Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 29, 2020

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Key InfoCompany Specifics
Year Founded2015
Current ExecutiveCEO – Jamie Hale
Number of Employees~30
Total Sales / Total Assets~$1,000,000 / ~$30,000,000
HQ Address444 High St.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone Number1-800-648-8624
Company Websitewww.ladderlife.com
Premiums Written –Group Life / Individual Life~$300,000,000 / ~$1,000,000,000
Financial Standing+4.7%
Best forInstant Term Policies up to $8 Million
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Fact: The first life insurance company in the United States was founded in 1759, long before the country was a republic of states and was instead a collection of British colonies.

Many of the top insurers today have been in operation for over 100 years. Unfortunately, their business models haven’t changed much over the last century. Purchasing a policy can be a hassle.

Compared to other industries, the buying process for life insurance seems archaic in comparison.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, we have credit approvals returned within seconds of applying, one-click purchasing and same-day delivery on everything from toothpaste to lawnmowers, and even instant auto insurance coverage.

Meanwhile, it can take an average of eight weeks to get approval for a life insurance policy. That’s in addition to time already spent meeting with agents, comparing prices, and filling out mountains of paperwork.

Thankfully, a few new companies are seeking to embrace today’s technology and simplify the life insurance process. One of the largest is Ladder Life Insurance.

Ladder sells term policies directly online, with instant approvals for many applicants.

This extensive review is designed to give you a complete overview of this cutting-edge company and preview all of their policies to help you decide if Ladder is the insurer for you.

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Table of Contents

Ladder’s Ratings

The following third-party ratings give insight into Ladder’s financial strength, business practices, and quality of customer service.

A.M. Best

A.M. Best ratings measure an insurer’s financial strength and its ability to pay all of its policy obligations.

Ladder’s issuer has an A- rating, meaning they have a strong ability to meet their financial obligations.

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

The Better Business Bureau assigns one of 13 letter grades based on factors such as time in business, open complaints, resolved complaints, and federal action against a company.

Because the company is only in its third full year of sales, Ladder is not currently accredited with the Better Business Bureau.

Moody’s

Similar to A.M. Best, Moody’s long-term obligation ratings measure an insurer’s credit risk. Ladder’s issuer holds a moderate Baa2 rating.
That rating is currently under review and likely to be increased due to a recent acquisition intended to boost the company’s financial strength.

Standard & Poor’s (S&P)

Standard & Poor’s (S&P) ratings also measure an insurer’s credit risk. Ladder’s issuer has a very strong AA- rating, the third-highest of 21 overall scores.

NAIC Complaint Index

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners Complaint Index compares the number of complaints registered against an insurer each year with that of other companies.

The NAIC sets the index at an average score of 1.00. Ladder’s issuer has a current score of 12.72, which is significantly higher than the industry standard.

This isn’t necessarily indicative of Ladder as a company because it sells policies issued by a large, national insurer. That insurer’s complaints aren’t necessarily Ladder’s complaints.

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Company History

For over 100 years, the life insurance trade association LIMRA has conducted extensive research and developed education programs to aid and advance the industry.

They have consistently found there to be a wide gap between how much life insurance coverage Americans have and how much they actually need. In 2015, they found that the coverage gap was $16 trillion.

That same year, Jamie Hale, Laura Hale, Jeff Merkel, and Jack Dubie founded Ladder to address that gap. Their idea was simple: Give modern consumers a quicker, easier way to buy life insurance, and more people will purchase the coverage they need.

CEO Jamie Hale personally explains the founding of the company in the following video:

Ladder started selling its first policies in California in 2017. Within two years, they had spread to 49 states. In January 2020, they offered their first policies to residents in New York, officially making them a nationwide company.

Ladder sells policies issued by Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company in all states but New York, where they sell policies issued by Allianz Life Insurance Company of New York.

Ladder operates more like a life insurance agency than they do an insurance company.

However, the policies Ladder sells are exclusive to them and can’t be purchased directly from either insurer.

Though the startup is only a few years old, its policies are issued by an insurer with strong financial security, 12 million policyholders, and over 50 years in the industry.

