Best Life Insurance Companies for 2021
Life insurance isn’t something many Millennials think about.
Quite the opposite actually – according to BusinessWire – roughly 10 percent of Millennials have the life insurance coverage they need, making them the least prepared generation for unexpected life events.
But having top-rated, reliable life insurance is a foundational piece to early financial independence. Without it, any unexpected tragedy could undo all of the hard work you’ve put in toward FI/RE.
Contrary to what many people seem to think, the best time to buy life insurance is not when you’re older and have several health problems, but when you’re young and healthy – that’s when the rates are at their best.
Plus, if you follow my advice for financial independence, you shouldn’t need life insurance later in life – your net worth should provide for your loved ones.
Without further ado, let’s talk about the best life insurance companies. I’ll share our research and show you how to build the coverage you need while still saving money.
Best Life Insurance Companies for 2021
When it comes to life insurance, you’ll want to find something that provides sufficient coverage but also doesn’t put a strain on your wallet. We reviewed over two dozen of the highest-rated life insurance companies to come up with this short list.
Here are 9 affordable and top-rated life insurance providers you’ll want to check out:
- 🏆 Haven Life
- Banner Life
- Northwestern Mutual
- Mutual of Omaha
- New York Life
- State Farm
1. Haven Life
Haven Life is one of the newer life insurance companies entering the insurance ring (but they are backed and wholly owned by MassMutual, which is over 150 years old).
They have created a unique niche in the life insurance world: selling affordable, high-quality term policies that don’t require a medical exam.
If you’re younger than 45 and your health doesn’t raise any digital red flags, you could get up to $3 million in top-quality coverage without the exam.
Haven has revolutionized online policy management tools and prides itself on how quickly you can apply for coverage and has landed the top spot on my list for best term life insurance.
A $250,000, 20-year Haven Life term policy starts around $14.
- Haven Life has one of the fastest and easiest application processes.
- Higher than average coverage limits, up to $3,000,000
Biggest Drawback: Haven Life only offers term life insurance policies and is geared towards healthy applicants.
- Learn more about the application process and see live sample rates in our complete Haven Life insurance review
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2. Banner Life
Banner Life checks a lot of boxes — online access, great customer service, firm financial footing — but the company stands out more for its stance on complex health conditions.
With most companies, any health issue will automatically mean higher rates. Banner Life spends more time considering all the nuances of your life before classifying your coverage.
If you had diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, Banner Life would be a good place to start your insurance journey. Also, smokers may be able to lower their premiums later if they successfully quit.
- Great for those with health conditions, including smokers
- Online application process
- Great customer service
Biggest Drawback: No online policy cancellation
- Learn about Banner’s term, universal and burial insurance options in our complete Banner Life insurance review
3. Northwestern Mutual
Northwestern Mutual got 4 out of 5 stars for customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s most recent survey, and A.M. Best rates the company A++, its highest grade.
Flexibility is this company’s greatest strength. Its term, whole, and universal life insurance policies can adapt to meet customer’s needs. Its whole life policyholders become shareholders in the company and earn dividends.
And Northwestern Mutual pioneered a new hybrid of whole and term life insurance policies called CompLife. As we’ll discuss later in this post, the underwriting process favors younger and healthier shoppers. This product helps your current age and health save money on life insurance premiums for the rest of your life.
- Adaptable life insurance products
- Access to dividends with whole life
- CompLife — the term-whole hybrid
Biggest Drawback: Medical exams remain a central component of underwriting and they have limited online options.
- Learn more about Northwestern’s term and whole life products in our complete Northwestern Mutual life insurance review
Bestow has quickly become one of the top options for affordable term life insurance coverage.
Bestow seeks to simplify insurance. If you want simple coverage right away, you’ll like this company.
But simplicity has its drawbacks. Bestow offers 10- and 20-year term coverage only. If you need one of these products you can find rock-bottom rates — as low as $8 a month for the youngest and healthiest applicants.
