New York Life consistently ranks as one of the best life insurance companies in the U.S. But what makes this company stand out and is it going to be the best option for you?
In the following New York Life review, we will zoom in on the company, its history, products, and financial ratings, so you can have a clearer picture if it is the right choice for you, based on your specific needs and goals.
About New York Life
New York Life is one of the oldest life insurance companies in the U.S. and is the third largest overall. Based in New York since it was founded in 1841, the company has seen steady growth throughout nearly all its existence. Originally known as Nautilus Mutual, New York Life adopted its current name in 1845.
In the early years, New York Life’s geographic expansion was aided by a sophisticated network of agents and local branch offices. The company still operates general offices in nearly every state.
Largest Mutual Insurer
New York Life stands out among large mutual life insurers in that it has resisted the temptation to reorganize as a shareholder-owned corporation. Instead, New York Life has retained the mutual company structure and is today the country’s largest mutual insurer.
As a mutual insurance company, New York Life is formally owned by its policyholders, and eligible policies can receive regular dividend payments from the company.
While life insurance dividends are not guaranteed, New York Life’s streak of consecutive years issuing dividends stretches all the way back to 1854—covering nearly every year of its over 175-year history.
In 2021, New York Life will pay out over $1.8 Billion in total dividends to policy owners. Source.
New York Life markets life insurance and other financial products directly to consumers. The company does not use an online application, so potential customers need to work with one of its 12,000 in-house and local captive agents.
New York Life “helps people act on their love” (as the current marketing campaign provocatively puts it) in all fifty states.
New York Life Financial Ratings
A.M. Best: A++
Comdex Ranking: 100
New York Life is one of the top rated life insurance companies and is a financial powerhouse—plain and simple. The company holds over $370 billion in assets, which is more than the GDP of all but 30 of the world’s countries.
And, with around $35 billion in annual revenue, New York Life is easily in the top-100 revenue earning companies in the U.S. (all companies, not just insurers).
New York Life’s financial ratings are excellent and suggest that policyholders are safer with New York Life than with almost any other insurer.
The company also has a tradition of conservative investing that has helped weather numerous financial downturns.
Great Depression and Great Recession
During both the 1929 stock market crash and 2007 financial crisis, New York Life emerged relatively unscathed, as the company had only minor stock-market exposure—instead focusing on bonds, real estate, and treasuries.
New York Life Consumer Ratings:
New York Life has a fairly good reputation for customer service compared to other insurers its size. While consumer reviews tend to be hard on large insurers, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners reports that New York Life receives notably fewer consumer complaints than an average carrier its size.
The company gets an A- score from the Better Business Bureau, meaning it generally responds to consumer complaints but could do better.
In J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Life Insurance Study, which included 23 companies, New York Life came in a respectable 6th place for overall life insurance customer satisfaction (up two spots from 2019). In the customer satisfaction rankings for annuities, New York Life tied for the top spot.
With a company that’s as large and has as many customers as New York Life, there are inevitably plenty of negative consumer reviews online. The most frequent critique of New York Life seems to be that its premiums are often on the high side.
What Products Does New York Life Offer?
New York Life offers all three of the major forms of life insurance—term life, whole life, and universal life—with multiple varieties of each category.
The company also offers long-term care coverage and financial-planning products and services. Investment options offered by New York Life include annuities, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and 529 college savings plans.
For “premier clients” and small businesses, New York Life provides a host of financial-planning and wealth management services—such as employee benefits programs, succession planning, estate planning, and investment advice.
Life Insurance from New York Life:
Compared to most other carriers, New York Life has a very large assortment of life insurance policies available for consumers. Term, whole life, and universal life are all on offer, and there are at least two (usually more) policies available in each category.
Most of New York Life’s policies are fully underwritten, though younger applicants with no major health issues can often qualify for an exam waiver, aka accelerated underwriting.
Term Life from New York Life:
New York Life has a standard level-term policy (“Level Premium Convertible Term”) and an annual renewable term (ART) policy it calls “Yearly Convertible Term.”