Ladder’s Market Share

Ladder has only been selling life insurance policies for the past three years, and they’ve only been selling in all 50 states for a few months now. As a result, they have a negligible market share compared to traditional insurers.

Plus, the policies they do sell are attributed to the insurers who issue them, at least as far as official market share numbers are concerned.

Here are the current top insurers by market share:

Top 10 Life Insurance Companies by Market Share & Protective Life Market Share
RankCompaniesDirect Premiums WrittenMarket Share
1MetLife$10,877,337,0006.7%
2Northwestern Mutual$10,550,806,0006.5%
3New York Life$9,385,843,0005.8%
4Prudential$9,170,883,0005.6%
5Lincoln National$8,825,314,0005.4%
6MassMutual$6,874,972,0004.2%
7Transamerica$4,867,311,0003.0%
8John Hancock$4,657,312,0002.9%
9State Farm$4,636,147,0002.9%
10Securian$4,426,864,0002.7%
20DAI-ICHI Life Holdings Inc Grp (Protective Life)$2,450,639,1101.41%
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What Ladder does have, however, is a strong presence in a brand-new insurance market: online, direct term life insurance. As that market grows over time, so will Ladder’s share of it, presumably.

Ladder’s Position for the Future

In the short time that they’ve been in operation, Ladder has provided over $1 billion in coverage to customers nationwide, showing that a large number of consumers want quick, simple life insurance.

As the demand for streamlined, online life insurance sales increases in the future, Ladder will be there to meet it.

They’ve also been innovating in other areas. Recently, the company started offering group coverage for small businesses that want to offer life insurance policies as a benefit to their employees.

They also launched Ladder for Advisors, which provides financial advisors tools to help their clients implement term life insurance into their overall financial plan.

The following video explains the program.

It’s not easy to predict the future success of a company so young, especially in a world where tech startups come and go every day.

However, it’s hard to imagine companies like Ladder, which are working hard to bring the antiquated life insurance industry into the 21st century, going away anytime soon.

Ladder’s Online Presence

Ladder is a company built entirely on an online model. Therefore, their web presence is strong. Their website is a one-stop-shop for your life insurance needs.

They offer the ability to request a quote, apply, modify your policy, file a claim, and so much more on their website.

They also have an active social media presence.
Ladder's Twitter page.
Both their Twitter and Facebook pages are actively updated with useful information on the life insurance industry and their specific product offerings.
Ladder's Facebook page.
You can chat directly with a representative on their Facebook page who can answer any questions you have.

Ladder’s Commercials

In November 2019, Ladder debuted its first television commercial featuring testimonials from real customers explaining the importance of life insurance and how Ladder makes it simple to get coverage.

The company also has multiple online ad campaigns featuring similar testimonials.

Ladder in the Community

As a very young startup, Ladder doesn’t have as large of a community presence as the big-name insurers.

It doesn’t have a track record of charitable giving, sustainability initiatives, or social responsibility programs that you typically see with larger companies.

Time will tell if Ladder grows enough to be in a position to significantly give back to its community in those areas.

Ladder’s Employees

Ladder currently employs about 30 people. Glassdoor employee reviews for Ladder averaged five out of five stars based on three reviews. It’s a very young company with only a few reviews, but so far 100 percent of current employees say they would recommend the job to a friend.

As it is such a new company, Ladder doesn’t rank on any notable lists of best places to work.

Shopping for Life Insurance

If you’re one of the people who fall within that $16 trillion life insurance gap, the 2018 Insurance Barometer Study from Life Happens and LIMRA also include some other findings you should know:

  • 35 percent of households would be financially impacted within one month of the primary wage earner’s death.
  • 90 percent agree that the primary wage earner should carry insurance.
  • 60 percent of all people living in the United States have life insurance.
  • 20 percent of those with a policy feel their coverage is insufficient.

If you want to close your personal life insurance gap, there are some key things to keep in mind when you shop. In general, life insurance needs to cover two types of obligations: immediate and future.

