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How ratings can be used to pick the best life insurance company

Several third-parties subject life insurance companies to rigorous analysis to determine financial strength. Here’s a list of the best life insurance companies in 2020.

Everyone gets reviewed nowadays, from college professors to rideshare drivers to your employer’s CEO. Your insurance company is no different.

Third-party ratings agencies perform detailed, extensive analysis to determine a life insurance company’s financial strength and claims-paying ability. Choosing the right life insurance policy and provider is a critical part of your grown-up responsibilities, acting as a key step in providing a financial safety net for your loved ones if you were to die.

It’s possible you will be in a relationship with this provider for 10, 20, even 30 years—and as with any other long-term relationship, you want to be confident in your choice of partner. After all, this is who you’ll be trusting to safeguard your beneficiaries’ financial stability. And hey: You’re probably already comparing coverage options, lower vs. higher premiums, what kind of buying experience you want, and more. All that research is for naught if a life insurer doesn’t seem likely to meet its ongoing financial obligations.

So what do these ratings agencies look at when determining their rankings? Each agency has a different formula, but simply put, each one evaluates life insurance carriers on their financial strength—how well-funded an insurance carrier is, how much risk it carries, and its operating performance. A rating is not a guarantee of financial strength, but it can be considered an indicator.

There are several rating agencies out there – not to mention independent customer review sites like Nerdwallet – but four of them are most frequently touted to represent the quality of life insurance companies. Each of those four – A.M. Best, Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s – has its own standards and grading scale for rating insurance companies. A.M. Best is generally the top one touted by insurers, but for the sake of transparency, we’ve included several different sources for ratings in one place.

It’s important to get familiar with the rating agency whose grades you’re considering. Otherwise, the score could give you a false sense of security. For example, A+ is A.M. Best’s second-highest rating, but an A+ is Fitch’s fifth-highest rating.

The ratings organizations themselves may make you pay a fee for the privilege of seeing their ratings. But typically, a life insurance company will list its ratings from these agencies on the company’s website. Either way, we’re happy to do the work for you and offer a starter list of ratings below.

In this article:

MassMutual (Haven Life’s parent company)

MassMutual is a more than 160-year-old mutual company. That means it doesn’t have shareholders, and, instead, members and participating policy owners are often described as sharing in the ownership. MassMutual sells a range of protection products including disability insurance, term life insurance, permanent life insurance (including whole and universal), guaranteed issue life insurance, annuities and more.

During the COVID-19 crisis, MassMutual is committing more than $3 billion in free life insurance coverage to frontline healthcare workers. Haven Life—which is backed and wholly owned by MassMutual—embodies that same spirit of generosity. Born online, and designed for a generation of digital natives, Haven Life offers an easy online experience for buying affordable term life insurance, sometimes without requiring a medical exam. (Keep in mind that issuance of the policy or payment of benefits may depend upon the truthfulness of answers given in the application.)

It’s worth noting, by the way, that while not every insurance company or agency has TrustPilot reviews, Haven Life has received a 4.8 out of 5-star review from nearly 900 customers and counting. Oh, and US News and World Report put Haven Life in the top spot among 16 insurance innovators.

MassMutual ratings

Third-party ratings and reviews MassMutual ratings Top ratings available
A.M Best A++ A++, A+: Superior
A, A-: Excellent
B++, B+: Good
Fitch AA+ AAA: Highest credit quality, lowest default risk
AA+, AA, AA-: Very high quality
A+, A, A-: High credit quality, low default risk
Moody’s Aa3 Aaa
Aa1, Aa2, Aa3
A1, A2, A3
Standard & Poor’s (S&P) AA+ AAA
AA+, AA, AA-
A+, A, A-
NerdWallet score 261.8 300
Ratings as of April 2020
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American International Group (AIG)

American International Group, Inc. turns 101 this year, though we swear it doesn’t look a day over 90. The company started providing coverage in 1919 when it was founded by Cornelius Vander Starr, reminding us that more people should be named Cornelius. AIG sells a range of protection products including term life insurance, guaranteed issue whole life insurance, quality of life insurance, universal life insurance and variable universal life insurance.

AIG ratings

Third-party ratings and reviews AIG ratings Top ratings available
A.M Best A A++, A+: Superior

A, A: Excellent

B++, B+: Good

Fitch A+ AAA: Highest credit quality, lowest default risk

AA+, AA, AA-: Very high quality

A+, A, A-: High credit quality, low default risk

Moody’s A2 Aaa
Aa1, Aa2, Aa3
A1, A2, A3
Standard & Poor’s (S&P) A+ AAA
AA+, AA, AA-
A+, A, A-
NerdWallet score N/A 300
Ratings as of April 2020
Haven Life logo

John Hancock

Named after the prominent American revolutionary patriot, this insurer was actually acquired in 2004 by Canadian firm Manulife, which also provides investment services, manages retirement accounts and even helps businesses develop commercial real estate. John Hancock is also well known for its Vitality program, which provides customers with rewards in exchange for health-related data like exercise milestones, preventive medicine visits, healthy food purchases and more. The company offers a range of protection products including term life insurance, permanent life insurance, and final expense life insurance.

