Ladder Life Insurance review: for the customer who wants an easy, streamlined experience.
Last fall Jordan and I decided to reassess our life insurance needs. After having Henry a few months earlier, we realized we were woefully underinsured. Additionally, our insurance was through Jordan’s company and the odds of him staying with his current employer for his entire career are slim.
We began looking for insurance through brokers but were immediately overwhelmed by that route (the words “relentless enthusiasm” come to mind). After doing a little online sleuthing, I discovered Ladder. They’re a startup in Silicon Valley working to make access to life insurance easy.
And it really was easy.
Overall, I’m quite happy with our decision to (a) get new life insurance, and (b) get life insurance with Ladder. While I do now partner with them on some content (on both their site and mine), the relationship developed because I was genuinely enthusiastic about their product, and—most importantly—this happened after Jordan and I went through the process of applying for and getting a Ladder policy. We didn’t receive anything in exchange for applying and becoming policyholders.
I’m going to detail our entire experience, but I want to get some of the specifics out of the way first:
What type of insurance does Ladder offer?
Term and only term. Term life insurance is for a set amount of time and is cheaper than permanent life (also called whole or universal) insurance. We knew we wanted term because it’s straightforward, really easy to understand, and available at a reasonable monthly cost.
Who issues their policies?
Ladder itself does not actually issue insurance policies. It partners with Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company. Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company has been rated by A.M. Best, a U.S.-based credit rating agency, and was given an A- rating (meaning, A.M. Best believes they have an excellent ability to meet their ongoing insurance obligations).
What’s different about their approach?
There are a few ways which Ladder is meaningfully different:
- Their online application process is designed to be fast and easy. After a quick application, you may be conditionally approved for immediate, temporary coverage.
- They don’t use brokers or pay commission, so there’s no need to worry about being upsold insurance that you may not need.
- They allow you the flexibility to decrease your coverage or apply for more, all done through their easy-to-use website.
Sounds great, right? But is that really how it works? Here’s exactly what we experienced with Ladder:
Last September, we began the process of finding life insurance. As I mentioned, we had been a little overwhelmed with the entire undertaking. After a lot of Googling, I stumbled across Ladder (through Linkedin, of all places).
I immediately created an account and started the application process. We used their calculator to get an estimate of how much life insurance we needed but ultimately decided to select a slightly different amount.
To be honest, I tend to want to be overinsured in every area of my life, but Jordan takes a much more realistic approach. I was ready to sign up for a staggering amount of insurance, but after talking with Jordan about what we really needed for coverage, I decreased my coverage amount.
Once I completed my application, I was given the option to pay for temporary coverage starting immediately. Jordan quickly followed by filling out his own application and paying for temporary coverage.
The next step was to schedule an in-home lab appointment.
I thought this part of the process would be a pain, but it was surprisingly easy. We selected a date and time and a lab tech came to us to do all of the bloodwork and take some information. The entire process lasted around 30 minutes for the two of us.
Once the lab work was finished, we just needed to wait for final approval.
Shortly after our lab test, we were notified that our application had been approved. All we needed to do was log into our account and accept the life insurance policy.
Easy, breezy. After that, we’d be finished. Or so I thought…
My mistake! And my experience with customer service
During final approval, I had accidentally selected that I wanted insurance for a 20-year term, rather than a 25-year term. I didn’t notice this mistake until after I had accepted the life insurance policy.
I figured it would be a simple and quick change, but it wasn’t. I couldn’t figure out how to change it myself, so I called customer service.
At first, when I called I was a bit surprised that no one in customer service was available to take my call and I needed to leave a message. A message?! I’m so used to 24/7 call centers with customer service outsourced all over the world, I wasn’t sure what was going on.
Turns out, their customer service team is in-house and actually sits in their Palo Alto office. This ended up being hugely helpful. I received a call from a customer service representative (and then a couple of follow up emails because I didn’t answer my phone). He helped walk me through the process of getting that changed, so I had coverage for the duration I was looking for.
Talk about excellent customer service.
What I love about Ladder:
- If things aren’t easy and fast, I probably won’t do them. Applying for and finalizing this insurance policy was easy. Managing my account online is a snap as well. Once we created our family trust, I was able to log in and update the beneficiary quickly.
- I don’t like to question motives. While I have no doubt that insurance brokers have nothing but my best interest in mind, I struggle with the idea of paying commission based on the amount of coverage I choose. I don’t want to feel pressured into buying more than I need. Because no one at Ladder receives a commission (not even their customer service team), I never felt pressured to buy more insurance.
- The price was competitive. We looked at a few different options for life insurance and while I don’t specifically remember if Ladder was the lowest, the price we were offered was very competitive.
- We have the option to change coverage. The bulk of our life insurance, if there was a payout, would cover paying off our mortgage and paying for Henry’s college. As we’re hoping to pay off our mortgage early and are saving each month for Henry’s tuition, I don’t know if we’ll need to carry such a large insurance policy for the next 25 years. I like that Ladder provides the flexibility to decrease our coverage in the future if we find ourselves in a different financial situation.
What could be better about Ladder:
Honestly, so far I haven’t really found any cons working with Ladder. That said, we haven’t needed to use the policy and we hope that we never do.
The only thing that gave me pause was their A.M. Best rating of A-. Yes, this rating is excellent, but this isn’t the highest category. There’s a superior category as well. Because I’m an overachiever, I’d expect that my life insurance company is as well.
After reading a little more about A.M. Best’s methodology, I felt better about an A- rating. A.M. Best believes that Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company has an excellent chance of meeting their insurance obligations. Additionally, Hannover RE is the reinsurer and they have an A+ A.M. Best rating, which is superior. You can think of reinsurance as insurance for insurance companies. It’s a way for them to spread their risk to another insurance company. They split your policy premiums and split the payout, should you need to actually use your insurance policy.
Do you need life insurance?
Life insurance is part of a solid financial plan, but not everyone needs it. This article will help you think through your options and decide whether life insurance is necessary.
Erica Gellerman, CPA
Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project: a weekly money newsletter you actually want to read. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom, and Lifehacker. When she’s not writing about personal finance you can find Erica exploring Europe from her temporary home base in London.
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