Table of Contents
Written By: Laura Larimer
Page Reviewed / Updated – 22/01/2021

Life insurance is often considered less of a need for seniors than i for other age groups, but there are still many situations in which seniors find themselves searching for a life insurance policy. Seniors who have debts may like the peace of mind of a term policy while they pay off a mortgage or other obligation, and many seniors are particularly interested in small whole life policies that will help their relatives pay for burial expenses or final medical bills when they pass. 

Whatever the reason for shopping, seniors who are looking for life insurance find out quickly that they face fewer options and higher costs than their younger counterparts. In fact, a recent PolicyGenius survey found that 40% of those who are insured wish they had bought life insurance at a younger age. Since insurance companies base premiums on age, health, and other risk factors, seniors often struggle to find low costs in this market. 

We created this article to help seniors overcome the challenges of looking for life insurance in a market that’s geared toward younger customers. We investigated some of the most popular companies on the market, ranking them according to several factors that seniors care about. Overall, we found Mutual of Omaha, Principal, and New York Life offered some of the best choices for seniors, but all nine companies that made our list are a great option. Below you can learn how well each brand scored on the 1-5 point scale that we used.

The Best Life Insurance of 2021:

  1. Mutual of Omaha: 4.4
  2. Principal: 4.1
  3. New York Life: 4.1
  4. John Hancock: 3.6
  5. Transamerica: 3.3
  6. Protective: 3.1
  7. Nationwide: 2.8
  8. State Farm: 2.7
  9. Northwestern Mutual: 2.6

An Overview of Our Ranking Methodology

We ranked all companies using five core metrics. Below you can learn what area of concern each metric addresses as well as how much each metric contributes to a company’s final score. 

  • Senior Friendliness (25%): How many of these companies’ policies cater to seniors (those ages 65+)? Does the company offer policies to broad age ranges, and does the company have underwriting policies that are senior-friendly?
  • Ratings and Reviews (25%): How do third-party evaluators rate these companies’ financial stability and claims-paying abilities? How do these companies measure up in customer surveys and online forums?
  • Costs and Financial Options (25%): How expensive are the monthly premiums for the company’s most basic term life insurance policy? What sizes of policies can seniors expect to find at the company, and does the company pay dividends to policyholders?
  • Riders and Customizations (15%): What options do seniors have for customizing policies through riders? Are there any special clauses built into policies that provide options for accessing the death benefit early, converting a policy, or making other changes?
  • Online Services (10%): What helpful features can seniors access when shopping online? What login and account management tools does the company offer to policyholders?
Did You Know?

When you look at life insurance quotes online, the sample prices provided will almost always be based on a monthly premium payment schedule. However, consumers can often opt to pay on a different schedule if they would like. Common payment plans include annual, semi-annual, and quarterly. In some cases, you may receive a slight discount for paying annually. 

The Top 9 Life Insurance Companies in 2021

Company Overall Score (1-5 Scale) Senior Friendliness Ratings and Reviews Costs and Financial Options Riders and Customizations Online Services
Mutual of Omaha 4.4  8.4 5 5 10 6.4
Principal 4.1 5.6 6.3 7.5 2 10
New York Life 4.1 10 7.5 3.8 6 0
John Hancock 3.6 4.2 2.5 8.8 8 1.6
Transamerica 3.3 7 0 6.3 6 3.2
Protective 3.1 1.4 1.3 10 4 4.8
Nationwide 2.8 2.8 3.8 1.3 4 10
State Farm 2.7 1.4 8.8 0 0 8
Northwestern Mutual 2.6 0 10 2.5 0 0

Mutual of Omaha

Mutual of Omaha ranked in first place among the companies that we reviewed, scoring an impressive 4.4/5 possible points. This company’s strengths are seen most clearly in the Riders and Customizations metric, where Mutual of Omaha scored 10/10 points. Mutual of Omaha also has particularly impressive results in the Senior Friendliness category. Even in categories that it wasn’t as clearly dominant in, such as Ratings and Reviews or Costs and Financial Options, Mutual of Omaha’s lowest score was a very respectable 5/10.

How Mutual of Omaha Scored

Senior Friendliness: 8.4/10

With 8.4/10 points in this metric, Mutual of Omaha ranked in second place. This company offers about 8 different policies that seniors can qualify for, and many of those policies are available for those up to age 80, although the whole life option is available even to age 85. Competitors’ age cutoffs fall within about 15 years of either side of Mutual of Omaha’s cutoffs. We found that Mutual of Omaha offers some policies that are ideal for seniors because they are not fully underwritten. The Guaranteed Whole Life policy in particular is a good choice because it has no medical exams and no or few health questions.

Ratings and Reviews: 5/10

With 5/10 points, Mutual of Omaha ranked in fifth place for Ratings and Reviews. In the J.D. Powers life insurance survey, it scored an exceptional 795/1000 points on that scale, making it third highest in that submetric. In some other rankings, such as S&P Global and A.M. Best, Mutual of Omaha scored on the lower end of the companies on our list. A.M. Best ranks Mutual of Omaha in the “superior” range of A+ but does not award the A++ honor, and S&P global characterizes Mutual of Omaha as “strong” with an A+ but does not award the highest honor of AA+.

Costs and Financial Options: 5/10

Mutual of Omaha scored in the middle for Costs and Financial Options, earning 5/10 points. This brand’s sample term premium cost was $88 and was the third-highest premium of the quotes we were able to obtain. Mutual of Omaha does offer a nice range of death benefit options through its variety of senior policies. Seniors can obtain a low policy of $25,000 or can go as high as $1,000,000. While not the largest range available, this will suit many. Although this is a mutual company, Mutual of Omaha currently does not offer dividends for its life insurance policies, unlike some competitors.

