Best Whole Life Insurance Companies of 2022

Nationwide wins with happy customers and three free living benefits

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Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance, meaning it’s designed to last for as long as you live. This differs from term life insurance, which lasts for a set number of years, such as 20. Whole life also incorporates a tax-deferred cash value, which is similar to a savings account, and may be accessible via withdrawals and policy loans. Another perk of some whole life policies, called participating policies, are dividend payments.

But when it comes to choosing a whole life policy, the company offering it is arguably more important than policy perks. The best whole life insurance companies are financially stable, provide excellent customer service, and make the life insurance buying process transparent and easy. Ideally, the policy you purchase should also include valuable features, such as living benefits, and perhaps dividends. 

We considered these and other factors amongst 57 companies offering whole life insurance in order to determine the very best whole life insurance companies of 2022.

Best Whole Life Insurance Companies of 2022

Best Overall : Nationwide

Investopedia's Rating
4.7

Nationwide

Nationwide

  • AM Best Rating: A+
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Pros
  • Three no-cost living benefit riders

  • Ranked No. 2 for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power

  • No-medical-exam life insurance available with up to $5 million in coverage

  • Very few complaints

  • Policy-specific information available online

Cons
  • Final expense policies only available to existing customers

Nationwide—which ranks No. 1 in our review of best life insurance companies—is also our top pick for the best company for whole life insurance. Nationwide doesn’t have just one standout feature, but several, including happy customers, solid financials, flexible payment options, and easy-to-find information about policy features on its website. 

It also has some perks that make its whole life policies in particular pretty great. You can get up to $5 million in coverage without taking a medical exam if you’re 50 or younger (up to $1 million if you’re 51 to 60 years old) on ”Whole Life 100” and “20-Pay Whole Life” policies. Plus, those policies include chronic, critical, and terminal illness accelerated death benefit riders at no extra charge. This means you can access the death benefit early if you’re diagnosed with a chronic, critical, or terminal illness.

Note that if you’re looking for a final expense policy, meaning a low-coverage, easy-to-apply-for policy, Nationwide offers one. But it only makes the policy available to existing Nationwide customers.

For more information, check out Investopedia’s full Nationwide review.

Best for Riders : New York Life

Investopedia's Rating
4.6

New York Life

New York Life

  • AM Best Rating: A++
  • Accepts Credit Cards: No
Pros
  • Broad selection of riders

  • Long history of paying dividends

  • Top-tier financial stability

  • 90-year-olds eligible for whole life

Con
  • Policy information unavailable online

  • Customer service won’t discuss policy options

New York Life offers a number of ways to customize your whole life policy with riders, which are extra benefits that extend your coverage or the ways you can use it. The company offers a range of living benefits (also called accelerated death benefit riders), which let you receive some of the death benefit prior to death in the event of a chronic, critical, or terminal illness or long-term care need. Also available is a disability income rider which is an uncommon offering among insurers. 

Plus, the company has an A++ AM Best rating and is the oldest insurer on this list. It’s paid dividends to eligible policyholders for the past 168 years, which is the second-longest dividend-paying history of the 91 life insurance companies we reviewed (Penn Mutual beats it with 174 years). It also is one of only six insurers that issues policies to 90-year-old applicants. 

But New York Life is a traditional insurance company—if you want policy information, you won’t find it online or with customer service. You’ll need to provide your name and phone number to be put in contact with an agent.

 Want more information? Read Investopedia’s New York Life review.

Best for High Issue Age : Guardian

Investopedia's Rating
4.4

Guardian

Guardian

  • AM Best Rating: A++
  • Accepts Credit Cards: No
Pros
  • 90-year-olds eligible for whole life

  • Whole life policies are eligible for dividends

  • Highest financial stability rating from AM Best

  • Very few complaints

Cons
  • Policy features are difficult to find online

  • (Just) below average for customer satisfaction

Guardian is one of only six insurers of the 91 we reviewed to issue policies to 90-year-old applicants. Most cap eligibility at age 85 or 80. Plus, the company impresses with an A++ financial strength rating from AM Best, the highest rating available, and dividend-paying whole life policies. On top of this, Guardian has received very few customer complaints for a company of its size, as measured by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). We researched how many complaints 91 life insurance companies received over three years—only six other companies did better than Guardian and one of them (Northwestern Mutual) is on this list.

The main drawback is that you won’t find specific policy information online. You’ll need to reach out to an agent. Perhaps this lack of transparency is one reason Guardian didn’t score higher in J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study. Of all the companies in this list, it ranked the lowest for customer satisfaction, falling just short of the industry average. 

For more information, read our full review of Guardian life insurance.