Immediate obligations are the things that need to be paid soon after your death. These include:

  • Funeral costs
  • Medical bills
  • Mortgage balances
  • Personal loans
  • Credit card debt

Future obligations are all the expenses (either planned or unexpected) that you want to pay for after your death. They include:

  • Income replacement
  • Spouse’s retirement
  • Children’s college tuition
  • Emergency savings fund

In the following video, a Ladder employee discusses how to choose a coverage amount.

A life insurance agent or financial planner can help you determine exactly how much coverage you’ll need to meet all of those obligations. For now, here’s an example using a basic life insurance calculator.

A wife and mother of one is shopping for life insurance. She and her husband both work full time. Her annual salary is $75,000.

The family has a remaining mortgage balance of $125,000, $13,000 left on a car loan, and $5,000 in credit card debt.

They also plan to save up $30,000 in a college fund meant to cover the average cost of four years of in-state tuition at a public university for their child.

The mortgage is the largest annual expense. With it gone, her husband will have less need for her income and can live comfortably on his alone. Still, she’d like to leave five years’ worth of her salary as an emergency savings fund should the family’s financial situation change after her death.

After factoring in an average funeral cost of around $7,500, the woman’s insurance needs are as follows:

  • Immediate need – $125,000 mortgage + $13,000 car loan + $5,000 credit card + $7,500 funeral costs = $150,500
  • Future need – $375,000 income replacement + $30,000 college fund = $405,000
  • Total need – $555,500

That total means she should purchase a life insurance policy with a face value of around $600,000.

Average Ladder Male vs Female Life Insurance Rates

The following table illustrates how Ladder’s average annual rates on a 20-year, $100,000 policy in key demographics compare to the average of the top 10 insurers by market share.

DemographicAnnual Premium – MaleVersus Average Top 10 InsurersAnnual Premium – FemaleVersus Average Top 10 Insurers
25-Year-Old Non-Smoker$168.00-$10.54$156.00-$4.57
25-Year-Old Smoker$336.00+$14.24$300.00+$51.25
35-Year-Old Non-Smoker$180.00-$5.04$168.00+$2.09
35-Year-Old Smoker$396.00+$35.77$336.00+$49.82
45-Year-Old Non-Smoker$264.00-$3.89$228.00-$12.25
45-Year-Old Smoker$648.00+$10.49$552.00+$58.80
Average Non-Smoker$204.00-$6.49$184.00-$4.91
Average Smoker$460.00$20.17$396.00+$53.29
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For many non-smokers, Ladder’s premiums are below average, but smokers can expect to pay higher-than-usual rates.

Coverage Offered

Ladder offers a single, simple term life insurance policy. Coverage is flexible and there are never any policy fees.

Types of Coverage Offered

Life insurance policies fall into one of two general categories, term or whole. Term life policies only pay if the death occurs within a set time frame.

Permanent life insurance policies have no term and pay whenever a death occurs, regardless of age. Some also build cash value by allocating a portion of your premiums into an interest-bearing account.

They can also come with two benefit options: fixed and increasing.

With a fixed death benefit, the policy premiums decrease over time as the cash value increases so that the payout is always equal to the initial face value.

With an increasing death benefit, the premiums and face value remain the same over time. As the cash value increases, the overall death benefit increases.

Whole policies have multiple variations: traditional whole life, universal life, guaranteed universal life, indexed universal life, and variable life.
For now, Ladder is only focused on selling term life policies.

Term

A term policy pays only if the death of the insured occurs within a specified time period, usually between 10 and 30 years. Once the term has passed, the insurer cancels the coverage. There are generally no refunds on the premiums paid.

Ladder Life Insurance uses their online system to pull tens of thousands of data points in real-time to give people instant decisions on their term policies.

If eligible, you can get a fully underwritten policy online in less than five minutes. If you don’t qualify for instant approval, Ladder offers temporary coverage that begins immediately and lasts until the application is either approved or denied.

The specifics of Ladder’s term policy are as follows.

  • Term – 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years
  • Flexibility – Face value can be increased or decreased at any time
  • Minimum – $100,000
  • Maximum – $8 million
  • Issue age – 20–60

Ladder’s life insurance policies are dynamic, meaning they can be changed at any time. The following video explains that flexibility.

As life changes, so should your life insurance. If you ever find yourself needing more or less coverage, you can access the Ladder website at any time to either decrease your coverage or apply for a higher face value.

