Symetra Life Insurance Company offers one of the lowest cost guaranteed universal life policies. They consistently show up in the lowest three (often the lowest) when we prepare comparison quotes. If you’re like most people, Symetra is not a company with which you are familiar. Are they a quality company? Should you consider them as a viable option for guaranteed universal life insurance?
In this article, we will address these important questions. We will look at Symetra’s financial ratings and other important criteria to consider when selecting a life insurance company.
Who is Symetra?
Although Symetra isn’t a household name like Prudential or Met Life, they aren’t newcomers either. They were established in 1957 and have decent, but not stellar, financial ratings. Based in Bellevue, Washington, Symetra has over 2 million customers. They also have $42.9 Billion in assets. Symetra is well diversified in retirement products, employee benefits and life insurance.
Symetra is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sumitomo Life – one of the largest life insurance companies in Japan.
- AM Best: ‘A’ (Excellent); 3rd highest of 16
- Standard & Poor: ‘A’ (Strong); 6th highest of 21
- Moody’s: ‘A’ (Good); 5th highest of 21
- Fitch: ‘A’ (Strong); 6th highest of 19
- Comdex Score: 79 (As of July 2018)
We think Symetra is a good, quality company, although their financial ratings aren’t as strong as some other GUL carriers. Let’s look more at their GUL product closely. We will make recommendations in our conclusion.
Symetra’s Guaranteed Universal Life (GUL) Product
Symetra’s product is called the UL-G. If you’re not sure how GULs work, then read our overview of GUL here. Like most carriers, you can “dial-in” the guarantee age you want with Symetra. Generally, we recommend a minimum guarantee age of 100. You can also select a guarantee age up to age 120.
Policy Features (Riders at No Additional Cost)
• Chronic Illness Rider: You can access up to half of the policy’s death benefit ($500,000 maximum) if a licensed health care practitioner certifies during the prior 12-month period that you are unable to perform at least two of six activities of daily living (ADLs). Additionally, you would be eligible if you have a severe cognitive impairment such as dementia.
• Terminal Illness Rider: Up to 75% of the policy’s death benefit ($500,000 maximum) can be accessed if a physician certifies you are terminally ill with less than 12 months to live. The benefit is paid in a lump sum.
Riders at Additional Cost
• Return of Premium Rider: The Return of Premium (ROP) rider allows you to receive to 100% of your paid premiums back at the end of the 20th or 25th policy year if you no longer need coverage. Symetra will send you a notice of this opportunity. You have a 90-day window to exercise the ROP option.
A note about Return of Premium…
A few carriers offer a Return of Premium option at no extra cost. This can be a valuable rider in certain situations. For example, some people want the insurance in case they predecease their spouse, child or sibling. However, if their spouse, child, or sibling (especially if they are disabled) dies first, then the life insurance may not be needed. Exercising a return of premium option might make sense in this situation.
• Accidental Death Benefit: Selected at issue and available at an additional cost, this rider provides an additional death benefit of $250,000 or up to three times the policy’s face amount, whichever is less, if the insured’s death is accidental.
• Term Rider: You can select this rider at any time at an additional cost. The term rider adds 20 years of level term life insurance to your GUL policy.
SYMETRA’S RATES COMPARED
Symetra is consistently one of the lowest cost carriers across all ages and health classifications. However, there are other strong carriers right in the mix. North American has similar or lower rates in many situations. Columbus Life, American General, Protective Life and other carriers can be very competitive also – just to name a few.
Keep in mind: rates fluctuate. For example, one of our top GUL carriers recently announced a rate increase coming in late 2018. Use the instant quote engine on this page and select “lifetime” in the dropdown menu.
The quoting tool on this page provides a good sampling of rates, but it only represents approximately half of the carriers offering GUL. Why is that? Well, many carriers don’t make their GUL (or any permanent life) rates available to quote engines. We have to quote them individually. Additionally, we use three quote engines and not all carriers participate in each one. That’s why we strongly recommend receiving a customized quote so you can see ALL of the carriers.
Symetra Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance Review – Conclusion
Symetra offers one of the lowest cost GULs in the industry – that is their “sweet spot”. Their term insurance rates are fairly competitive, but they decided to really shine in the GUL space.
Their Accelerated Death Benefit riders (both Chronic Illness and Terminal Illness) are rather strong compared to many carriers. Some carriers will only allow you to access up to 50% of the death benefit for a terminal illness. 75% is relatively high.
A few carriers – AIG, United of Omaha, American National, and John Hancock – also offer Return of Premium options. Aside from John Hancock, the other three carriers offer this option at no additional premium.
Should you be concerned about their decent, but not outstanding, financial ratings? That’s not an easy question. It’s like asking whether you should pay more for a car with the best safety ratings? Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of preference and risk tolerance. We can ask you the right questions to help in this regard.
If you want to purchase a policy designed to build cash value, that’s a very different situation.
When a life insurance product has non-guaranteed components, then the company’s financial ratings and stability are of utmost important. If the carrier suffers a financial downturn, then this could adversely affect the performance of their non-guaranteed policies. For example, policy fees and current interest rates could cause the cash accumulation to decelerate.
Guaranteed Universal Life is like Term Insurance
Everything is fully guaranteed. Additionally, there are no moving parts. You need not be too concerned with the life insurance companies financial health. Of course, there is the risk that a company could experience bankruptcy. What happens then?
If a company goes into receivership, then policyowners are protected by the state’s governing guarantee association. There are limits on the protection. This is highly unlikely to happen, but it is a possibility. When you select a carrier with stronger financial ratings, you are simply minimizing your risk of this happening. Also, carriers with better financial ratings are less likely to trim their customer support staff. The last thing you want is for your loved ones to have difficulty receiving the life insurance proceeds in a timely manner.
If you’re comparing carriers and one of them – with stronger financial ratings – offers a similar plan for a slightly higher premium, it might be worth the extra money.
As independent agents, we are not partial to any company. Since every situation is different, it helps to consult with an experienced, knowledgeable advisor. Some agents (and agencies) do very little GUL business. It’s one of our main product lines and we are experts. Let us help you make an informed decision regarding the right policy and carrier for you.