Editor's note - You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone, and this content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser.
Looking for permanent life insurance? We reviewed dozens of options to find the best whole life insurance companies. Our rankings are data-driven.

Picking the right insurance policy for you (and your family) can be tricky. There are so many options out there, and it’s difficult to decide which product best suits your needs.

Should you buy term or whole life? How much insurance do you actually need? When should you buy your first policy? Which company should I go with?

While term life is an ideal option for most people, whole life certainly has its benefits. If you’ve decided that a whole, or permanent, life insurance policy is the right choice for you, you’ll want to spend some time shopping around to find the best policy offered. Luckily, we have sifted through them and found some of our favorites, to save you time.

Let’s take a look at the companies that offer the most beneficial whole life insurance policies, and what you need to know about each.

Compare Life Insurance

Why Choose Whole Life?

Really quickly, let’s talk about whole life insurance and why you’d choose it.

Lifelong Coverage

Whole life is different from term life in that it’s considered a “permanent” policy. This means that it doesn’t have a set period of time that it covers (or term). The policy continues indefinitely. If you wanted, you could have the same life insurance policy from ages 20 to 100, without ever having to change companies or reapply.

You won’t have to worry about finding an insurance policy after a serious illness or injury. You won’t go into a 10-year term at age 40, knowing full well that when it’s time to renew, you’ll be 50 and your premiums will probably jump.

Predictable Premiums

Another benefit to whole life insurance is that the amount paid each month is level, or consistent. You don’t have to worry about premium hikes as you age or as your health declines.

If you want payments that stay the same throughout your entire life, without the worry of terms and varying premiums, whole life is where you need to look.

Cash Value

With whole life policies, you also don’t lose the money paid into premiums. You do lose this money with a term policy (assuming, of course, that you don’t pass away during the term). Whole life policies will build up a cash value. A portion of your monthly premium will go toward the cost of coverage, and the remainder will go into a savings account of sorts.

This money will then earn dividends and grow over time, potentially building into a significant nest egg. That’s why some people choose to use whole life policies as a combination life insurance and retirement account.

If you ever need to draw from your policy or cash it out, the option is there. This makes whole life insurance an asset, rather than simply a safety net expense. Of course, the price reflects such–whole life premiums usually dwarf those of their term counterparts.

Before choosing a whole life product, be sure to consult a fee-only financial advisor. Since they won’t make a commission off of your financial decisions, they can offer you objective advice on what you truly need.

Our Rating Methodology

What We Looked At

All of these companies were checked against A.M. Best–which is a major rating agency of insurance providers. Each company came out with high marks. This is the primary reason they made the list. They’ve gotten top grades for being reliable and having good customer service.

Each of the companies here are available nationwide. We avoided obscure companies and those that had membership requirements (like USAA) or strict eligibility guidelines.

We also only looked at companies that sell their own policies. Middlemen add a level of confusion and frustration when the time comes to file a claim or access your cash. Only considering companies that underwrite their own whole life policies can help eliminate some of that frustration.

We also picked companies that offered a wide range of life insurance coverage. Whether you want $25,000 to cover funeral expenses or $1 million to take care of your family for years, you can find what you need.


We also looked at the history of each company from an investment perspective. Specifically, we considered their dividend rates. Not all insurance companies will pay out dividends or, if they do, they aren’t guaranteed. When they are paid out, though, they’re a nice addition to your financial situation and can even offset your premium payments.

Of course, dividends in the past don’t play a role in the future trajectory of a company. However, you can use them as a good gauge of how a company is managing their expenses and investment strategy. It’s a solid indicator of how a company will react moving forward and how things are being managed internally.

What We Didn’t Look At

There’s really only one factor that we didn’t consider when writing this article, even though it’s probably a very important one to you–the price.

Life insurance policies are very personal products. Depending on your preferred coverage, benefits, added riders, and selected options, your cost will change. Throw in the fact that your initial approval for whole life insurance will also be determined by your health, age, and other factors, and it would actually be impossible to fairly compare these companies by price.

Your best bet is to determine which companies better suit your needs as far as offered options and coverage. Then, compare prices, sifting through the companies you chose. This may be a fairly involved process, though, as whole life policies often require you to get quotes from agents. There aren’t online quote aggregators available, like there are for term life policies.

Best Whole Life Insurance Companies

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in Your Area

There are a number of companies on the market offering whole life insurance policies. But which company is the best?

Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the better-known and better-rated sellers out there. This way, you can see exactly what they offer. Today, we’re going to talk about State Farm, MassMutual, Guardian Life, and Northwestern Mutual. These aren’t the only companies you have to choose from, but they are the ones that we deemed to be at the top of their class.

