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How to evaluate a life insurance company’s financial stability

Several third-parties subject life insurance companies to rigorous analysis to determine financial strength. Here’s what you should know.

If your life insurance company is in financial trouble, it’s natural to wonder if you should start shopping for a new policy with another insurer or sit tight and tell yourself that everything will work out.

Two important points to keep in mind when thinking about life insurance company finances:

First, understand that life insurance companies are highly regulated, and bankruptcies are rare. If an insurance company can’t meet its obligations, the insurance commissioner in the state where the company is headquartered will initiate a process called rehabilitation. If the company can’t be rehabilitated, it will be declared insolvent and liquidated. Then the state guaranty association will continue to provide coverage and pay benefits to policyholders.

Second, know that you can get a sense of their financial stability before you buy coverage based on ratings from third-party agencies to avoid this situation.

With these two points in mind, here’s what you should know about the financial stability of your life insurance company.

Why life insurance company ratings matter

Life insurance companies receive ratings from independent agencies based on their assessments of the insurer’s financial strength and claims-paying ability. The higher the rating, the higher the rating agency’s assessment that the insurer will be around to pay out the policy to your beneficiaries.

Third-party ratings agencies are evaluating life insurance carriers on the nuts and bolts of their financial strength. Using varying degrees of analytical rigor, ratings agencies evaluate how well-funded an insurance carrier is, how much risk it carries, and its operating performance. Each ratings agency has a different formula.

Ratings represent the opinion of the rating agency of the financial strength and ability to meet the contractual obligations of the company being rated, based on the rating agency’s independent analysis.

How to check on your insurer’s financial stability

There are several rating agencies out there – not to mention independent customer review sites – but four of them are most frequently touted to represent the quality of life insurance companies.

Each of the four – A.M. Best, Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s – has its own standards and grading scale for rating insurance companies.

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. For example, Haven Life offers term life insurance coverage issued by MassMutual, one of the country’s oldest and most reliable life insurers. Here are MassMutual’s financial stability ratings:

  • A.M. Best: A++ (Superior; top category of 15)
  • Fitch: AA+ (Very Strong; second category of 21)
  • Moody’s: Aa3 (High Quality; fourth category of 21)
  • Standard & Poor’s (S&P): AA+ (Very Strong, second category of 21)

A rating is not a guarantee of financial strength, but should be something you consider when shopping for coverage.

How to find the coverage that is right for you

You can never be too selective when your family’s financial security is at stake. Put your insurer through the paces to help access the likelihood it will be there when you need it most. Reviewing financial stability ratings for each insurer is a good place to start when you’re researching life insurance.

Once you’ve identified the top life insurance companies, get an estimate of your life insurance rate. With Haven Life, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how affordable term life insurance coverage can be.

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Cameron Huddleston is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances. She also is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about personal finance for more than 18 years. You can learn more about her at CameronHuddleston.com. Opinions are those of the author or the person interviewed.

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.

Financial strength ratings are as of Jan. 14, 2020: A.M. Best Company: A++ (Superior; top category of 15); Fitch Ratings: AA+ (Very Strong; second category of 21); Moody’s Investors Service: Aa3 (High Quality; fourth category of 21); Standard & Poor’s: AA+ (Very Strong, second category of 21). Ratings are for MassMutual (Springfield, MA 01111) and its subsidiaries, C.M. Life Insurance Co. and MML Bay State Life Insurance Co. (Enfield, CT 06082). Ratings are subject to change. Ratings do not apply to Haven Life Insurance Agency.

Cameron Huddleston

About Cameron Huddleston

Cameron Huddleston is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MSN, Yahoo and many more print and online publications. U.S. News & World Report named Cameron one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named me one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, MSNBC, CNN and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR and more than 30 podcasts. Cameron has also been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, BBC.com, MarketWatch and more.

Read more by Cameron Huddleston

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.

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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