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Penn Mutual Life Insurance Review

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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...

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UPDATED: Nov 30, 2018

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Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, or Penn Mutual, is one of the oldest mutual life insurers in the country (founded in 1847). Its current headquarters resides in a glass tower at 510 Walnut Street in Horsham, an award-winning design built in the early 1970s. It’s a recognizable part of the Horsham skyline.

The company offers life insurance and annuity products to individuals and families. Additionally, it offers some products for small businesses, including business life insurance. It’s the parent company to several subsidiaries, including Janney Montgomery Scott, a brokerage company.

As of 2006, Penn Mutual was the first life insurer offering a rider that tied policy values to inflation, allowing people with permanent life insurance to enjoy guaranteed growth to keep up with the cost of living.

Insurance Products

Life Insurance

Penn Mutual sells term and permanent life insurance products at the individual level.

Term policies are offered in blocks of 10, 15 or 20 years. These are available for customers up to 70 years of age in most cases, depending on the applicant’s health. The policy has a fixed value, which is decided at the time of purchase and will be distributed as a death benefit as long as the policy is in effect when the insured passes away. If the insured lives past the term of the policy, it can be converted into permanent life insurance.

Permanent life insurance is, as its name suggests, a more permanent solution. Instead of being confined to a term, this coverage lasts indefinitely as long as premiums are paid. Policies gain in cash value, with a portion of each premium being invested. This can be borrowed against or otherwise accessed during the insured’s life. Aside from providing benefits to help with end-of-life costs, permanent life insurance policies can also be used as a tax-deferred investment and vehicle for passing money forward to future generations.

Permanent life policies are divided into whole, universal, variable universal and survivorship plans:

  • Whole Life has guaranteed premiums, which remain the same throughout the life of the policy.
  • Universal Life has flexible premiums and allows you to utilize the policy’s cash value to cover a missed payment as necessary.
  • Variable Universal Life changes in premium throughout your lifespan, allowing you to customize payments to fit your needs.
  • Joint or Survivorship plans cover two individuals with a single policy rather than requiring both to obtain separate insurance.

Considering life insurance? Read our write up about why term life is better than whole life.

Additional Products

Aside from life insurance, Penn Mutual also sells some financial products and protection for small businesses, including annuities (fixed, immediate, and variable). One unique offering from Penn Mutual is business life insurance.

Penn Mutual also offers several financial planning tools for retirement. These are marketed both to individuals and small business owners. The primary investment vehicle for retirement is an annuity, which a customer would pay into throughout his life in exchange for a set, regular income in retirement.

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Penn Mutual Rates

Penn Mutual does not offer online quotes for term life insurance, so we were unable to do a rate comparison vs. their competitors. In order to find a local authorized agent, visit this page and input your state.

Claims

Claims information for Penn Mutual can be found on its website under the “Client Services” tab. From there, click “Initiate A Death Claim” to reach the online form. You will need the policy number for the insured as well as your contact information and explanation of your relationship to the insured.

Once the initial claim has been filed, a representative will be in contact with you to finish the process. You may be asked to forward additional paperwork, like a death certificate, before the claim can be paid.

Consumer Research and Complaints

The BBB website lists several entries for Penn Mutual, but none are accredited nor match the address of the corporate headquarters, making it difficult to guess which is the official listing. Of the listings available, most have few complaints.

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Financial Strength

Rating Company Grade Financial Outlook
AM Best A+ Superior
Fitch N/A N/A
S&P A+ Stable

Bottom Line

Penn Mutual seems to be a straightforward life insurance company that offers a wide range of coverage options. They have reasonable financial strength ratings, their claims process is fairly simple, and they have very few customer complaints that we were able to find. They may not be the least expensive life insurer out there, but they are a decent choice and worth consideration if looking for new coverage.

For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.

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Review Information

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About Eric Stauffer

Author: Eric StaufferI am a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. My 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.

11 Comments

  1. Thank you, Daniel, so much for this information. No one informs you about anything. You have to research and find out on your own or from someone who knows. So what is the best life insurance to get? Term / whole life? Or what?

