New York Life Insurance Review

New York Life Insurance Company is the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States, offering whole life, term life, and universal life insurance.

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Eric Stauffer is a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. His priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best place to get it.

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Written by Eric Stauffer
Founder & Former Insurance Agent Eric Stauffer

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Mar 5, 2022

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New York Life Insurance

Financial Strength

One of the most historic insurance companies in the U.S. New York Life has a long history as a pioneer of the industry. Their symbolic New York headquarters is a highly recognizable symbol, and they have been insuring Americans for 170 years.

As one of the biggest insurance companies in the world, New York Life is financially sound with a solid, timeless feel to its image. Counting among their former famous clients women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony, New York Life has also managed to maintain a progressive approach. Through industry firsts and overcoming multiple financially disastrous times in American history, they have created a strong image of trust.

Highly recognizable, built on a history of firsts and looking to the future, New York Life is certainly a company built up as trustworthy. With a look at their products and services, we will determine whether they live up to the reputation they have built.

New York Life Overview

New York Life was founded in 1845 as Nautilus Insurance Company. They opened their headquarters on Wall Street in New York with $17,000 in assets, and remain a fixture in the city to this day. The famous New York Life building was completed in 1928 at 51 Madison Avenue. It was designed by architect Cass Gilbert and intended to reflect the Salisbury Cathedral in England. The building is one of the most famous in the city and remains the company’s headquarters.

New York Life was the first life insurance company to offer a method by which a policyholder could maintain a policy, even if temporarily unable to pay the premiums. This non-forfeiture option was the forerunner of the cash accumulation account that is common in permanent life insurance policies today.

They were also the first insurance company to offer the same rates to women as to men, and stopped offering insurance policies to Southern slave owners 15 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. They were also the first insurance to offer policies to people with disabilities, and to offer disability clauses on their policies as far back as 1896.

During the major financial crisis in 2007 and 2008, New York Life became one of the companies that were able to stand without any financial assistance, while other major companies accepted bailouts.

New York Life serves all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. Today they offer life insurance, annuities, and long-term care insurance, and they also offer financial services through a subsidiary company.

In 2016, New York Life ranked at number 65 on the Fortune 500 list and ranked at number 198 globally. They are the nation’s largest mutual life insurance company, and the 6th largest by assets overall in the nation.

Independent agents sell New York Life policies across the nation. As a mutual company, they are owned by their policyholders rather than by shareholders or privately. They are also one of the affiliate insurance companies recommended to AARP members for their life insurance and financial needs.

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New York Life Products

New York Life’s major product is, of course, life insurance. They do however offer a few other products, including long-term care coverage and retirement savings options. Products are aimed overall at planning for retirement and legacy planning for loved ones after death.

Life Insurance

New York Life offers individual as well as group life insurance plans with both term and permanent policy choices. From single-year renewable term to variable universal life, New York Life’s policy options cover most of the common life insurance basics.

Term Life

New York Life offers several versions of term life insurance. These products offer affordable insurance solutions for short-term needs, and New York Life has some flexible options to choose from.

Level Premium Term is available for terms from 10 to 20 years with a guaranteed premium for the duration of the policy. This policy can be renewed at the end of the term for a higher premium, without any medical exam required. It can also be converted during or at the end of the term to a permanent life insurance policy.

The Level Term policy is available for death benefit amounts of $100,000 and up and can be issued to people between the ages of 15 and 65. The policy also offers a conversion credit when converted within the first ten years.

There are a number of riders available that can be added to this policy for extra value. These include:

  • Accidental death benefit
  • Children’s insurance
  • Disability waiver of premium
  • Level premium convertible term five rider, which provides additional coverage in return for premiums that increase each year after the fifth year
  • Living benefits
  • Policy purchase option
  • Yearly convertible term rider, which offers additional coverage with increasing premiums

Family protection insurance is a 10-year term policy that covers an entire family under one policy. It has a level premium for the first ten years and can be renewed with increasing premiums.

This type of policy is issued with a minimum of $100,000 per insured adult up to a total of $1,000,000 per insured adult, and benefits increase in increments of $50,000.

A living benefits rider is available at no cost to the insured, and disability waiver of premium can be added for an additional cost. A number of other riders are also available for this policy.

One-year renewable term policies are available for those who need a short-term solution that is affordable. These policies can be renewed at an increased rate every year, and can be converted to a permanent policy within certain parameters – either the ten-year anniversary of the policy or at a specific age.