Northwestern Mutual

Making the top of our list for a number of reasons, Northwestern Mutual is definitely the front-runner overall.

Remember those agency ratings we talked about? Well, Northwestern Mutual tops out on all of them. In fact, A.M. Best ranked the company A++ (or Superior) in their Financial Strength Rating and “aaa” in their Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating. This means that the company is reliable and has the financial backing necessary to elicit confidence from their clients.

Northwestern Mutual also has longevity and a proven track record on their side. They were founded in 1857 and today, they’re the biggest writer of life insurance in the country. The company also ranked third in customer satisfaction, according to last year’s survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

 northwestern mutual.JPG

  • Pros: They boast a great company history, excellent customer service rankings, and high dividend payouts.
  • Cons: Their website is, well, pretty slim. This means that if you want more information (especially on pricing), you’ll need to call and speak to an agent. Also, they only offer three different cash-accumulation models, so you’re somewhat limited in your policy options.

Guardian Life

Ranked Harris Poll’s 2017 Life Insurance Brand of the Year, Guardian Life is a trusted name in the world of whole life companies. In fact, it’s almost just as old as Northwestern Mutual, having been founded in 1860.

It’s no surprise, either, since they scored just as well as Northwestern Mutual–A++ in Financial Strength Rating and aa- in Long-Term Issuer Credit Ratings–according to A.M. Best. This puts them in the top-tier for reliability and financial security.

Where Guardian Life really shines, though, is in its premium customization options. No matter your financial situation or what you consider to be the ideal whole life insurance product, Guardian Life has a structure to suit you.

For example, if you are primarily concerned with lower premiums and aren’t as concerned about the accumulating cash value, the Guardian Whole Life Paid-Up at Age 121 (L121) policy is right up your alley.

If paying off your premiums quickly and accelerating your cash value is of utmost importance (and you have the room in your budget for a higher monthly premium), you may want to opt for the Ten Pay Whole Life plan. This allows you pay for your policy’s full coverage over the course of 10 annual premium payments. After that, any funds contributed go straight to your wealth-building cash value.

  • Pros: This is another company with excellent customer service and ratings, as well as the ability to really customize the life insurance policy (and premium schedule) that best suits you. Their website is also very informative, with plenty of life insurance-related resources.
  • Cons: Their dividend rate has been slowly declining over the past few years, holding steady for the last two. While this is fairly standard across the industry at the moment, it’s not the best dividend history around. They also have a smaller network than some of the other companies, so finding a local agent to work with might be a challenge.


If you want a top-ranked whole life insurance company that has a history of paying out the highest dividends around, look no further than MassMutual.

The oldest of the three companies, MassMutual has been around since 1851. They top out the A.M. Best rankings (A++ and aa+, respectively), but ranked a bit below average in customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power.

Where they stand out is in their dividend payouts. Most insurance companies have been steadily decreasing their dividends, with most holding steady for the last few years. MassMutual, however, has steadily been increasing their rates. Last year, in fact, they offered 17% more than Guardian and 30% more than Northwestern Mutual.

 dividend rates.JPG

  • Pros: This company is on par with their competitors as far as quality rankings, but holds strong above them all on dividend rates. They also offer five different cash-accumulation models to choose from.
  • Cons: Their customer satisfaction ratings are lower than the other companies mentioned.

Additional Riders

All three of the companies listed above also offer different riders that may be of interest to you when picking a whole life insurance product. These include:

Waiver of Premium

This rider is important to have, in case you were to ever become disabled before age 60. (Considering that somewhere around one in four of today’s 20 year-olds will be disabled before retirement, this has a significant risk.)

The waiver of premium allows the policyholder to have their premiums forgiven if they were to become disabled. This protects them from the likely financial strain and loss of income that disability would bring. It also potentially saves them from a policy surrender, due to nonpayment.

Living Benefits

The living benefits rider allows you to access a portion of your death benefits prior to passing, in the case of a terminal illness or debilitating injury. Requirements vary, but typically, you’ll need to have a prognosis of 24 months or less in order to access these funds.

However, they can be incredibly useful. If you are ill or injured, your family could probably use the financial stability that a lump sum payout would bring. It could help take some of the strain off of your family’s bank account, could be used to pay for home care or assisted living, or (in some cases) could even be used to take that trip of a lifetime that you always dreamt about.

Taking out a portion of your death benefits in the form of a living benefits payout allows you to use what you need before your passing, while still leaving a portion for your loved ones to receive after you die.

Long-Term Care

LTC, or long-term care, riders are built into many plans as a way of paying for lengthy periods of care toward the end of a policyholder’s life. This could include nursing home care that isn’t covered by medical insurance, in-home assistance, etc.

