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ByMaggie Overholt Contributor

Maggie is a former senior content strategist at Reviews. She’s covered everything from smart hubs and stand mixers to home insurance and mortgages.

New York Life Life Insurance Review

New York Life is one of our favorite life insurance company for seniors. It offers universal life policies that are both affordable and flexible, which can be customized to cover any amount of after-life expenses. For couples, New York Life offers survivorship insurance that covers two spouses under a single, tax-effective plan. The company also partners with the AARP to provide low-cost, no-exam individual and group policies for retirees.

For younger customers, we recommend New York Life’s term life insurance. It writes some of the most customizable policies on the market, including two different term packages that have unique premium structures and renewal opportunities. Plus, with a wide selection of policy add-ons, New York Life is prepared to cover just about anything life throws at you.

That said, we weren’t impressed with New York Life’s customer support. The company lacks comprehensive educational resources and doesn’t have the most helpful reps, so it may not be the best choice for first-time shoppers who need extra guidance. Weak support is also the main reason we don’t recommend New York Life for whole life insurance. If you’re signing on with an insurance provider for decades to come, we prefer one with stellar customer satisfaction scores like Northwestern Mutual.

The Claim

From New York Life’s homepage: “Whether you’re just starting out, juggling family and career, or approaching retirement — you can rely on our experience to help you make the right decisions.” So what does that mean to New York Life? The company’s website promises many benefits for policyholders, but three features are repeated: customizable policies, great annual dividends, and excellent service.

Is it true?

For the most part.

New York Life certainly has the tools to make its claims come true. Its life insurance offerings are diverse, from policies that are renewable yearly to policies guaranteed through 120 years of age. We also like the flexibility it affords policyholders. Few companies have as many options for term length or term-to-whole life conversion. What does all that boil down to? Basically, New York Life has a life insurance policy for just about anyone.

New York Life also has a strong dividend record. As a mutual company, its dividend payments go exclusively to policyholders, not to outside shareholders. Customers have seen this model pay off in recent years: 2017 was a record profit year for New York Life and resulted in the company’s highest-ever dividend payout. In this sense, New York Life makes good on its promise of putting the customer first.

So why do we say that the company’s claim is only true “for the most part”? The fact is, New York Life falls short in “exceptional customer service.” While it scores above average in J.D. Power’s 2018 Life Insurance Study, which surveyed policyholders about their satisfaction with their provider, it consistently falls behind big-name providers like State Farm and MetLife. Additionally, New York Life doesn’t stand out for having especially useful tools or stellar customer support. And since your life insurance company will be with you for years to come, a positive relationship is important. New York Life doesn’t quite measure up in this department.

Product Overview

  • In business since: 1845
  • A.M. Best financial strength rating: A++
  • Policy types: term, whole, universal, variable universal
  • Pros: guaranteed level premiums, term-to-whole life conversion opportunities, guaranteed renewability
  • Cons: limited coverage options and average support systems

Features

Term Life
Whole Life
Universal Life
Variable Universal Life
Coverage length
Usually 10 to 20 years
Lifetime
Long-term
Long-term
Cash value
No
Yes
Yes
In some cases
Guaranteed level premium
With most policies
Yes
Yes
Yes

Financial stability

New York Life backs its policies with rock-solid financials. In 2018, it earned perfect ratings from the three biggest independent agencies — A.M. Best, Moody's, and S&P Global. What’s even more impressive is that New York Life has maintained these scores since we started reviewing life insurance in 2016. We’ve seen other companies (like the North American Company for Health and Life Insurance) fall down in the rankings and even get bumped off our list over time. With a product as important and long-lasting as life insurance, you should never have to worry about financial failures. With New York Life, you won’t have to.

Two unique term life options

In our review of the best term life insurance, we called out New York Life for having the most flexible term life policies. The company offers two different ways to customize its term insurance depending on your preferred term length and payment structure. This allows customers to pick the exact amount of coverage they need and are comfortable paying for.

