6 Best Whole Life Insurance Companies in 2021

A whole life insurance policy offers lifelong coverage and doubles as an investment.
Katia IervasiAug 19, 2021

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If you’re looking to treat your life insurance policy as a cash asset, you might be in the market for a whole life insurance policy. Along with providing a guaranteed payout to your loved ones when you die, these policies build cash value over time at a set interest rate.

To create this list of the best whole life insurance companies, our experts focused on financially strong insurers with low levels of customer complaints. We then honed in on important features of whole life insurance policies, such as riders, the potential to earn dividends and the amount of coverage you can buy.

The best whole life insurance companies in 2021

Company

Whole life insurance options

Policy details

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

Whole Life Plus.

Eligibility age range: 0 to 85.

Minimum coverage amount: $50,000.

Maximum coverage amount: $70 million.

State availability: All states.

Potential to earn dividends: Yes.

Our take: Northwestern Mutual sells one whole life policy with various payment options. You can choose to pay premiums for 15, 20 or 25 years, or until you reach age 65 or 100. The insurer also offers flexible coverage amounts, starting at $50,000 and going up to $70 million for eligible applicants.

To enhance your coverage, you can add riders to your policy, such as an accelerated care benefit that pays out a portion of your death benefit if you need long-term care. There’s also an additional purchase benefit rider, which lets you increase your coverage at a later date without taking another life insurance medical exam.

Northwestern Mutual is a mutual company and one of the largest individual life insurers in the U.S., and it’s paid out dividends each year since 1872.

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

Legacy 100.

Legacy 65.

Legacy 10/12/15/20 Pay.

Legacy HECV.

Eligibility age range: 0 to 90 (varies by policy).

Minimum coverage amount: $25,000, or $100,000 for Legacy HECV, a policy designed for businesses.

Maximum coverage amount: Unlimited.

State availability: All states.

Potential to earn dividends: Yes.

Our take: MassMutual has a string of whole life policies to choose from. While they have different payment structures, they all earn cash value at a set interest rate of 4% (up to age 100).

Depending on your policy, you might be able to customize your coverage with various riders. These include a long-term care rider and a yearly term purchase rider, which allows you to direct your dividend payments toward a term life insurance policy.

As a permanent policyholder, you’re eligible to receive dividends based on the insurer’s profits. MassMutual estimates it will pay out $1.7 billion to its permanent policyholders in 2021.

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

Life Paid Up at 121.

Life Paid Up at 99.

Life Paid Up at 95.

Life Paid Up at 65.

10 Pay Whole Life.

15 Pay Whole Life.

20 Pay Whole Life.

EstateGuard.

Eligibility age range: 0 to 80 (varies by policy).

Minimum coverage amount: $25,000.

Maximum coverage amount: Unlimited.

State availability: All states.

Potential to earn dividends: Yes.

Our take: Guardian has a diverse lineup of whole life insurance policies, including a survivorship policy that insures two people — typically spouses. You can choose a policy with level premiums, or a “limited payment” policy that allows you to pay off your policy in 10, 15 or 20 years. After that, there’s no cost to keep your coverage.

The company also offers life insurance for people living with HIV. To qualify, you must prove you’re under a specialist’s care and successfully receiving antiretroviral therapy. Plus, the insurer offers a range of riders, such as a disability waiver of premium, long-term care and index participation feature (IPF) rider. This rider allows you to link a portion of your cash value to the performance of the S&P 500 Price Return Index, and any profits are paid out in dividends.

While Guardian doesn’t guarantee dividends, it’s paid them out to its permanent policyholders every year since 1868, and will pay $1.05 billion in 2021.

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

Whole Life.

Guaranteed Acceptance Whole Life.

Eligibility age range: 50 to 80 for AARP members (45 to 80 for spouses), and 50 to 75 for members and their spouses in NY.

Minimum coverage amount: $1,000 for the guaranteed acceptance policy; $1,500 for the standard whole life policy.

Maximum coverage amount: $25,000 for the guaranteed acceptance policy; $50,000 for the standard whole life policy.

State availability: All states.

Potential to earn dividends: Yes.