Riders and Customizations: 10/10

Mutual of Omaha received the best possible score, earning 10/10 points for Riders and Customizations. This company had at least one option for each of the six riders and customizations that we researched. In addition to fairly standard options such as an accelerated death benefit, Mutual of Omaha has a long term care rider for those who want funding options for potential nursing home stays or other aging-related needs. Mutual of Omaha is also notable for being one of only a few companies to offer an accidental death rider to senior ages. When asking an agent about Mutual of Omaha riders, keep in mind that most will cost you extra and that not all policies have the same rider options or terms.

Online Services: 6.4/10

Mutual of Omaha scored 6.4/10 points for its online services, ranking in third place. Overall, this company has a great website, offering an online login with electronic bill pay, an agent locator tool, and an insurance needs calculator tool. It also offers estimated quotes for term policies and for its guaranteed issue policy. Since Mutual of Omaha does not have a mobile app login option for policyholders, it lost some points in that submetric.

A Snapshot of Mutual of Omaha’s History: 

  • Started: 1909
  • Headquarters: Omaha, NE
  • Related Companies: Omaha Insurance Company (subsidiary offering Medicare Supplements), Companion Life Insurance Company (a subsidiary specific to New York State), and more

The Mutual of Omaha Shopping Experience

Mutual of Omaha sells its policies through independent agents, meaning that you can usually get quotes for Mutual of Omaha and other brands at the same time. The Mutual of Omaha website has an agent locator tool that will allow you to search for a local agent (often called a “producer”) based on your zip code. It’s typically easy to find Mutual of Omaha quotes through online brokers, too, so customers have options when looking for a policy from this brand.  Coverage options can vary by state, but this is a national company.

Principal

Principal ranked very well, earning second place with a score of 4.1/5, tying with New York Life. This company ranked in first place along with Nationwide for Online Services. It also scored quite well in the Costs and Financial Options metric, thanks largely to its competitive term quotes. Principal offers relatively few options for Riders and Customizations and came in at second to last place in that category.

How Principal Scored

Senior Friendliness: 8.4/10

With 8.4/10 points in this metric, Mutual of Omaha ranked in second place. This company offers about 8 different policies that seniors can qualify for, and many of those policies are available for those up to age 80, although the whole life option is available even to age 85. Competitors’ age cutoffs fall within about 15 years of either side of Mutual of Omaha’s cutoffs. We found that Mutual of Omaha offers some policies that are ideal for seniors because they are not fully underwritten. The Guaranteed Whole Life policy in particular is a good choice because it has no medical exams and no or few health questions.

Ratings and Reviews: 5/10

With 5/10 points, Mutual of Omaha ranked in fifth place for Ratings and Reviews. In the J.D. Powers life insurance survey, it scored an exceptional 795/1000 points on that scale, making it third highest in that submetric. In some other rankings, such as S&P Global and A.M. Best, Mutual of Omaha scored on the lower end of the companies on our list. A.M. Best ranks Mutual of Omaha in the “superior” range of A+ but does not award the A++ honor, and S&P global characterizes Mutual of Omaha as “strong” with an A+ but does not award the highest honor of AA+.

Costs and Financial Options: 5/10

Mutual of Omaha scored in the middle for Costs and Financial Options, earning 5/10 points. This brand’s sample term premium cost was $88 and was the third-highest premium of the quotes we were able to obtain. Mutual of Omaha does offer a nice range of death benefit options through its variety of senior policies. Seniors can obtain a low policy of $25,000 or can go as high as $1,000,000. While not the largest range available, this will suit many. Although this is a mutual company, Mutual of Omaha currently does not offer dividends for its life insurance policies, unlike some competitors.

Riders and Customizations: 10/10

Mutual of Omaha received the best possible score, earning 10/10 points for Riders and Customizations. This company had at least one option for each of the six riders and customizations that we researched. In addition to fairly standard options such as an accelerated death benefit, Mutual of Omaha has a long term care rider for those who want funding options for potential nursing home stays or other aging-related needs. Mutual of Omaha is also notable for being one of only a few companies to offer an accidental death rider to senior ages. When asking an agent about Mutual of Omaha riders, keep in mind that most will cost you extra and that not all policies have the same rider options or terms.

Online Services: 6.4/10

Mutual of Omaha scored 6.4/10 points for its online services, ranking in third place. Overall, this company has a great website, offering an online login with electronic bill pay, an agent locator tool, and an insurance needs calculator tool. It also offers estimated quotes for term policies and for its guaranteed issue policy. Since Mutual of Omaha does not have a mobile app login option for policyholders, it lost some points in that submetric.

A Snapshot of Principal’s History:

  • Started: 1879
  • Headquarters: Des Moines, IA
  • Related Companies: Principal Mutual Fund (subsidiary)

The Principal Shopping Experience

Principal policies are sold through independent agents/brokers, so it’s easy to obtain a Principal quote while getting quotes for other brands at the same time. An online contact form can help you get in touch with an agent, or you can call Principal and ask to be connected to someone local. Getting online quotes is easy for term policies, though with other policies you’ll typically need to speak with an agent. Policy availability can generally be described as “national,” but there is some variation in availability.

New York Life

New York Life tied for second place along with Principal with an overall score of 4.1/5 points. This company was remarkably strong in the Senior Friendliness subcategory with a score of 10/10, but it struggled to perform well in Online Services with a score of 0/10. In other subcategories, this company’s score fell in the middle.

How New York Life Scored

Senior Friendliness: 10/10

With the best score in this subcategory, New York Life scored 1.6 points higher than its nearest competitor, Mutual of Omaha. Although this company’s maximum issue age for term policies was a bit lower than average, capping at 75, it’s other types of policies had maximum issue ages of 90, unusually high. With 9 options, this brand also had the second-highest number of policies that seniors are eligible to apply for. Some plans from this brand, particularly the plans offered in partnership with AARP, have simplified underwriting, and all but the most gravely ill can usually qualify for the Easy Acceptance plan. This brand is one of just three on our list to offer such a senior-friendly option.

