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Best Whole Life Insurance of April 2024

Updated
David Chang, ChFC®, CLU®
By: David Chang, ChFC®, CLU®

Our Insurance Expert

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

Life insurance is an important element of your financial plan. It provides money to your beneficiaries after you die, giving you better peace of mind. Whole life is a type of life insurance policy that covers you for your entire life as long as you pay the premiums. In this expert review, we evaluate life insurance companies to help you find the best whole life insurance companies.

Northwestern Mutual

Logo for Northwestern Mutual
Best for high financial stability and strength ratingsNorthwestern Mutual
Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
5.00/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line

Northwestern Mutual has an AM Best rating of A++ (Superior), which shows its ability to pay claims, debts, and other financial obligations. It is one of the few life insurance companies to receive AM Best's highest ranking. Northwestern Mutual's NAIC complaint index, which shows how many complaints it has received relative to its market share, is 0.03, one of the lowest. Northwestern Mutual is ranked number No. 3 in overall customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study. The company received a score of 807 out of 1000. The industry average is 776. Northwestern Mutual states on its website that it expects to pay $6.5 billion in dividends for 2022 and have paid out dividends for more than 150 years. Northwestern Mutual is the largest life insurance company in terms of direct premiums, according to the NAIC. Its website does not offer policy details, so you will have to contact a Northwestern Mutual agent in order to get a whole life policy.

Nationwide

Logo for Nationwide
Best for flexible coverage and payment optionsNationwide
Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line

Nationwide has an AM Best rating of A+ (Superior), which shows its ability to pay claims, debts, and other financial obligations. Nationwide's NAIC complaint index, which shows how many complaints it has received relative to its market share, is 0.07, one of the lowest. Nationwide is ranked number No. 2 in overall customer satisfaction according to J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study. The company received a score of 813 out of 1000. Nationwide offers two payment options. With its Whole Life 100 option, premiums are the same until they stop when you turn 100. With its 20-pay Whole Life option, premiums are the same until the policy is paid after 20 years. Nationwide also offers a number of riders so you can customize a whole life insurance policy to meet your specific needs. Nationwide Whole Life also gives you a wide range of choices for protection, including lower minimum coverage amounts of $10,000.

State Farm

Logo for State Farm
Best for customer satisfaction and financial stabilityState Farm
Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line

State Farm is ranked number No. 1 in overall customer satisfaction according to J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study. The company received a score of 822 out of 1000. State Farm has an AM Best rating of A++ (Superior), which shows its ability to pay claims, debts, and other financial obligations. It is one of the few life insurance companies to receive AM Best's highest ranking. State Farm's NAIC complaint index, which shows how many complaints it has received relative to its market share, is 0.20, higher than the other insurers on this list. State Farm has multiple payment options for its whole life insurance policies. You can choose to pay premiums for 10, 15, or 20 years, pay one premium payment, or pay the same premiums for the life of the policy. Although not guaranteed, State Farm also offers dividends to its policyholders.

Penn Mutual

Logo for Penn Mutual
Best for dividend paying policies and cash value returnsPenn Mutual
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
4.00/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line

Penn Mutual has an uninterrupted track record of paying dividends to policyholders for over 170 years. While dividends are not guaranteed, Penn Mutual has never failed to pay them to its eligible whole life policyholders. According to its website, Penn Mutual states that they have one of the strongest dividend offerings in the industry over the last 20 years. Penn Mutual has multiple whole life insurance policies, and compared to products from other insurers, pays one of the highest cash value returns and death benefit values. Penn Mutual has an AM Best rating of A+ (Superior), which shows its ability to pay claims, debts, and other financial obligations. Penn Mutual's NAIC complaint index, which shows how many complaints it has received relative to its market share, is 0.14. Penn Mutual also offers a number of riders and provisions, as well as different policy payment options.

