Today’s article is focused on the top 10 best universal life insurance companies for wealth building and legacy creation. Because we are a platform for promoting the strategic use of life insurance for estate planning, wealth building, and leaving a legacy, our criteria tends to lean toward these goals.
Its always a bit tricky to compile of list of top life insurance companies because of the many factors that may be considered AND the fact that the major life insurance companies today are all solid financial powerhouses.
Also, because life insurance companies operate under the same rules, they tend to be similar in many ways, so finding the highlights takes some experience and digging. In this way, the devil is in the details when searching for the top of the line companies and the best life insurance policies to meet your needs and goals.
In our previous article featuring the best life insurance companies, we focused on a broad criteria to identify those companies that offer the consumer a great mix of permanent life insurance options ranging from dividend paying whole life insurance to universal life insurance of various types.
However, we were compelled to only give a couple of good companies “honorable mention” because, although very strong on the universal life side, those companies offer zero whole life options.
Today, those companies will redeem themselves because we’ve removed whole life insurance from the mix, allowing those who focus on universal life policies to shine. For more on the differences between the two, please see our article covering whole life vs universal life.
The former is a wealth building product that is designed to grow cash value within a life insurance policy whereas the latter is designed primarily to provide a permanent death benefit.
Because variable universal life insurance is a different focus that is typically handled by a specialist with securities knowledge, we are reserving it also as outside of the scope of this article.
Criteria for Determining Best Universal Life Insurance Companies for Wealth Building
- Financial Strength
- Policy Options
- Non-Captive Company
When it comes to rating life insurance companies for financial strength, there several options to choose from, including A.M. Best, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s and the overall Comdex rank.
A.M. Best Ratings for Life Insurance Companies
We tend to use the A.M. Best Ratings because it is the oldest, founded in 1899, and most widely recognized rating agency dedicated to the insurance industry. A.M. Best ratings have 2 symbols that indicate their ratings analysis.
The first symbol is alphabetical, ranging from A++ at the top end to E at the lower end, and indicates the financial strength of the company. When calculating financial strength, A.M. Best, conducts a thorough examination of the company’s income and balance sheet strength, operating performance and business profile.
The second symbol is a roman numeral that designates the financial size of the company, ranging from I, less than 1 million, to XV, greater than 2 billion. A.M. Best arrives at this rating by examining data such as policyholder reserve funds, other investment or operating contingency funds, and miscellaneous reserves reported as liabilities on the balance sheet.
Because we’re more concerned for this review with strength verses size, we’ll focus on the first symbol. Most life insurance companies have a rating of A- (excellent) or better by A.M. Best, so we’ll be pointing to those that meet or exceed this benchmark. Note: Companies with a rating of B or less are considered “vulnerable” by A.M. Best.
When it comes to universal life insurance, flexibility is the name of the game. This is what really differentiates universal life insurance from its counterpart in the permanent life insurance world of participating dividend paying whole life insurance.
The latter type, in a nutshell, is also known as a fixed premium plan which does not allow deviation from the fixed premium amount during the policy payment period, whatever that is determined to be.
Universal life insurance, on the other hand, is by definition a flexible premium plan. This allows policy holders the flexibility to skip a payment if things get financially tight.
However, flexibility extends to more than premium payments into areas such as policy design options. Some companies are simply more inventive when it comes to the ways that policies can be designed and the riders that are available to support an optimal plan.
In other words, flexibility is only a part of the policy design equation. We also want to know what kinds of coverage options and incentives for consumers are available from a given universal life policy.
Inside Insight – Options and incentives for consumers would concern the financial aspects of the policy such as “index caps”, the “money sweep” policy, policy expenses, accelerated benefits, policy loan options, interest bonus options and “overloan” protection. All of the above are related to the performance and profitability of an indexed universal life policy and should be considered on a case by case basis. While we won’t do a deep dive into these areas for each company in this article, our chosen companies all strive to stay competitive in these areas to offer consumer friendly products.
Of course, a top life insurance company should be characterized by happy customers and we’ve thus endeavored to make sure that all those who make our list have maintained a solid customer service reputation. In reviewing our contender’s customer service reputation, we delved into our wealth of personal experience and looked at web based surveys including the J.D. Power survey for life insurance companies.
Captive vs. Non-Captive Companies
We are NOT contending that non-captive life insurance companies offer better products than captive companies. We simply raise the question whether a non-captive company is a more consumer friendly alternative because the professionals are encouraged to shop companies for the consumer rather than keep the business “in house”. Thus, although some may disagree, we factor this criteria into our search for the best companies.
With our 5 criteria in mind, let’s blast off into the universe of the best universal life insurance companies, pun intended.
Our Picks for the Best Universal Life Insurance Companies
Pacific Life Insurance Company is an A+ rated (superior) company that reportedly offers the best IUL products in the industry. A simple review reveals that they offer 5 different indexed product options and within those products, their performance riders are top notch.
Pac Life is a mutual life insurance company that is fun to write about even though they’ve stayed out of the whole life insurance market. Arguably, they’ve made up for this lack of diversity with a keen emphasis on providing a widely diverse set of universal life options for consumers.