Ratings and Reviews: 7.5/10

Scoring 7.5/10 points, New York Life ranked in third place. With an A++ from A.M. Best and an AA+ from S&P Global, it earned the highest possible score for both of those submetrics. It’s Fortune 500 place of 73 is another marker of the company’s commercial success. However, this brand’s J.D. Powers score of 770 fell slightly on the lower end for the companies we reviewed. The customer ratings of its headquarters on Google reviews were also fairly low, with 2.9/5 stars. With only 48 reviews on that Google profile, however, the rating may not be entirely representative of the customer base.

Costs and Financial Options: 3.8/10

New York Life’s score for Costs and Financial options was somewhat lackluster with 3.8/10 points. This brand ranked in sixth place in this metric. New York Life does not provide a term life quote tool on its website, and this lack of transparency damaged the brand’s financial score. On the plus side, seniors will be happy to know that some New York Life insurance plans may be eligible for dividends. This brand also has a nice range of low death benefit options, with the bulk of their senior plans ranging from $25,000-$250,000. Some seniors may be eligible for higher death benefits upon inquiry.

Riders and Customizations: 6/10

New York Life offers great options for customizing policies, and it scored 6/10 points in this submetric, ranking in third place. Like most competitors, New York life offers options for an accelerated death benefit and for the conversion of term policies into whole policies within certain parameters. It also offers an accidental death rider, and its accelerated death benefit can cover chronic illness as well as terminal illness in some cases. New York Life does not appear to offer a return of premium rider or a guaranteed insurability rider to seniors. Note that the terms and availability of some New York Life riders can be somewhat unclear and difficult to understand.

Online Services: 0/10

New York Life scored 0/10 points for Online Services, offering very little to its customers online. In addition to having a website that has limited policy information, this brand also does not offer online quotes, an app, or an agent locator. It does offer a contact form so that seniors can have an agent call them back. Policyholders can log in to an account on their desktop or on a mobile internet browser, and they will find more helpful features, including bill pay options, once logged in.

A Snapshot of New York Life’s History:

  • Started: 1845
  • Headquarters: New York City, New York
  • Related Companies: AARP (business partner), New York Life Direct (subsidiary)

The New York Life Shopping Experience

New York Life sells its policies exclusively through its own agents who do not sell other life insurance brands. It has a network of over 12,000 agents, and its website has a contact form for getting in touch with the agent nearest to you. This brand sells in all states, but sometimes specific riders and policies are limited. Seniors should note that New York Life also offers some policies in partnership with AARP, and these policies are sold through New York Life agents, not the AARP website.

John Hancock

John Hancock ranked in fourth place with a score of 3.6/5 points overall. Although it did not rank best in any one submetric, it scored very highly in both the Costs and Financial Options and the Riders and Customizations metrics. John Hancock did not fare as well in the Online Services metric, mainly due to the fact that customers cannot access some basic services without first being asked to provide their contact information. 

How John Hancock Scored

Senior Friendliness: 4.2/10

When it comes to Senior Friendliness, John Hancock scored 4.2/10 points and ranked in fifth place. With a maximum term whole life age 80, this brand caters less to elderly clients than many other companies on our list. However, for complex policies like Universal Life, John Hancock has offers for those up to age 90. John Hancock also has only about seven policies that seniors can qualify for, compared to up to 11 policies for seniors at some other brands. Despite these disadvantages, this brand does offer a guaranteed issue policy that’s especially senior-friendly due to its easy qualification process.

Ratings and Reviews: 2.5/10

This brand’s ratings and reviews were mixed, and it scored 2.5/10 points overall, earning seventh place. With a good but not stellar rating of A+ from A.M. Best (A++ is highest) and a similar AA- from S&P Global (AA+ is best for American companies under this system), this brand was neither worst nor best when measured by financial standards. It did not rank on the Fortune 500 list in 2019, though in the early 2000s it had been on that list. This brand’s J.D. Powers score of 739 was the second-lowest of the companies reviewed, and its Google reviews score was good but unreliable since there were only two reviews posted.

Costs and Financial Options: 8.8/10

John Hancock is a great choice for low costs and financial options, ranking in second place with 8.8/10 points. This brand had the third-lowest term life insurance sample quote at $83 (the lowest was $72 from both Principal and Protective). Some seniors can earn even lower prices by participating in a healthy lifestyle program called Vitality. John Hancock offers the highest maximum death benefit we saw listed with the option of $65 million. It also offers the second-lowest option, for those who just want something small. Its smaller death benefits can go as low as $2,000 for the Final Expense policy. Unfortunately, no John Hancock policies have the potential for paying dividends.

Riders and Customizations: 8/10

With a score of 8/10, John Hancock ranks in second place for Riders and Customizations. Perhaps of greatest interest to seniors is that this brand has a long term care rider. Other possibilities include a return of premium option on some UL policies and an accelerated death benefit included automatically in most policies. In some cases, a term policy can be easily converted to a whole one. John Hancock does not offer an accidental death rider or a guaranteed insurability rider to seniors.

Online Services: 1.6/10

John Hancock scored 1.6/10 for its online services, ranking in sixth place. While it has a nice looking website, its services are limited. If you want a quote or want to talk to an agent, you’ll need to provide your contact information and wait for someone to get back to you, something that many seniors don’t prefer doing. Thankfully, term quotes for this brand are fairly easy to obtain without contact information from some online brokers, and we were able to get a sample quote despite some difficulties. This brand does provide a handy insurance needs calculator, and policyholders are able to log into the website for services such as online bill pay.

A Snapshot of John Hancock History:

  • Started: 1862
  • Headquarters: Boston, MA
  • Related Companies: Manulife Financial (Canadian parent company)

The John Hancock Shopping Experience

John Hancock policies can be purchased through agents/brokers that sell a variety of life insurance brands. To obtain a quote and get in touch with an agent, customers can fill out an online contact form that will pass customer information along to a nearby provider, or they can directly call one of the company’s Coverage Coaches through the provided phone number. It’s usually easy to obtain quotes for John Hancock policies through online brokers. Seniors should ask their local agent about participating in the Vitality program which rewards customers for maintaining healthy habits like exercise and meditation.