MassMutual

Logo for MassMutual
Best for financial strength and historyMassMutual
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
4.00/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line

MassMutual was founded in 1851 and has been providing insurance for over 170 years. According to the NAIC, it is the 5th largest life insurance company in terms of direct premiums. MassMutual has an AM Best rating of A++ (Superior), which shows its ability to pay claims, debts, and other financial obligations. It is one of the few life insurance companies to receive AM Best's highest ranking. MassMutual's NAIC complaint index, which shows how many complaints it has received relative to its market share, is 0.03, one of the lowest. MassMutual is ranked number No. 7 in overall customer satisfaction according to J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study. The company received a score of 782 out of 1000. According to its website, in 2021, MassMutual paid out $1.8 billion in policyholder dividends and paid out $7 billion in insurance and annuity benefits. MassMutual has a long history of paying dividends, paying them every year since 1869.

New York Life

Logo for New York Life
Best for customizable optionsNew York Life
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
4.00/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line

New York Life has an AM Best rating of A++ (Superior), which shows its ability to pay claims, debts, and other financial obligations. It is one of the few life insurance companies to receive AM Best's highest ranking. New York Life, according to the NAIC, is the 2nd largest life insurance company in terms of direct premiums. New York Life's NAIC complaint index, which shows how many complaints it has received relative to its market share, is 0.17. New York Life is ranked number No. 9 in overall customer satisfaction according to J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study. The company received a score of 777 out of 1000. New York Life offers multiple riders, including a living benefits option. If you are terminally ill, you can use a portion of your death benefit to pay for treatment or care with this option. It offers customized payment options, including for as short a period as five years. Policyholders in New York Life Whole Life are eligible to receive dividends. Though not guaranteed, New York Life has been paying them to customers every year since 1854.

Transamerica

Logo for Transamerica
Best for fast underwriting and no medical examsTransamerica
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
4.00/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Bottom Line

Transamerica does not require medical testing or an exam as long as certain requirements are met. According to its website, a portion of the policy underwriting is now being automated and will therefore be faster. In many cases, a decision can be reached without individual review. Some applicants may qualify for an accelerated underwriting decision without the need for traditional fluids (blood and urine). Some applicants may qualify for a teleinterview to help get qualified faster. Transamerica has an AM Best rating of A (Excellent), which shows its ability to pay claims, debts, and other financial obligations. Transamerica's NAIC complaint index, which shows how many complaints it has received relative to its market share, is 1.82, which is one of the highest in the industry. In J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study Transamerica was ranked below the industry average of 776, getting a score of 747.


What is whole life insurance?

Whole life insurance is a permanent life insurance policy that provides insurance protection for an individual's lifetime. There are two types of life insurance policies: term insurance, which is temporary, and permanent insurance, which lasts the insured's lifetime. Term policies only pay a death benefit if the insured dies during the term period. As a result, whole life insurance policies are more expensive than term policies.

Whole life insurance policies also have a cash value component. The premiums you pay for a permanent policy cover the cost of the life insurance policy and build a cash value (savings fund) within the policy. The cash value amount depends on the premium paid, the duration of the policy, and the interest rate the policy earns. The cash surrender value is different from the death benefit. Term life insurance policies do not offer a cash value.

Advantages of whole life insurance

Whole life insurance offers several advantages. Unlike most financial products, whole life insurance gives certain guarantees for the insured and the beneficiaries.

Guaranteed coverage

A whole life policy never expires as long as you continue to pay the premiums. Even if your health declines, you are guaranteed to be covered regardless of when you pass away. For retirement planning, this means you are guaranteed to have life insurance in your senior years, at a fixed cost.

Guaranteed level premium

Your premiums will stay the same throughout the life of the policy. It will never go up. This makes the premium more affordable over the long run. Other types of policies may adjust their premiums over time, as the policyholder ages or as their health declines.

Guaranteed death benefit

As long as you don't have any loans against your life insurance policy, the death benefit amount (the amount paid to your beneficiaries) is guaranteed never to decrease. You can have peace of mind knowing there is a guaranteed amount of money that will go to your beneficiaries or causes you care about.