Like Haven Life, Bestow assesses your health without an exam. If you have health complexities — or if you’re 55 or older — you shouldn’t apply.
- Simple, Low rates
- No medical exam needed
- Fast application
- Flexible cancellation policy
Biggest Drawbacks: No permanent or universal options and only for ages 21 – 54
- Learn more about Bestow’s term life options in our complete Bestow life insurance review
Ladder makes applying for life insurance seamless with its online portal.
Almost everything can be done through the company website including setting up new policies, changing coverage, and more. The rise of insurtech has created an environment where more and more providers are allowing remotely-managed insurance policies.
What’s more, many Ladder applicants are also approved for a policy without a medical exam.
- Apply Online to Decrease Coverage
- Quick Underwriting
- High Coverage Limits
- Available Nationwide
Biggest Drawback: No insurance riders available
- Learn more about your insurance options in our Ladder Life Insurance review.
AIG has a super-fast turnaround rate, lots of flexibility, and a great track record for customer service.
Most insurers offer standard term lengths (10, 15, 20 years, etc.). AIG can provide non-standard terms such as 18 or 22 years. AIG also has a full range of whole life products.
AIG has embraced the information age. You can apply and adjust your coverage online; however, you’d need to call to cancel coverage.
Along with insurance, AIG offers other financial products, all with good grades from the rating agencies.
- Wide range of policies
- Affordable coverage for diabetics and overweight applicants
- Faster-than-average approval
- Non-standard term lengths
Biggest Drawback: Policy cancellations must be done over the phone.
- Learn more about policy options in our complete AIG life insurance review
Protective excels with its rate reconsideration feature.
Normally, you’d lock in premiums based on your current health. But Protective has a different approach: If your health improves after you finalize your policy, you can apply for rate reconsideration without having to cancel coverage and start all over again with a new policy.
Protective’s application approval is slow, so if you need life insurance now, Protective may not be your best choice.
- Premium reconsideration option for health markers that have improved
- Short application form
- Policy delivered by email
Biggest Drawback: Slow approval process
- Learn more about Protective’s term and permanent life insurance solutions in our complete Protective life insurance review
8. Mutual of Omaha
Mutual of Omaha excels in coverage for people with complex medical conditions.
Policies let you maximize your accelerated death benefits — a portion of your coverage you could access after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
I wouldn’t suggest applying with Mutual of Omaha if you smoke. The company’s underwriters tend to have an absolute view on tobacco.
- Complete line of term, permanent and accidental insurance products
- Competitive underwriting for health conditions
- Award-winning employer (Forbes)
Biggest Drawback: Not great for tobacco users and tends to have a slower application process
- Dig deeper into Mutual of Omaha’s life insurance products and get quotes in our complete Mutual of Omaha review
9. New York Life
New York Life is the oldest life insurance provider in the nation. Like MassMutual and Northwestern Mutual, policyholders can receive dividends.
If you’re looking for a tradition of financial strength, you’ll find it with New York Life.
You can front-load your premiums with one of New York Life’s whole life products to avoid paying premiums during retirement.
- Dividends possible
- Front-loaded premiums option
Biggest Drawback: Unfortunately there is no online quote option or 30-year term policy available
10. State Farm
This huge company has brand recognition online, on TV, and probably in your neighborhood — but mainly for its homeowners and auto insurance. State Farm sells a wide variety of life insurance products too, earning A++ ratings from A.M. Best.
State Farm’s variety of life insurance policies can overwhelm online shoppers who aren’t quite sure what to buy. Visiting one of State Farm’s 18,000 local insurance agents can help you decide.
Your customer service experience will depend on your local agent, too, so be sure you pick someone who responds to your questions.
- Wide variety of policy types
- In-your-neighborhood approach
- Online access to policy
- Multiple policy discounts may apply if you also have auto, home or renters insurance
Biggest Drawback: The shear size of the company can be overwhelming
How much does life insurance cost?