Transamerica

Transamerica ranked in fifth place on our list, scoring 3.3/5 possible points overall. This brand’s strongest performance was in the Senior Friendliness metric where it was third best thanks to its higher-than-average number of policies that seniors can qualify for, among other factors. Transamerica is also competitive in Costs and Financial Options and Riders and Customizations, but it ranked poorly in Ratings and Reviews.

How Transamerica Scored

Senior Friendliness: 7/10

Transamerica ranked in third place in this metric with a score of 7/10 points. With nine different policy options for seniors in term, whole, and universal life/other categories, this brand has the second-highest number of options. Its maximum issue age was 85 for all three categories. This brand was less transparent than average on what term lengths are available to seniors, but at least 10 years if not more is available. Although this brand does not offer anything labeled a “guaranteed issue” policy, its final expense policy is very easy to qualify for since it has no medical exam or tests and can be approved in one day in many cases.

Ratings and Reviews: 0/10

Transamerica ranked lowest out of nine reviewed companies in this metric, scoring 0/10 points. Its scores were either lowest or tied for lowest in each submetric that we looked at. It’s important for seniors to understand that with an A (A++ is highest) from A.M. Best and an A+ (AA+ is highest) from S&P Global, this brand is still definitely considered financially stable, but it simply is not as well-positioned as the competitors we analyzed. However, Transamerica’s Google rating of just 3.3/5 stars for 80 posted reviews is an indicator of lower-than-average customer satisfaction. The brand’s customer satisfaction score of 732 from J.D. Powers is also a concerning indicator.

Costs and Financial Options: 6.3/10

Transamerica ranked in fourth place for Costs and Financial Options with 6.3/10 points. While it’s disappointing that none of this brand’s policies have the potential to earn dividends, this brand is strong in other respects. Most notably, the maximum death benefit of 2 million dollars for seniors provides a great option for those who need a large amount of coverage. Some seniors may even be eligible for a larger death benefit, depending on income and other factors. Transamerica’s sample term quote of $98 was higher than average and ranked fifth of the brands that provided quotes.

Riders and Customizations: 6/10

Transamerica tied for third place along with New York Life with a score of 6/10. While customers may have some issues finding accurate information on riders from this brand, overall Transamerica offers some very good options including a long term care benefit, and accidental death benefit, and an automatically included accelerated death benefit. Some riders are limited to just a few policies, and the final expense policy may be the best option for finding a range of riders for seniors. Seniors should be aware that most riders will cost an extra amount per month on top of their premium.

Online Services: 3.2/10

This brand ranks in fifth place for its online services, scoring 3.2/10 points. Transamerica has an online login for policyholders, but its bill pay feature charges steep fees and isn’t set up to process automated payments, unlike most competitors. Moreover, while Transamerica does have a mobile app, that app is only for managing retirement accounts and has little to no insurance management tools at this time. Transamerica’s website does have some useful features, however. The website has an agent search engine, tools for calculating insurance needs, and a tool for getting term life insurance sample quotes.

A Snapshot of Transamerica’s History:

Started: 1928
Headquarters: Baltimore, MD
Related Companies: Aegon (Dutch parent company)

The Transamerica Shopping Experience

Transamerica policies are available coast to coast through agent offices that specialize in Transamerica policies only. In some areas, there are no local offices but you can still make a purchase easily by calling and getting connected with a phone-only Transamerica agent. In some cases you may be able to also complete applications online, and term quotes are available on the website.

Protective

Protective earned sixth place with a score of 3.1/5 possible points. This company was the best company in Costs and Financial Options thanks to its low sample quote and its great range of death benefits. Protective struggled to be competitive in Senior Friendliness as well as in Ratings and Reviews, ranking in second to last place in both.

How Protective Scored

Senior Friendliness: 1.4/10

Protective ranked in seventh place along with State Farm with a score of 1.4/10 possible points. In most submetrics, this brand simply had fewer options than average. All seniors applying for policies need to undergo a fairly robust underwriting process, which may include exams or tests in some cases and which can take extra time or result in denied applications. Simplified or guaranteed issue is simply not available for seniors. This company also accepts a smaller range of ages than average, with the cutoff for term policies being 75 and the cutoff for UL policies being 85.

Ratings and Reviews: 1.3/10

Protective ranked in eighth place in Ratings and Reviews, scoring 1.3/10 points. A low Google review score of 2.3/5 stars and no ranking in the Fortune 500 list hurt this company’s score, but it also had only an A+ (A++ is highest) from A.M. Best and a AA- (AA+ is highest) from S&P Global. This company’s J.D. Powers score of 754 was decent, falling in the mid-range between a high of 810 and a low of 732 among the companies we reviewed.

Costs and Financial Options: 10/10

Protective shines in the Costs and Financial Options metric, scoring 10/10 points for first place. Protective shares the honor of the lowest sample quote along with Principal, and it also has the second-highest death benefit available. With a maximum death benefit of $50 million and a minimum death benefit of $10,000, seniors have an extremely wide range of options. When shopping, seniors should keep in mind that Protective insurance policies do not have any dividend earning ability.

Riders and Customizations: 4/10

An accelerated death benefit and a convertible term option are fairly standard with this company, but rider terms can be vague. Some UL policies from Protective have a return of premium option that can be added at extra cost. For seniors who are looking for a long term care solution, asking about the ExactCare rider might be a good option. This rider is billed as an alternative to traditional long term care options, but it may be a good fit for some. Unfortunately, Protective does not offer an accidental death or guaranteed insurability rider. Several other kinds of riders are available to younger customers but not to those in the 65+ age bracket.

Online Services: 4.8/10

Protective ranked in fourth place for its online services, scoring 4.8/10 points. This brand has many standard online features such as an online login with bill pay and an online insurance needs calculator. Its quote tool is an easy way to learn how much a term policy might cost, and customers can also obtain quotes from third party brokers online. However, Protective’s website has some drawbacks. Its agent locator tool requires that customers give out contact information and wait to be called back. This brand also doesn’t have an app for on-the-go account management.

