SBLI Life Insurance Review

Affordable Term, Dividend-Paying Whole Life, and Final Expense Policies

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SBLI Life Insurance

SBLI Life Insurance

Investopedia’s Rating
4.2

Our Take

There’s a lot to like about SBLI Life Insurance. Its prices for term life insurance are among the best we’ve found. Whole life policyholders are eligible for annual dividends. And the company’s user-friendly website provides plenty of policy information, as well as quotes and applications for some policy types. On top of that, SBLI is in the minority of companies that offer a final expense (also known as burial insurance) policy. That, combined with solid financial stability and customer satisfaction indicators make it our favorite burial insurance provider. 

But SBLI doesn’t offer some popular types of policies, such as universal life, so you’ll need to look elsewhere for those. And a number of competitors have even better financial strength ratings and more living benefits riders included with their policies.

  • Pros and Cons
  • Company Overview
  • specifications
Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Very competitive rates for term coverage

  • Few customer complaints

  • Eligible policyholders may receive dividends

  • Final expense insurance available

  • Online quotes and applications available for some policies

Cons
  • Limited living benefits riders

  • Doesn’t offer any type of universal life insurance

Company Overview

SBLI, or Savings Bank Life Insurance, was founded in 1907 by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. For decades, the Woburn, Massachusetts-based company sold insurance through life insurance departments at mutual savings banks. In 1992, it became a stock insurance company, and in 2017, became a mutual company owned by its policyholders, some of whom are now eligible for annual dividend payments. SBLI is licensed to sell life insurance in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

  • Year Founded 1907
  • Kinds of Policies Term life, whole life, final expense
  • Payment Plan Options EFT, check, money order, Visa or Mastercard
  • Customer Service Mail Phone: 1-800-694-7254. Email: records@sbli.com. Fax: 1-781-994-4240
  • Official Website https://www.sbli.com/
specifications
AM Best Rating
A-
NAIC Score (avg.)
N/A
Years In Business
115 Years
Policy Types
Final Expense, Term, Whole
Accepts Credit Cards
Yes
Why Trust Us
91
Companies reviewed
55
Features considered
5,005
Data points analyzed
We collected over 5,000 data points from 91 life insurance companies to measure financial stability, customer satisfaction, product and feature variety, and the overall buying experience. We then evaluated each company based on 55 metrics to develop unbiased, comprehensive reviews.

Pros Explained

  • Very competitive rates for term coverage: SBLI ranks among the top 20% of companies we gathered quotes for in terms of providing affordable coverage. What’s more, you can buy a package of term policies that uses a ladder strategy that could save you even more over time. 
  • Few customer complaints: SBLI received fewer complaints than expected given the company’s size. This is a positive indicator of customer satisfaction. 
  • Eligible policyholders may receive dividends: SBLI pays whole life policyholders dividends, although they’re not guaranteed. 
  • Final expense insurance available: SBLI earned the top spot on our list of the best burial insurance companies. Its policy offers up to $35,000 in coverage to applicants ages 50-80 without a medical exam. This can be a way for people who wouldn’t be eligible for other types of insurance to get modest coverage for final expenses.  
  • Online quotes and applications available for some policies: While some competitors make you go through an agent to get a quote or apply for insurance, you can do those things online for SBLI’s term and final expense insurance.

Cons Explained

  • Limited living benefits: Some other companies offer riders that allow you to access part of your death benefit early if you are diagnosed with a chronic or critical illness, or need long-term care. SBLI only offers a rider for terminal illness, though it is included with every policy at no additional cost. 
  • Doesn’t offer any type of universal life insurance: Consumers looking for universal life (UL), indexed universal life (IUL), or variable universal life (VUL) will need to look elsewhere for that coverage.

Complaint Index

SBLI’s customers don’t file many complaints. The carrier received a little more than half as many customer complaints as you might expect for a life insurer of its size, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The NAIC reports annually on the number of complaints filed against each life insurance company. The NAIC Complaint Index makes it easy to compare companies of different sizes.

An index of 1 indicates the company received the number of complaints you’d expect for a firm of its size. A number less than 1 means the company received fewer complaints than expected, while a number greater than 1 means it got more than expected. The lower the index number, the better.

Over a three-year period, the average complaint index for SBLI was 0.597, meaning SBLI received fewer complaints than expected given the company’s size. 

Third-Party Ratings

SBLI received an A (Excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best, which is good but not exceptional. AM Best is an independent credit rating agency that evaluates insurance companies on their financial stability. It rates companies on a scale of A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

AM Best ratings are important because they indicate whether a company will have the financial capacity to pay claims far into the future. That’s why we typically don’t recommend any insurance providers that score below the A bracket. While SBLI’s A grade bodes well for the company, keep in mind that all competitors on our list of the best life insurance companies have an A+ rating or better. 