This type of policy offers most of the same rider options as the level term policy.

One-year non-renewable term policies are available for those who want a simple, short-term insurance policy. They expire after one year and are offered with a single, affordable premium.

This type of policy can be converted to permanent, but can’t be renewed.

Whole Life

New York Life offers a custom whole life policy that is designed to offer permanent protection with flexible options. This policy is meant to maximize cash accumulation and offers the option to draw on the cash account in retirement.

The policy comes with level premiums and a guaranteed death benefit. It allows tax-deferred cash accumulation with the possibility of tax-free access to cash accumulation. The insured can choose how long they’d like to pay premiums.

New York Life’s custom whole life can be augmented with a list of possible riders including:

  • Accidental death benefit
  • Child’s protection benefit
  • Disability waiver of premium
  • Chronic care insurance
  • Living benefits
  • Spouse’s paid-up purchase option

Universal Life

New York Life’s universal life insurance product is their instant legacy policy. This universal life product offers permanent coverage and cash accumulation.

Instant legacy is a simple insurance plan that doesn’t require a medical exam to be issued and has a guaranteed death benefit.

This policy is offered with a money-back guarantee of premiums paid, which means that if you surrender the policy, your cash return will not be less than the premiums you have paid into the policy.

Variable Universal Life

A universal life policy with increased cash accumulation opportunities, Variable universal life is as much an investment as it is a life insurance policy. New York Life offers several different versions of this type of policy.

Variable life policies allow investment in a variety of different market choices. New York Life’s policies include:

  • Variable universal life accumulator plus
  • Variable universal life accumulation series
  • Variable universal life legacy creator single premium

What additional products do they offer?

Corporate Plans

New York Life offers several corporate plans that include several choices of universal and variable universal life insurance policies. Many of these policies are designed to be employer-owned and help protect executives.

Long-Term Care Insurance

New York Life offers long-term care policies that differ based on the state of residence. The policies can provide for in-home care, both custodial and skilled nursing, during an extended illness.

Some states have the LTC select premier policy, which is offered in partnership with the state’s LTCI Partnership programs. Other states have very specific policies based on the state laws. As a result it’s best to review the offerings and regulations in your state of residence to get a good idea of what kind of coverage New York Life can offer you for long-term care.

Retirement and Investment Products

New York Life also offers a basic list of retirement planning products and investments. Most of these are designed to provide income after retirement.


New York Life offers both fixed and variable annuities that can provide immediate income or deferred income for the future.

Fixed annuities are available to create tax-deferred, guaranteed income for retirement, and come in several different forms. New York Life’s offerings include:

  • Secure term choice
  • Secure term MVA
  • Preferred choice
  • Flexible premium
  • Clear income
  • Fixed deferred

Variable annuities offer long-term protection as well as some immediate access. Again, they are offered in a variety of forms:

  • Premier variable
  • Premier plus variable
  • Complete access
  • Flexible premium
  • Income plus

New York Life also offers a series of guaranteed income annuities, with options for immediate or future payments.

Mutual income annuities are the final type offered by New York Life, and are someone unique annuity offering many of the features of standard annuities plus opportunity to earn dividends.

Because everyone’s financial needs are different, it’s a good idea to sit down with a financial advisor to go over the annuity options and make the right choice – particularly since each of these products has subtle differences.

Mutual Funds

New York Life also offers mutual fund investments to save for a variety of needs including retirement. Mutual Funds are offered with a variety of risk tolerance levels and return on investment. These options are varied, much like annuity choices, and it’s best to discuss these investments with a professional.

Are you able to obtain life insurance quotes from New York Life?

New York Life does not offer online quoting, so are unable to do a direct premium comparison. They also have quite a good range of products and options that can make pricing complex and the cost of insurance dependent on the type of policy, and any riders you choose to add.

All quoting is done through agents, and the website directs visitors to find a local agent to obtain a quote. Since life insurance is based on a number of personal variables, including age, lifestyle, and health status, personalized quotes are often more accurate than quick, online quotes.

That said, we do prefer to at least see a quick quote option for a basic term life policy, particularly in this day and age when most people do their insurance shopping online. This is definitely something we’d like to see from a company as big as New York Life, and hopefully they will add this function in the future.