The level-term life policy provides fixed-premium coverage starting at $100,000 for initial terms of ten to twenty years.
Applicants can be up to 75 years old. When the term ends, the policyholder can renew coverage annually (for a higher premium) until the insured reaches age 90.
All term life policies include a conversion option allowing the policyholder to swap the term policy for permanent coverage within the first ten years.
New York Life’s ART policy is available for new insureds up to age 79. Policies provide annually renewable coverage up to age 80, with premiums increasing every five years.
The policy also includes a conversion rider, but otherwise most riders are not available with the ART coverage.
Whole Life from New York Life:
Because New York Life is a mutual company, whole life is one of its featured products.
All whole life insurance policies have guaranteed-for-life death benefits, fixed premiums, and accumulate cash value.
Participating life insurance policies are eligible for dividends, and an optional rider lets policyholders add paid-up additions (fully paid-up mini-policies that increase coverage and cash value), which can be purchased using dividends.
New York Life’s standard Whole Life policy is available for new insureds as old as 90 years. Coverage amounts can be anywhere from $25,000 to $5 million, and premiums are scheduled to stretch out throughout the insured’s entire life.
Custom Whole Life
Custom Whole Life works similarly, though the premium payment period is shortened to as little as five years—which means premiums are higher, but coverage is paid-up earlier. Custom Whole Life has a minimum coverage amount of $50,000.
Value Whole Life
Value Whole Life differs from the standard policy in that it is designed to emphasize the guaranteed, long-term death benefit more than cash value. This design allows for lower premiums but less cash-value accumulation.
Final Expense Whole Life (AARP)
New York Life also sells two different final expense insurance policies marketed under the AARP brand.
The AARP Simplified-Issue policy provides coverage from $5,000 to $50,000 for new insureds up to age 80.
The AARP Guaranteed-Issue policy (which does not have any medical screening and includes a two-year waiting period) provides up to $25,000 in coverage for applicants up to age 85.
Both policies are only available for AARP members over age 50 and their spouses.
Universal Life from New York Life:
New York Life offers three standard universal life policies and a variable universal life (VUL) policy. The policies vary in the relative focus places on death benefit versus cash-value accrual. New York Life is not currently offering an indexed universal life option.
- Basic Universal Life focuses on a guaranteed, long-term death benefit more than cash-value, though cash value does accrue and grow tax-deferred at guaranteed minimum rates.
- Custom Guaranty Universal Life also emphasizes death benefit and includes a guaranteed death benefit and premiums. An optional rider allows a policy to be surrendered in exchange for a refund of all premiums paid to date.
- Protection Up to Age 90 is designed for wealthy executives who need high coverage but don’t need it to be guaranteed for life. Coverage levels start at $1 million, and cash value accumulation is more of an emphasis.
- Variable Universal Life is intended for policyholders who want life insurance but also want to focus more on the investment aspect of a cash-value policy. Policyholders apportion cash value among various available investment options, and growth is linked to investment performance. Return potential is significantly higher, but VUL policies also have a risk of loss if investments perform poorly.
New York Life Insurance Riders:
New York Life offers numerous rider options that can be added to a policy for an additional premium. Not every rider is available with every policy or for all ages.
- Children’s Insurance: provides supplemental term coverage to the insured’s children that can be converted to permanent coverage at age 25.
- Waiver of Premium: waives or reduces premium obligations if the insured becomes totally disabled.
- Living Benefits: allows access to policy proceeds if the insured is diagnosed with a terminal illness with less than 12 months to live.
- Chronic Care: allows access to policy proceeds if the insured is diagnosed with a qualifying chronic illness.
- Accidental Death: provides a supplemental death benefit if the insured’s death results from a qualifying accident.
- Convertible Term Rider: extends convertible term coverage to a family member or business partner of the insured; available in five-year and annually renewable options.
- Spouse Paid-Up Option: lets a deceased insured’s surviving spouse use policy proceeds for a fully paid-up policy insuring the surviving spouse, with no underwriting required.
- Policy Purchase Option: gives the policyholder the right to purchase another policy covering the insured at specified dates, without additional underwriting.