    Reply
    • Hi Dee, thank you for asking.
      It’s a hard question to answer but I will give you some of the general information that I think should be helpful to an individual.

      – Term insurance is meant primarily to act as income protection during your working years. If a young parent were or spouse was to pass away then the family is now experiencing life without all the income that person could have made for the next several decades. The use of term life insurance should primarily be to lessen the impact of that financial hardship brought about by the death of an income contributor to the family.
      – Sometimes we do use term life insurance in retirement income planning but only as one part of a much larger plan

      – Permanent life insurance can be extremely valuable to have.
      – I would not ever suggest getting Universal Life policies unless they are guaranteed. As you can see by comments on this very thread, Universal Life policies have a tendency of performing very poorly for the consumer. The reason for this is that the insurance companies control the majority of aspects within the policy, such as cost of insurance, cap rates(the amount of return you are allowed to get), participation rates (the amount of the return you are allowed to get that you actually take part in), and floors (the minimum you are guaranteed to make). The company can retire indexes as well.
      – An example on universal life is, let’s say that you saw a life insurance policy that offered you to take part in an index with a cap rate of 15% and a participation of 120% and a floor of 2%. Well, that sounds pretty good, that means that if the index returned 10% you would get 120% of that, so your return would be 12%. Let’s say that the market was negative that year, well you actually have a 2% floor so you are still getting 2% even with a negative market. And we can say that your index has historically returned around 12%, so you feel like its a great opportunity. The big issue with these contracts is that the next year, there is nothing that the consumer can do to stop the insurance company from changing all of those features. The insurance company could decide that the cap is now 10%, the participation rate is 80%, the floor is 1% (there are limitations on this factor), and that index you liked is no longer offered. And before there was a 0% spread, but now there is a 3% spread as well, that basically means that the insurance company is taking 3% of the returns from the index and you get whats left over.
      – Now that was a radical example, I’ve never heard of an insurance company doing anything like that, but what they do instead as you can see from comments on this thread is that they make small changes over years, so 20 years later you now have to pay more than you did before because insurance costs rise and your return has not been anywhere near what was projected because things have been changed. The insurance company has a new product now, a new IUL they encourage people to get, The Silver Chrome Deluxe Accumulation Index IV Horizons and Beyond Universal Life, and their agents will encourage you to cash out your old one and switch over to this new one.

      – On the other hand, Whole Life insurance is a completely different beast. Whole life has been around for over 150 years and has multiple guarantees built into the contract, including guaranteed premiums and guaranteed death benefit. There is a great book about the great depression called… The Great Depression, by Daniel B. Roth. It is literally a journal he wrote during the great depression, but he speaks very often, though subtly, about the power of life insurance in the lives of professionals throughout the depression.
      – Whole Life insurance can be used very well in tandem with real investments as part of a comprehensive retirement planning strategy. There are several other ways it is used as well, but the primary way for the average person would be through retirement planning. (There are several methods of personal banking very popular with entrepreneurs and high net worth individuals that would take far too long for me to go into here, see Becoming Your Own Banker by Nelson Nash).
      – To give you a quick idea of how whole life is valuable, the cash value of it basically grows with returns similar to bonds, it is tied to the returns of the general account of the insurance company and they are invested primarily in bonds. Dr. Wade Pfau (heads the retirement income branch of the American College) refers to it as an actuarial bond, because at the same time you have the advantage in participating in the returns of an insurance company whose business is to literally work actuarial statistics for a profit.
      – That cash value is guaranteed never to go down, and you are allowed to borrow against the cash value at competitive rates. If you then bother to pay back the loan the interest you pay in is credited back to your cash value to give you, even more, to borrow against in the future. Or you could just leave the loan until death and let your death benefit pay off the loan. This is popular because your death benefit is usually going to be growing at a faster rate than the loan, so you have a natural spread.
      – From a death benefit standpoint, the paying of dividends by the insurance company allows you to grow your policy so that it is larger the longer you have it. This is great for your legacy but it also helps in retirement income planning.
      – A couple of quick ideas on ways that guaranteed death benefit is valuable for income planning, it allows you to use your assets differently while you are alive, such as doing a reverse mortgage on your home since you won’t be afraid to lose it since you know the death benefit will come in and replenish when you die. Another method is allowing yourself to use single life annuities which have the highest payout rate, so now you’ve created considerable additional income, since you know that if you die your death benefit will come in and replenish what was used on the annuity for your spouse to put toward an annuity for them-self instead or whatever they want to do.
      – The cash value can be used as mentioned before to create what is often referred to as a volatility buffer in retirement. Meaning that when there are volatile years and you want to draw on your assets for income, you can refrain from selling the assets at a discount in the down market by taking income from the life insurance instead (The old great depression method) and then as your stocks appreciate again you can now sell them off so you are selling at a premium, encouraging sound investment philosophy of buy low and sell high.

