Guardian Life Insurance Review
Policy options for those who aren't in perfect health
The Guardian Life Insurance Company is an innovator with high-risk life insurance for those who are not in perfect health or have a major medical condition such as HIV. Guardian Life boasts more than a century in the life insurance business, with easy to understand policy options and reasonable rates. For those concerned about health exams and life insurance, read on to learn more about how Guardian Life can help you.
What We Like
Online quotes for term life insurance
Some policies make you eligible for dividends
A solid range of policy types, including survivorship life
Online account management
High customer satisfaction rankings
Life Insurance available to people with HIV
Decent rates for smokers
Whole life up to age 121
What We Don't Like
Policy rider information is limited online
Term life options are basic
Must apply with an agent
No guaranteed issue (“no medical exam”) options
No discounts for combined policies
The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, founded in 1860, is among the oldest life insurers; it is the 25th largest life and health insurer in the U.S. As a mutual insurance company, it pays dividends to eligible policy owners. Guardian Life maintains $667 billion in life insurance policies currently in force, with 27 million clients spread over their various product lines which include life insurance, health insurance, and investments.
Guardian Life is headquartered in New York City. It has top-ranked financial strength ratings and a Better Business Bureau rating of A+. Service is offered through an award-winning call center as well as with its team life insurance agents.
Available Plans: All the Basics with Simplified Options
Guardian Life Insurance Company offers five different types of life insurance policies on its website including term, whole, universal, and variable universal life. This is one of the few insurance carriers that promote being able to write policies for those with HIV.
Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance provides a death benefit for a limited time, known as the term of the policy. Once the term is up, there is no death benefit payable and the policy expires. Guardian offers term life insurance plans with level premiums for periods of 10, 15, 20, or 30 years.
Online quotes are available from ages 18 to 75. After this, age limitations may apply but are subject to underwriting review. Coverage limits are from $250,000 to $5,000,000 and may cover you up to age 85 depending on when the term begins. For example, if you are 75, only a 10-year term is available. If you are 65, you can select a 10-, 15- or 20-year term.
Guardian Life’s online quotes do not ask for a heath statement but it is worth calling for one because this may give you even better pricing if you are in very good to excellent health.
Whole Life Insurance
Whole life insurance is a lifelong insurance product that provides a death benefit and allows you to also build assets over time via cash values. Guardian Life is a Mutual company; as such, its whole life insurance policy makes you eligible for dividends (unlike the universal life policy, which is not eligible for dividends). Whole life policies with Guardian Life Insurance Company of America also have guaranteed cash values.
- Issue ages vary depending on the plan options you choose, however, they have products available (subject to underwriting) from ages zero to 90.
- Minimum values start at $25,000, $100,000 or $250,000, again depending on age, class, and underwriting. It is best to speak with an agent to find out what is available in your circumstances.
You can borrow money from the cash values of the plan as a loan, but keep in mind that doing so may have an impact on the death benefit. Loans will also impact the percentage of dividends you receive since the dividends will be adjusted according to outstanding policy loans.
The advantages of the Guardian Whole Life Policy include:
- Whole life available with cash values guaranteed to grow until age 100 or 121
- Potential to earn dividends
- Cash values that you may borrow money from
- Guaranteed level premium options available on policies that go until ages 95, 99, or 121, providing affordable lifetime coverage with a set premium
- Limited payment whole life options are available
- Optional index participation rider to add some investment features to your whole life policy
As a Mutual Insurance company, Guardian pays dividends to eligible policyholders, although not guaranteed, dividends are a nice benefit to have.
Survivorship Life Insurance
Survivorship life is an insurance policy that is commonly used by married couples setting up their estate for when both have passed on. Guardian's survivorship life insurance policy is the Estate Guard Whole Life.
