Explained Whole Life Insurance

Whole life insurance is a wise option for anyone who wants lifetime coverage, stable premiums and the opportunity to build cash value. Unlike term life, which offers a policy for a specific amount of time, whole life insurance provides coverage for your entire life, along with a death benefit that’s paid to your beneficiaries when you pass on.

In contrast, term life insurance expires when its term, usually of 1–30 years, has passed, and if you’re still alive after this period, the insurance no longer pays out any benefits. Some whole life policies also offer the opportunity for you to earn annual dividends. Obtain whole life insurance quotes from several companies as you get started and look for a policy to ensure you find the one that most effectively meets your needs.

Largest Sellers of Whole Life Insurance

In 2016, MassMutual Financial bought MetLife’s network, making it the largest insurance carrier writing new policies in the United States. Read on to learn more about the life insurance policies available from MassMutual and some of the other largest sellers of whole life insurance.

Whole Life Insurance

The top whole life insurance companies all share several characteristics, including underwriting their policies in-house instead of working as intermediaries by servicing other companies’ policies. Other characteristics to look for include:

  • Reliable financial strength: Look for carriers that earn above-average ratings from independent agencies such as A.M Best and Standard and Poor’s.
  • Convertible term policies: If you start out with a term life policy, this feature lets you convert it into a whole life policy to extend your coverage for the rest of your life without the need to take an updated medical exam.
  • Customized coverage: Each person’s life insurance needs are unique to his or her situation, which often changes over time. In general, highly rated carriers provide extras such as disability protection and end-of-life care that lets you draw on the death benefit of your policy to pay for end-of-life costs such as treatments or hospice care.

Gerber Life Insurance Company

Gerber Life Insurance is among the largest carriers that sell insurance directly to consumers. Gerber Life Insurance began in 1967 as an offshoot of Gerber baby food. What makes this carrier unique is its Grow Up Plan, a comprehensive selection of whole life insurance policies for children. You hold the policy until your child reaches the age of 21, at which time he or she has the option to continue the policy at Gerber’s standard rates for adults. Choose from $5,000–$50,000 in coverage with locked-in premiums during the child’s youth.

Guardian Life Insurance Company of America

What sets Guardian Life Insurance apart from the other companies is its operation as a mutual insurance company owned by policyholders. Guardian’s history of paying annual dividends dates back to 1868, which gives you a strong potential to earn dividends. J.D. Power gives Guardian above average scores for customer satisfaction. It offers a variety of insurance options, including whole, universal and term life.

Guardian shines with features like its Index Participation, which allows policyholders with whole life insurance link part of their cash value to the 500 index from Standard and Poor’s. The company also offers flexible terms if you opt to borrow against the cash value of your policy.

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual)

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, commonly known as MassMutual, has been in the life insurance business since 1851 when George Rice founded it in Connecticut based on his dream of starting a life insurance company owned by policyholders rather than shareholders. Like Guardian, MassMutual is a mutual company that often pays dividends to policyholders.

J.D. Power gives MassMutual “better than most” scores for its policy offerings and average ratings for overall satisfaction and price. The company offers whole life, guaranteed life, term life and universal life insurance.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife)

One of the most recognizable figures associated with Metropolitan Life (MetLife) Insurance is Snoopy, the “Peanuts” favorite dog who has performed double duty as Charlie Brown’s pal and the canine ambassador to MetLife since 1985. The company dates back to 1864 when it got its start selling disability insurance policies to Civil War soldiers. MetLife has an extensive menu of insurance options, including term, whole, universal and guaranteed acceptance insurances. On the downside, J.D. Power rates the company as average to below average in customer satisfaction. Policies earn cash value, but dividends aren’t guaranteed.