When signing up for life insurance, you will have to choose the amount of coverage you need.
Here are some sample quotes for varying amounts of coverage, from $250,000 to $2 million dollars:
Sample monthly premium rates from PolicyGenius above are based on a 20-year term life insurance policy for a non-smoking male.
What Do Life Insurance Company Ratings Mean?
Since we can’t compare life insurance products the way we’d compare groceries or electronics, we need another way to quantify data.
Life insurance company ratings can help. You’ve already seen references to A.M. Best in this post. You can also check Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings all of which analyze the health of life insurers and issue grades.
Financial strength ratings look like grades in school, for the most part. As are better than Bs and Cs, for instance. We’ve only picked companies with a “good” or “excellent” A.M. Best rating. These ratings agencies listed below grade only financial strength and do not reflect customer satisfaction.
*Note: A summary of A.M.Best, Better Business Bureau, and J.D. Power customer service ratings can be found at the end of this post.
As you can see from their A.M. Best and Fitch grades, these companies sell stable coverage that could protect your family. You should expect nothing less than financial stability as you shop for coverage; however, you should also expect more. These companies also have affordable premiums and flexible coverage.
Solid grades do not mean an insurer will always be impervious to financial instability. Grades can’t guarantee you’ll get the best coverage for your needs.
These grades do offer a snapshot of an insurer’s health this year. This snapshot can help you assess a company’s likely health in the future.
Insurance companies and agents talk a lot about their ratings because letter grades offer a tangible way to compare insurance companies. As consumers, we crave tangible ways to measure quality.
But most consumers won’t notice a huge difference between an A++ and an A+ or even an A-rated company.
What Happens If My Insurer Goes Bankrupt?
All this talk about company ratings can give consumers the idea they would suffer if they chose an inferior life insurance company — that their company might go bankrupt and become unable to pay claims.
You should consider the health of your insurance company before buying a policy. But you don’t have to feel responsible for assessing the financial health of an insurer decades into the future.
In reality, consumers have safeguards against losing their life insurance coverage in a bankruptcy:
- State Oversight: State insurance commissions require insurers to have a healthy ratio of revenue to potential exposure.
- Reinsurance: Insurance companies have their own insurance which they call “reinsurance.” If your insurance company faced a bankruptcy proceeding, other insurers should, collectively, be able to pay your claim.
- Guaranty Associations: Life insurers watch each other’s backs and on-load your policy if your company can no longer sustain it.
You should still look for quality life insurance at an affordable price, but it’s not all on you to prevent a big loss.
What’s The Best Type of Life Insurance Coverage?
One of the first questions to ask when you’re shopping for coverage: What kind of life insurance should I buy?
Life insurance comes in a lot of shapes, sizes, and flavors, but you can still categorize every policy in one of two ways.
- Term Life: Term life coverage has an expiration date, typically 10, 20 or 30 years. When your term expires, so does your coverage — unless you renew at a higher premium, convert coverage to a whole life policy, or buy a new term policy. It’s common to buy $1 million, $2 million or more in coverage.
- Best for: Simple and affordable coverage to protect your loved ones
- Whole Life: Whole life insurance, or permanent, life insurance has no built-in expiration date. Whole life also slowly gains cash value you can leverage later in life. Rather than “renting” term coverage for a specified length of time, whole life policyholders gain “ownership” of their coverage, like a savings account or even an investment. Although you can’t withdraw cash from your whole policy, you could borrow against its value or surrender the policy and claim the cash. You could also donate the policy and its cash value to someone else.
- Best for: cash value and permanence
These kinds of insurance policies should be part of your broader plan for financial independence.
I recommend asking a certified financial planner for advice; however, term life coverage is the most efficient protection for most people.
No Exam Life Insurance
Traditionally you could not get medically underwritten rates without taking a medical exam to confirm your good health.
Over the past several years at least two companies have started offering this option, thanks to more thorough online database checks.