Key features of the Estate Guard Whole Life policy:
- It covers two people on one policy with the death benefit paid out after the second insured dies
- Has living benefits built in
- Ability to withdraw money or borrow from the cash value tax-free after a certain length of time in certain conditions
- Works well for the transfer of wealth to heirs with favorable tax advantages
- Guaranteed death benefit
- Level premium payments
Universal Life Insurance
Universal life insurance is a type of policy that provides lifelong coverage with a death benefit plus the possibility of building cash value, flexible premium payments, and policy loans. Universal life plans are different than whole life plans because the cash values can fluctuate based on the type of universal life plan you choose and the interest rate or structure of the plan.
Guardian offers two types of universal life policies: universal and variable universal life.
The advantages in Guardian’s universal life insurance policies include:
- Flexibility in premium payment
- Tax advantages while the money remains and grows in the plan
- Guaranteed 2.5% interest rate with some plans
- Riders that may allow you to extend coverage to a spouse, or provide accelerated death benefits due to critical illness, for example
The variable universal life policy additionally offers the option to invest in the stock market using the cash value in it. Depending on the performance of choice of investments, a variable universal life policy can result in larger gains (or bigger losses); you could end up losing this part of the cash value if market performance is poor.
Riders are a good way to get a little extra coverage out of your life insurance policy or add clauses that can help you if you suddenly have a loss in your income but you still want to maintain your coverage. Guardian offers a few optional riders for an additional cost, depending on the policy type. Some riders have age limitations.
Some examples of available riders include:
- Waiver of Premium Rider: The waiver of premium rider may allow you to waive premiums if you become totally disabled for a minimum of six months.
- Accelerated Death Benefit for Long-Term Care Services Rider: This rider can be added to the whole or universal life policy to add an accelerated death benefit that can be used for long-term care. Adding a rider like this can save you money because you can cover two needs with one policy, as opposed to buying a separate life policy and long-term care insurance policy.
- Extended Conversion Rider: You may add this optional rider to a term life policy so it can convert to a whole life one without going through the application process again.
- Accidental Death Benefit Rider: This rider increases the death benefit if you die as a result of an accident.
- Index Participation Feature: Allows you to add investment options to the whole life policy.
- Child or Spousal Rider: Allows you to add coverage for a spouse or child to the policy.
- Guaranteed Insurability Rider (GIO): Available for issue ages 20 to 50 – allows you to increase coverage on limited specified dates without additional underwriting.
This is not a full list since the riders will vary by policy type. It is best to speak to a Guardian Life agent to get the information on the different riders available at the time you get a quote for your plan.
Customer Service: Award Winning
Guardian Life is among the few life insurers cited in the J.D. Power Certified Customer Service Program and they have also received various awards for their service standards from Dalbar, known in the financial community for their unbiased evaluations of insurance companies and financial professionals.
Guardian sells its insurance through a call center at (212) 598-8000 or through local agents. Their call center is available on weekdays during regular business hours regardless of your time zone. Additionally, they offer online policy servicing once you have a policy with them with a website that offers a lot of policy-type information, including informative videos. We found that the basics are easy to find via the navigation menus, but if you are looking for more detailed information on their products, using their search tool is the best option.
Customer Satisfaction: Top 10 - Better Than Most
Guardian Life scored 7th out of 25 life insurers reviewed on an Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Ranking in the 2019 J.D. Power Life Insurance Study. The study rates various areas of customer experience. Here’s how Guardian Life Insurance ranked for customer satisfaction with customers in each of the related areas:
Complaints: Great Track Record, Low Complaints
We checked complaints trends with several life insurance companies and compared them with Guardian Life Insurance Company's results in the National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s (NAIC) National Complaint Index Report. We found that they had almost no complaints with regulators. Guardian Life Insurance Company’s scores are some of the best we saw for three years running. In 2018, they had only six complaints with the NAIC for Individual Life Policies and a very low complaint trend score of .04. Similar results were found when we looked at 2017 and 2016.
Financial Strength: A++ (Superior)
Financial stability is an important factor when you are looking for the best life insurance company. The Guardian Life Insurance Company has an AM Best financial strength rating of A++(Superior) and has consistently held this rating for more than five years.