The first option, “level premium convertible,” lets you select coverage for anywhere between 10 and 20 years. Premiums are guaranteed to remain the same and are based on your initial health exam (when you’re younger and likely healthier), so you pay a fairly low price throughout the term. The second option, “yearly convertible,” is renewable on an annual basis. Each time you renew, the premium will rise by a set amount, determined at the time you sign up. Increasing premium insurance has the potential to become more expensive than level premium. However, it also lets you terminate coverage at any point — saving yourself future payments if the insurance is no longer needed.

Opportunities to convert term life insurance to permanent

If you elect for term insurance and later decide that the end date won’t cut it, New York Life gives you the option to convert to a whole life policy (although the company calls it a “privilege”). Even more important: It lets you convert your policy without undergoing a second medical exam. That means that if your health has deteriorated since you first signed up, you won’t be charged higher premiums because of it.

Conversion may come in handy if life throws you a curveball down the road. For example, if you come into some money and suddenly have complex estate-planning needs, whole life insurance can serve as a tax-free channel for inheritance and estate management. If you’d like to convert to whole life, New York Life has solid options. Like other providers, it offers guaranteed cash value growth with fixed interest and customizable premium payment schedules. But New York Life has a unique option, too. The company's Value Whole Life offers the benefit of a guaranteed payout, but with smaller premiums and cash value. It’s a good in-between option for customers who need permanent coverage but don’t want to shell out the large payments normally associated with whole life.

Excellent option for seniors

New York Life is one of our favorite providers in our review of the best life insurance for seniors thanks to its standout universal life offerings. New York Life’s universal policies start at just $25,000 face value and last up to 120 years of age. The company also lets you increase the death benefit at any point in your policy. We appreciate this level of flexibility, as death benefit needs vary greatly and might change over time. New York Life is also unique in providing survivorship life insurance. Survivorship universal life covers two spouses and only pays out once the second person dies — that way, the death benefit can be used to pay estate taxes on any assets that were inherited by the surviving spouse from the deceased.

Another benefit for seniors is that New York Life’s partnership with the AARP offers both term and permanent life insurance for association members. The NYLAARP program doesn’t require members to undergo a medical exam before applying for insurance, which means premiums may be lower than retired persons would find elsewhere. Its website is fairly scant on information, so if you’re an AARP member, we recommend requesting a quote to see how prices stack up.

Great selection of group policy riders

New York Life has one of the best rider selections in the industry. Among these, the most important is the Accelerated Death Benefit rider, or what New York Life refers to as Chronic Care. This falls under the umbrella of “living benefits” that let you access your policy’s death benefit during your lifetime. With this rider, the insured person can use a percentage of the death benefit to cover costs for medical care, treatments, and other end-of-life expenses. In the case of a serious medical diagnosis, it may take a large financial burden off the shoulders of the policyholder and their family.

Other highlights include a Waiver of Premium rider, which excuses payments if the insured becomes disabled and can no longer work; Accidental Death and Dismemberment, which covers unintentional death or dismemberment of the insured; and Automatic Benefit Increase, which aims to anticipate changes in income and needs by increasing coverage year over year. No matter what happens down the road, New York Life likely has a rider that will help cover you and your family financially. You can read more about New York Life’s rider options here.

Possible drawbacks

Average customer support

Customer support is one of the few places where New York Life is lacking and likely the reason it doesn’t score higher for customer satisfaction. While the site features plenty of articles on financial planning and policy management, it's harder to find specific information about policies. If you want to get in touch with a rep to find out more, New York Life provides phone and email links — the most basic options a provider can offer, and a far cry from the live chat features that other companies supply. That means there’s no quick way to get questions answered; you’ll have to wait for an email response or dedicate time for a phone call. To make matters worse, when we reached out, we were brusquely transferred and then left on hold for over 10 minutes.

No mobile app

We’re also disappointed that New York Life hasn’t made the move to mobile yet. Other companies — like Globe Life — have built full-scale life insurance apps in recent years. They let you view coverage options, get quotes, update your info, manage your policy, and make payments. It’s become the norm to manage accounts and finances on the go, and we appreciate the life insurance companies that are keeping up with that trend. New York Life hasn’t. Even its website, while decently mobile-friendly, is fairly slow to load.

