I'm sure the old MetLife (NYSE:MET) slogan, "Get Met, it pays," wasn't specifically referring to the company's stock, though it would have been fitting -- at least today. The shares were among the market's biggest gainers this morning, up 11%, after a blowout earnings report. First-quarter net income rose 65% to $987 million, or $1.33, from $598 million a year ago. Operating earnings -- a core measure commonly used in the industry that strips out the impact of investment gains and losses -- jumped 42% to a record $1.11, surprising analysts, who were expecting only an $0.86 gain.

Snoopy had plenty of reasons to smile, as each segment delivered solid growth during the quarter for MetLife, the nation's largest life insurance company. Premiums and fees collected from the group, individual, and auto/home lines increased 11% to $7.1 billion, driving total revenues 9.3% higher to $10.3 billion. The most subdued growth came from the institutional segment -- which provides group insurance, retirement products, and other benefits to more than 37 million employees and family members -- where operating income was up a modest 2.2%. By contrast, group-benefits specialist Cigna (NYSE:CI) posted a robust 25% increase this morning.

MetLife's individual business, however, was able to pick up much of the slack. With earnings generated from traditional life insurance, variable life, and annuities all up strongly, operating income in the segment spiked 70% to $318 million. The acquisition of the Travelers life and annuity business from Citigroup (NYSE:C), which is expected to close in the summer, should be a boon to MetLife's individual sales. The company will receive not only the keys to global operations that produced $5.2 billion in revenues and more than $900 million in earnings last year, but also a 10-year distribution agreement to market its products through Citigroup's extensive retail sales channels.

With a banner first quarter in the books and help from Travelers on the way, management has felt confident enough to sharply lift its 2005 outlook and is now expecting operating earnings of $3.90 to $4.05 per share. If MetLife can deliver on that optimistic forecast, then it might just provide peace of mind in more ways than one.

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Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter is a big fan of Snoopy's work. He owns none of the companies mentioned.