Guaranteed cash value

Whole life insurance policies have a cash value that is guaranteed to grow at a set rate each year. This amount depends on the policy you get and the insurer the policy is through. Unlike the stock market, which can be volatile, the cash value of a whole life policy will grow every year without fluctuating.

Potential dividends

In addition to the cash value growth, many life insurance companies also pay out a dividend. You can take the dividend as cash, use it to pay the premium, or reinvest it into your policy. While the dividends are not guaranteed, these payments are a way mutual insurance companies share profits with policyholders.

Tax benefits

There are several tax benefits of whole life insurance policies. The death benefit is tax-free for your beneficiaries. The cash value growth and the dividends you may receive are also tax-deferred. This means the cash component of your whole life policy grows tax-free. You will only have to pay the taxes on the gains if you surrender your policy and take out the cash. In addition, you can borrow against your cash value without paying taxes on it as long as you repay the loan.

Life insurance riders

Some policies allow you to add a rider or an endorsement to your policy. One popular rider is a long-term care or living benefit rider. This rider allows you to use your death benefit for long-term care needs. What you don't use will go to your beneficiaries as the death benefit.

Another popular rider is a waiver of premium benefit. This rider waives the premium payment if you are unable to make payments due to a qualifying event. The rider guarantees that your policy will remain in effect even if you don't pay the premiums.

Whole life insurance cost

One of the disadvantages of whole life insurance is its cost. It is expensive compared to a term life insurance policy. You can buy a term policy with a much larger death benefit for the same cost as a whole life insurance policy. 60% of new individual policies are permanent life policies, but they only represent 28% of the total face amount of all new policies.

The average cost of a 10-year term $250,000 life insurance policy is typically between $15 and $17 per month for a healthy 40-year-old male. Life insurance typically costs more for males due to their shorter lifespan and the fact that they are more likely to have dangerous jobs or lifestyles.

A $250,000 whole life policy in comparison for a healthy 40-year-old male is $327.99 a month, over 20 times more than the cost of a 10-year term policy for the same benefit amount. This is why some financial experts say it may be better for some people to buy term life insurance and invest the difference in cost.

Who is whole life insurance for?

While whole life insurance is not for everyone, there are several instances where whole life insurance makes sense. Whole life may be best for those who need money to pay for estate taxes, want guaranteed protection, and/or own a business.

Health issues

If your family has a history of health problems and you believe you may not qualify for a life insurance policy later on in your life, then a whole life policy may be right for you. It can provide peace of mind in case you can't qualify for life insurance as you get older.

High net worth

Individuals with a high net worth can use whole life insurance policies as part of their overall financial plan to defer taxes. The cash value grows tax-free and they are able to borrow against the policy's value without having to pay taxes as long as they pay it back.

Paying estate taxes

The estate tax exemption is $12.06 million in 2022. If your net worth is more than that, then purchasing a whole life insurance policy may make sense to help your beneficiaries pay estate taxes.

Special needs

For special needs children, a whole life insurance policy can provide the guaranteed funds to help take care of them.

Business agreements

Life insurance can be used for business partners. The death benefit can be used to purchase each other's shares in the business after one of the partners passes away. This is known as a buy-sell agreement.

Savings vehicle

A whole life insurance policy isn't the ideal way to invest and save money. But if you have trouble saving money, then the cash value component can be a useful savings tool. Part of the premiums are used to fund your cash value. Keep in mind that most policies have a minimum number of years you have to keep the policy before you can access your cash value.

Guaranteed death benefit

A term policy ends after a set term limit. The longest term is typically 30 years, meaning the policy will expire after that. If you want another life insurance policy, you will have to submit a new application. Life insurance costs go up significantly for older people. So if you want your beneficiaries to get a guaranteed death benefit without worrying about reapplying for life insurance, then whole life may be a better bet.