A Snapshot of Protective’s History:

  • Started: 1907
  • Headquarters: Birmingham, AL
  • Related Companies: Dai-ichi Life (Japanese parent company)

The Protective Shopping Experience

It’s fairly easy to shop for Protective policies since they are distributed widely through independent agents/brokers across the nation. The contact form on the Protective website can help you connect with an agent near you. Some policies from Protective may also be available through a direct online application. For Costco members, special Protective Policies can be purchased at an especially low cost.

Nationwide

Nationwide ranked in seventh place overall with a score of 2.8/5 points. In the majority of metrics, this brand ranked between 6th and 8th place, but it ranked in first place along with Principal for its superior Online Services. Nationwide’s Riders and Customizations options were also fairly good, with Nationwide ranking in fourth place for that metric.

How Nationwide Scored

Senior Friendliness: 2.8/10

For Senior Friendliness, Nationwide ranked in sixth place with 2.8/10 points. This brand actually had some impressive results in this category, including offering the most policies that seniors can qualify for (11) and offering simplified underwriting to seniors in some cases. However, Nationwide’s relatively low issue age caps hurt its performance. The maximum issue ages from Nationwide are 70 for term, 80 for whole, and 85 for UL/other types. Many brands have caps that are 10+ years higher in each category.

Ratings and Reviews: 3.8/10

Nationwide ranked in sixth place for Ratings and Reviews with a score of 3.8/10 points. This brand’s performance can be characterized as good but not best across most submetrics. Its S&P and A.M. Best Ratings were each A+, rankings that are decent in the context of the entire life insurance market but low compared to the top brands we reviewed. Nationwide’s Fortune 500 ranking was an impressive 74 (third-best on our list), and it earned 4/5 Google stars. Its J.D. Powers’ score was 783 compared to Northwestern Mutual’s 810 out of a possible 1,000.

Costs and Financial Options: 1.3/10

Nationwide ranked in eighth place for costs and Financial Options, scoring 1.3/10 points. This brand actually had the third best term policy sample quote at $81. However, Nationwide doesn’t offer dividends for insurance policyholders, and its range of death benefit sizes was fairly limited. Seniors can get policies as low as $10,000 for whole, $25,000 for term, and $100,000 for UL/Other. The cap for all policy types is about $250,000, although some seniors may be able to get approval for higher death benefit amounts.

Riders and Customizations: 4/10

Nationwide ranked in fourth place for Riders and Customizations, scoring 4/10 points. Although this brand has some limitations in this area, it’s still a smart choice for many seniors. This brand’s main weakness is that seniors will not be eligible to convert their term policy to another policy kind. They are also not eligible to purchase guaranteed insurability riders. However, Nationwide offers a long term care rider, and it also is one of the few companies to offer an accidental death benefit rider to seniors. As with most companies, a traditional accelerated death benefit is widely available on Nationwide policies.

Online Services: 10/10

Nationwide stands out in the first place for online services, tying with Principal with 10/10 points. With an online login and bill pay, an app login, and a handy agent locator, it’s easy to find multiple ways to make changes to your account online. Nationwide sample quotes are also easy to find both on Nationwide’s own website and on broker sites. For those who aren’t sure how much life insurance they need, the online needs calculator tool can be a great resource. Nationwide earned maximum points in every submetric in this category.

A Snapshot of Nationwide’s History:

  • Started: 1926
  • Headquarters:  Columbus, OH
  • Related Companies: Farm Bureau Mutual (former name)

The Nationwide Shopping Experience

Nationwide policies can be purchased directly through the company or through independent agents who also sell other brands of insurance. Shopping through online brokers is also an option. This company has life insurance products available in all states, but the availability of specific policies and riders can vary. Nationwide works with 10,000+ independent agents.

State Farm

State Farm ranked in eighth place overall, scoring 2.7/5 possible points. This company struggled to rank competitively in terms of costs and policy customizations, and it also did not have the widest range of senior options. However, State Farm did rank extremely well for both Ratings and Reviews and Online Services.

How State Farm Scored

Senior Friendliness: 1.4/10

State Farm ranked in seventh place along with Protective for its Senior Friendliness, scoring 1.4/10 points. This brand had low issue age caps, with no policies available to those over 85. Its term policy age limit was 70, especially low compared to some brands that can offer policies to those 90+. Overall, State Farm had seven policies for seniors. While this brand did not have a guaranteed issue policy, its final expense whole life option is available with no medical exams, making the application simple.

Ratings and Reviews: 8.8/10

State Farm ranked in second place for Ratings and Reviews, scoring 8.8/10 points. With the best possible A.M. Best rating of AA+ and a very respectable second-best rating of AA from S&P Global, this brand is a very safe choice financially. It also ranks as number 36 on the Fortune 500 list, indicating high profitability. State Farm’s score of 808 from J.D. Powers was also just two points lower than the leader in that submetric, and its 4.2/5 Google stars indicate customer satisfaction.

Costs and Financial Options: 0/10

State Farm ranked in last place for Costs and Financial Options with 0/10 points. A large part of this low score is the fact that its sample quote of $104 was the highest quote of the companies we reviewed. It’s about $30 more expensive than the top two prices from Principal and Protective. As far as death benefits go, State Farm has a decent but somewhat small range available to seniors with options from $10,000-$250,000. Some seniors may be able to qualify for a higher amount if they work with a local agent. Seniors should note that some policies may be eligible for earning dividends.

Riders and Customizations: 0/10

State Farm earned 0/10 points in Riders and Customization, ranking in last place. This brand does offer a nice range of riders, but unfortunately, the cutoff ages for most are quite low. State Farm was also the only company on our list to not routinely offer an accelerated death benefit for seniors. This benefit may be available in limited cases, but seniors will need to ask their agents about specifics. Convertible term is not an option for seniors. Overall, the only popular rider option for seniors was a long term care option called the Flexible Care Benefit Rider.