Ladder Life Insurance does not currently offer any riders to customize your policy, such as accidental or accelerated death benefits.

Factors That Affect Your Life Insurance Rates

Anything that increases your risk of an early death increases the chances the insurer will have to pay out on your policy. That higher risk classification will result in a higher premium.

Ladder’s real-time underwriting system analyzes thousands of data points to determine that risk.

The following are some of the most common factors they use to determine your rate.

Demographics

Several demographics can have a big impact on your life insurance premium.

Age – Age is one of the most important factors in determining insurability. The older you are, the closer you are to death, which means higher risk for the insurer.

Every year you wait to purchase a life insurance policy will result in a higher premium. Some insurers also limit coverage amounts for people over certain ages.

Gender – Gender also plays a significant role. Statistically, men have shorter life expectancies than women. Because of that, women in the same risk classification will almost always pay lower premiums than men.

Current Health & Family Medical History

The healthier you are, the longer you’re likely to live. Longer life expectancy means lower premiums.

To determine your overall health, insurers will require you to fill out a health questionnaire and may request access to your medical records. Depending on your answers, some may also require a complete medical exam and bloodwork before approval.

Keep in mind that underwriters have access to public prescription and Medical Information Bureau (MIB) records, even if they don’t require a medical exam.

It’s important, to be honest on your application. If your records contradict your answers, your coverage could be denied.

Most insurers will also examine the health history of your immediate family to identify any potential hereditary medical issues such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. Learn more about how family history affects your life insurance rates.

High-Risk Occupations

Some jobs have a higher accident risk than others. The more dangerous the profession, the more likely an insurer is to pay out an early death benefit, which means higher premiums.

If you’re curious whether your job is considered high-risk, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries lists the professions with the highest number of accidental deaths.

High-Risk Habits

High-risk habits outside of work can also result in more expensive life insurance.

The most common high-risk habit that insurers look for is tobacco use. Smokers almost always pay higher rates than their non-smoking counterparts in every demographic.

For example, the average 25-year-old male non-smoker at Ladder pays around $130 per year for a 10-year, $100,000 policy with Ladder. A 25-year-old smoker pays $240 for the same policy.

That’s nearly double the cost and works out to an extra $1,100 paid over the life of the plan.

In addition to smoking, insurers will also look to see if you pursue any high-risk hobbies outside of your occupation, such as flying, racing, rock climbing, etc.

A single experience won’t earn you a higher premium, but a regular hobby could place you in a higher risk category.

Veteran or Active Military Status

Military status falls under the category of high-risk occupations. Most insurers charge higher rates to active duty military service members, and some don’t sell them policies at all.

Getting the Best Rate with Ladder

Your risk classification determines whether an insurer will raise your price from their base premiums. Those base premiums are generally based on three factors: mortality, interest, and company expenses.

Insurers use statistical mortality tables to estimate how many people in every demographic are likely to die each year. If they insure people in demographics with a high likelihood of death, they’ll raise their rates on them to minimize losses.

Premiums are also influenced by current interest rates.

Insurers increase their profits by investing the premiums you pay in bonds, stocks, and mortgages. A low expected return on those investments could result in higher premiums.

They also factor in all of their cost of doing business. The more a company spends on operating expenses, the more of that cost they pass onto their policyholders.

Life insurance rates can also vary from state-to-state. The NAIC is currently encouraging states to adopt laws that would provide more uniformity nationwide.

With so many variables affecting premiums, how can you ensure the lowest possible rates?

Many factors, such as gender and family medical history, are beyond your control. The best way to lower your rates is to change the variables you can so you don’t need to purchase life insurance with a medical condition.

Make healthier life choices – Blood pressure, BMI, and cholesterol are key measures on a medical exam. Do what you can to improve your numbers through diet and exercise to save on life insurance.

Also, research the medical exam process so you know what to expect.

If you do smoke, not only should you quit, but you should quit immediately.

Ladder Life Insurance requires you to be tobacco-free for a year before you can claim a non-smoking rate.

