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.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Review

Northwestern Mutual ranks among the top life insurance providers in the industry. With a full range of coverage options and add-on riders for termterm, whole, and universal life insurance, its policies can be customized to fit the individual needs of any family. Northwestern Mutual also has a strong dividend history and good cash value offerings, making it one of the best whole life insurance providers out there.

“Every time you pay your premium, a portion of it goes into the cash value along with a predetermined amount of interest. You can often withdrawal or borrow the money in your cash value, or use it to pay your premiums.”
Virginia Hamill, Life Insurance Analyst at Fit Small Business.

Outside of its excellent policy offerings, Northwestern Mutual is backed by strong financial ratings and a customer satisfaction score that is “better than most,” according to J.D. Power’s 2018 survey.

The only place Northwestern Mutual is lacking is in online resources — its site lacks the support and learning materials that are useful for first-time life insurance buyers. This company relies heavily on its agents for customer support, so make sure you speak with someone about all of your options in order to build the best policy.

The Claim

FORTUNE ranks Northwestern Mutual a 2 (1 being the highest) when it comes to quality of products and services — meaning, in other words, that Northwestern Mutual trumps most of the competition in both coverage and customer experience.

Is it true?

For the most part.

Northwestern Mutual has some of the best coverage in the industry, with life insurance policies that can be tailored to fit any family’s needs. Between customizable term limits, renewal opportunities, cash value options, and policy add-ons, your insurance will be as unique as your life.

This company also has rock-solid financial backing. It consistently earns the highest possible ratings from the independent agencies A.M. Best, Moody’s, and S&P Global, so you can rest assured that your policy is in good hands.

Where this company fails to live up to its claim is in its quality of services. Northwestern Mutual lacks some of the amenities that we look for with life insurance companies, like online quote tools and learning resources. These can help alleviate the stress of life insurance shopping and make managing your account a little easier. Still, if Northwestern Mutual meets your needs and offers you an affordable quote, it’s still worth looking into as you search for life insurance.

Product Overview

Best for

Customizable policies and different coverage options

Not for

Strong online resources


Financial strength ratings
A.M. Best: A++
S&P Global: AA+
Moody’s: Aaa
2018 J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Score
“Better than most”
Policy offerings
Term limits
10 or 20 years, or until you turn 80 (renewed annually)
Important coverage features
Guaranteed Level Premiums*
Guaranteed Renewability**
Accelerated Death Benefit Rider
Disability Waiver of Premium
Guaranteed term-to-permanent conversion
Customer tools
Find a Financial Advisor directory
Basic life insurance FAQ
Mobile app

*With term life insurance policies
**Annually, until you turn 80, with the Term 80 Plan

Industry-leading financial ratings

It’s critically important to choose a life insurance provider with strong financials and a stable credit outlook. Northwestern Mutual excels on both of these counts. Independent rating agencies like Moody’s, A.M. Best, and S&P Global all place Northwestern Mutual at or very near the top of their ratings scales. Its superior financial scores ensure the confidence and peace of mind you need when choosing an insurer that will be with you for the long haul.

Full-featured policies

Like most life insurance companies, Northwestern Mutual offers a full range of term, whole, and universal policies. What makes this company stand out, though, is the flexibility it offers within each type of life insurance. A range of options for termination, extension, and conversion means that your insurance policy will flex and change as your life does.

For example, Northwestern Mutual lets you alter your policy length if your insurance needs change unexpectedly. Its cash surrender option offers an early out, and term-to-permanent conversion gives you the opportunity to extend coverage beyond your original term.We really like Northwestern Mutual’s permanent policy conversion options, in particular, which made it our top pick for best whole life insurance providers overall.

“With permanent life insurance there's no gambling on whether or not you're going to be covered when the event happens, and as an extra added bonus, it's possible to borrow money against the value of your permanent life insurance policy (in the event you need some of that value to pay bills and expenses before you die),” according to Byron Ellis, Certified Financial Planner with United Capital Financial Life Management and Founder of Doing Money Right in The Woodlands, Texas

There are also ways to align your life insurance with your financial goals. Whole life customers, for instance, can choose a vanishing premium option to reduce payments later in life, and mortgage life insurance will take care of outstanding mortgage debt, providing security for your family when they need it the most. These are just a few of the ways that Northwestern Mutual tailors its policies to its policyholders’ unique needs.

Comprehensive coverage options

Along with a flexible policy selection, Northwestern Mutual carries a wide variety of coverage add-ons (also known as “riders”). This means that you can customize your policy to fit your individual needs. Some unique options include an accidental death rider (which pays up to double the policy’s value if you die in an accident), a critical illness rider (which pays a lump sum at the time of diagnosis), and a disability income rider (to supplement your income if you can’t work).