Competition

  SBLI AAA CMFG 
Types of Coverage  Term, whole, final expense Term, whole, universal, guaranteed-issue  
Dividends for 2021  $20 million  Not applicable Not applicable 
Online Application  Yes  Yes Yes
AM Best Rating  A
Price for Term Policies  Excellent  Worse than Average Poor
NAIC Complaint Index (Averaged over Three Years)  0.597  1.426 0.862 

Our ratings take into account NAIC complaint index scores and AM Best ratings. The NAIC complaint index indicates how many complaints a company receives relative to its size. AM Best assesses a company's ability to pay its claims on a graded scale, with A++ being the highest. 

Policies Available

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is designed to protect your family while you still have financial obligations, such as paying off a mortgage or raising children. Term life insurance typically lasts 10-30 years, and if you die outside of the term, your beneficiaries will not receive a payout. However, this form of life insurance is sufficient for most people’s needs, and it’s vastly more affordable than permanent life insurance. 

SBLI Term Life Insurance

With SBLI Term Life, you can choose a 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30-year term. Issue ages range from 18 to 74 and vary based on your term and tobacco usage. The minimum face amount is $100,000, and you can get up to $50 million in coverage. What’s more, accelerated underwriting (or no-medical-exam life insurance) is available to applicants ages 18 to 60 seeking $750,000 in coverage or less. 

Premiums stay the same for the term you select, and you can renew your policy up to age 85, though rates will increase every year after the initial term. You can also convert your term policy to a whole life or universal policy if you want to later on. 

One-Year Non-Renewable Life Insurance

SBLI offers a one-year term policy as a bridge to another policy when affordability is a concern or if you need additional short-term coverage. This policy can’t be renewed, but it can be converted into a whole life or universal life insurance policy without a medical exam. 

SBLI SmartTerm 360

This is a group of policies that follows a ladder strategy, allowing you to buy layers of coverage for different terms. For example, you might need $1 million in coverage while your kids are still growing, but you could step down to $750,000 once they’ve left the house, and step down further to $500,000 once they’ve graduated college. SBLI touts SmartTerm 360 as a way to structure your coverage so you can save up to 50% when compared to traditional term life insurance. You’re essentially buying multiple policies with different terms in one package. 

Whole Life Insurance

A whole life insurance policy provides your beneficiaries with a guaranteed death benefit, as long as premiums are paid, no matter when you die. Premiums stay level for your entire life. A whole life insurance policy also builds cash value over time that you can borrow against. And at some companies, including SBLI, whole life policyholders are eligible to receive dividends. However, whole life insurance tends to cost much more than term life insurance. 

SBLI Flex Whole Life Insurance 

This policy is eligible for dividends and available to applicants aged 15 days to 80 years for between $25,000 (standard risk class only) and $50 million in coverage. Applicants ages 18-60 purchasing $750,000 in coverage or less can apply for accelerated underwriting, which doesn’t require an in-person exam. After one year, you can start borrowing against the policy, and after the 10th policy year, you can do so at no cost. 

SBLI has six payment plans to choose from. If you opt for a shorter pay period, you’ll pay more each month, but you can avoid paying premiums in retirement.

  • Continuous Pay: Premiums paid until age 121
  • Limited Pay 10: Premiums paid over 10 years
  • Limited Pay 15: Premiums paid over 15 years
  • Limited Pay 20: Premiums paid over 20 years
  • Limited Pay Paid Up at 65: Premiums paid until age 65
  • Single Premium: Designed for wealth transfer, this requires a single premium payment of up to $1 million

Final Expense Insurance

Final expense insurance is a type of permanent life insurance targeted at older applicants who want an easier approval and low coverage amounts. There are no restrictions on how SBLI’s final expense policy can be used, so it can cover funeral costs in addition to other expenses. Premiums stay level for the life of the policy. 

SBLI Cherish Life Final Expense

SBLI’s final expense policy doesn’t require a medical exam, but it does require you to answer health questions—it is not guaranteed acceptance insurance. Depending on your health, you may only be eligible for a reduced benefit during the first two to three years. Cherish Life is available to applicants ages 50-80 seeking between $2,000 and $35,000 in coverage. It also comes with a free lifetime membership to Life’s Mission Control, an online tool for creating and storing legacy planning files. 

It’s easy to get a cost estimate online for SBLI’s final expense policy. However, note that you’ll receive a range of premium amounts until you formally apply. 

