The 6 Best Whole Life Insurance Companies of 2021

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 2021

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 10 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––and offers plenty of rider options among its two types of whole life insurance policies.

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 24 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 the accelerated death benefit rider in the event of a terminal illness diagnosis. The renewable term rider allows you to earn a significantly higher death benefit than you would with a single whole life policy while paying a comparable premium. This 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 renewable term rider for what you need and even convert it to permanent insurance later if you want.

MassMutual also offers the following riders for an additional fee:

  • Waiver of premium for disability
  • Long-term care rider
  • Spousal rider 
  • Transfer of insured rider

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 renewable term 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. Founded in 1845, it has a 175-year history of financial success and currently holds an A++ rating with AM Best. The company had 71 complaints with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2019, which is slightly above the average rate. 

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 41 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 $15,000—excluding the final expense option.

State Farm offers several rider options:

  • Waiver of premium for disability: Waives premiums if insured becomes disabled
  • Guaranteed insurability option: Buy more coverage without a medical exam
  • Family term insurance: Allows purchase of term insurance on spouse or children
  • Accelerated death benefits: Pays partial death benefit due to terminal illness
  • Accidental death rider: Pays double or triple (depending on policy) the death benefit

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

Founded in 1860, Guardian is an established company with more than 160 years in the life insurance industry. The company has an A++ rating with AM Best. However, Guardian had 215 complaints in 2019 with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (compared with roughly 125 in both 2017 and 2018).

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 include guaranteed insurability, index participation, long-term care, and 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 60 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 $13.40 per month, with the ability to grow the policy’s cash value, and payments are fixed. You will also have access their Vitality program (Vitality GO or Vitality Plus), 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 application 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. 

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 the full death benefit.

Most insurance companies require new applicants to chose either "male" or "female" when applying for insurance; and don't always offer an option for those who identify as nonbinary or transgendered. While being nonbinary doesn't disqualify you from getting insurance, you should be aware that most insurance companies haven't updated their underwriting processes to reflect an awareness of gender issues.

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. While 60 percent of people in the U.S. are covered by some type of life insurance, 1 in 5 of them say they do not have enough. 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. 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.

How Do I Protect Myself Against Bad Insurance Companies?

All states follow guidelines that insurance rates should be adequate (i.e., able to pay out in the event of large or numerous claims), not excessive (i.e., companies shouldn't earn exorbitant profits), and not discriminatory (i.e., they must reflect differences in expected claims and expenses). However, each state legislature still sets its own policy for the regulation of insurance. That said, state laws generally require insurers and insurance-related businesses to be licensed before selling their products or services. State regulators are also responsible for ensuring that an insurance policy complies with state law, is reasonable and fair, and does not contain gaps in coverage that might be misunderstood by consumers and leave them unprotected.

Despite these protections, life insurance scams are still relatively commonplace. Therefore, the best way to protect yourself is to thoroughly research any company you're considering purchasing an insurance policy from and compare its offerings with those available to you from other companies.

During a recent interview with Andrew Mais, commissioner of the Connecticut Insurance Department, he noted that "Different companies have different rates, so make sure that you shop around. Don't just take one quote and that's it—and make sure it's a company you can trust."

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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