John Hancock ratings

Third-party ratings and reviews John Hancock ratings Top ratings available
A.M Best A+ A++, A+: Superior

A, A: Excellent

B++, B+: Good

Fitch AA- AAA: Highest credit quality, lowest default risk

AA+, AA, AA-: Very high quality

A+, A, A-: High credit quality, low default risk

Moody’s A1 Aaa
Aa1, Aa2, Aa3
A1, A2, A3
Standard & Poor’s (S&P) AA- AAA
AA+, AA, AA-
A+, A, A-
NerdWallet score 231.4 300
Ratings as of April 2020
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Mutual of Omaha

The steady cash generated by Mutual of Omaha’s nationwide insurance business allowed the company to financially support the beloved TV nature show “Wild Kingdom” for decades, and it now sponsors five pro golfers. Mutual of Omaha offers a range of financial services and supplements to Medicare. Its protection products include life insurance, long-term care insurance, disability income insurance, critical illness insurance and cancer/heart attack/stroke insurance.

Mutual of Omaha ratings

Third-party ratings and reviews Mutual of Omaha ratings Top ratings available
A.M Best A+ A++, A+: Superior

A, A: Excellent

B++, B+: Good

Fitch Not listed AAA: Highest credit quality, lowest default risk

AA+, AA, AA-: Very high quality

A+, A, A-: High credit quality, low default risk

Moody’s A1 Aaa
Aa1, Aa2, Aa3
A1, A2, A3
Standard & Poor’s (S&P) A+ AAA
AA+, AA, AA-
A+, A, A-
NerdWallet score 174.5 300
Ratings as of April 2020
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Nationwide

This company actually started out providing coverage for expenses from auto accidents. Now they offer an insurance policy for just about anything. Nationwide offers, well, a wide range of products—investing and retirement services, banking and borrowing services and more. Its insurance offerings cover categories from automotive to home and even pet insurance (not to mention snowmobile and even golf cart insurance!). Its protection products include term life insurance, universal life insurance, whole life insurance and variable life insurance.

Nationwide ratings

Third-party ratings and reviews Nationwide ratings Top ratings available
A.M Best A+ A++, A+: Superior

A, A: Excellent

B++, B+: Good

Fitch Not listed AAA: Highest credit quality, lowest default risk

AA+, AA, AA-: Very high quality

A+, A, A-: High credit quality, low default risk

Moody’s A1 Aaa
Aa1, Aa2, Aa3
A1, A2, A3
Standard & Poor’s (S&P) A+ AAA
AA+, AA, AA-
A+, A, A-
NerdWallet score 252.7 300
Ratings as of April 2020
Haven Life logo

Northwestern Mutual

Over 160 years and counting, this Milwaukee-based insurer has expanded its services to include financial planning, private client services and more. Northwestern Mutual offers a range of investment and financial planning services; its protection products include term life insurance, whole life insurance, and universal life insurance.

Northwestern Mutual ratings

Third-party ratings and reviews Northwestern Mutual ratings Top ratings available
A.M Best A++ A++, A+: Superior

A, A: Excellent

B++, B+: Good

Fitch AAA AAA: Highest credit quality, lowest default risk

AA+, AA, AA-: Very high quality

A+, A, A-: High credit quality, low default risk

Moody’s Aaa Aaa
Aa1, Aa2, Aa3
A1, A2, A3
Standard & Poor’s (S&P) AA+ AAA
AA+, AA, AA-
A+, A, A-
NerdWallet score 274.20 300
Ratings as of April 2020
Haven Life logo

Prudential

At its founding in 1875, this company was known as “The Widows and Orphans Friendly Society,” and its only product was an insurance policy designed to pay for burial expenses. They’ve expanded their portfolio significantly since then. Prudential offers a range of retirement and investment services. Its protection products include term life insurance, universal life insurance, variable universal life insurance and indexed universal life insurance.

Prudential ratings

Third-party ratings and reviews Prudential ratings Top ratings available
A.M Best A+ A++, A+: Superior

A, A: Excellent

B++, B+: Good

Fitch AA- AAA: Highest credit quality, lowest default risk

AA+, AA, AA-: Very high quality

A+, A, A-: High credit quality, low default risk

Moody’s Aa3 Aaa
Aa1, Aa2, Aa3
A1, A2, A3
Standard & Poor’s (S&P) AA- AAA
AA+, AA, AA-
A+, A, A-
NerdWallet score 231.70 300
Ratings as of April 2020
Haven Life logo

Remember, this is just an introduction to some ratings of major companies offering life insurance coverage. And these ratings are just one factor to take into account when deciding what to pay (and whom) for a term life insurance policy.

To determine which insurance company is right for you, you’ll want to consider everything from what products they offer to what the experience itself may be like. Price of policy is also an important determining factor because, of course, you want to have affordable coverage.

It’s also worth noting that other third-party groups provide ratings, scores or reviews for life insurers, too. However, they’re not financial strength ratings — they’re usually based primarily on consumers’ experiences or complaints. You can refer to both kinds of ratings when determining which life insurance company is right for you.

Armed with this information, you’ll be in a better position to make an informed decision when choosing the life insurance company to buy your policy from.

Why Haven Life?

The answer to that question is easy (which is exactly how Haven Life makes applying for term life insurance)

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About Louis Wilson

Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children.

Read more by Louis Wilson

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Please note that the ratings shown here are from each respective company’s website, and are as of the dates noted at the time of this article’s publication (April 2020). Rating information in this article is limited and intended for reference only. Ratings are subject to change. Please refer to each company’s website for full information on each Company’s ratings and for the most current ratings.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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