole life insurance: Company manages investments 
  • Variable whole life insurance: Client and company manage investments

Traditional whole life insurance uses a savings account as the managed investment portion of the policy. This account has a set minimum rate determined at the time of policy inception and can increase as interest rates rise. The variable whole life policy uses mutual funds to build cash value growth; these rates are not guaranteed and can fluctuate based on the investment selection.

The company offers popular rider options including a disability waiver of premium, a long-term care benefits rider, accidental death, and more. The minimum death benefit is $25,000.

Northwestern Mutual doesn’t offer the ability to check life insurance quotes through their website. There is a basic intake form on the company’s website to match you with a local financial advisor.    

Why We Chose It: Northwestern Mutual ranks as the best overall carrier in our review for its excellent customer satisfaction reports and high marks among the four major insurance rating agencies––AM Best, Fitch, Moody’s, and S&P Global––offering plenty of rider options among its two types of whole life insurance.

Read the full review: Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance

Best Customization: MassMutual

MassMutual

MassMutual

Pros
  • Long company history

  • Generous customization options

  • Opportunity for dividends

Cons
  • No online quotes for whole life insurance

  • Must call local agent

  • Confusing policy and feature options

MassMutual is another well-established life insurance company, having been founded in 1851. It has a reputation for stability with an A++ rating from AM Best. MassMutual is better than average in NAIC complaints—only 21 in 2019.

MassMutual offers the following whole life insurance policies:

  • Whole life 100: Standard policy, guaranteed rate
  • Whole life 65: Pay premiums until age 65
  • Whole life 20: Pay premiums for 20 years
  • Whole life 15: Pay premiums for 15 years
  • Whole life 10: Pay premiums for 10 years
  • Single premium life insurance: Pay for the policy upfront with one premium

All of these policies offer the ability to receive dividends. You may also access 50% of the death benefit with a terminal illness diagnosis. The minimum death benefits range from $25,000 to $100,000, depending on the policy.

MassMutual offers the following riders for an additional fee:

  • Waiver of premium for disability
  • Long-term care rider
  • Spousal rider 
  • Term insurance rider

The term insurance rider is a powerful customization tool for whole life insurance buyers who want to cover big debts such as a mortgage without buying permanent insurance for all of it. You can buy the term insurance rider for what you need and even convert it to permanent insurance later if you want.

MassMutual offers the ability to get a quote online for term life insurance. However, you will need to speak with a financial professional for a whole life insurance quote. You can find someone in your area by plugging your zip code into the company’s website.    

Why We Chose It: MassMutual is a long-standing company with a strong reputation that offers a number of whole life insurance policies and rider options, such as the term insurance rider, that make it easy to tailor your family’s life insurance policies for your financial needs.   

Read the full review: MassMutual Life Insurance

Best for Company Longevity: New York Life

New York Life

New York Life

Pros
  • Company longevity

  • Policy details on the website

  • Opportunity for dividends

Con
  • No online quotes for whole life insurance

  • Must call a local agent

New York Life is the oldest company on our list, with a 175-year history of financial success. The company has an A++ rating with AM Best and had 56 complaints with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2019.  

New York Life offers three types of whole life insurance policies:

  • Whole life insurance: Combine cash value accumulation with guaranteed coverage
  • Value whole life insurance: Guaranteed coverage with affordable premiums for folks closer to retirement
  • Custom whole life insurance: Maximize the cash value and pay premiums for as few as five years

Each policy gives you the opportunity to receive dividends.

The company also offers several rider options:

  • Accidental death benefit rider
  • Chronic care rider 
  • Disability waiver of premium 
  • Living benefits rider
  • Paid-up additions

Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to get a quote for New York Life's whole life insurance online. There’s a brief form on New York Life’s website to connect you with a local agent.   

Why We Chose It: When you buy a whole life policy, it’s important to know you’re working with a company that will stand the test of time. New York Life is the largest and most well-established mutual insurer in the United States and has been in business longer than any company on our list, making it our top pick for longevity.  

Read the full review: New York Life Insurance

Best for Online Quote: State Farm

Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual

Pros
  • Company history

  • Ability to get a quote online

  • Opportunity for dividends

Cons
  • Not available in all states

  • Options may be overwhelming

State Farm was founded in 1922 by a retired farmer and insurance salesman. The company has a solid reputation with an A++ rating with AM Best and only 35 complaints in 2019 with the NAIC.

State Farm offers these whole life insurance options:

  • Whole life: Guaranteed lifetime coverage and level premiums
  • Single premium life insurance: Pay for the policy upfront with one premium
  • Limited pay life insurance: Pay off your policy in 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Final expense: $10,000 to pay for your final expenses (ages 50 to 80) 

These policies offer the opportunity to receive dividends, and the minimum death benefit is $25,000—excluding the final expense option.

State Farm offers several rider options:

  • Insured select term: 10 rider - temporary need, minimum $100,000 (ages 18 to 75)
  • Insured select term: 20 rider - temporary need, minimum $100,000 (ages 18 to 65)
  • Insured select term: 30 rider - temporary need, minimum $100,000 (ages 18 to 45)
  • Waiver of premium for disability 
  • Guaranteed insurability option: Buy more coverage without a medical exam
  • Coverage for another adult
  • Coverage for a child

The estimated premium for a $500,000 whole life insurance policy for a 35-year-old woman in Tennessee in excellent health is $540.29 per month. The same policy for a 35-year-old man in excellent health is $561.59 per month. 