      In summary, I’d say that I have come to find it is good to have term insurance almost always, and it is good to have some amount of whole life insurance as well. I wouldn’t stop investing in order to do it, real estate and stocks are still important, and dare I say vital to growing wealth, but if you can manage your budget such that you can have guaranteed life insurance at the same time it will really open up your options for what you can do in retirement and even beforehand.

      Reply
  2. In the mid 1970s we purchased a policy for my husband. Early 1980’s we are sold a replacement “Universal Life” policy that included a minimum monthly 4% interest & secure future. Suddenly, a few years ago the premiums skyrocketed & we are getting huge additional bills due to keeping the policy from lapsing. I’m told it’s due to the cost of ins.Then I ‘m told the Universal Life policy is really term ins. that will lapse in a few years anyway. We invested over half the face value & will end up with nothing and no disclosure when sold to us. Penn Mutual is despicable. They can’t answer when I ask what is the additional cost of ins. & chalk up our being misled to the fact that the policy was new when we were sold it and the salesman probably didn’t understand it. We would never have taken the policy had it been explained correctly. The premiums could have sat in a bank account and we would still have that money.

    Reply
    • I agree with you about Penn Mutual. I regret having done business with them. I paid out too much money to the company just to have a policy. Things were not explained clearly and corrected to me by the agent. I waited a lot of time and money on their whole life insurance which out of 4 years yielded me no returns. All the money I put in went to the company. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do business with Penn Mutual, Voya aka ING or Washington aka Conseco….They will find a way to keep your money or keep a big chunk of it … These are the 3 worse I have dealt with. VOYA IS THE WORSE, next WASHINGTON THEN. PENN MUTUAL…GOOD LUCK! You have been warned.

      Reply
  3. hello, i was sold this disability insurance with the agent telling me how detrimental my job would be and how i needed coverage for aids, and i’ve had this policy just being taken out of my account for over 25 years. (it’s hard to cancel once they take it out automatically and sometimes you just forget they do it !)

    there is no benefit for being a good paying customer basically.

    well make sure are or do get disabled because like the lady said to me over the phone :
    “you don’t anything else from this policy other than if you were disabled for over 60 days’ i should have known better. or paid for the higher premium to get a shorter time frame for being disabled.” basically i’m a sucker for buying this insurance , yes my fault.

    basically, i paid out over $ 25,000 over the years and penn mutual says its just like car insurance. too bad so sad for you basically. no cash benefit no living benefit no benefit for NOT getting disabled.

    so my comment for all of you out there , Don’t bother giving Penn mutual your money , your better off keeping the $100 in a hidden saving account and payin yourself if you ever do get hurt on the job, and you don’t have to worry about “qualifications” and maximum disbursements, basically you pay yourself back !!!

    Reply
  4. I don’t like how half my premium goes toward administration fees and half toward my account. So i am now looking for another Life insurance carrier because this ain’t working for me.

    Reply
    • Hi Deb,

      My name is Daniel. I have recently been trying to enter financial services, I’m a huge advocate for the consumer and believe strongly in diversified investment and asset protection to enable people to make riskier investments comfortably. I have recently been fishing myself around to multiple financial services providers to see who I would rather work with, and I just wanted to let you know that I have found the norm is for high commissions no matter what carrier you go to, down to Farmers or State Farm and all the way up to New York Life and Northwestern Mutual.
      If you truly wish to avoid high commissions than the best thing would be to find a certified financial planner who is licensed as a broker and can get you setup with a life policy separately. That will most likely be fee-based so you can avoid the high commissions. The problem with fee-based advising is that it can be very expensive if you are only looking at one or two services. Meaning, if you are investing $100,000 then its not so bad to pay a few thousand in fees, $10,000 of fees would only be 10%. But if you are only investing $20,000 to start, then you could be paying half that in fees. Most fee-based financial advisers will not suggest you work with them for smaller amounts.
      Another quick word about commissions. The premium breakdown for commission at Penn Mutual or most of these other carriers like it is going to be close to the following: 50-55% of first year premium is commission, 12-15% of second year premium is commission, 8-12% of third year is commission, 6-10% of fourth year, 4-8% of fifth year, 2-6% of sixth year, 2-5% of seventh year, 1-4% eighth year, 1-3% ninth year, 1-2% for ten years and more.
      Hopefully that’s at least a little solace that half your premiums aren’t going to be always going to commission.

      Thank you,
      Daniel

      Reply
  5. I need to decide right away about taking Penn Mutual’s Guaranteed Protection Universal Life Flexible Premium Adjustable Life or a 20 year term policy. I got burned by Met Life with a soft called universal life. I was told this was different, that as long as I paid a fixed premium, no matter how long I lived my beneficiaries would get the fixed amount of life insurance. Is this a sure thing?

    Reply
    • I would not trust these clowns when they can’t mail out forms when they claim to. I will find a government agency to complain to.

      Reply
    • Hi Robin,

      I would certainly agree with Eric when you look at the numbers he is talking about. I have personally been doing extensive research into insurance companies as well as surveying several people I meet and it truly just depends on the person’s situation and what kind of option they have from the underwriter. It’s unfortunate but insurance is an extremely complex industry, beyond just the numbers, what kind of riders and special circumstances are mentioned in those policies, that will affect their financial viability and value as an investment vehicle. If a policy has equity and can help you leverage at no penalty, if more than has been put in can be taken out to be used for personal medical care, there are little intricacies like this that will affect the value of each decision.
      Another point I would like to make is that in Eric’s example the whole life premium was about 20 times as much as the term premium. Often times the premium will only be about 10 times as much. Even in those cases I would still say that the term policy and reinvesting the extra money will be the better way to go. I know someone who’s universal life policy is only twice what they would be paying for term, with that in mind, it is a much better deal for her and I helped her in doing the math and going through the options. I’m honestly not sure why the underwriters were willing to write her so much at such a low price, but the option was there and it was great for her. She purposefully wanted to have it double as a form of inheritance for her only son.
      Another person I just spoke with the other day was diagnosed with some form of illness (sorry I know that’s vague, I just can’t recall what the diagnosis was) and the company (in this case State Farm insurance) refused to right her a new term policy, so she shopped around and found that an option to her was to transfer her current term life policy when it expired into a whole life policy with guaranteed premiums and guaranteed death benefit and of course the building cash value. On its own the death benefit for the whole life was not great, on its own the cash value growth from dividends was not great, but together they were ok and they addressed the coverage that she needed. A big thing people say in the insurance industry which is true, is that at the time of purchase price is the most important thing, at the time of incident only coverage matters. She was willing to accept that it was more important to have the coverage. She was still able to get an ok retirement and estate planning vehicle out of it, again whole life isn’t spectacular startling returns, but its ok when you look at security as well.
      So in summary life insurance is unfortunately a very complex product and its value as an investment is not always the most straightforward thing to discern. If your universal life policy is going to be costing you 20 times the term than it likely is not the best investment for you at that time.

      Thank you,
      Daniel

      Reply

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