Buy early – As previously discussed, life insurance rates increase with time. Lock in a lower rate as soon as you can before you age into a higher premium.

For example, the average 10-year, $500,000 policy for a 40-year-old male, non-smoker, is around $330 per year. That same policy for a 40-year-old costs $520. That five-year-jump increases the price by 57 percent.

Pay your premiums on time – Late payments result in penalties and could lead to the cancellation of your policy.

If you have a policy canceled for non-payment, you can expect additional fees to get it reinstated, or higher rates at the next insurer.

To give you an idea of how much a term life policy might cost, we’ve compiled a list of monthly sample rates for Ladder’s 10-year term policy for non-smokers at key ages.

Age$100,000 – Male$100,000 – Female$250,000 – Male$250,000 – Female$500,000 – Male$500,000 – Female
25$11.00$10.00$15.00$14.00$22.00$20.00
30$11.00$10.00$15.00$14.00$22.00$20.00
35$12.00$11.00$16.00$15.00$24.00$22.00
40$13.00$11.00$18.00$17.00$28.00$26.00
45$15.00$14.00$25.00$23.00$43.00$38.00
50$20.00$18.00$34.00$31.00$62.00$52.00
55$30.00$24.00$50.00$42.00$93.00$75.00
60$43.00$31.00$76.00$59.00$146.00$110.00
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Smokers can expect to pay rates between 100 and 200 percent higher, depending on age and other demographic factors.

Ladder Life Insurance Programs

Ladder has several additional life insurance resources on its website. First is a basic life insurance calculator that can help you determine your specific life insurance needs before requesting a quote or starting an application.

The main resource is an extensive blog on a wide variety of topics. The blog is updated frequently and provides answers to a majority of life insurance questions.
Ladder's blog page.
There are also a larger number of posts dedicated to general wellness topics and financial issues, an extensive FAQ section, and an extensive collection of life insurance tips.
Ladder's insurance tips page.
Even if you decide that Ladder isn’t the insurer for you, their blog is worth reading to gain some insight into the life insurance process and answer any lingering questions you might have.

Ladder also has a referral program. If you refer a friend and they get an approved offer for coverage, you get $50 and they get $10. You can earn up to $1,000 in referral payments.

Currently, the program is only available to residents of California, but Ladder is working to expand it nationwide.

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Canceling Your Life Insurance Policy

If you do need to cancel your policy completely, you can do so at any time.

There are generally no refunds on premiums when you cancel a life insurance policy.

For a term policy, you would only receive a refund on prepaid premiums for an upcoming period.

How to Cancel

To cancel your Ladder life insurance policy, all you have to do is log in to your account and follow the simple instructions.

If you do have problems for any reason, you can contact customer service, and they can assist.

How to Make a Life Insurance Claim

The overall process of filing a death benefit claim with Ladder follows general industry-standard steps:

  • Initiate a claim
  • Fill out company-specific paperwork
  • Submit the paperwork along with a death certificate and any other requested documents
  • Choose a disbursement method
  • Receive the benefits

To initiate a claim with Ladder, send an email to help@ladderlife.com. The claims department will then send the appropriate claims forms to the beneficiary.

When initiating a claim, Ladder requests that you provide the insured’s full name, date of birth, and policy number, if available.

How to Get an Insurance Quote Online

Getting an online quote from Ladder is simple. Plus, if you like the rate you see, you can continue with your application and be approved for a policy in less than five minutes.

#1 – Go to the Ladder Website

The link to the quote tool is the first thing you see when you visit the Ladder website.
Ladder website online quote, step 1.
From the homepage, simply click the Get Started button.

#2 – Enter Your Personal Information and Desired Coverage

Clicking the link will take you directly to the quote tool.
Ladder website online quote, step 2.
You’ll be asked to enter some basic personal and demographic information, along with your desired coverage.
Ladder website online quote, step 3.
Once you select your coverage amount, the tool will give you an estimated monthly price.

#3 – Continue Your Application

If you like your quote, you continue with the application by answering more questions.
Ladder website online quote, step 4.
In less than five minutes, you’ll either have instant approval or be given the option to enroll in temporary coverage while your application is reviewed.