Even if you use the long-term care coverage offered, your beneficiaries will still receive the remaining benefit. This amount varies, depending on your insurance provider.

Healthy Living

If you take your health seriously, you should consider checking out HealthIQ. They’re partnered with most of the major insurers, and they’ll find you the best insurance policy based on your individual needs. Here’s the kicker – they give discounts for healthy living. So if you’re in good physical shape, you might find the lowest rates through them. Read more in our HealthIQ Review.

Another life insurance marketplace that wants to reward your healthy lifestyle is Sproutt. After taking Sproutt’s proprietary Guided Artificial Intelligence Assessment (GAIA), you’ll be assigned a Quality of Life Index (QL index) score. Sproutt’s software will recommend ways to raise your score to potentially unlock lower insurance rates. And you can get quotes from multiple whole life (and term) insurers in a matter of minutes. Learn more in our Sproutt review.

Deciding on a Whole Life Policy

When picking life insurance, it can be tough to decide on the perfect policy. Picking between term and whole life, deciding on which riders to add, and even determining how much life insurance you need… it’s a lot of questions.

If you’ve decided that whole life is right for you, though, then these three companies are great places to start looking. You’ll want a company that offers you flexible premiums, pays out dividends, and has a history of reliability. Finding the perfect policy will allow you to rest easy, knowing that you have secured your family’s livelihood.

Compare Life Insurance

Find the best life insurance rates with Policygenius today

Author Bio

Total Articles: 99
Stephanie Colestock is a respected financial writer based in Washington, DC. Her work can be found on sites such as Investopedia, Credit Karma, Quicken, The Balance, Motley Fool, and more, covering a range of topics such as family finances, planning for the future, optimizing credit, and getting out of debt. She is currently working toward her CFP certification. Her full portfolio can be found at stephaniecolestock.com.

Article comments

Church says:

Whole Life – always one of the most contentious personal finance topics out there. This post nailed it by stating, “Life insurance policies are very personal products.” For the right individual, and structured properly by a financial advisor, whole life policies can be highly liquid and versatile financing vehicles. It is not an investment. And I can say that because I have multiple policies.

I’ve have always struggled with the what to do after maxing out the tax-advantaged accounts. Alternative investments sound like a great idea, but can be more difficult than some folks realize. I simply may not have the down payment for a real estate investment or a great business idea, so what else is out there??

I chose the whole life route because I was a great saver and my passion for being liquid. Cash value builds while I wait for right opportunity to deploy the capital. I have no intention of amassing great wealth in the death benefit, so all the value is structured to built in the cash. I call it “Multiple Uses of a Dollar” as $1 can be working working in two places at once – in the policy and out in an investment.

Obviously there are other places to store idle cash, but as the post clearly stated, these products are personal. Works for some, may not work others. So until I find that perfect alternative investment, the cash will sit in my policies.

This was a well written and highly informative post. Thank you.

Daniel Jeanneret says:

Your article makes excellent points and is quite informative. However, to mention Northwestern Mutual, Guardian and Mass Mutual while leaving out New York Life would be incomplete. If you performed an apples-to-apples comparison with New York Life included, I am very interested see your data and how you concluded New York Life should not make your list. Check out their ratings (highest possible by all 4 major rating agencies), founded in 1845, 163 consecutive years of dividends paid, rising dividend scale for many years while virtually all others have been declining or staying the same for years, highly customizable products (check out their custom whole life), world class training, dominance of the Million Dollar Round Table or MDRT by their male and female agents, no direct recognition of loans (very important to policyowners who intend to use the cash value build up), and too many “firsts”, records, and history to mention. I highly recommend you reach out to knowledgeable industry experts and to New York Life and compare actual numbers, especially with illustrated withdrawals and loans during the policyowners’ retirement years. I believe your readers will greatly appreciate your findings. Additionally, your advice about consulting with a fee based advisor could be helpful but it would be surface level at best. The only way they would likely have an in depth knowledge of the companies you mention would be as a former agent themselves. Those companies primarily utilize the career agency system for their sales force. This means their career agents will have received far more training on their products than a fee based advisor. In the case of Northwestern Mutual, it is nearly impossible for a fee based advisor to be able to obtain illustrations, in depth product information, access to internal product consultants, or any information beyond what can already be found on the internet (which is not much). I hope you will research your data and the criteria further and update your artcle.

Rob Berger says:

Daniel, thank you for your comment. You should, however, disclose that you are an agent for New York Life, correct?

Ken miller says:

DANIEL. I agree. You should be more transparent.

