Guardian Life Insurance Review

Variety of plans available, some with dividends and coverage to $5,000,000

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Guardian

Guardian

overall rating
4.3

With high consumer satisfaction and financial strength ratings, Guardian Life provides reliable life insurance coverage for consumers in all 50 states. Though the term life policies offered are pretty standard, there is a range of whole and universal life plans with a healthy list of features.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Key Takeaways
  • Company Overview
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • High coverage limits (up to $5 million)

  • Term protection is available up to age 85

  • Whole life coverage is available to those living with HIV

  • Dividends have been paid out to whole life customers every year since 1868

Cons
  • Online policy information is a bit vague (it’s difficult to find exact coverage limits)

  • Policies must be purchased through an agent

  • No immediate coverage

  • No-medical-exam options are not offered

Key Takeaways
  • Guardian Life offers term, whole, and universal life coverage to consumers in all 50 states, which includes some survivorship and estate protection options.
  • The company has provided dividends to whole life policyholders every single year since 1868 and is paying out record dividends in 2020. 
  • While the online calculator can give consumers an idea of their term life policy pricing, policies can only be finalized and purchased through agents.
  • Guardian Life boasts highest-possible ratings from AM Best, top-10 consumer satisfaction ratings from J.D. Power, and an exceptional complaint index through NAIC.
Company Overview

Founded in New York in 1860, Guardian has been providing trusted insurance products for over 150 years. The company began by offering life insurance policies and has since expanded into disability, dental, vision, and hearing insurance coverage.

Guardian Life is licensed to do business in all 50 states, though not all products and services are available in all states. The company currently boasts over 9,500 employees, of which 2,700 are financial representatives (essentially agents) who can help you build the right policy for your specific needs.

  • Year Founded 1860
  • Kinds of Plans Term, whole, universal life
  • Number of Plans 14
  • Payment Plan Options Speak with your agent to learn which options are available to you
  • Customer Service 888-GUARDIAN or by calling your agent directly
  • Official Website www.guardianlife.com

Important: Guardian Life is not one of our top-rated life insurance companies. You can review our list of the best life insurance companies for what we think are better options.

Pros Explained

  • High coverage limits (up to $5 million): This insurer offers both term and whole life policies with as much as $5 million in coverage. With the Estate Guard survivorship plan, you can get as much as double that.
  • Term protection is available up to age 85: Standard term life policies can be purchased with coverage that lasts as long as age 85. Annual policy renewal is available past age 85, up to age 95. 
  • Whole life coverage is available to those living with HIV: Though many insurers offer whole life coverage without the need for a medical exam or to applicants with certain health conditions (such as a history of cancer or heart disease), there are still certain diagnoses that make buying coverage very difficult (and expensive). One such diagnosis is HIV, and there are still many insurers that exclude this condition in their underwriting process. With Guardian, however, those living with HIV can purchase permanent, whole life coverage that protects those they love.
  • Dividends have been paid out to whole life customers every year since 1868: Many life insurance companies offer dividends when the company has a fruitful year; however, these “bonus” payouts to policyholders are neither guaranteed nor predictable. Guardian, on the other hand, offers dividends to its whole life policyholders and the company has paid out dividends every single year since 1868. In fact, Guardian announced that 2020 is a record-breaking year for disbursements, as well.

Cons Explained

  • Online policy information is a bit vague (it’s difficult to find exact coverage limits): Though Guardian does offer a robust website, specific policy information can be difficult—if not impossible—to find. For instance, it’s hard to find exact coverage limits for specific policies online, and the site doesn’t make it easy to see which plans and features are available to you based on location. To learn more, get specific coverage questions answered, or personalize your quote, you’ll need to contact a financial representative.
  • Policies must be purchased through an agent: While you can get an idea of your term policy options and pricing through Guardian’s online calculator tool, you’ll need to contact an agent in order to actually purchase said coverage. If you’re looking for whole or universal life policies, you’ll need an agent to get a quote and buy coverage.
  • No immediate coverage: Some term life insurers today offer online buying options that can start protecting you in just minutes. This isn’t the case with Guardian; regardless of the type of coverage you’re looking for, you’ll need to work with an agent to build your policy. 
  • No-medical-exam options are not offered: According to Guardian, you’ll “usually” need to undergo a paramedical exam in order to finalize your policy and determine the rate you’ll pay for coverage. Unfortunately, the company does not currently offer any no-medical-exam policy options.

Available Plans

Term Life

You can purchase a term life policy from Guardian Life if you’re between the ages of 18 and 75, and policies can cover you all the way to age 85. (Annual renewability may be available after that point.) These term policies will provide you with between $250,000 and $5 million in life insurance coverage with a term of 10, 15, 20, or 30 years.

This policy automatically allows for whole life conversion during the first five years, meaning that you can convert your coverage from temporary term to permanent whole life. Beyond those first five years, though, you can only convert your term life policy if you chose to add an extended conversion rider.

Though you can get an idea of your term life pricing through Guardian’s online calculator—even seeing how certain riders affect the cost—policies can only be purchased through financial representatives (agents).

