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TIAA Life Insurance Company Review

In a market dominated by life insurance Goliaths, nearly flawless financial ratings and claims history make TIAA coverage stronger than it looks.
Pro Bullet Term
Pro Bullet Universal
Pro Bullet Variable
Pro Bullet Survivorship
Pro Bullet No exam
Licensed Life Insurance Agent/Staff Writer
Published on December 27, 2019

TIAA is a financial services organization that was established over 100 years ago to provide teachers with financial products and services such as life insurance, annuities banking, investment options, and retirement savings. While many of its products are available only to educators, anyone can apply for TIAA’s life insurance coverage.

TIAA’s high financial ratings and customer service make it one of the best life insurance companies worth considering. Plus, TIAA offers a standout term life product that places it among the best term life insurance companies too.

Heads up

Although this organization is known for the quality of its insurance products, TIAA no longer sells new life insurance policies starting in 2020.1 It will continue to maintain coverage for policies purchased before then, however.

Who might choose TIAA?

  • People looking for no-load life insurance: TIAA doesn’t pay agent commissions and limits other fees as well, making all of their policies no-load life insurance..
  • Couples: TIAA offers survivorship (second-to-die) versions of its universal and variable life insurance policies.
  • Educators: Although you don’t have to teach to apply for TIAA life insurance, you could pair a TIAA life insurance policy with other financial services available only to educators.

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TIAA life insurance policies

TIAA offers several types of life insurance, including the following:

  • Term
  • Universal
  • Variable
  • Survivorship
  • TIAA Salary Shield

TIAA does not provide whole life insurance.

TIAA term life insurance

TIAA’s term life death benefits start at $100,000 and cap out at $5 million.2 You can choose from a 10-, 15-, 20-, or 30-year term. You can convert your policy to permanent life insurance before you turn 80 or your policy expires, whichever comes first.

TIAA universal life insurance

TIAA offers several variations of universal life (UL). Its straight universal life insurance product is called Intelligent Life UL, and it has optional benefits that help pay for assisted living, a nursing home, and other long-term care expenses.

TIAA variable life insurance

Unlike other forms of universal life insurance coverage, variable universal life (VUL) allows you to choose how your cash value is invested. Called Intelligent Life VUL, this type of life insurance isn’t guaranteed to see cash value growth.

TIAA survivorship life insurance

Survivorship life insurance covers two people (usually a married couple (but sometimes business partners or others closely tied financially) under one policy. The death benefit pays out after both people pass away. Both UL and VUL policies are available in a survivorship version.

TIAA Salary Shield

Salary Shield is explicitly designed for income replacement. Instead of a lump sum, your beneficiaries will receive regular monthly payments for up to 30 years. It’s no exam life insurance, but it typically costs less than TIAA’s term life insurance policies.

How much does life insurance with TIAA cost?

To find out how much TIAA life insurance costs, we sampled premiums for the following two situations.

TIAA sample rates

20-year term life policy for a healthy 25 year old

Death benefit

Monthly male premium

Monthly female premium

$100K

$11

$10

$250K

$15

$13

$500K

$22

$19

$1M

$38

$32

Sample quotes based on TIAA.org and are for illustration purposes only. Actual quotes may vary. Data effective 7/9/2019. No new rates available due to TIAA no longer offering new life insurance policies.

20-year term life policy for a healthy 50 year old

Death benefit

Monthly male premium

Monthly female premium

$100K

$28

$22

$250K

$49

$36

$500K

$84

$62

$1M

$158

$115

Sample quotes based on TIAA.org and are for illustration purposes only. Actual quotes may vary. Data effective 7/9/2019. No new rates available due to TIAA no longer offering new life insurance policies.

Overall, TIAA’s premiums are slightly higher than the best life insurance rates, but the difference in the prices we sampled was typically only a few dollars each month.

Things to consider about TIAA life insurance

TIAA is known for its quality financial products and services, but there are a few things you should know before adding TIAA to your shortlist of life insurance companies.