Bestow Life and Haven Life — both on my “best” list above — offer this kind of coverage.
If you’re older than 45, you won’t qualify. If you’re younger than 45 you may not qualify if your health history isn’t totally pristine.
But if you can qualify, it’s a sweet deal: a large, affordable policy without the medical exam.
With most providers, shoppers can choose from three kinds of no-exam life insurance:
Instead of a health exam, you’ll answer a thorough questionnaire about your health and your family’s health history.
Underwriters will check a pharmaceutical database to confirm your current and previous prescriptions. They can also find results from any previous life insurance health exams and see your driving record.
Simplified issue policies can’t rival medically underwritten insurance when you compare coverage amounts. Most companies cap benefits at $350,000 to $500,000. You could possibly find $1 million in term life coverage with simplified issue.
You’ll get a brief questionnaire when you apply, but just about anybody can get approved unless you have a terminal diagnosis or need total care.
Expect to wait two or three years before the full coverage amount becomes available. If you died a few months after buying coverage and had paid premiums to date, your beneficiary would have no access to the coverage. (They could get a refund of your premiums.)
Guaranteed issue policies max out around $25,000, though it’s normally possible to find $40,000 to $50,000. Premiums are significantly more expensive than a medically underwritten term coverage.
These whole life burial insurance policies exist specifically to help pay your final expenses such as funeral or burial costs. They provide a small amount of coverage but usually cost less than guaranteed issue insurance.
Policies that require an exam vs no exam life insurance
Most of the time, your insurer will ask you to take a health exam before finalizing your coverage.
This exam includes blood and urine analysis, a height and weight check, and a blood pressure check.
Life insurance health exams take time to schedule. They can be a little awkward. And, of course, they include a needle. So people like to avoid them when possible.
But here’s the thing: For most applicants, your health exam unlocks the lowest premiums — assuming you’re healthy. If you skip the exam because it’s inconvenient, you could pay thousands more for coverage.
If you’re not completely healthy, no-exam life insurance could be your best option.
How Much Coverage Should I Get?
Regardless of its purpose, your life insurance death benefit should be large enough to do its job:
- For income replacement: You’ll need a larger policy, and term life will probably be key to making it happen.
- For estate flexibility or final expenses: You’d need a smaller amount of coverage, and a whole life policy would probably be best since it never expires.
- For business purposes: Get a policy large enough to reflect the value of your business partner’s share of the company if possible. Whole or term can often work here.
Your ideal amount of life insurance coverage [calculator] will depend on your specific situation.
How does life insurance work?
No matter how simple or complicated your coverage gets, life insurance eventually boils down to this basic trade-off:
You Pay Premiums:
- “Premium” is insurance-speak for the cost of your life insurance. By paying your premiums you keep your coverage active.
You Get Coverage:
- In exchange for keeping your premiums up to date, your survivors could claim your policy’s coverage amount if you died. Insurers call this tax-free payout your “death benefit.”
Insurance companies base premiums on your age, health, occupation, and hobbies — along with the kind of insurance you buy.
What If I Already Have Life Insurance from Work?
Many employers offer group life insurance as a benefit. You should opt-in, especially when you can do so at no extra cost.
However, this kind of coverage has its limits. Your coverage amount will be low compared to a personal life insurance policy.
Plus, staying covered depends on staying employed with the company. If you changed jobs, you’d lose the coverage.
What Factors Affect Your Premium?
How much does it cost to protect your family with life insurance? The answer varies widely based on your life and the type of insurance you need.
Premiums can range from $8 or $10 a month to $300 or $400 a month or more. These factors will make the difference:
Details About Your Policy
The kind of life insurance policy you need will have a big impact on costs.
Life Insurance Policy Options to Consider:
- Whole or Term: As I said earlier, term life can provide a lot more coverage for less if you need simple coverage. Longer terms almost always cost more than shorter terms.