Best for Financial Stability : MassMutual

Investopedia's Rating
4.3

MassMutual

MassMutual

  • AM Best Rating: A++
  • Accepts Credit Cards: No
Pros
  • Highest financial strength rating from AM Best

  • Dividends

  • Very few complaints

  • 90-year-olds eligible for whole life

Cons
  • Policy specifics unavailable

Financial stability is one of the most important factors when choosing a whole life company and informs all of the selections on this list. In fact, only eight out of the 91 companies we reviewed received AM Best’s highest rating, an A++, and six of those companies make this list. But one company truly stands out in this regard, and that’s MassMutal. Of those A++ companies, only one has stood the test of time for as long. MassMutual got its start in 1851, just a few years after New York Life (1845). But MassMutual tips the scales by ranking higher than New York Life on J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction survey, making it our top pick in this highly competitive category.

Like the other A++ heavyweights, MassMutual pays dividends, and has done so every year since 1869. It also makes its whole life policies available to 90-year-old applicants and has received very few customer complaints relative to its size. 

But like most of its competitors, you won’t find policy details online and will need to reach out to an agent (or have one contact you) to do so.

Get more details in Investopedia’s MassMutual company review.

Best for Dividends : Penn Mutual

Investopedia's Rating
4.3

Penn Mutual

Penn Mutual

  • AM Best Rating: A+
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Pros
  • Longest history of dividend payments

  • No-medical-exam coverage available with up to $7.5 million in coverage

  • Two free living benefits included

  • Very few complaints

Cons
  • Policy types and details unavailable on website

With a dividend-paying history of 174 consecutive years, Penn Mutual is our top pick for dividend-paying whole life policies. But the company also impresses with its efforts to ease the whole life application process, especially for applicants in need of a substantial death benefit. According to Penn Mutual, and borne out by our research, it’s the only company to offer up to $7.5 million in coverage without requiring a medical exam. The next closest we found is Nationwide, which offers up to $5 million in no-med-exam life insurance. Plus, Penn Mutual’s whole life policies include both terminal and chronic illness riders free of charge, and the company receives very few customer complaints relative to its size.

But like many of its competitors, Penn Mutual fails to disclose policy specifics on its consumer-facing website. It doesn’t even clarify that it offers whole life insurance. To get that intel plus policy features, you’ll have to talk to a financial professional.

Get more details in Investopedia’s Penn Mutual life insurance review.

Best for Customer Satisfaction : State Farm

Investopedia's Rating
4.2

State Farm

State Farm

  • AM Best Rating: A++
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Pros
  • Ranked No. 1 by J.D. Power for customer satisfaction

  • Highest  financial strength rating from AM Best

  • Few customer complaints

  • Discount for bundling life insurance

Cons
  • No free living benefits

State Farm is the No. 1 life insurance company in J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study. The study ranked customer satisfaction according to how well each insurer performed in the areas of communication, customer interaction, price, available products, and policy statements. 

As you might expect, State Farm has also received few customer complaints for a company its size, according to the NAIC. In addition, the company earned an A++ AM Best rating, meaning it has a superior ability to honor its ongoing insurance obligations. One unique perk among the carriers on this list is that you can bundle a State Farm life insurance policy and auto policy to receive a multiline discount.

However, State Farm doesn’t offer any free living benefits with its policies, which is uncommon among carriers, especially the competitors on this list. Living benefits generally refer to chronic, critical, and terminal illness riders that allow you to receive some of the death benefit early if you’re diagnosed with an eligible condition.

Fewest Complaints : Northwestern Mutual

Investopedia's Rating
4.1

Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual

  • AM Best Rating: A++
  • Accepts Credit Cards: No
Pros
  • Exceptionally few customer complaints

  • Long history of paying dividends

  • Ranked No. 3 for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power

  • Highest financial stability rating from AM Best

Cons
  • No free accelerated death benefit riders

  • Policy details unavailable online

Northwestern Mutual is another heavy-hitter when it comes to financial stability and customer satisfaction. The company received the fewest complaints (relative to its size) of all the companies on this list, and the fourth-fewest complaints of all 91 insurance companies we reviewed. So it’s no surprise that the company came in third for customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s 2021 customer satisfaction survey. Plus, Northwestern Mutual has paid dividends to eligible policyholders for the past 150 years. 

What’s not to like? Well, the company falls short when it comes to living benefits. Most of the companies on this list offer at least one living benefit rider for chronic, critical, or terminal illness at no extra charge with their policies. But, according to the company, Northwestern Mutual does not. And if you’re looking for specifics about Northwestern Mutual whole life policies, you’ll need to speak with an agent.

For more information, read our full review of Northwestern Mutual life insurance.

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for dividends, Penn Mutual, New York Life, MassMutual, and Northwestern Mutual are all solid options. But you’ll need to rely on an agent (and reviews like ours) to discern policy-specific information. If you want transparency (meaning readily available information online) and a host of free living benefits, go for Nationwide. The company also is a great pick along with Penn Mutual for high-coverage no-med-exam life insurance. And if you’re an older applicant, north of 85, you’ll need to consider MassMutual, Guardian, and New York Life, as those are the only insurers on this list that consider applicants your age.