Level Premium Whole Life

Guardian Life offers a basic, permanent life insurance product called level premium whole life. While this policy can cost quite a bit more than the same amount of term life coverage, it allows you to purchase coverage that lasts to the end of your life. For as long as you’re required to pay premiums, those payments will remain the same and never increase.

Guardian Life has four level premium coverage options: paid-up at 65, paid-up at 95, paid-up at 99, and paid-up at 121. This means that equal premiums will be required from day one all the way until you reach the “paid-up” age of your policy. At that time, your coverage will be considered paid in full, and you won’t have to worry about premiums again.

So, if you have a paid-up at 65 policy, you’ll pay level premiums from the day you buy coverage until you reach age 65. At that time, you’ll stop paying premiums but will continue to hold the coverage until you die, whether that’s at age 80 or 120. If you have a paid-up at 99 policy, however, you’ll continue making level premium payments until age 99. At that point, you will no longer be required to pay anything else for the coverage.

10 Pay Whole Life (10 Pay WL)

Offered with issue ages of 0 to 75, the 10 Pay Whole Life policy gives you lifetime protection that can be fully paid for over a fixed period of time. The 10 Pay plan provides coverage starting at just $25,000 and only requires you to pay premiums for 10 years before the policy is considered paid-up. 

Of course, you can expect your premiums to be higher with a fixed premium period policy, compared to one where you’re paying level premiums for 40 years or more. 

20 Pay Whole Life

Similar to the 10 Pay Whole Life policy, 20 Pay allows you to pay premiums on your permanent coverage for 20 years in total. After that time, your policy will be considered paid-up for life, and you won’t need to make additional premium payments again.

EstateGuard (Survivorship) Whole Life

If you and your spouse have a sizable estate to protect, Guardian Life’s EstateGuard policy could help you protect it. This coverage is intended to insure two people under the same policy, combining a survivorship plan with features like the ability to increase your death benefit by as much as 100% in the first four years. 

After the first covered individual passes away, the policy’s cash value increases; this serves to help with retirement expenses or even cover remaining policy premiums. 

Universal Life

Though Guardian’s universal life plans don’t pay dividends like their whole life plans do, these policies offer another way to accumulate a tax-deferred cash value while permanently protecting those you love. In fact, policies through Guardian offer a guaranteed annual interest rate of 2.5% or higher.

If needed, you can adjust your premium payments over time with the universal life plan, as well as borrow against your policy’s cash value or use it to cover premiums in the future.

Variable Universal Life

If you want to take your universal coverage up a notch, the variable universal life plan can do so. It offers the same policy benefits and protections, but with the option to invest your cash value in the stock market. Though doing so does add risk, you are able to choose the investment(s) that best fit your risk tolerance so you can grow this asset as you see fit. 

Survivorship Universal Life

Lastly, there is the survivorship universal life plan, which offers permanent life insurance protection and benefits in addition to providing for the surviving spouse. After one spouse passes away, the other is able to access the cash value of this policy without penalty; when they are also gone, the remaining cash value will pass to your designated beneficiaries. 

Coverage is available up to $5 million for term and permanent policies. EstateGuard plans give you the option to double that if you need even more protection.

Available Riders

Depending on the type of policy you buy, you may be able to add a handful of riders to your coverage. These riders—which may come at an additional cost or be included in your policy—can provide you with special features or added protection while you hold valid life insurance coverage.

Be sure to check with your financial representative to find out which of these riders and benefits are available to you based on your policy and location.

Waiver of Premium Rider

With this rider, you can waive your requirement to make regular premium payments if you are deemed totally disabled for six consecutive months or more. 

Accelerated Terminal Illness Benefit

If you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, this accelerated benefit rider will allow you to access a percentage of your policy’s death benefit before your passing. The early payout can be used to cover medical or personal expenses or to enjoy the time you have left with your loved ones.

Extended Conversion Rider

The extended conversion rider allows you to convert your temporary term life insurance policy into permanent, whole life coverage. You will not need to go through the application process again in order to convert your policy.

Charitable Benefit Rider

This benefit automatically adds 1% onto your term policy’s death benefit (up to $100,000) and gives it to the charitable cause of your choosing after you pass. This donation does not cut into your beneficiaries’ benefit in any way.

Long-Term Care Rider

This indemnity-style rider allows you to access up to 90% of your life insurance policy’s death benefit if you need to receive long-term care services due to a chronic illness or condition. To qualify for disbursement, you’ll need to be diagnosed with a covered cognitive condition—such as Alzheimer’s—or be unable to perform at least two of the Six Activities of Daily Living (bathing, continence, dressing, eating, toileting, and transferring).

In order to add this rider, you’ll need to be between the ages of 18 and 75 and in good health when purchasing your policy. 

Guardian Index Participation Feature (IPF)

With this rider, policyholders are able to tie a portion of their policy’s cash value to the performance of an index. This can potentially allow for even greater growth of the policy’s value.

Joint LTC™

This rider boosts your existing survivorship whole life policy with long-term care coverage to offer a broader range of protection for both you and your spouse. With this rider, you or your spouse can each draw as much as 50% from your whole life policy’s face value if you’re in need of long-term care due to an illness, injury, or chronic condition.