Our take: Thanks to its partnership with New York Life, AARP makes it easy for its members and their families to purchase whole life insurance. The company sells a standard whole life policy as well as guaranteed acceptance life insurance, neither of which requires a medical exam. Both policies are open to AARP members as well as their spouses. You can purchase a policy worth up to $50,000 online, but you’re free to contact New York Life if you want more coverage. To apply for the basic whole life policy, you’ll need to fill out a questionnaire about your health and lifestyle. The guaranteed acceptance policy skips both the exam and questionnaire.

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

Whole Life.

Custom Whole Life.

Custom Survivorship Whole Life.

Eligibility age range: 0 to 90 (varies by policy).

Minimum coverage amount: $25,000.

Maximum coverage amount: Unlimited.

State availability: All states.

Potential to earn dividends: Yes.

Our take: New York Life sells three whole life policies, including a custom policy that offers flexibility with premium payments. You can opt to pay off your policy in as little as five years, or schedule the timing and amount of your payments to suit you. There’s also a survivorship policy that covers two people and pays out when the second person dies.

The insurer offers a long list of life insurance riders, such as a child rider, chronic care rider and a “premium deposit account” rider. This rider lets you prepay up to 14 years of premiums into a cash account, which then earns interest at a competitive rate.

As a mutual company, New York Life is set to pay out $1.8 billion in dividends to its policyholders in 2021.

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

Whole Life.

Limited Pay Whole Life.

Single Premium Whole Life.

Final Expense.

Eligibility age range: 0 to 85 (varies by policy).

Minimum coverage amount: $10,000.

Maximum coverage amount: None for standard whole life policies; $10,000 for the final expense policy.

State availability: All states except MA.

Potential to earn dividends: Yes.

Our take: For flexible payment options, it’s worth looking into State Farm’s lineup. The company’s standard whole life policy has level premiums, which means you’ll pay the same amount each month. But if you’d like to adjust when and how much you pay, you can buy a single premium or limited payment policy. Coverage starts at $10,000 for most whole life policies. And if you’re healthy, age 18 to 50 and applying for a policy worth $100,000 to $1 million, State Farm might fast-track your application and issue your policy without the need for a medical exam. If you purely want to cover your own funeral, burial and end-of-life expenses, the insurer offers a final expense policy to applicants age 50 to 80 (50 to 75 in New York). Policy features aside, State Farm regularly tops J.D. Power’s list of life insurers with the best customer satisfaction.

NerdWallet rates insurers at the company level, not the policy level. This means our star rating reflects the company as a whole, and not its whole life insurance policies specifically. These companies are presented in no particular order.

METHODOLOGY: LIFE INSURANCE RATINGS

NerdWallet’s life insurance ratings are based on weighted averages of financial strength ratings, which indicate a company’s ability to pay future claims, and complaint index scores from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for individual life insurance. To calculate each insurer’s rating, we adjusted the scores to a curved 5-point scale.

These ratings are a guide, but we encourage you to shop around and compare several insurance quotes to find the best rate for you. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for any reviews.

Insurer complaints methodology

NerdWallet examined complaints received by state insurance regulators and reported to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2018-2020. To assess how insurers compare to one another, the NAIC calculates a complaint index each year for each subsidiary, measuring its share of total complaints relative to its size, or share of total premiums in the industry. To evaluate a company’s complaint history, NerdWallet calculated a similar index for each insurer, weighted by market shares of each subsidiary, over the three-year period. Ratios are determined separately for auto, home (including renters and condo) and life insurance.

Frequently asked questions

It depends on your needs and financial situation. If you can comfortably afford the higher premiums and want to see your life insurance policy grow into a cash asset, whole life insurance might be worth the price tag.

But if you simply want to buy life insurance to give your family a financial safety net when you die, a term life insurance policy is probably sufficient.

For a healthy 40-year-old, the typical cost of a $500,000 whole life insurance policy is $5,728 a year, according to average life insurance rates from Quotacy, a life insurance brokerage. To compare, the same applicant might pay $315 a year for a 20-year, $500,000 term life policy.

Modified whole life insurance is a type of whole life insurance that offers lower premiums for the first few years. After that, the premiums go up. During the “modified premium” period, you can’t contribute to your policy’s cash value.

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