Why We Chose It: State Farm is the only company on our list that offers an online quote. This makes it easier to shop around without calling a local agent.  

Read the full review: State Farm Life Insurance

Best for Healthy Applicants With HIV: Guardian

Guardian

Guardian

Pros
  • Long company history

  • Opportunity for dividends

  • Coverage for healthy people with HIV

Cons
  • No online quotes for whole life insurance

  • Must call local agent

  • Lack of transparency on website

Guardian is an established company with over 160 years in the industry. The company has an A++ rating with AM Best. Guardian had 201 complaints in 2019 with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

According to a representative, Guardian offers a whole life insurance policy with level premiums or limited pay options (which means you can pay for your entire whole life policy within a short period of time). You may also have the opportunity to receive dividends. The minimum death benefit for Guardian whole life insurance is $25,000.

One of the most intriguing provisions of this company is that, if you’re a healthy applicant living with HIV, you may qualify for a policy with Guardian. Depending on the policy you choose and where you live, you may have access to riders to customize and bolster coverage. These may include guaranteed insurability, index participation, long-term care, or a waiver of premium for disability.

Guardian doesn’t offer the opportunity to get a quote for whole life insurance online. You can type your zip code into the company’s website for a list of local insurance agents.

Why We Chose It: When you’re living with HIV, it can be more difficult to qualify for a whole life insurance policy. Guardian offers coverage for 20- to 60-year-old healthy applicants with HIV. 

Read the full review: Guardian Life Insurance

Best for Final Expenses: John Hancock

John Hancock

John Hancock

Pros
  • Length of company history

  • Guaranteed acceptance

  • Discounts through Vitality GO Program

Cons
  • No online quotes for whole life insurance

  • Must call local agent

John Hancock was founded in 1862 and has an A+ rating from AM Best. John Hancock had 10 complaints in 2019 with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

John Hancock offers a whole life policy for final expenses and extends guaranteed acceptance for applicants ages 55 to 80. Guaranteed acceptance means you don't need a medical exam and can't be denied coverage for health conditions. You may be asked to complete a medical questionnaire to determine the rate.

You may purchase coverage from $2,000 to $20,000 for as low as $11.40 per month, with the ability to grow the policy’s cash value. You will also have access to Vitality GO, which offers shopping and fitness device discounts.    

You won’t be able to get a quote for a whole life policy online, though. There is a brief form you'll complete in order to be connected with a local advisor through John Hancock’s website. 

Why We Chose It: John Hancock offers the best whole life policy for end of life expenses with the highest death benefit, guaranteed acceptance, and access to Vitality GO. 

Read the full review: John Hancock Life Insurance

What Is Whole Life Insurance?

Whole life insurance is protection for life. The policy includes a death benefit and cash value; the cash value can increase over time. Depending on the plan, you may have access to the policy’s cash value while you are still alive. Some policies may offer the ability to borrow money with a loan or the option to make a cash-out withdrawal. You may also tap the policy’s cash value under certain circumstances with a living benefits rider.  

What Are the Benefits of Whole Life Insurance?

The greatest benefit of whole life insurance is protection for your entire life. This is different from term life insurance, which only covers you for a set number of years. Other benefits include the policy’s cash value and the ability to access the money while you are still alive. As the cash value grows, it becomes like an ancillary savings account you can access in emergencies or if you no longer need as much death benefit.

Which Is Better: Term Life or Whole Life Insurance?

If you’re passing on a large inheritance, whole life insurance may cover the cost of estate taxes. It may also be a good fit if you’re looking for lifelong protection or you want to provide money for your final expenses. But whole life insurance can be expensive. If you’re looking for affordable premiums for a set number of years, term life insurance may be a better choice.   

Is Whole Life Insurance a Bad Investment?

When it comes to investing, or any type of financial planning, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But if your family struggles to afford the monthly whole life insurance premiums, you may be better off buying less expensive term insurance and investing the difference. 

What Are the Expected Costs of Whole Life Insurance?

There are many factors that impact the cost of whole life insurance. These factors may include your age, gender, location of residence, health, whether you smoke, the number of payments, the death benefit, and more. For example, the estimated monthly premium for a 35-year-old woman in good health in Tennessee is $35.85 for $25,000 or $112.93 for $100,000. The same profile of a woman with one change (being in average health vs. good health) bumps the premium to $119.28 per month for $100,000 in coverage.

How We Chose Whole Life Insurance Companies

There are many whole life insurance options to choose from. To narrow down the list, we looked for companies with a long history and good ratings. We compared insurance coverage and riders. We didn’t consider the cost of premiums because it can be difficult to get a whole life insurance quote online, and prices vary dramatically depending on sex, age, and medical history.

You should do some research before picking up the phone, though. An insurance agent earns a commission from selling you a whole life insurance policy, which may influence their financial advice. 

Article Sources

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  2. J.D. Power. "J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Life Insurance Study." Accessed June 4, 2020.

  3. BusinessWire. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company and Its Subsidiaries." Accessed June 4, 2020.

  4. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "Massachusetts Mut Life Ins Co Company Overview for 2019 Life." Accessed June 4, 2020.

  5. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "New York Life Ins Co Company Overview for 2019 Life." Accessed June 4, 2020.

  6. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "State Farm Life Ins Co Company Overview for 2019 Life." Accessed June 4, 2020.

  7. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "Guardian Life Ins Co Of Amer Company Overview for 2019 Life." Accessed June 4, 2020.

  8. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "John Hancock Life & Hlth Ins Co Company Overview for 2019 Life." Accessed June 4, 2020.