- Coverage Size: This one’s a no-brainer. More coverage almost always costs more than less coverage. I say “almost always” because unusual amounts sometimes cost more. You may pay a little more for a $485,000 policy than you would for a $500,000 policy.
- Type of Underwriting: A medical exam confirms your health and can lead to lower premiums. No-exam coverage costs more if you’re healthy.
- Riders: Riders add extra features and flexibility to your policy for an added cost. A return of premium rider, for example, could refund all your premiums at the end of your term — assuming you outlive the term.
Details About You
Details about your life affect premiums in big ways, too. Applicants who present greater risk of an early death will pay higher premiums.
Personal Details Include:
- Your Age: Younger applicants will usually get lower premiums. Locking in a low premium now, based on your current age, could save money for decades.
- Your Health: Healthier applicants should get lower premiums. You’ll hear a lot about no-health-exam policies. These are convenient but will cost a lot more if you’re healthy since underwriters know so little about your health.
- Your Health History: Your health history and the health history of your family members will influence rates. A trend of serious health diagnoses for several generations could inflate your rates.
- Tobacco Use: Smokers often pay four to five times more for a policy.
- Your Gender: Males typically pay higher rates than females for the same coverage.
- Your Occupation: More dangerous jobs such as roofing or high-rise construction will prompt higher premiums because, once again, your risk of mortality exceeds the risk of a stay-at-home parent or computer programmer.
- Your Location: Each state regulates insurance companies differently; costs vary from state to state.
- Other Details: Your driving record, your credit score, your prescription drug records — these and other factors give insurers a more nuanced assessment of your life and its inherent risks. Higher risks prompt higher premiums.
In short, the higher your risk of death, the more you’ll pay for life insurance.
The good news: Once you have coverage, your premiums will remain fixed, unless you buy a policy designed for fluctuating premiums.
Special Underwriting Needs
Since your risk of mortality directly impacts your life insurance eligibility and premiums, health problems will almost always lead to higher rates.
But it’s too complicated to say, “Use this life insurance company if you smoke.” How much you smoke, whether you just quit or quit a couple years ago, whether you smoke and have other health factors such as high blood pressure — all these and many other variables create your own unique needs.
In these cases, I recommend reaching out to an independent life insurance agent in your area. Independent agents can work for you instead of working for a single insurer. Agents can find the best company to match your unique needs.
Life Insurance Riders
No matter which company you choose, you can modify your coverage with riders. Riders are add-ons to make your coverage more flexible. You’ll have to buy riders when you buy the policy and not after. So there’s some guess-work involved.
Common riders include:
- Accelerated Death Benefit Rider: Lets you access your benefit before death during a qualifying medical crisis such as a terminal illness diagnosis. You could use the money to pay for expensive health care.
- Return of Premium Rider: When you outlive your term, your coverage expires. This expensive rider could refund all the premiums you paid for the coverage at the end of your term.
- Waiver of Premium Rider: This rider lets you keep your coverage — for a while — even if you can’t afford your premiums because you were injured and can’t work.
- Guaranteed Insurability Rider: This rider let’s you adjust your policy’s benefit later in life without going through underwriting again. This is valuable because your health could change later, making it harder to get covered. (Whole policies only.)
- Child Term Rider: You could extend part of your coverage to one child — or sometimes multiple children — with a child term rider.
- Long-Term Care Rider: This rider lets you unlock some of your policy’s death benefit to use on long-term care if you need it.
Most insurers offer these common riders. Some companies offer a few riders for free. Accelerated death benefit riders tend to be among the most common free additions.
But riders normally add significant costs to your premiums which inspires the question: Are riders worthwhile?
You have no way to know whether you’ll eventually use a specific rider. So I recommend taking it easy here. Focus more on building your own financial independence so you can create your own solutions to the problems riders can help solve.
But if you think a rider would add the flexibility you really need, go for it. Just be sure you’re getting the best price and taking advantage of free riders when possible.
