Best Whole Life Insurance Companies of December 2022

New York Life is a financial behemoth that has paid dividends for 168 years

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91 Companies reviewed
55 Features considered
8 Awarded "Best of 2022"

The best whole life insurance companies are financially stable, provide excellent customer service, and make the buying process transparent and easy. If you can afford it, you may get your entire death benefit covered with a whole life policy. Or, you could pair the long-term nature of whole life with a term life insurance policy to increase your death benefit for a modest cost. While you can get term coverage online, you'll need to speak directly with an agent to get a quote for whole life insurance.

Best Whole Life Insurance Companies of December 2022

Best Overall : New York Life

Investopedia's Rating
4.6

  • AM Best Rating: AM Best is a credit rating agency that assigns insurance companies a letter grade from “A++” to “D.” A company’s grade indicates its ability to pay its claims and honor its financial obligations. A++
  • Accepts Credit Cards: No

Dividend-eligible policies: Yes

Pros & Cons
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

Why We Chose It

New York Life has an A++ (Superior) AM Best rating, which is the highest financial strength rating the agency confers. It is also the oldest insurer on this list. It’s survived economic ups and downs and has paid dividends to eligible policyholders through it all, for the past 168 years. This is the second-longest dividend-paying history of the 91 life insurance companies we reviewed (Penn Mutual beats it with 174 years).

The company offers a number of ways to customize your policy with riders, which are extra benefits that extend your coverage or the ways you can use it. The company offers multiple 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. 

New York Life makes policies available to applicants as old as 90 years, which makes it a great option for older seniors looking for a whole life policy. In fact, it's also our top pick for best life insurance companies for seniors.

Best for Living Benefits : Nationwide

Investopedia's Rating
4.6

  • AM Best Rating: AM Best is a credit rating agency that assigns insurance companies a letter grade from “A++” to “D.” A company’s grade indicates its ability to pay its claims and honor its financial obligations. A+
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes

You generally can't get an online quote for permanent coverage from any life insurance company. Call 1-866-207-9160 to get a quote for permanent coverage (whole life and universal life) from Nationwide.

Dividend-eligible policies: No

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Three living benefit riders included at no upfront cost

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

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

  • Policy-specific information available online

Cons
  • Whole life policies do not pay dividends

Why We Chose It

Nationwide—which ranks No. 1 in our reviews of best life insurance companies and best life insurance companies for people over 50—is our second-best pick for whole life insurance. Nationwide doesn’t have just one standout feature, but several, including happy customers, solid financials, flexible payment options, generous living benefits, 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 are eligible to get up to $5 million in coverage without taking a medical exam if you’re in excellent health and 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 while it provides a bevy of standout benefits, Nationwide does not pay dividends on its whole life policies, unlike many other providers on this list.

Best for High Issue Age : Guardian

Investopedia's Rating
4.4

  • AM Best Rating: AM Best is a credit rating agency that assigns insurance companies a letter grade from “A++” to “D.” A company’s grade indicates its ability to pay its claims and honor its financial obligations. A++
  • Accepts Credit Cards: No

Dividend-eligible policies: Yes

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 90-year-olds eligible for whole life

  • Potential to earn 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

Why We Chose It

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 makes term policies available to applicants as old as 75. These are some reasons it's a top pick in our review of the best life insurance companies for seniors.

Guardian impresses with an A++ (Superior) 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.

Best Traditional Insurer : MassMutual

Investopedia's Rating
4.3

  • AM Best Rating: AM Best is a credit rating agency that assigns insurance companies a letter grade from “A++” to “D.” A company’s grade indicates its ability to pay its claims and honor its financial obligations. A++
  • Accepts Credit Cards: No

Dividend-eligible policies: Yes

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Highest financial strength rating from AM Best

  • Potential to earn dividends

  • Very few complaints

  • 90-year-olds eligible for whole life

Cons
  • Policy specifics unavailable

Why We Chose It

MassMutual is an all-around great insurance company. Only nine out of the 91 companies we reviewed received AM Best’s highest rating, an A++ (Superior), and MassMutual is one of them. Of those A++ companies, only one other 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 scale by ranking higher than New York Life on J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction survey.

Like some other life insurance 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.

Best for Burial Insurance : Mutual of Omaha

Investopedia's Rating
4.3

  • AM Best Rating: AM Best is a credit rating agency that assigns insurance companies a letter grade from “A++” to “D.” A company’s grade indicates its ability to pay its claims and honor its financial obligations. A+
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes

Dividend-eligible policies: No

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Guaranteed issue policies available

  • A+ financial strength rating

  • Policies available to 85 year olds

  • Some policies include a terminal illness rider

Cons
  • More complaints than top competitors


Why We Chose It

For those interested in a smaller whole life insurance policy, Mutual of Omaha offers a couple of options that are relatively easy to qualify for and don't require a medical exam. Its guaranteed issue policy allows applicants that face serious health issues to qualify for up to $25,000 in coverage via an online application and secure same-day coverage.

Its simplified issue policy requires that you reach out to an agent, but this policy includes a terminal illness rider and you could qualify for coverage up to $40,000 (also without an exam). You must be at least 45 years old to apply for either policy. These types of policies are often referred to as final expense life insurance or burial insurance; in fact, Mutual of Omaha is our top pick for best burial insurance companies of 2022.

Mutual of Omaha is rated A+ (Superior) by AM Best, which means it has a superior ability to honor its insurance obligations, such as paying claims. It also fared above average in J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study.

One negative is that the company received slightly more complaints than expected for its size, according to the NAIC. All other companies in this list received fewer.

Best for Dividends : Penn Mutual

Investopedia's Rating
4.3

  • AM Best Rating: AM Best is a credit rating agency that assigns insurance companies a letter grade from “A++” to “D.” A company’s grade indicates its ability to pay its claims and honor its financial obligations. A+
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes

Dividend-eligible policies: Yes

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Long history of dividend payments

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

  • Two living benefits included

  • Very few complaints

  • A+ (Superior) AM Best rating

Cons
  • Policy types and details unavailable on website

Why We Chose It

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 A+ (Superior) financial strength rating and efforts to ease the whole life application process, especially for applicants in need of a substantial death benefit.

Penn Mutual offers a very high amount of no-med-exam life insurance—up to $7.5 million for qualified applicants—and its whole life policies include both terminal and chronic illness riders free of charge. For these reasons, it's a top pick in our review of best no-medical-exam life insurance companies. The company also 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.

Best for Customer Satisfaction : State Farm Life Insurance

Investopedia's Rating
4.2

  • AM Best Rating: AM Best is a credit rating agency that assigns insurance companies a letter grade from “A++” to “D.” A company’s grade indicates its ability to pay its claims and honor its financial obligations. A++
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes

Dividend-eligible policies: Yes

Pros & Cons
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

  • Potential to earn dividends

Cons
  • No free living benefits

Why We Chose It

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++ (Superior) 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.

Best for Financial Stability : Northwestern Mutual

Investopedia's Rating
4.1

  • AM Best Rating: AM Best is a credit rating agency that assigns insurance companies a letter grade from “A++” to “D.” A company’s grade indicates its ability to pay its claims and honor its financial obligations. A++
  • Accepts Credit Cards: No

Dividend-eligible policies: Yes

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Highest financial stability rankings

  • Long history of paying dividends

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

  • Exceptionally few customer complaints

Cons
  • No free accelerated death benefit riders

  • Policy details unavailable online

Why We Chose It

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 nine out of the 91 companies we reviewed received AM Best’s highest rating, an A++ (Superior), and six of those companies make this list. But one company stands out in this regard, and that’s Northwestern Mutual.

The company has an A++ (Superior) rating from AM Best, and holds the highest rankings from Fitch (AAA) and Moody's (Aaa) as well. It also 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.

Compare the Best Whole Life Insurance Companies of December 2022

Overall Rating Best For
AM Best Rating
AM Best is a credit rating agency that assigns insurance companies a letter grade from “A++” to “D.” A company’s grade indicates its ability to pay its claims and honor its financial obligations.
Term Life Sample Cost
Policy Types
Accepts Credit Cards
Reset All
New York Life
4.6
Best Overall A++ N/A Term, Universal (UL), Variable Universal (VUL), Whole No Get A Quote
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Nationwide
4.6
Best for Living Benefits A+ $26.25/month Final Expense, Indexed Universal (IUL), Term, Universal (UL), Variable Universal (VUL), Whole Yes Get A Quote
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Guardian
4.4
Best for High Issue Age A++ $27.47/month Term, Universal (UL), Whole No Get A Quote
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MassMutual
4.3
Best Traditional Insurer A++ $26.97/month Term, Universal (UL), Variable Universal (VUL), Whole No Get A Quote
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Mutual of Omaha
4.3
Best for Burial Insurance A+ $28.38/month Final Expense, Indexed Universal (IUL), Term, Universal (UL) Yes Get A Quote
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Penn Mutual
4.3
Best for Dividends A+ $23.92/month Term, Universal (UL), Variable Universal (VUL), Whole Yes Get A Quote
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State Farm Life Insurance
4.2
Best for Customer Satisfaction A++ $35.24/month Final Expense, Term, Universal (UL), Whole Yes Get A Quote
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Northwestern Mutual
4.1
Best for Financial Stability A++ N/A Term, Universal (UL), Variable Universal (VUL), Whole No Get A Quote
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Final Verdict

If you’re looking for dividends, New York Life, Penn Mutual, 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. 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. If you're a younger applicant, check out our review of the best life insurance companies for young adults in addition to the providers on this list.

Is Whole Life Insurance Worth It?

If you absolutely need a life insurance policy to last into old age, whole life is your best bet. But if you only need coverage for a certain number of years, term life insurance is a better option. Whole life insurance is permanent life insurance coverage and has a cash value account, which is the element that enables these policies to last into old age when life insurance costs skyrocket. Universal life insurance is another type of permanent life insurance, but has fewer guarantees than whole life insurance. It's also more flexible and affordable.

What Is the Average Cost of Whole Life Insurance?

Many factors impact the cost of whole life insurance. These factors 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. Most importantly, compare life insurance quotes to find your best rate.

What Is Whole Life Insurance

Whole life insurance is a type of permanent coverage that's designed to last your entire life, as opposed to a limited number of years like term life insurance. Participating policies may pay dividends and all whole life insurance policies have a cash value. The cash value is necessary to keep premiums level throughout the life of the policy, so they don't become unaffordable as you age and the cost of insurance increases. The cash value can be accessed during the policyholder’s lifetime, though doing so can threaten or reduce your death benefit. When you die, your beneficiaries receive the death benefit on a tax-free basis.

What Is the #1 Life Insurance Company?

Northwestern Mutual Group is the largest life insurance company as measured by the dollar-value of direct premiums it receives. In 2021 its market share was 7.49%, followed by New York Life Group with a market share of 6.96%. The NAIC annually announces the largest life insurance companies in the U.S.

What Are Dividends?

Dividends are payments made to policy holders of "participating" life insurance policies. Mutual life insurance companies (ones in which the company is owned by policyholders) may offer “participating” whole life policies which means that policyholders share in company gains and may be 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. 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. How reputable is the life insurance company? AM Best is the most well-known credit rating agency for life insurance companies and one way to gauge a company's financial strength. It grades companies on a scale of A++ (Superior) to D (Poor). Look for a company with at least an A- (Excellent) rating, which indicates an “excellent” ability to honor its 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.
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.

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. AM Best. "New York Life Insurance Company - AM Best Rating."

  2. AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Guardian Life Insurance."

  3. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "NAIC Guardian Life Report."

  4. J.D. Power. “Pandemic and Tax Code Change Spur Interest in Life Insurance, J.D. Power Finds.”

  5. AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Massachusetts Mutual Life."

  6. AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of State Farm Mutual."

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

  8. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "Northwestern Mutual Report."

  9. NAIC. "Life and Fraternal Insurance Industry 2021 Top 25 Groups and Companies by Countrywide Premium."

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

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