Kake says:

N.Y. life agent don’t get training on the market pricing of insurance they will never offer u a cheaper term product they will only talk about how strong the company is and other compano a lot cheaper are just as strong

Randy Hall, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, CASL®, RICP® says:

Great article! One piece to specifically note is around the dividends. In the article there is a chart comparing “dividends.” This is not accurate. This is just comparing the dividend interest rate. It does not compare the total dividends paid by the companies. In addition, it does not take into account any mortality or expense improvements that contribute to the total dividend payout. Further, there is no standard reporting of how dividend interest rates are calculated/stated. Different companies use varying methodologies for how they report those figures. Some are gross of certain fees/expenses; some are net of those same fees. In other words a stated dividend rate of 7% from one company may in fact actually produce a lower result from another that is reporting 6%, etc. All things to consider.

Yes, I am a financial advisor.

Kunal says:

Thank you for sharing this perspective

Larry Russell says:

I AM A NML REP. There is NO universally accepted “formula” for declaring dividends, if there were NML’s decidedly advantage would be much more clearer. Historically NML has been out illustrated, but not out performed. Recently, “competitors” like NYL, Mass.Mutual, and Guardian have chosen NOT to participate in LIMRA’s analysis of mutual companies the past four years, why ????
Merry Christmas !!!!!

David Saltzman says:

One thing i did not see mentioned in the article is that people can buy term life insurance and convert it to whole life, usually for the first 10 years of the term policy. Here in the real world, many promising young people see the value but do not have the dollars to buy whole life insurance YET. Why not put them in a term policy with one of these excellent companies, and convert all or part of their coverage down the road, ie, when income increases, etc.? For people like this, who may or may not convert, MassMutual offers a far greater portfolio of term products than the other carriers, and MassMutual term rates are pretty competitive with the leading term insurance carriers. Not so with the other leading Whole Life carriers: much more limited selection of term products, and non-competitive pricing.
Full disclosure: MassMutual products are my Whole Life products of choice, although I am an independent agent.

Kelly R. Smith, Sr., CLU, ChFC, RFC says:

First, I would like to commend you on a fairly written article, with little obvious bias, which is refreshing. Being an agent within this industry for over 40 years, I would agree for the most part with your selections. One thing to point out is that Northwestern Mutual is a captive agency relationship. They do not broker and their agents are under a “first offer” basis to their home company, with any latitude on their writing with other companies being left primarily to the relationship and discretion of their personal General Agent. I spent 8 years with them, back in the late 70s/early 80s. They were a far more dominant leader at that time, based on 10 and 20 year, dividend histories. That is not to say that they are not deserving of a top rating now, it’s just that the industry has changes immensely, and they have been slow to change, both in products and market responsiveness. As of this time, the two others that you ranked #2 and #3 are reasonably accurate. I would though, have been more inclusive of a few other companies: New York Life, Ohio National, National Life of Vermont, One America, Penn Mutual and Lafayette Life, just to name a few, with even a few others, very close. The bottom line is that as long as a consumer selects a Whole Life policy, from a 100-year-plus company, especially a Mutual company, with at least the A rating from Best, but looking further to the other 5 rating services (Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, etc), with focus on what is referred to as the Comdex rating… which is weighted, comprehensive, combination of all of the ratings services… especially taking into consideration as to their positioning as ranked against the other companies… they will have negligible risk. Therefore, the client can concentrate more on the specifics of their individual needs and the flexibility of which product best suites that need. We have occasionally mixed policies from multiple carriers to be customized toward that need. For example, using a 10-pay of one company, with a better performance in that specified need, but a different policy from a second company, with slightly less performance… but, that has the best Long Term Care rider. Or mixing three carriers to max-out the limits on the respective, Disability Waiver of Premium, for the full, combined coverage, and blending a Long Term Care rider on one policy with a Chronic Illness (since there are differences and advantages for each rider), on the other company(ies). The design plays a big part as well, since in many cases, the systematic withdrawals and loans from the policy might be part of the design to enhance retirement… whether of not a company is “Direct Recognition” of doesn’t lock in loan rates must be taken into consideration. All in all this is a good article, with good information.

Russell S. Andrews, CLU, ChFC, Northwestern Mutual Rep for 48 years...now retired says:

I find your comments to be fair and informative. Whenever I’m having a discussion about Life Companies with a
N agent of another company, they ALWAYS say ” Isn’t it great that you and I represent the two best companies in the industry…they all say that to me. Bottom line: Northwestern Mutual IS the competition and is the benchmark. (Well done synopsis of the companies you reviewed). Also, as a matter of cost control and efficiency, Northwestern is the only company listed in your comparison that does not broker its product (i.e. You can only buy a Northwestern policy from a Northwestern Mutual Agent…this is not true of the other companies. Thankyou…a very informative comparison of the leading companies.