No agent commissions

TIAA’s life insurance consultants don’t receive commissions from policies they sell. This practice allows TIAA to offer no-load life insurance policies. These policies typically cost less and, in the case of permanent life insurance, build cash value faster because more of the premium is allocated to the cash value account.

While no-load life insurance might sound ideal, it's received some criticism. Skeptics warn that low servicing fees may force the insurer to offer limited or poor customer service. TIAA has an excellent customer service track record, however, so this concern may not apply to this company.

Critics also say that no-load policies don’t allow insurers to make enough money. Some companies try to mitigate this by adding processing fees or raising premiums later in the policy. TIAA hasn’t gone this route, which may be one reason it will stop selling life insurance policies after 2019.

No new policies after 2019

Although TIAA has built a reputation for quality coverage, this company will phase out its life insurance business next year. After December 31, 2019, TIAA will no longer approve life insurance applications.

Still, TIAA has a good claims history, and all policies purchased before 2020 will still be honored should your beneficiaries need to make a claim. Unfortunately, it's too late to get in the door before the December 31 cut-off date.

How TIAA stacks up

TIAA was founded in 1918 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, so it’s been around for just over 100 years.3 Today, this insurance provider owns nearly $8.3 billion in assets4 and achieves high marks for financial strength.

TIAA financial ratings

Agency
Rating
AM Best (FSR)

A++

S&P

AA+

Moodys

Aa1

Fitch

AAA

Table created using information available at AMBest.com, StandardAndPoors.com, Moodys.com, and FitchRatings.com. Data effective 12/27/19.

TIAA has some of the highest financial ratings in the industry. AM Best and Fitch each give the insurer their highest possible ratings, A++ and AAA, respectively. AM Best's second “+,” is reserved only for the companies with the most superior stability.

Moodys and S&P give TIAA their second-highest ratings (Aa1 and AA+), which also indicate solid financial footing.

Claims and customer service

TIAA was founded to give educators access to the financial tools they need to take care of themselves and their families, and this insurer continues to succeed in this mission, now with all its customers.

In 2018, only two complaints were filed against TIAA with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) regarding individual life insurance coverage.5 Even though TIAA is one of the smaller insurance companies (earning annual premiums in the millions of dollars instead of the billions), such a shiny complaint record is impressive.

Bottom line: TIAA life insurance is great but going away

TIAA’s solid financial strength and claims history are top notch, but this company no longer offers life insurance.

TIAA offers quality life insurance coverage. Unfortunately, This insurer has stopped taking new applications.

But don't mourn the loss of TIAA life insurance too long. There are plenty more fish in the sea, and we make it easy to find your match. Compare life insurance quotes from several companies with our quote tool today.

Need help understanding how life insurance works? Read up here: 

TIAA FAQ
Does TIAA offer disability insurance?

If your employer uses TIAA to provide benefits, you may have access to this insurer’s long- and short-term disability insurance through work. Otherwise, you can’t buy disability insurance from TIAA. Instead, check out our list of best disability insurance companies.

What does TIAA stand for?

TIAA is an acronym for the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association. In 1952, the name changed to the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) when the organization began offering those additional benefits. Although this insurer still provides a variety of retirement benefits, the insurer now goes by TIAA.

Sources

1. Investment News, “TIAA Exits the Life Insurance Business
2. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, “Life Insurance Quick Quote
3. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, “Our History
4. National Association of Insurance Commissioners, “TIAA CREF Life Ins Co Company for Overview of 2018 life
5. National Association of Insurance Commissioners, "Consumer Insurance Search Results"
6. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, “Our History

Written by
Kathryn Casna
Kathryn Casna is a licensed insurance agent and life insurance specialist who has appeared on The Simple Dollar and Best Company. On a weekly basis, she dives into complex life insurance topics to wring out genuinely useful information. When she’s not wrangling big ideas into easy-to-understand articles, Kathryn nerds out on budget-tracking spreadsheets and tries to coax her leash-trained cat to take outdoor adventures.