Note

While Guardian Life doesn’t guarantee that eligible policyholders will receive annual dividends, the company has paid them out every year since 1868.

Customer Service

If you have questions or are interested in purchasing a life insurance policy through Guardian Life, their customer service department is available by calling 888-GUARDIAN (888-482-7342). Representatives can be reached Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., or Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST. 

Once you have coverage, you can also reach out to your local financial representative with questions or if you need to make changes to your policy. 

Complaint Index

Each insurer is expected to receive a certain number of complaints each year, based on its size and market share. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) collects this data and uses it to calculate what’s called a complaint index. 

The national complaint index—which demonstrates the average number of complaints that a company is expected to receive according to its size–essentially has a baseline set at 1.00. If a specific company scores a complaint index below 1.00, it means that they received fewer complaints in a given year than expected; a complaint index above 1.00 would indicate more complaints than expected.

In 2019, Guardian Life received a complaint index of only 0.09653 in terms of individual life insurance services (that’s less than a tenth of the complaints they might have received on average). In 2018, they performed just as well with an index of only 0.08449, and in 2017 they scored a 0.1325. This shows that Guardian Life consistently performs well in terms of consumer complaints, far exceeding expectations.

Third-Party Ratings

When it comes to gauging an insurer’s performance and stability, few things are as telling as third-party ratings. These ratings, provided by trusted and authoritative companies in the industry, can give you a good idea of whether an insurance company will be there when you need them most.

Guardian Life received four out of five stars in the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Life Insurance Study, scoring 770 out of 1,000 points. This earned them a seventh-place ranking among 25 rated companies. This study was based on a number of factors including overall customer satisfaction ratings, price, availability, products, and communication.

In terms of financial stability and strength ratings, AM Best is arguably the best barometer. When it comes to Guardian Life, AM Best has awarded an A++ (Superior) score, which is the highest possible rating. This shows strong confidence in Guardian Life’s ability to back the policies they have issued and pay claims as needed. 

Cancellation Policy

If you decide that your Guardian Life insurance policy isn’t the right product for your needs or simply want to cancel before your coverage ends, you’ll need to submit a cancellation request through your agent. It’s important to read the fine print of your specific policy before doing so, however, as there may be penalties imposed that would decrease your policy’s cash surrender value.

Price

The price you will pay for life insurance coverage will vary greatly depending on any number of personal factors. The type of policy and coverage amount you choose will obviously impact cost, as will things like your age, location, medical history, whether or not you use tobacco products, and gender. (Note that for non-binary applicants, most insurers will go by your birth gender.)

While you’ll need to go through a Guardian agent in order to finalize your policy features and price, the company does offer an online calculator for term life coverage. There, you’re able to see how your monthly cost changes based on the terms of your policy and the coverage limits chosen. 

In our case, we found that a 33-year-old female applicant (who is a non-smoker) would be able to buy 30 years of term life coverage for about $75 a month. That includes a $750,000 death benefit and term conversion rider. 

Competition

The best way to find the right life insurance coverage for you is to compare a few different companies and quotes. That way, you can be sure that you are not only buying a policy that best suits your needs but that you’re also paying the right price. 

We put Guardian Life up against New York Life to see how the two insurers compare. These companies are two of the largest insurers in the country, both offering highly rated service to consumers in all 50 states, with a healthy variety of insurance plans to choose from.

  Guardian Life New York Life
Market Share Sixth-largest in U.S., 2.9% Third-largest in U.S., 5.7%
Number of Plans 14 10
Dividends for 2020 $982 million $1.9 billion
Service Method Agents Agents
AM Best Rating A++ Superior A++ Superior
Price Rank Average Above Average
Complaints Trend 0.10 Exceptional 0.15 Excellent

Each of these two companies received the highest possible rating from AM Best and have an excellent complaint index per the NAIC. Both offer service through agents, rather than being able to buy online, and each company provides dividends to certain policyholders each year. Additionally, both companies have a long history of paying dividends. Where Guardian gets a little bit of an edge is they have a few more plans to choose from with a lower complaint index. This means you get more choices and are less likely to be displeased with the service or the process.

Verdict

Guardian Life is a reputable life insurance company that delivers on its promise of protection. It has ample products with riders available to handle just about any life insurance need. Prices are about average, but the company remains financially solvent and has paid policyholder dividends regularly since 1868. For consumers looking for flexible life insurance options up to the high age of 85, Guardian Life is a good pick.

Our Methodology: How We Review Life Insurance Carriers

When comparing life insurance companies and options, we look at a variety of important factors. This includes comparing consumer satisfaction reports and authoritative industry ratings to see how the company measures up. We also look at the range of options offered: plan types, coverage limits, age and health conditions accepted, and any geographical restrictions. Lastly, we analyze whether the company has a strong history of paying out claims on time, providing policyholders with accessibility options, and just how easy it is to buy or change coverage.

Learn more: Read our full Life Insurance Review Methodology.

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. NAIC. "Guardian Life." Accessed September 8, 2020.

  2. J.D. Power. "2019 U.S. Life Insurance Study." Accessed September 8, 2020.