Cancellation Policy: Requires Agent Assistance
If you want to cancel a Guardian Life insurance policy you must go through one of their agents. There is no option to cancel a policy online. As with any life insurance policy, it is a good idea to be well-informed before canceling the policy. Ask about any cash surrender values or the impact canceling a policy may have on your future insurability.
Price of Guardian Life Insurance: Reasonable
We researched Guardian Life Insurance prices for comparison using similar health criteria and included both male and female sample rates for smokers and non-smokers. In the 2019 J.D. Power Life Insurance Study, Guardian Life ranked as having pricing that was “About Average”.
We independently price checked sample rates against some of the other top-scoring J.D. Power life insurers as part of our research and found Guardian Life’s pricing to be good, especially when compared in the under 45 smoker categories. People in high-risk categories, like those with HIV, will also have an advantage in pricing and product offerings with Guardian due to their special programs.
Guardian Life Insurance Term Life Prices
Guardian term life insurance sample prices are for 25, 35 and 45-year-old males and females for smokers versus non-smokers at $250,000 of coverage on a 20-year term. Rates were obtained from the Guardian website.
Guardian provides estimates on their website with very basic information, these are sample rates only. The information provided to obtain these rates were: sex, tobacco use, and age. There was no health statement, date of birth, age, height, or state of residence requested.
Price of Whole Life Insurance With Guardian
Guardian Life does not offer online quoting for whole life insurance, but we did some research and found the following hypothetical price example used to demonstrate how it is more advantageous to purchase the product at a younger age, these whole life insurance premiums are based on non-smoker rates:
Guardian’s whole life policy makes you eligible for dividends, therefore you may benefit from dividend payments as a result of your whole life policy. Guardian does not pay dividends on their term or universal life products.
Guardian Life offers some good features on their whole and universal life policies, including some interesting riders. Their term life is average, so if you are in good health, you may want to check a few other companies before you make a decision. However, they are the only insurer we reviewed that highlighted their ability to insure people with HIV, suggesting they are not afraid to insure those with major health concerns.
Guardian is a top mutual insurer and has a good history of paying out dividends to eligible policyholders. Here’s how they compare to some of the other top-ranked insurance companies we reviewed:
Guardian Life vs. Northwestern Mutual Insurance Review
Guardian Life and Northwestern Mutual are both mutual insurance companies, and they both have a good track record of paying dividends.
However, there are a few points of differentiation between the two including:
- Northwestern Mutual offers combined policy types which may give you more flexibility on term life options.
- Guardian life offers online quotes and sample pricing, whereas Northwestern Mutual does not.
- Guardian has good customer service scores, but Northwestern Mutual is the #1 ranked life insurer for customer satisfaction among the 25 ranked in the J.D. Power U.S. Life Insurance Study for 2019, whereas Guardian Life is the 7th.
Although both companies provide good policy offerings, Guardian Life has more flexible underwriting due to their positioning offering better pricing for people with underwriting concerns such as HIV and tobacco use. This gives it an edge over Northwestern Mutual.
Read our full review of Northwestern Mutual here.
Guardian Life vs. New York Life Insurance Review
We reviewed Guardian in comparison to New York Life, two mutual companies that pay dividends and have other similarities.
We also found some key differences between the two companies including:
- New York Life offers a much wider range of plans and this gives you more options to choose from.
- Both offer living benefit options in riders, however, New York Life has more options listed on their website.
- Both scored 770 points in the J.D. Power Life Insurance Study, however, New York Life had higher rankings in product offerings, price, and application process.
When comparing Guardian Life and New York Life, the New York Life policy offerings provide more opportunities to obtain stronger coverage which makes New York Life our top pick between the two for people in good health.
Read our full review of New York Life Insurance here.
Guardian Life is a top-ranking life insurer for customer satisfaction with a long-standing history and excellent financial strength. They pay dividends to eligible policyholders and they offer good pricing and a fair range of policies, including whole life with guaranteed death benefits and cash values. Guardian Life stands out as the right choice for people who want to budget, or for those with health issues such as HIV.
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