Explore coverage options from the best life insurance companies

The Competition

  New York Life State Farm TIAA Life Northwestern Mutual
Our review Our review Our review
A.M. Best financial strength rating
A++ A++ A++ A++
J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Life Insurance Study score
4/5
"Better than most"
5/5
"Among the best"
N/A 4/5
"Better than most"
Customer complaints*
Fewer complaints than average Fewer complaints than average Close to no complaints Close to no complaints
Life insurance types offered
Term Life
Whole Life
Universal Life
Term Life
Whole Life
Universal Life
Term Life
Universal Life
Term Life
Whole Life
Universal Life
Get a quote Get a quote Get a quote Get a quote

*Customer complaints are registered by the NAIC and measured relative to the company's market share.

New York Life vs. Northwestern Mutual

We like New York Life’s term and universal policies, but it’s certainly not the best when it comes to customer interaction. While it earned a four out of five overall in J.D. Power's 2018 Life Insurance Study, it drops to a three out of five in the "Interaction" category — meaning customers felt their interactions with agents were subpar. If you’re going to be working with a company for many decades, it should be one you can build a great relationship with. In that regard, we prefer Northwestern Mutual. J.D. Power ranks this company second out of 23 companies surveyed (New York Life places sixth). It also has a lower consumer complaint ratio from the NAIC, which speaks to a more positive customer experience.

It’s worth noting that New York Life has a better dividend record, according to the insurance brokerage NFP’s 2016 study. Northwestern Mutual has seen a steady decrease in dividends paid to customers since 2012, whereas New York Life has seen a recent uptick. In 2018, it announced its largest annual dividend payout in history. Dividends are never guaranteed, of course — they depend on the company’s annual performance, your policy’s cash value, and a number of other factors — but New York Life may give you a better shot at an annual bonus than Northwestern Mutual.

New York Life vs. TIAA Life

Although TIAA Life very recently stopped accepting new applications as it works to update and revise future offerings, both New York Life and TIAA have historically been excellent writers when it comes to term life insurance. Both companies have solid financial strength ratings, diverse riders, and options for term-to-permanent policy conversion. We do prefer New York Life’s flexible, year-by-year terms; TIAA only offers lengths of 10, 15, 20, or 30 years. If you’re worried about paying for excess coverage, New York Life is a better bet, but it may be worth getting a quote from TIAA once it reveals its new life insurance offerings.

New York Life vs. State Farm

If you’re looking for term life insurance and customer service is your No. 1 concern, then we recommend heading over to State Farm. This company is currently enjoying its fifth year running as J.D. Power’s top-rated provider. Customers praise its diverse policy offerings, smooth billing process, and exceptional service. However, State Farm offers Accelerated Death Benefit only under its universal life policies, a rider our experts highlighted as the most important option for all forms of life insurance.

New York Life Life Insurance FAQ

What are New York Life ratings?

New York Life’s strong financial standing is validated across several major independent rating services: AA+ from S&P Global, A++ from A.M. Best, and Aaa from Moody’s. Outside of these agencies, it’s also backed by its own customers, earning a strong four out of five overall in J.D. Power’s 2018 satisfaction survey. New York Life has continued to display these strong ratings year after year, firmly establishing itself as a top pick when it comes to financial stability.

Is New York Life reliable?

Absolutely. New York Life is America’s largest and oldest mutual life insurance company. Established in 1845, New York Life has continued to demonstrate care and consistency toward its policy owners for over 150 years. If you’re looking for a long-standing and financially secure company, we recommend New York Life.

Does New York Life pay out dividends?

Yes. New York Life has been paying out dividends for 164 consecutive years and continues to outshine its competitors in this regard. In 2018, New York Life reported that it paid out the largest dividend in the company’s history at a whopping $1.78 billion. Over the last five years, New York Life has increased its payout by 36%, aligning with its strategy to increase payouts every year.

The Bottom Line

New York Life consistently ranks as one of our favorite life insurance providers. It writes comprehensive, customizable life insurance policies that can be tailored to just about anyone. We highly recommend its universal life insurance for seniors and AARP members and its term life insurance for people who need a policy with a flexible time frame. The biggest drawback to working with New York Life is unexceptional customer service. Those with extensive questions and support needs should consider signing up with a different provider.

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