Whole Life vs. Universal Life

Whole life and universal life insurance are two types of permanent life insurance coverage with some important distinctions. Both incorporate a cash value account, which is the element that enables the policies to last into old age, when life insurance costs skyrocket. And the cash value can be accessed during the policyholder’s lifetime, though doing so can threaten or reduce the death benefit.

Where these policy types differ is in the guarantees each one provides and their flexibility. Whole life insurance guarantees your death benefit for life as long as you make the required premium payment. But if you don’t, your policy could be canceled, or “lapse,” for non-payment. 

Universal life, on the other hand, is more flexible when it comes to payments. As long as there is sufficient cash value to cover your premium, you can miss a payment or pay less if necessary. Plus, the cash value is credited a rate of return based on current interest rates and the performance of the life insurance company’s portfolio (whereas the cash value on a whole life policy grows according to a formula determined by the insurer). The catch is that if the cash value doesn’t grow as anticipated when the policy is issued, you may need to increase premium payments during the policy’s later years to keep it in force.

How Do Dividends Work?

Mutual life insurance companies are ones in which the company is owned by policyholders. They may offer “participating” whole life policies which means that policyholders participate in company gains, and as such, are credited dividends when the company has a good year. The best dividend-paying companies are those that have a long history of consecutively paying dividends. Life insurance dividends are usually paid annually, and can be received as cash, used to pay premiums, used to buy paid-up additional insurance, or invested to earn interest. Since dividends are considered a return of premium, they generally aren’t taxed.

How To Choose the Right Life Insurance Company for You

When choosing any life insurance company, make sure it has the type of coverage and benefits you need and that it’s financially sound and its customers are reasonably happy with it. Also consider whether the application process works for you and how you feel about interfacing with the company—meaning how an agent or customer service representative treats you, and how easy it is for you to navigate the site.

  1. Does the company have what you need? If you know the type of coverage you need, start with companies that offer it. But if you’re not sure yet, focus on finding a few standout life insurance companies with agents you can talk to.
  2. What’s its AM Best rating? AM Best is the most well-known credit rating agency for life insurance companies. It grades companies for their financial stability on a scale of A++ to D. Look for a company with at least an A- rating, which indicates an “excellent” ability to honor its ongoing insurance obligations. (In other words, its ability to pay claims.)
  3. How many complaints does it have? The NAIC publishes a complaint index that indicates how many complaints an insurance company receives relative to its size. You can search for the company you’re interested in, then select the “complaint trend” report option to get to that company’s complaint index. You can further drill down by selecting complaints for different types of policies. A complaint index less than 1.0 means the company received fewer complaints than expected—the closer to zero, the better. 
  4. How easy is it to apply for coverage? In addition to filling out an application, do you need to undergo a paramedical exam? Sometimes it can be a good idea, since life insurance that requires an exam may offer lower premiums to healthy individuals. But if an exam is an impediment for you, consider companies that offer no-medical-exam life insurance, especially those with an accelerated issue underwriting process (which requires you to fill out detailed health questions and may have pricing as low as policies that require medical exams).
  5. How does the company treat you? At this point, you may have already talked with a few agents and navigated a few company websites. What do you think? In addition to the criteria above, it’s important to choose a company that you feel good about.

What Are the Expected Costs of Whole Life Insurance?

Many factors 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. If you are in average health, expect to have slightly higher premiums than someone of your same age, gender, and location who is in good or excellent health.

Whole Life Insurance Factors

Investopedia / Alison Czinkota

How We Chose the Best Whole Life Insurance Companies

In order to compile our list of the best whole life insurance companies, we developed a comprehensive life insurance methodology. We started off by researching what consumers want from life insurance companies, and for that, we looked to third-party consumer studies, including J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Life Insurance New Business Study and the 2021 Insurance Barometer Study, by Life Happens and LIMRA.

With those findings in mind, we gathered more than 50 data points on 91 life insurance companies, including ratings for financial strength, customer satisfaction, and customer complaints, as well as information about years in business, online tools, no-exam options, dividends, maximum issue ages, and available riders. 

Our review process gave preference to companies with solid financials, few customer complaints, and available living benefits. Companies received ratings boosts for no-cost living benefits and company longevity. We ranked each company according to the following categories and weights.

  • 27%: Financial stability 
  • 22%: Consumer complaints
  • 18%: Customer service/online features
  • 18%: Policy riders
  • 15%: Whole life features 

To finalize our list, we compared individual offerings between top companies by considering third-party ratings and by delving deeper into product specifics, including dividend-paying histories and no-medical-exam options. We used this research to determine the best whole life insurance companies.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. J.D. Power. “Pandemic and Tax Code Change Spur Interest in Life Insurance, J.D. Power Finds.”

  2. AM Best. “Guide to Best’s Financial Strength Rating - (FSR).”

  3. J.D. Power. "2021 US Life Insurance New Business Study | JD Power."

  4. Life Happens. "Life Insurance Is on People's Minds."