Online Services: 8/10

State Farm ranked in second place for its online services with 8/10 points. We found the State Farm website to be more informative and helpful than most other insurance company websites. State Farm makes an effort to make its policies easy to understand. This brand also has an online quote tool, needs calculator, and agent locator, and policyholders can log in to an online account to review their policy and pay bills. State Farm was one of just a few companies to offer an app for account management as well. Seniors should note that State Farm quotes are not available from online brokers.

A Snapshot of History:

  • Started: 1922
  • Headquarters: Bloomington, Illinois
  • Related Companies: State Farm Life Insurance Company (subsidiary), State Farm Life and Accident Assurance Company (subsidiary), and more

The State Farm Shopping Experience

State Farm offers its potential customers a lot of information to take in online, but it also has numerous offices across the nation to help customers make the right life insurance choice. This brand has an impressive number of agents- 19,000- as well as 58,000 employees that keep the company running and paying out claims. State Farm policies are not available through brokers, so you won’t be able to use some of the popular online tools that are out there to directly compare State Farm to other companies. Seniors should note that State Farm is not currently offering life insurance in Massachusetts.

Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual ranked in 9th place with an overall score of 2.6/5 points. This brand tended to be less transparent than other brands, and as a result, it ranked as one of the least competitive for Riders and Customizations and Online Services. It also had relatively few options available to seniors, offering only 4 policies to those 65+. Despite these problem areas, Northwestern Mutual ranked exceptionally well in Ratings and Reviews, earning first place in that category thanks to its incredible financial stability and customer satisfaction.

How Northwestern Mutual Scored

Senior Friendliness: 0/10

This brand ranked in last place for Senior Friendliness, scoring 0/10 points. It caps issue ages at 70 for term policies and 85 for whole and UL/Other, making seniors’ options very limited. Term policies are only available for 10 years, whereas at other companies those age 65 can get 15 or 20 years and those a little older can often still get 15. Northwestern Mutual has only four policies available to the 65+ crowd, whereas all other companies that we reviewed offered seven or more policies to seniors. Finally, Northwestern Mutual does offer any relaxed underwriting options to seniors, making this company a good fit only for those who have the time and good health for a fully underwritten policy.

Ratings and Reviews: 10/10

Northwestern Mutual’s Ratings and Review score shines with 10/10 points. This brand had the highest ratings from both A.M. Best (A++) and S&P Global (AA+). It also had the absolute highest score earned by any company that J.D. evaluated in its customer satisfaction survey, earning 810/1,000 points. On the Fortune 500 list, Northwestern Mutual has 102nd place, and this brand has a good score of 4.6/5 Google review stars.

Costs and Financial Options: 2.5/10

Northwestern Mutual ranked in seventh place in this metric, scoring 2.5/10 points. This brand’s score potentially could have been better but was severely hindered by the fact that Northwestern Mutual does not offer any sample quotes online. Northwestern Mutual’s range of death benefits appears to be $100,000-$500,000, so the lack of small benefit options means it won’t be right for some seniors. On the plus side, some policies from Northwestern Mutual are eligible to earn dividends.

Riders and Customizations: 0/10

Northwestern Mutual earned 0/10 points in this metric, ranking in last place along with State Farm. Unlike State Farm, this brand does offer an accelerated death benefit to seniors, and it also allows for the conversion of term policies to other policy types within certain parameters. All other rider types are largely not available to seniors. Seniors who are really interested in Northwestern Mutual due to the company’s other strengths should reach out to an agent, however, in the event that agents may be able to offer some customizations that are not widely advertised online.

Online Services: 0/10

Northwestern Mutual ranked in last place for Online Services along with its competitor New York Life. This company does have an online login and online bill pay, an app for managing accounts, and an online insurance needs calculator. However, it does not offer sample term quotes on its own website or through online brokers. Moreover, its agent locator tool requires seniors to hand over their contact information and then wait for an agent to reach out to them, an option that not all seniors prefer.

A Snapshot of Northwestern Mutual’s History

  • Started: 1857
  • Headquarters:  Milwaukee, WI
  • Related Companies: Mason Street Advisors (variable life insurance products subsidiary)

The Northwestern Mutual Shopping Experience

In some respects, shopping Northwestern Mutual products is an exclusive experience. This company doesn’t provide its quotes online or sell its products through brokers. However, agents are widely available across the nation thanks to its 6,400 financial advisors and professionals. This brand really emphasizes finding the right person to help you based on your location and needs.

A Full Explanation of Our Metrics

Senior Friendliness

Accounting for 25% of a company’s overall score, Senior Friendliness is a metric that sheds light on the barriers to coverage that seniors face in the life insurance market. Scores were based on the following submetrics:

  • Maximum Term Length: How long of a term life insurance policy can a senior get? Are 20 years, 15 years, or 10 years offered? To what specific ages? Most companies offer 30 or 40 years to the general population but less to those over 65.
  • Maximum Issue Age: What is the maximum issue age for each major category of policy type: term, whole, and universal life or other (UL/Other)? The maximum issue age is the oldest a person can be and still qualify to buy a policy. Insurance companies are most interested in selling to younger people, often those under 55, but they do have options for the elderly as well. 
  • Total Number of Senior Policies: To how many different policies are seniors (those 65+) allowed to apply? It’s important to note that some of these policies cut off at “young” senior ages (66-70, for example), while others cut off at high senior ages (some as high as 95+). 
  • Guaranteed and Simplified Issue: Does this insurance company have a guaranteed issue policy that almost anyone can get regardless of health? Does it have a simplified issue policy that has some underwriting but doesn’t require medical exams or tests?

Ratings and Reviews

We looked at five different ratings and review sources to gauge factors like financial stability, profitability, and customer satisfaction. This core metric contributed to 25% of a company’s final score. Below you can learn more about how the different rating agencies and review sites work.