How To Compare Life Insurance Quotes
By now you know enough to start shopping for life insurance quotes. Your first quote is almost never your best quote.
Tools like the quote box on this page can help make this process easier. You can enter your information and see prices from a variety of leading companies.
As you compare quotes on your own, make sure you’re comparing the same kind of coverage options with each insurance company.
And remember your quote will not always mirror your actual premium. Quotes provide an estimate — a nice starting point. The actual underwriting process may discover new information that increases or decreases your premium.
What About Modern Features?
The policy with the lowest premium may not always be your first choice for coverage.
You may be willing to pay a little more for features such as online life insurance applications, online management of beneficiaries, and the ability to pay your bill online.
The Internet has also changed the way some companies sell insurance. Recently, even the underwriting process has become more automated. Best companies like Haven Life, Ethos Life, and Bestow Life can check your health data without requiring a health exam.
These kinds of advances have made getting coverage quicker and easier for many people.
How Does Life Insurance Fit Into Your Financial Plan?
As you think about building your overall financial stability and freedom, life insurance may not seem to fit into the equation. You may already be asking yourself, “do I even need life insurance?”
Term Life Insurance and Your Financial Plan
Term life insurance isn’t truly an asset. Your coverage won’t endure and grow. You don’t even really own it.
Term life is simply a contract between you and your insurance company. You agree to pay premiums and in exchange, your insurer agrees to follow its own rules about paying your beneficiary (if you died).
So what does term life really offer as you seek a more stable financial future?
In short, term life offers an umbrella. Umbrellas are a temporary shelter. They’re not a permanent solution to stormy weather.
In the same way, term life insurance gives you access to a temporary shelter which serves two purposes:
- More Freedom For You: If you’d like to work hard and invest your money in a variety of ways to build your own financial independence over time, your life insurance policy can offer some protection while you do so. Without a larger term-life policy, you’d probably choose to be more guarded with your money in case something terrible happened.
- More Freedom for Your Family: If the worst did happen and you died, your family would not have to re-think their entire financial future while they also tried to recover from the shock of losing you. They wouldn’t have to sell the house or tap into the college savings just to pay the bills. Your life insurance payout would give them some time to make the best decisions.
One of the best things about term life relates, once again, to its temporary nature, just like the umbrella. When the sun comes back out, you can put away your umbrella.
The same is true for term life. If you buy a 20-year term policy, for example, you’re giving yourself 20 years to build your own financial house that could withstand even your death.
And if you get ahead of schedule and no longer need coverage after 10 years, you can cancel your policy early.
Whole Life Insurance And Your Financial Plan
Whole life is a different kind of product. You can eventually own your coverage, and it can fit into your larger array of financial assets.
On its own, whole life of any type doesn’t perform all that well as an investment vehicle. Yes, you can invest your policy’s value into mutual funds or have it track a stock index.
But you’ll have much more freedom and flexibility to invest money without the constraints of your whole life insurance policy. And, you could access your funds much more easily, if needed, when they’re part of a separate investment account.
That being said, permanent life insurance has a nice tax advantage that could enhance your retirement planning: Since you pay premiums with after-tax dollars, your life insurance’s cash value can grow tax free.
But unless you’re already maxing out your IRA contributions and your 401(k) or equivalent fund, you’ll usually get better results maximizing those avenues first.
I enjoy discussing these kinds of topics on this blog, but there’s no substitute for working with your own financial planner who can help you asses your specific needs and find the right products — life insurance or otherwise — to help grow your financial freedom.
Summary: Life Insurance Companies Reviewed
|Company||BBB||J.D. Power Score||A.M. Best Rating|
|New York Life||A+||770||A++|
|Mutual of Omaha||A+||795||A+|
|Lincoln Financial Group||NR||750||A+|
Additional Life Insurance Company Reviews
In addition to the ones listed above, we also researched and reviewed the following top life insurance companies: