UPDATED: Nov 30, 2018
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Guardian writes life insurance, disability insurance, and dental insurance, along with some financial products including annuities. While other similar companies have struggled in recent years, Guardian continues to thrive, rising in the ranks of the Fortune 500 to the current 194th place.
About Guardian Life
Guardian Life was originally named Germania Life Insurance Company, founded by a German immigrant and civil rights lawyer and providing insurance to other Germans arriving in the United States. Within two years the company had jumped to the West Coast, opening a branch in San Francisco. More expansion followed to areas including the Dakotas, Colorado, and New Mexico.
The New York-based company moved to a new office in Union Square in 1911, and in 1918 took on the new name – Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. Until 1925, they were a mixed stock and mutual company, but at that point shifted to a pure policyholder owned system. Guardian has paid dividends to its policyholders every year since 1868.
In 1957 the company expanded its product lineup by entering the employee benefits market. The 2001 merger with Berkshire Life Insurance company further expanded Guardian into individual disability products as well, a large part of their business today.
Multiple acquisitions over the years have resulted in a long list of subsidiaries under the Guardian banner. In addition to Berkshire Life, these include:
- Access Dental
- Avesis Incorporated
- First Commonwealth
- Guardian Insurance & Annuity Company
- Innovative Underwriters
- Managed Dental Care
- Premier Access Insurance
- STX Healthcare Management
Aside from insurance subsidiaries, Guardian also owns companies that include investment services, software and data analytics, and venture capital services.
Today Guardian’s headquarters is located in Manhattan, and they employ more than 9,000 people. They have a network of more than 2,750 financial advisers located across the country. Guardian and its subsidiaries rank as the 6th largest provider of dental insurance in the country.
Guardian products are sold through their network of advisors directly to individuals as well as through employers as voluntary benefits.
Guardian Life Products and Services
Guardian still offers their flagship product, life insurance, as well as a range of disability products, dental insurance, and annuities. They assist with financial planning for retirement with individual investments as well as handling 401(k) plans for employers.
Guardian was founded as a life insurance company and today offers all three main types of life – term life insurance, whole life insurance, and universal life insurance. Overall, information on these policies is limited on the website, which offers a lot of general information on life insurance with few details on their policies in particular.
Guardian’s term life policies are offered with 10, 15, 20, and 30-year term options. The death benefit amount starts at $250,000 and goes up to $5,000,000. This information is only available after you go through the quoting process; we were unable to find it anywhere else on the site.
These term life policies can be converted to a permanent policy type at any time – or new applicants can select an option that converts to permanent at the end of the term without the need for a new application. This Extended Conversion Rider is available for an extra premium.
Also available is the Waiver of Premium rider, which allows the policy to remain in force through a difficult financial period when the insured cannot afford to make the payments. Again, this comes at an added cost.
As a mutual company, Guardian’s permanent whole life insurance policies have the possibility of dividend payments in addition to the cash value accumulation account offered by all whole life.
The Guardian website does not offer information on the death benefit options for their whole life product, nor do they provide a list of the available riders. The site does suggest that riders are available for critical illness or disability.
Unlike the whole life policy, dividends are not paid on Guardian’s universal life product, but as with all such policies, there is a cash accumulation account.
Universal life products offer more flexibility in premiums. Guardian guarantees 2.5% at minimum on the investment of the cash accumulation account. There is no information offered on death benefit amounts for this policy type.
Disability Income Insurance
Guardian writes disability insurance for individuals and for business owners as well as a couple of employer-offered disability plans. All of these plans are designed to help provide income when you are unable to work.
This plan is not tied to your employer, which means you keep the coverage even if you change jobs. It provides a percentage of your base salary as well as an incentive or bonus income. It also helps pay for things like retirement fund contributions and student loan payments.
Business Owner Disability
This plan differs from the individual plan in that it covers the needs of a business owner when disabled. These include things like employee salaries and operating costs and payment of business loans.
Business owner disability insurance also includes the option to buy out a partner with insurance-provided funding in the event that they are unable to work.
Group and Supplemental Disability
Both of these plans are offered as benefits through an employer. The first is a standard disability policy usually offered as an included benefit, while supplemental disability is an excess policy.
Unlike a group disability plan, supplemental disability is a voluntary benefit that you can take with you even if you change jobs.