  • A.M. Best: The A.M. Best rating scale measures financial strength and goes from D (poor) to A++ (superior). All of the companies we reviewed had either an A, A+, or A++ rating, therefore none of their ratings were truly bad, but some were better than others. See more information on the rating scale on the AM Best website.    
  • S&P Global: S&P Global rates financial strength like A.M. Best, but on a different scale.  Its ratings can easily be confused with A.M. Best’s since it also uses letters. Reading the Intro to Credit Ratings is helpful, but on the most basic level ratings go from D to AAA. In America, the highest rating a company can obtain is AA+. All companies on our list earned A+, AA-, AA, or AA+, all respectable ratings.   
  • J.D. Powers: J.D. Powers publishes a yearly survey in which it rates customer satisfaction for different insurance companies, annuities, and more. Companies have the opportunity to score as high as 1,000 points, though in the life insurance industry no company scored higher than 810 in 2019. Read the 2019 survey for more information.
  • Fortune 500: This list shows which American corporations are largest by measuring total revenue. Six out of the nine companies we reviewed made the list, and we ranked these companies by how low their Fortune rank was (a smaller number equals a bigger revenue). Companies that did not make the list did not gain points in this submetric. 
  • Google Reviews: Google business profiles are a popular place for consumers to voluntarily leave reviews expressing their feelings about companies. A company’s 1-5 star Google review score is very subjective but indicates popularity. We looked at company headquarters for each insurance company to find the score.

Costs and Financial Options

Customers base their life insurance decision in large part on who can provide the best premium and who has a range of death benefits that suit them best. This is an extremely important metric to most consumers, so it was 25% of a company’s score. Below you can learn about how we evaluated costs and financial options.

  • Minimum and Maximum Death Benefits: How low is this company’s minimum death benefit? How high is its maximum death benefit? Companies that had large ranges gained the most points here since a large range is most inclusive. In our research we found that most “maximums” are not hard limits; agents are often able to grant larger death benefit amounts on a case-by-case basis to seniors who financially qualify. 
  • Dividends: Does this company have a life insurance policy that can offer dividends to policyholders when the company is doing well? Note that even for companies that offer dividends, only some policy types may be eligible. 
  • Sample Term Quote: Does the company provide a term life insurance quote online? How high is that monthly premium quote? Two of the companies we reviewed did not offer online quotes for term policies. These companies received half points in this category since their true pricing was unknown.
Good to Know

In order to get sample quotes, we had to enter information on a fictional person into companies’ quote tools. We tried to provide information that would generate a quote at the low end of the company’s price range for term life insurance. Below you can view the demographic information that we used so that you can get an idea of how closely it aligns with your own demographics.  Sample Quote Demographics:

  • Sex: Female
  • DOB: 01/01/1955 (65 years old)
  • Tobacco Use: Never
  • Family Health History: No major concerns
  • Personal Health: Excellent
  • Location: Albuquerque, NM 
  • Term Length: 10 years
  • Death Benefit: $250,000

Riders and Customizations

Adding a rider to a policy can give you more financial flexibility, but it can also be very expensive due to increased premiums or other fees. Since the cost versus the benefit of adding a rider can be difficult to determine, this category accounts for 15% of a company’s overall score, a lower percentage than some of the other categories. Below you can learn the basic definitions of the riders that we asked about.

  • Accelerated Death Benefit: Often included in a policy for free, this rider stipulates that if the policyholder is diagnosed with a terminal or in some cases a chronic disease, then he or she can choose to receive part of the death benefit while still alive. This can help to pay for medical bills that might otherwise put the insured person in debt. Using this rider will reduce the death benefit that the beneficiary gets upon your death.
  • Accidental Death: This rider usually costs extra. It stipulates that if the senior dies within a certain number of years (such as 4) from an accident (as defined by the policy), then the beneficiary will receive a larger death benefit than normal. The beneficiary may be granted 150% of the death benefit, or something similar. Terms differ greatly from company to company.
  • Long Term Care: These riders can be arranged in all different kinds of ways, but they are all intended to provide a monthly sum to help pay for nursing home care, in-home care, or other needs associated with disability/aging. These riders may be similar to accelerated death benefits in some cases, but it’s important to read terms carefully. 
  • Return of Premium: On a term policy, this rider means that if the insured outlives the term, he or she will get back all of the premiums that were paid during the term. The company is able to offer this option because it already benefited from investing the premiums in the meantime. A Return of Premium rider can be included in UL policies, too, but it tends to work a bit differently.
  • Convertible Term: This customization option is often written into the original policy. It allows a person to change their term policy into a permanent policy, usually within a specified time frame such as the first seven years of the term. There may be costs associated with the conversion.  
  • Guaranteed Insurability: This is a rider that provides assurances that the policyholder will be allowed to purchase more insurance later on from the same company without having to go through another underwriting process. Usually, there are many details that specify exactly when you can buy more and exactly how much more you can buy.

Online Services

Many consumers, including seniors, now pay all of their bills online. Many also like to shop online and to use online services instead of calling a company whenever possible. Since the internet is such a big part of the life insurance shopping experience, we based 10% of each company’s score on the features that they offered on their websites. Companies tended to have fairly similar online experiences, but some differences did show.

  • Account Login and Bill Pay: Does the company allow policyholders to login to their accounts online, on an app, or both? Can the customer pay their bills online?
  • Quote Tools: Does the company have a term life quote tool on its own website? Does that tool allow potential customers to get a sample quote without handing over contact information? Does the company offer their quotes through popular online brokers, too?
  • Agent Locator: Does the company offer a built-in search tool that lets a customer search for an agent based on location? Can the customer use the quote tool without having to hand over their name and contact information?
  • Needs Calculator: Does the company offer a free “calculator” tool that will help the customer figure out how much life insurance they need?

The Financial Impact of Buying Life Insurance

Life insurance is something you buy primarily for other people’s benefit. Furthermore, within the life insurance market, sales pitches can include promises that seem and sometimes are too good to be true.  It can be difficult to assess the value and costs of life insurance. The information below can help you better assess how a policy may impact you and your loved ones financially.