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Design of Ladder Life Insurance Website & App

The Ladder Life Insurance website is well designed and simple to navigate, as would be expected from a company that exclusively sells life insurance online.

Information is readily available, and instructions are always clear.
Ladder's desktop website home page.
Ladder doesn’t currently have an app for managing your policy, but their website is optimized for mobile viewing.
Ladder's mobile website.
Everything on the desktop site is accessible on the mobile site.

Pros & Cons of Ladder Life Insurance

As with any company, there are pros and cons to shopping with Ladder. Here are some of the biggest.

Pros

  • On-demand insurance with no agent
  • Instant approval for qualified applicants
  • Flexible policies that can be changed at any time
  • Temporary coverage while waiting for approval
  • Below average rates for several demographics
  • Some policies available with no medical exam

Cons

  • No whole policy options
  • No riders

The Bottom Line

Ladder is a young startup in an industry dominated by large, century-old companies. They don’t have the same industry presence as their competitors, but they are at the forefront of a growing market that those companies mostly ignore.

Even though they’re a new company, their policies are backed by experienced insurers. You can feel comfortable knowing that you’re buying reliable coverage.

If you want a permanent policy, Ladder isn’t the company for you. However, if you’re looking for a basic, term coverage, Ladder is one of your simplest and quickest options.

If you’re in the market for term life, there’s no good reason not to visit Ladder and fill out an application. It only takes a few minutes and you’re under no obligation to purchase.

Plus, if you’re approved and decide to purchase a policy, you can change or cancel it at any time. There’s virtually no risk involved.

We hope this review gave you enough information on Ladder and they’re policy offerings to decide if they’re the life insurer for you.

Did we leave any of your questions unanswered? If so, make sure to read the following FAQs where you’ll hopefully find the information you need.

Afterward, you can use the quote tool at the bottom of this page to instantly compare quotes from multiple insurers to see how they compare to Ladder’s rates.

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Ladder Life Insurance FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about Ladder and their policy offerings.

#1 – Does Ladder offer a no-exam life insurance policy?

Yes. Ladder offers instant coverage with no medical exam to qualified applicants.

#2 – Does Ladder offer any supplemental coverage?

No. Ladder only offers a single term life policy.

#3 – How does temporary coverage work?

Ladder’s temporary coverage allows your life insurance coverage to begin while you complete a medical exam or wait for approval (if not approved instantly).

To start temporary coverage, you make a payment equal to a month’s premium on the policy for which you applied. The coverage lasts up to 85 days in all states but New York, where it lasts 120 days.

If you die during the temporary coverage period, your beneficiary receives the death benefit as if the regular term policy were in effect.

If you accept the policy, your temporary coverage payment is applied toward your first month of full coverage. If you don’t accept or get declined, the payment will be refunded.

#4 – Can non-U.S. citizens apply?

No. Ladder policies are only available to U.S. citizens.

#5 – Can I change my face value?

Ladder allows you to decrease your face value at any time during your term. You can also apply for an increase in face value, which will require a new review and approval.

#6 – Can I change my term length?

No. Ladder doesn’t allow you to change your term lengths once coverage starts.

#7 – Does Ladder offer group life insurance?

No. Ladder doesn’t currently offer employer-sponsored life insurance.

#8 – How do I make a payment on my Ladder premiums?

Ladder currently accepts payments via debit and credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, and Discover) and ACH bank transfers.

#9 – Can I pay my premiums annually?

Premiums must be paid monthly. You cannot pay annually or pay an entire year in advance.

#10 – How easy is it to change my beneficiary?

You’ll need to fill out a beneficiary change form, which can be filled and submitted directly online on your account page.

#11 – How long does it take for Ladder to pay death benefits on a life insurance policy?

Death benefits are typically processed within 10 days of the claims department receiving all required paperwork.

#12 – Are the life insurance benefits taxable?

Life insurance benefits are non-taxable when they’re paid directly to a beneficiary, such as a spouse or a child. However, if you name your estate as the beneficiary, the benefits become a part of the estate and are then subject to estate taxes.

#13 – Are all Ladder insurance policies available in all states?

Yes. Ladder is licensed to sell all of its policies in every state.