Mutual of Omaha

Mutual of Omaha carries three types of life insurance: term, whole and universal. Term life insurance offers the lowest premium prices with fixed payment amounts for a specific period. The company has three different types of whole life policies for adults and two types of children’s whole life insurance, including the following:

  • Whole Life Guaranteed Direct: Available to adults between the ages of 45 and 85, with benefits ranging from $3,000–$25,000
  • Whole Life Guaranteed: Available to adults between the ages of 45 and 85, with benefits ranging from $3,000–$20,000
  • Whole Life Express: Available to adults between the ages of 18 and 85, with benefits ranging from $5,000–$50,000
  • Children’s Whole Life Direct: Available to kids aged 14 days to 17 years, with benefits ranging from $5,000–$50,000
  • Children’s Whole Life: Available to kids aged 14 days to 17 years, with benefits ranging from $5,000–$30,000

Mutual of Omaha has an A+ rating from A.M. Best for financial strength. It also earns above average J.D. Power ratings for overall satisfaction, billing and payments, customer satisfaction and price.

New York Life Insurance Company

New York Life Insurance Company is a mutual company that has been providing peace of mind since 1845. J.D. Power ranks New York Life above average in overall satisfaction and price. Additionally, the insurance provider is among the top rankings on Fortune Magazine’s list of most-admired companies.

Buying certain types of policies, including whole life policies, entitles you to receive dividends. A whole life policy with New York Life has several unique features, including a Chronic Care Rider to help you manage costs associated with a chronic illness. In addition to highly customized policies designed to help your policy build cash value quickly, these policies also have a Living Benefits Rider, which varies by state and gives you the option to take an early payout of your death benefits if you’re critically ill.

Northwestern Mutual National Life Insurance Company

Whole life is one of four types of permanent life insurance, which offers lifelong insurance coverage, that Northwestern Mutual provides. This carrier offers three guarantees with its whole life policies, including:

  • Death benefits: As long as you pay your policy on time and don’t have any loans against the policy, your beneficiaries are assured a minimum payment when you die.
  • Fixed premiums: Unlike term life policies that typically require higher premiums as you age or undergo health issues, the level premiums of a whole life policy let you pay the same amount for your whole life policy for the life of the coverage.
  • Cash value: Over the years, your premiums let your policy accumulate tax-deferred value that Northwestern Mutual lets you use to start a business, pay for educational costs or supplement retirement income.

As a mutual company, Northwestern Mutual provides you with the opportunity to earn annual dividends that you can use to boost your policy’s benefit or cash value, or to pay toward the premium. Northwestern Mutual has three whole life products, including:

  • Limited Pay Life: A whole life policy that provides a lifetime of coverage, but a period of 10–30 years during which you pay the premiums. After the limited pay term, premium payments are no longer required.
  • 65 Life: With this policy, you pay premiums until you’re 65 years old. After turning 65, you still have the coverage, but you don’t need to pay any premiums.
  • 90 Life: Because you pay on this policy until you’re 90 years old, it costs less than the 65 Life policy does.
  • Ohio National Life Insurance Company

    In addition to offering term life, universal life and variable universal life, Ohio National Life Insurance offers four types of whole life policies, including:

    • Prestige Value III: Low premiums and the ability to earn dividends makes this a popular choice.
    • Prestige 10 Pay: This 10-year limited whole life plan requires 10 years of paying level premiums. After the 10 years, you no longer have to pay premiums.
    • Prestige 100: This foundational policy requires premium payments up to age 100. It provides a full lifetime of insurance coverage.
    • Prestige Max: Once you reach age 65 or 10 years after buying the insurance policy — whichever is longer — the carrier considers the policy as paid. This policy works particularly well if you want to earn high cash values.

    State Farm

    State Farm is widely known as the largest automobile insurer in the United States, and it also ranks eighth when it comes to the largest life insurance companies. State Farm offers more than 100 services and products, including term, universal and whole life insurance. State Farm earns a superior rating from A.M. Best, and it offers a large, reliable nationwide network.

    Whole life insurance from State Farm offers level premiums up to age 100, in addition to death benefits that are typically tax-free for your beneficiaries and tax-deferred growth of the cash value. State Farm also offers a $10,000 final expense policy and three limited-pay whole life insurance options, which limit your premium payments to 10, 15 or 20 years.


    Transamerica began in a converted saloon in San Francisco, California, in 1904. The company offers several types of life insurance for groups and individuals, including term, universal, whole and final expense insurance. A.M, Best gives Transamerica superior ratings for financial strength. J.D. Power rates the company about average for most categories, although it ranked Transamerica below average for customer service.