We also appreciate that Northwestern Mutual offers an accelerated death benefit rider. This is widely considered to be one of the most important riders, as it lets the policyholder access their death benefit early to cover medical bills, treatments, and other costs associated with a life-threatening illness. It can save you family a lot of financial strife in the event of a critical diagnosis down the road.

For a full list of the company’s riders, see our life insurance buying guide.

Possible drawbacks

No online quotes for term insurance

Northwestern Mutual does sell term insurance, but — as with the rest of its offerings — you’ll have to contact an agent for specific information about pricing and coverage. While it’s rare to find online quotes for whole and universal insurance, many big-name insurance companies (like State Farm, Transamerica, and TIAA Life) at least offer online quotes for term insurance. This makes it much easier to shop around and compare your best options before buying.

Disappointing customer resources

We’re not overly impressed by the resources Northwestern Mutual provides for its customers online. Apart from a simple life insurance calculator and some basic policy information, there’s little to glean from the company’s life insurance pages. As with the quote process, learning more about insurance and coverage from Northwestern Mutual will require calling an agent and putting in some quality phone time. If you prefer to shop around and compare companies on your own — without an agent putting the sell on — Northwestern Mutual won’t be much help.

The Competition

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Northwestern Mutual
State Farm
New York Life
Our review
Our review
Our review
Our review
Best for
Whole life
Term life
Universal life
Cheap life
A.M. Best financial strength rating
J.D. Power Overall Customer Satisfaction score
Policy options
Term, whole, universal
Term, whole, universal
Term, whole, universal
Term, whole

Northwestern Mutual vs. State Farm

There’s a lot to like about Northwestern Mutual’s term insurance — from guaranteed level premiums to permanent policy conversion options — but State Farm still holds our number one spot for term life.

In large part, this is because of the company’s variety. State Farm sells four separate kinds of term life insurance designed to meet different financial goals. Whether you’re looking for basic coverage, mortgage protection, return of premium, or easy, no-exam life insurance, State Farm has a term policy for you. State Farm also tends to be affordable, which is a plus if you’re looking for temporary, low-cost coverage.

Northwestern Mutual vs. New York Life

Northwestern Mutual is our favorite provider for permanent policies, except when it comes to one particular type: universal life insurance. For this, we generally prefer New York Life.

There are a few reasons we like New York Life for universal life, but the main draw is its flexibility. The company’s policies start at just $25,000 face value but extend into the tens-of-millions. This is an impressive range, an easy entry point for many coverage needs. It also offers no-exam universal life insurance through age 85 — an important option for those with pre-existing health conditions. For these reasons and more, New York Life is our favorite provider for universal life insurance and for senior citizens.

Northwestern Mutual vs. TIAA Life

If you’re looking for ultra-affordable term life insurance, we recommend TIAA Life over Northwestern Mutual. TIAA Life has some term insurance perks that we love: namely, the opportunity to convert to permanent insurance at any point in your policy without a second medical exam. This is a nice safeguard, ensuring that you’ll be able to maintain your coverage as long as you need if circumstances change down the road.

Northwestern Mutual FAQ

Is Northwestern Mutual a good company?

Yes. Northwestern Mutual consistently ranks as one of the top life insurance providers in the industry. Customers can count on ample coverage, great customer service, and strong financial backing (meaning the company will be able to pay out on their policy, no matter how large).

Northwestern Mutual particularly stands out for its excellent whole life insurance. We appreciate the company’s robust selection of policy riders and its impressive history of dividend payouts. We’d recommend Northwestern Mutual to anyone looking for a permanent life insurance policy.

What are Northwestern Mutual ratings?

Northwestern Mutual earns top financial strength ratings from three major independent agencies: A++ from A.M. Best, AA+ from S&P Global, and Aaa from Moody’s. It earns high praise from customers, too, taking home a rare 4/5 overall in J.D. Power’s 2018 satisfaction survey. Customers were especially impressed by the quality of their interaction with agents, giving Northwestern Mutual a 5/5 in this category.

Is Northwestern Mutual the best whole life insurance provider?

It’s one of the best thanks to its cash value offerings and long history of paying dividends. However, it may not be the best for you and your particular situation. It all depends on how much you need and the premiums you can afford.

“If you're buying a policy in whole life, I tend to tell people that it should be enough to get you into the ground,” says Travis Price, a licensed insurance agent who specializes in senior health (Medicare) and burial insurance. That's a relatively low amount, from 10-15k, and keeps your premiums lower.”

The Bottom Line

Northwestern Mutual is a strong life insurance provider all around, with reliable financials, well-rounded coverage, and highly rated customer service. Its flexible policy terms and generous living benefits makes it one of our favorite companies for whole life insurance. If you’re looking for a policy that will be with you for the long run, it’s worth calling up a Northwestern Mutual advisor to see what this company can offer you.

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