Available Riders

Riders are add-ons to an insurance policy that help you customize your coverage. Every rider works differently, but it’s common for riders to provide additional coverage, living benefits, or the ability to pause premium payments. SBLI offers a variety of riders, but not every rider is available with every type of policy. 

Accelerated Death Benefit Rider

This rider comes with every policy at no additional cost. In the event that you are diagnosed with a terminal illness with 12 months or less to live, this rider lets you access up to $250,000 of the death benefit while you are still alive to pay for care or other financial needs. 

Children’s Level Term Rider

Available with whole and term life policies, this one rider provides term coverage for all your children between the ages of 15 days and 23 years old at the time of issue. You can convert this coverage to a whole life policy up to five times the original face amount provided by the rider. 

Accidental Death Benefit Rider

With this rider in place, if your cause of death is an accident and you die within 180 days of the accident, you’ll get an additional payout equal to the face amount of the rider. It’s available with both whole and term life policies. 

Waiver of Premium Rider

Available with whole and term life policies, this rider allows you to pause premium payments should you become totally disabled. 

Guaranteed Purchase Option Rider

With this rider, which can be added to SBLI’s whole life policies, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase additional coverage at certain ages or milestones without taking a medical exam or answering health questions. 

Single-Pay Paid-Up Additions Rider

When the policy is issued, this rider gives you the opportunity to make a cash deposit to boost the policy’s cash value and death benefit. It’s available only with SBLI whole life insurance.

Guaranteed Level Premium Term Rider

If you need extra coverage beyond your whole life policy for a specific period, this rider lets you add 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years of term life insurance with level premiums. At the end of the term, you can also renew the coverage at annually increasing rates up to age 85. 

Cash-Out Term Rider

This 30-year term rider, which is available with whole life policies, can be surrendered to receive either a full or partial return of premiums paid, depending on when you surrender the term coverage. 

Child Level Term Life Insurance Rider

This rider can be added to the SBLI final expense policy. It provides term coverage for all children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren between the ages of 30 days and 17 years. 

Value-Added Benefit Rider

This rider gives you access to a package of online subscriptions, mobile apps, tools, and services for managing your wellness and finances. This rider is only available with SBLI final expense policies. 

The included programs in the Value-Added Benefit Rider are subject to change. Make sure you ask an agent what’s included. If you don’t need everything that comes with the rider, it might be cheaper to buy separate access, so do the math. 

Customer Service

The SBLI customer service call center is only open during business hours. On weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, you can call 1-800-694-7254 for assistance. You can also email questions to mysbli@sbli.com or send documents to records@sbli.com. You can also chat with a virtual assistant. 

SBLI stands out from some competitors in that it offers online quotes and applications for some types of policies. You can use the online portal to manage your policy, and your beneficiaries can even start a claim online. 

Price

We consider SBLI’s pricing for term policies to be excellent compared to competitors, based on sample quotes we pulled. We gathered premium data for 30-year, $250,000 term policies for male and female applicants in excellent health across different age groups. Keep in mind that pricing is individual. You might get a higher rate if you have some health issues. That’s why it’s important to compare quotes from a few different companies before deciding on a policy. But here’s what you can expect from SBLI if you’re in great health.

  Male Female 
Age 25 $18.45 $15.27
Age 40  $29.10  $24.23 

SBLI pricing is in the cheapest 20% of the 32 companies we gathered quotes from. While there are a few companies that offer slightly better rates, such as Banner Life and Protective Life, SBLI’s rates are close to matching these companies’. Since your individual rate will vary, it’s worth getting a quote from SBLI for comparison. 

Is SBLI Life Insurance Right for Me?

If you’re looking for a convertible term policy at a good price, SBLI has some great options, and you may even be able to qualify for accelerated underwriting, which would let you skip taking a medical exam. The company’s SmartTerm 360 policy could offer another way to save, by tailoring your term coverage according to your needs at different times in your life. 

SBLI may also be a good choice if you’re looking for a final expense or dividend-earning whole life policy backed by a financially stable company that gets few customer complaints. The company’s online quotes and applications for term and final expense policies are a plus, too, for people who don’t want to have to talk to an agent. But if you want extensive living benefits or any type of universal life policy, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Our Methodology: How We Review Life Insurance Carriers

We designed a comprehensive ranking methodology based on consumer priorities and life insurance company fundamentals to rank more than 90 insurers across five general categories: financial stability, customer satisfaction, product and feature variety, the overall buying experience, and cost.

In order to do this, we collected over 5,000 data points and scored each company based on 55 metrics. We grouped metrics by category to see how insurers performed in each; we then weighted category scores to determine how companies performed overall.

To learn more, read our full Life Insurance Methodology.