New York Life doesn’t advertise as a low-cost insurance option, and as an entirely agent-driven company they likely have commissions paid to agents, which can drive up prices. That doesn’t mean they aren’t competitive; how competitive any company is often depends on the customer in question. Still, there’s no indication that we should expect New York Life to be the least expensive choice for life insurance – but price isn’t everything when it comes to any sort of insurance.

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What is the process for claims with New York Life?

Life insurance claims are a sensitive matter, so how a company handles them is always an important factor. At a difficult time, dealing with a complex life insurance claims process can be an overwhelming task, and many people don’t know where to begin.

This is one area where New York Life’s website steps up to the task. Although you are unable to buy life insurance online from this company, you can report a death online and get all the information you need to proceed with a claim.

The online form to report a death is simple, straightforward, and easy to find and use. It allows the user to enter policy and insured information, beneficiary information, and even funeral home information. This is pretty unusual for a life insurance company – frequently claims can be filed only over the phone or by mail.

There is, of course, also an option to report a claim over the phone directly to a representative who can walk you through the process.

  • 1-800-695-9873 – Life insurance and fixed annuity claims
  • 1-800-598-2019 – Variably life and variable annuity claims

In addition to providing great claims information, the New York Life website has a list of resources for beneficiaries, including assistance in dealing with grief as well as advice on the probate process. These resources are above and beyond what is offered on most other life insurance companies, and definitely give the impression of a company that cares about what the customer is dealing with at the time of filing a life insurance claim. The information is detailed and very focused on providing support and assistance.

There is more information on life insurance claims and death benefits on the New York Life website than on most other insurance company sites, large or small. Frequently the information is limited to contact information and maybe a basic outline of the documentation that will be required. Whether or not this is a sign of great service is the real question, and the next section of this review will deal with the company’s reputation and the customer experience.

Consumer Feedback and Ratings

New York Life is not Better Business Bureau (BBB) accredited. The company has a A– rating with the BBB and there are 110 complaints on file in the past three years, 40 of which were closed in the past three months. The BBB indicates that the company failed to respond to three complaints, which has lowered their overall rating.

110 complaints isn’t a high number for such a huge company, but it is higher than we have seen for other life insurance companies of a similar size, and even some larger companies.

The BBB is quick to drop ratings for any unanswered complaints, so the company’s three complaints that did not receive a response have had more impact on the A- rating than the total number of complaints overall. The BBB acknowledges the number of complaints as low for a company of this size.

J.D. Power’s 2016 Life Insurance Study of satisfaction with life insurance companies gave New York Life a three out of five star rating, which is “about average.” The company received three star ratings across the board in all categories. The categories listed including interaction, price, and policy offerings.

This rating is not great considering the company was rated four out of five stars in the previous year. This year, there were only three companies who received four stars and one company, State Farm, who received five stars.

There are, however, an impressive number of positive reviews of New York Life found online. These reviews cite great products and great service. There are also some negative reviews, as is expected with just about any insurance company.

Overall, the picture that emerges of New York Life is of a company with a pretty good reputation. They could stand to clean up their BBB rating by dealing with all complaints that come in, but it’s difficult to guess what the reason was for the two they didn’t respond to. Those three complaints aren’t enough to overcome what’s a generally positive ratings record and customer experience. There’s nothing in the reviews that would make me hesitate to recommend this company.

What is the bottom line?

Without a clear idea of what a company charges for their insurance policies, it is difficult to outright recommend them – but New York Life impresses in many areas.

The company has a long reputation, is financially stable and has successfully weathered major financial disasters that impacted other such companies. New York Life has long been a pioneer in the life insurance industry. Their reputation is solid, with enough good ratings and reviews to build a pretty clear confidence in their service. They are an American icon that appear to live up to the promises they make.

New York Life has a nice selection of products for life insurance and for retirement income planning, and a clear dedication to making the claims process navigable for those dealing with the grief of losing a loved one. Overall, they come out of this review looking like a company that cares about its customers.

The main downside is the lack of online quoting, but when it comes to selecting the right life insurance, personal advice given by an expert is always a good idea. New York Life is well worth checking out for anyone in need of life insurance or retirement planning assistance.

Please note that anyone looking to purchase life insurance should understand the cost and benefit differences between term and whole life insurance. There is a wide range of options that many insurers offer, so these details are important to know before shopping for coverage. That way, you end up with the type of life insurance you need.

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