The Immediate Financial Impact of Premiums

Premiums for life insurance policies vary a great deal, and there are no one-size-fits-all prices. Age, health, and many other factors must be taken into account. That being said, for seniors, a term policy for $250,000 may start around $70, and premiums for lower death benefit amounts can be as low as $50 or less for young seniors. In some cases, Universal Life and variations thereof can be quite affordable or quite expensive, depending on exact policy features. Whole policies tend to be the most expensive, and premiums may easily be several hundred dollars per month unless the death benefit is low (for example, in final expense policies where the death benefit may be a maximum of $25,000-$50,000).

With premiums, it’s important to think ahead. If you’re just turning 65, your rates will only go up if you wait to sign up. However, you don’t want to rush yourself into a policy with a premium that’s higher than you can truly afford month after month, year after year. If you reach a point where you can no longer afford your premium, you may be able to sell the policy to a third party or to surrender it to the company in exchange for a small cash value amount, but neither option is ideal. If you have doubts about being able to keep up with life insurance premiums, it may be best to devise a different plan for saving and/or investing a modest sum of money on a more flexible basis. Your financial planner should be able to help you decide what’s best for your specific situation.

The Varying Long Term Financial Impact of Different Policy Types

Life insurance is designed to leave a loved one with a large sum of money once you are gone, and the foundational concept seems simple enough. However, the reality is there are three major types of life insurance, several subtypes, and numerous riders that can further modify each type. There’s so much variety on the market that different life insurance types can look almost nothing alike when it comes to their financial impact. Consider the major differences below.

Term

Term life insurance is cheap because it doesn’t always pay a death benefit out. It’s something you pay for during a set number of years (10 years is often all that’s available to those 66+). When the term is up your beneficiary gets nothing if you did not pass away. This may seem like a bad deal, but a term policy can provide peace of mind. When you have a temporary financial concern for your family, term is a great fit. If, for example, you have a mortgage that is nearly paid off, a term policy will help your family if you happen to pass away suddenly before you’re finished paying it off. Likewise, if you’re raising a grandchild who is nearly but not fully grown, you may wish to have a policy in place in case you pass away during the grandchild’s transitional young adult period that can be a vulnerable time financially. 

Whole

A whole policy fits the financial goals of those who really want to leave something for a loved one regardless of when they pass away. If your concern for loved ones’ finances goes beyond just getting through the next ten years, then whole can be a suitable option, but it will cost you a great deal. Like term policies, whole policies tend to be fairly straightforward (compared to UL, see below). They can feel financially dependable, and be a good fit for someone who is financially cautious. Moreover, many whole policies accumulate cash value, albeit slowly, and that cash value can be borrowed in some cases.

A special subcategory of whole life called “final expense” or “burial insurance” policies can be a great choice for those who specifically want to provide an adequate amount of money to pay for their own funeral. Some of these policies are large enough to also leave money for small debts that you may leave behind. Of course, some seniors may benefit just as much by simply setting aside a lump sum of several thousand dollars for their funeral. 

Universal/Other

Universal Life, Universal Indexed, and Universal Variable policies are all considered some of the riskiest life insurance policies on the market. These policies are all technically “permanent” like whole life, but they operate under a complex and often unclear set of rules that can leave customers financially vulnerable. The perks of these policies include the accumulation of cash value that can be borrowed against, participation in the stock market or other forms of investment, and the ability to adjust premiums in some cases. The downside includes the possibility of losing the policy through overborrowing or market losses and the possibility of having to pay sharply increased premiums in order to keep the policy. These policies are sometimes over-sold by sales agents who may not adequately understand the risks that they pose to seniors. However, thoughtfully using these policies can be wise in some cases. 

Policies that Have Riders 

Many life insurance policies can be modified with riders. Perhaps the most popular and readily available rider is the accelerated death benefit. This option is now frequently included at no cost in the basic policy. Designed for the terminally ill or sometimes for the chronically ill, this clause in a policy can help a senior out by advancing a large sum of the death benefit to them during their illness when medical bills are high. What’s borrowed from the death benefit is considered a loan and must be returned or else your beneficiary will get a reduced death benefit. Interest is usually charged on the accelerated death benefit, too, and other fees may be assessed, depending on the terms listed in the policy.

The above example of the accelerated death benefit illustrates the financial impact of most riders. Riders add the option of a specific benefit that you can take advantage of down the road when certain conditions are met. When the rider is activated, a fee of some kind may be charged, and some other costs, including a reduction of the death benefit, may come into play. Riders are almost always a trade-off, but they may be worth it in some cases if they provide financial flexibility. Furthermore, while the accelerated death benefit is usually included in the premium, most other riders will increase your premium.

Questions to ask when considering a rider’s financial impact:

  • Will this increase my premium cost?
  • Could I obtain this benefit for a lower cost elsewhere or obtain the same financial security through traditional investments or other means?
  • How likely am I to need this benefit?
  • Does the rider have extremely narrow definitions of illness or other factors that will lead to me being denied the use of the rider when I really ought to qualify?
  • What fees will be charged to me or taken out of my death benefit if I do use this rider?
  • Is there an annual fee that will be removed from my death benefit or accumulated cash value?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Is a Death Benefit?
  • What is a Captive Agent?
  • What Are My Options for Underwriting?
  • Can Octogenarians Get Life Insurance?
  • What Is an Insurance Endorsement?

Works Cited

  1. “About Us.” A.M. Best, 2020, http://www.ambest.com/about/.  Accessed 29 September 2020.
  2. “S&P Global.” S&P, 2020,  https://www.standardandpoors.com/en_US/web/guest/home.  
  3. “Life Insurance and Annuity Providers Are More Customer-Centric but Gaps Remain, J.D. Power Finds.” J.D. Power, 2019,  https://www.jdpower.com/system/files/legacy/assets/2019208%2520U.S.%2520Life%2520Insurance%2520Study.pdf. Accessed  21 September 2020. 
  4. Sachon, Logan, and Swartz, Anna. “Life insurance statistics in 2020.” Policygenius, 2 January 2020, https://www.policygenius.com/life-insurance/life-insurance-statistics/#life-insurance-by-the-numbers. Accessed 18 October 2020.