Guardian has several types of annuities: immediate and deferred income, fixed, and variable. All are designed to provide retirement income.
Guardian’s income annuities can be either immediate or deferred. An immediate annuity starts paying out right away, while a deferred annuity puts money aside in an investment to pay out income at a later date.
Immediate annuities are generally recommended to those who will need the money to start coming back right away; deferred are better for those who have some time before retirement.
Guardian offers several options for paying into these annuities, including a lump sum.
Guardian has a range of fixed annuities that offer a guaranteed rate of return for a selected time period. The time period can be selected to match up to your retirement plans.
Guardian offers flexible withdrawals and the option to renew their fixed annuities at the end of the initial fixed term.
The Guardian Investor ProSeries Variable Annuities provide a selection of flexible investment choices for those who are able to take on a little more risk.
Interest rates and growth with these annuities can vary based on the investment selections.
Guardian offers individual dental insurance plans both on and off the health insurance exchange marketplace.
These plans are administered by subsidiaries of Guardian; which company handles your insurance varies depending on the state in which you reside. The two main companies are Manage Dental Care and Asset Dental, which has several different companies across the country.
Dental plans are also available as voluntary employer benefits through Guardian’s group products.
Through Guardian Direct the company offers accident insurance and critical illness plans; these may be underwritten by a variety of companies.
Pet insurance is also available, and it is provided by Pets Best – Guardian is not involved in the administration or claims, but only offers the referral.
Guardian subsidiary Park Avenue Securities offers a range of investment and financial products. They are a full-service financial planner and assist with all kinds of retirement planning and other financial needs.
Guardian offers a quick quoting system on their website that allows a few of their products to be quoted.
Of the life insurance products, term life is the only one for which quick quotes are available. We ran rates for a 30-year-old male non-tobacco user.
A $1,000,000 30-year term policy returned a monthly rate of $119. That same amount for a ten-year term dropped the rate to $47.
The lowest death benefit offered on our quote was $250,000. For a ten-year term, that benefit amount costs $20 a month. These rates are really quite reasonable given the fact that we have seen much lower death benefits for higher rates elsewhere.
We also ran a quick quote for disability insurance. Our sample rate was again for a 30-year-old male, working as a sales professional in California and earning $75,000 a year. The rate returned was $144 a month for a maximum of $4,000 a month in benefits.
Since we do not usually quote disability, we are unable able to compare this rate to other companies. Rates will vary depending on income and location.
Guardian does not have a link to claims information on the website, nor did we find a page directly dedicated to claims information.
There is a contact page that separates contact information by type of policy, as well as a general contact phone number.
We also found some claims forms in the “forms” section of the website, which can be downloaded, printed, and sent into the company. The mailing address and the email address is found on the forms after download.
The site has a customer login area where, presumably, more information is available.
It’s not really unusual for a company offering this type of product to have little claims information on their website; however, we do expect some basic information. This is especially important in a life insurance claim situation where the beneficiary is attempting to file a claim and may not have any customer login information. This is one area where we would like to see Guardian improve.
Ratings and Consumer Reviews
Guardian has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), where they have been accredited since 1957. There is a total of 64 complaints on file in the past three years. Only 19 of those were closed in the past 12 months. This is a low complaint volume for such a big company.
On Google, the company has a 4.5-star rating based on 15 reviews, but the reviews themselves are not particularly helpful. One gives a good rating based on the historic flag in the lobby, and another is an employee. Still, we did not find many complaints about this company.
A few complaints can be found on Yelp, where there are five one-star reviews. All five of the complaints are about dental insurance, and all state difficulty finding a dentist that is in-network. They also state they had difficulty getting assistance from the company.
Overall there really are not a lot of complaints about this company out there, especially considering how huge Guardian is. They seem to have a pretty good reputation. This is a bit surprising given their size and how long they have been around, and we find it to be a positive sign.
The Bottom Line
Guardian is a venerable company with good rates and a solid product lineup. Their complaint volume is low and most complaints appear to be aimed at their dental subsidiary. They are financially sound and trustworthy – we did not find any red flags in the complaints against them.
This company is a good choice for life or disability insurance based on our research. It would be beneficial for them to improve a few things, including the lack of claims information on the website and the lack of detail in regards to some of their policies, but that is not a deal breaker.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.