PacLife also has an above average customer service record and is a non-captive company that is easy for independent agents to work with and obtain information for clients.
North American Company is an A+ rated (superior) company that is part of a group of companies owned by Sammons Enterprises, Inc., which also owns Midland National Life Insurance.
North American Life offers a robust variety of IUL product options. Opportunities for consumers include a builder and legacy optimizer IUL and their policy design options have thus catapulted them to the top of our list.
North American Life also ranks very high in customer service and is a non-captive company. Like PacLife, this company does not delve into whole life products. However, if you’re exploring an indexed universal life path, we highly recommend checking this company out as well as its sister company Midland National.
Another reason that North American tops our list is an above average customer service reputation.
Lincoln National Life Insurance Company is a subsidiary of Lincoln Financial Group, Inc., and is currently offering a solid wealth building IUL for consumers that includes a fixed loan rate option and a 1% crediting rate. They also offer design options for wealth protection, retirement or business protection.
With an A.M. Best rating of A+ (superior), this company meets our criteria for financial strength. Lincoln National’s customer service is excellent and they are a non-captive company, both of which add to their overall ranking.
There are a number of divisions to the Prudential group of companies which all carry the A+ (superior) A.M. Best Rating. For our purposes, we’re focusing on the Prudential Insurance Company of America but will refer to them all as Prudential.
Prudential is another great company that was catapulted to the top of our list based upon some practical experience with their IUL products and frankly their track record of policy performance.
Prudential entered the IUL world in 2012 with their PruLife® IndexAdvantage UL, and has since added other products. Depending upon your age and other factors, Prudential may offer the best option for your IUL policy goals.
Prudential is a non-captive company and did well on the J.D. power customer satisfaction survey as well as our other inquiries.
Minnesota Life Insurance Company is a subsidiary of Securian Financial Group, Inc., and is currently offering an array of attractive policy options for consumers. With an A.M. Best rating of A+ (superior), this company meets our criteria for financial strength.
In addition to offering an attractive whole life accumulator policy, Minnesota Life has put together an exceptional set of indexed universal life policy options that offer flexibility to accommodate the kinds of wealth building and estate planning objectives that we value.
Minnesota Mutual’s customer service is sometimes sketchy based upon web based feedback but they are a non-captive company that is easy for professionals to work with and are also highly flexible in policy design.
Voya Financial is what we consider a company to watch closely. Voya has been quietly improving its marketing and products and is thus moving up in our ranks.
They are innovating an impressive set of consumer options in the IUL world that offer some great wealth building enhancements for consumers including a global choice option. With an A.M. Best rating of A (excellent), this company meets our criteria for financial strength however is slightly lower than most of the other contenders. Voya is a non-captive company with solid, although not spectacular, customer service reviews.
Foresters Life Insurance and Annuity Company is a subsidiary of Foresters Financial, both of which are rated A (excellent) by A.M. Best. Foresters is arguably the least known life insurance company on our list and yet commanded our attention for a few reasons.
First, Foresters offers a no exam life insurance option which is a very consumer friendly approach. Available for ages 16-55, Foresters is one of the few companies that are exploring automated underwriting.
Second, Foresters has an exceptional IUL product that is reportedly very favorable for wealth building for real estate investors and using life insurance policy loans for working capital. So, Foresters gets high marks for both a range of policy options AND exceptional policy design options. Foresters is non-captive and easy for agents to work with.
Finally, Foresters has a solid customer service reputation, thus placing them high in our rankings.
Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company is an A+ rated (superior) company. In addition to Penn Mutual’s dividend paying whole life product, which is one of the front runners in the industry, Penn recently introduced a number of accumulation builder indexed universal life products.
So, Penn Mutual is covering the spectrum with an exceptional array of choices for consumers when it comes to wealth building. Penn Mutual is also a non-captive company that is easy to work with and their customer service record is above average.
Transamerica Life is a solid company with a good set of policy options and designs. With an A+ (superior) A.M. Best rating and a structure that is essentially non-captive, this company offers a nice set of options for consumers. Although the company culture is somewhat unique, in utilizing a kind of multilevel approach to the agent offices, agents only need to be appointed to offer their products. Transamerica caters to all kinds of strategies including wealth building through whole life, universal life and variable life products. They are also a non-captive company that is easy to work with. Depending upon where you look, Transamerica’s customer service record ranges from solid to mediocre.
American National Life Insurance Company has an A.M. Best rating of A (excellent) and thus meets our criteria for financial strength. American National made our list because they get some accolades for their solid policy performance options.
American National’s customer service is middle of the road and they are a non-captive company, both of which add to their overall ranking.
There you have it,…
…our top 10 list for consumer friendly life insurance companies who support our deepest values of promoting sound estate planning and wealth building strategies.
There are a lot of top universal life insurance companies list out there and the above were the ones that continue to command our attention.
If you are looking to gain financial independence, build wealth, plan for retirement, protect your business and create a legacy through universal life insurance, we believe the above companies our the top contenders when searching for the best product and company to meet your goals.
Interested in learning more? Please give us a call or fill out our questionnaire. We are in the business of helping people achieve their goals through innovative life insurance strategies.