Guardian Life Insurance Review

Insurer provides policy options for those not in perfect health

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Guardian Life Insurance

Guardian Life Insurance

overall rating
4.3

Our Take

Guardian Life pays dividends to policyholders and they offer good prices. For a company that has been in business since 1860, they have an upbeat feel and products to match today’s lifestyle needs for individuals and families.

  • Pros and Cons
  • Key Takeaways
  • Specifications
Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Online quotes for term life insurance

  • A solid range of policy types, including survivorship life

  • Online account management

  • Life Insurance available to people with HIV

  • Decent rates for smokers

  • Whole life paid up at 121

  • Some policies make you eligible for dividends


Cons
  • 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

Key Takeaways
  • Guardian offers flexible underwriting, which is good for tobacco users.
  • Guardian is one of few life insurers who provide coverage for those with HIV. 
  • Guardian has very few complaints online and almost none with regulators.
  • Guardian has been praised by Dalbar.
Specifications
  • Year Founded 1860
  • Kinds of Plans Term life, whole life, universal life, variable universal life, survivorship life
  • Number of Plans 5
  • Payment Options Limited pay, level pay
  • Official Website https://www.guardianlife.com/life-insurance

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.

Company Overview

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, founded in 1860, is among the oldest life insurers in the country. It is the 26th largest life and health insurer in the U.S. As a mutual insurance company, it pays dividends to eligible policy owners. Guardian Life has $722 billion in life insurance policies currently in force and 29 million clients spread over its various product lines which include life insurance, health insurance, and investments.

Guardian Life is headquartered in New York City. It has the highest possible financial strength rating of A++ from AM Best and a Better Business Bureau rating of A+. Service is offered through an award-winning call center as well as with its team of 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 million 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 a universal life policy, which is not eligible for dividends. Whole life policies with Guardian Life Insurance Company of America also have guaranteed cash values, which accumulate over time and can be a significant financial asset to the policyholder.

  • Issue ages vary depending on the plan options you choose, but they have products available (subject to underwriting) from ages 0 to 90.
  • Minimum values start at $25,000, $100,000 or $250,000, 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 will reduce the death benefit until they are paid pack.

The advantages of the Guardian Whole Life Policy include:

  • Whole life available with cash values guaranteed to grow until a variety of ages including 99 and 121
  • Potential to earn dividends
  • Cash values that you may borrow money from
  • Guaranteed level premium options available on policies that are paid up at 65, 95, 99, or 121
  • 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 died. 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 three types of universal life policies: universal life, variable universal life, and survivorship 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.

Survivorship universal life covers two people such as a married couple. It will pay a death benefit to their beneficiary or beneficiaries once both insured people have passed away. It is typically used by families to pass wealth to the next generation. After the first of the two insureds passes away, the second has options for accessing the cash value while living.

Available Riders

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 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 single life and survivorship policies 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.
  • Term Conversion Rider: Lets you convert term life coverage to a permanent policy during a specified period without having to take a medical exam and qualify.
  • 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.
  • Guaranteed Renewability Rider: Allows you to renew term life coverage even if you have been diagnosed with a serious illness and are otherwise uninsurable.
  • Guaranteed Insurability Rider: Allows you to increase coverage on limited specified dates without additional underwriting.

This is not a full list since the riders 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. Additionally, it also has received various awards for its service standards from Dalbar, known in the financial community for its unbiased evaluations of insurance companies and financial professionals.

Guardian sells its insurance through a call center at (212) 598-8000 or through local agents. Additionally, it offers online policy servicing once you have a policy through 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 products, using the search tool is the best option.

Customer Satisfaction: Top 15—Better Than Some 

Guardian Life ranked 14th out of 23 life insurers reviewed on an Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Ranking in the 2020 J.D. Power U.S. Life Insurance Study. The study rates various areas of customer experience.

Complaints: Reduction in Complaints from 2019 to 2020

Guardian Life's 2020 rating on the National Complaint Index Report was a very good 0.71. Additionally, it reduced its complaints to 111 in 2020 from 215 in 2019. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) tracks the number of complaints received by an insurance company and measures them against the expected amount for a company of its size to determine the rating. A company with an index below 1.00 has received fewer than the expected number of complaints, and a company with an index higher than 1.00 has received more complaints than expected.

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). 

Cancellation Policy: Requires Agent Assistance

If you want to cancel a Guardian Life insurance policy you must go through one of its 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.

We found Guardian Life’s pricing to be good when compared to other insurers. People in high-risk categories, like those with HIV, also have an advantage in pricing and product offerings with Guardian due to its special programs. 

Guardian Life Insurance Term Life Prices

Guardian provides estimates on its website with very basic information, but these are sample rates only. The information provided to obtain these rates were: sex, tobacco use, and age. There was no health statement, weight, height, or state of residence requested.

Guardian Life Insurance Whole Life Prices

Guardian Life does not offer online quotes for whole life insurance. Speak with one of its financial professionals if you'd like to know how much a whole life policy would cost you.

Guardian’s whole life policies make you eligible for dividends which could be used to help pay your premiums. Guardian does not pay dividends on its term or universal life products.

The Competition

Guardian Life offers some good features on its whole and universal life policies, including some interesting riders. Its 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, it is the only insurer we reviewed that highlighted its ability to insure people with HIV, suggesting it is 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 it compares 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 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. 
  • Northwestern Mutual vastly outperformed Guardian in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Life Insurance Study, ranking fourth out of 23 vs. 15th and scoring much higher.

Although both companies provide good policy offerings, Guardian Life has more flexible underwriting due to its positioning, offering better pricing for people with underwriting concerns such as HIV and tobacco use. This gives it an edge over Northwestern Mutual.

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, but New York Life has more options listed on its website. 
  • New York Life scored 784 points and ranked 6th in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Life Insurance Study whereas Guardian scored 743 and ranked 14th.

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.

Final Verdict

Guardian Life is a top-ranking life insurer for customer satisfaction with a long-standing history and excellent financial strength. It pays dividends to eligible policyholders and offers 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.

Methodology

All of our reviews of life insurance companies are based on extensive research and analysis of each company based on offerings, customer service, financial stability, cost, and more. For each company, we compared the life insurance products offered, available features, and reported customer experiences. Visit our life insurance review methodology for the full breakdown of what we evaluated.

Article Sources

The Balance requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
  1. AM Best. "Top 200 US Life/Health Insurers." Accessed Sept. 4, 2021.

  2. Businesswire. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and Its Subsidiaries." Accessed Sept. 4, 2021.

  3. Better Business Bureau. "Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America." Accessed Sept. 4, 2021.

  4. J.D. Power. "Certified Customer Service Organizations." Accessed Sept. 4, 2021.

  5. Dalbar. "Guardian." Accessed Sept. 4, 2021.

  6. J.D. Power. "Life Insurance Customer Satisfaction Flatlines Despite Pandemic Fears, J.D. Power Finds." Accessed Sept. 4, 2021. 

  7. NAIC. "Guardian Life Ins Co Of Amer National Complaint Index Report" Accessed Sept. 4, 2021.