How to select the right whole life insurance company

There are quite a few companies that offer whole life insurance. Your goal should be to find the life insurance company that offers the best coverage and terms for you at the right cost. Each company has its pros and cons, so here are the things to consider when choosing one.

Insurer's financial strength

The guarantee that an insurer offers is only as good as its ability to pay. A whole life insurance policy is for the long haul, so you want it to be around to pay the death benefit. AM Best is a well-known insurance rating agency that rates companies on a scale of A++ (Superior) to D (Poor). The ratings are based on an insurer's ability to pay claims, debts, and other financial obligations. Look for an insurer with at least an A- (Excellent) rating. The higher the rating, the higher the ability to meet its financial obligations and pay its claims.

Insurer's complaint record

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) provides information for insurance commissioners to effectively regulate the industry and protect consumers. They publish a complaint index that tells you the insurance companies share of complaints based on its size. After searching for the insurance company, select "click for report options" and then select "complaint trend." The national complaint index is 1. This means a company with a complaint index of 2 has twice as many complaints as expected in the market. The closer to 0, the better the complaint index of the insurance company.

How to qualify

There are different types of whole life insurance policies. Find the coverage and terms that best fit your needs. Not all insurers will offer a policy that is a fit for you. It's best to check how difficult it is to apply for coverage and what the insurer requires from an applicant. Some will require full medical testing, while others may offer a life insurance policy with no exam, and only require completion of a detailed medical questionnaire.

Customer service

How does the company treat customers? Do they get back to them promptly? How easy is it to access the cash value? Some insurers have agents while you can apply for some policies online. You will want to ensure that the company is easy to work with. J.D. Power examines customer satisfaction and publishes the U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study every year. The study measures the experiences of customers of the largest individual life insurance companies in the United States. The score is out of 1000 and the higher the score, the higher the overall satisfaction index ranking.

Compare insurance companies

The rates and coverage terms will vary based on the insurer. Some insurers may be more competitive in certain areas than others. Get quotes and policy terms from different companies, and compare them to make sure you find the best value.

To recap, the best whole life insurance for April 2024:

The Picks
Offer Best For Next Steps
Graphic of Northwestern Mutual
Northwestern Mutual
Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
5.00/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Great For: Best for high financial stability and strength ratings
Graphic of Nationwide
Nationwide
Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Great For: Best for flexible coverage and payment options
Graphic of State Farm
State Farm
Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Great For: Best for customer satisfaction and financial stability
Graphic of Penn Mutual
Penn Mutual
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
4.00/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
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Great For: Best for dividend paying policies and cash value returns
Graphic of MassMutual
MassMutual
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
4.00/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
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Great For: Best for financial strength and history
Graphic of New York Life
New York Life
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
4.00/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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= Excellent
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Great For: Best for customizable options
Graphic of Transamerica
Transamerica
Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
4.00/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
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Great For: Best for fast underwriting and no medical exams

FAQs

  • Whole life insurance is not for everybody. Whole life may be best for those who want to take advantage of the tax-deferred growth, need money to pay for estate taxes, want guaranteed protection over a lifetime, and/or own a business with partners.

  • Whole life insurance can be up to 20 times more expensive than a term life insurance policy with the same death benefit. Whole life insurance is more expensive because it covers you for life and offers guaranteed cash value.

Life Insurance Ratings Methodology

Life Insurance products are rated on a scale of one to five stars, primarily focusing on:

Customer Satisfaction

We look at overall customer sentiment from those who have direct experience with the specific life insurance company. This is compiled through researching publicly available data as well as survey data from visitors of this site.

Pricing

With so many options for life insurance across the board these days, it's easiest, and quite effective, to first look at the bottom line.

Policy Options

We look at the various options available and variety of insurance products offered that can better fit a range of consumers. The focus being on term and whole life insurance and the strength of those specific policy products.

Company Strength

We review the overall strength and health of the company as an indicator as that can highlight a stability that provides peace of mind. Company strength can include:

  • Age of company
  • Financial health
  • Overall customer ratings

Our Insurance Expert