Years ago, getting life insurance was a long process and a big pain in the butt.
You had to fill out a long application followed by a call with a life insurance agent. That agent would then help you decide which policy was right for you, which likely included upsells to more expensive products and higher-margin policies. Then you'd have to take a medical exam.
Think you were done? Oh no. After that, the insurance company would begin the underwriting process where they review your application, assess your insurance risk, and then (maybe) issue a policy. The underwriting process can take weeks. It's a lot of paperwork, and that takes time.
Insurance companies have gotten wise to the fact that not everyone is risky. There are risky folks where you need that long underwriting process to accurately determine risk; then there are those who don't necessarily need that level of scrutiny. For those folks, larger insurance companies have partnered with more nimble companies to offer fast life insurance policy approvals.
If you're looking for simple term life insurance, the lowest possible premium cost, and have it as quickly as possible – Ladder is one of those companies. You can apply for up to $8 million in coverage and get approved in minutes (often without a medical exam).
What is Ladder?
Based in California, and launched in 2017, Ladder is an online insurance platform designed specifically to provide fast approvals for low-cost life insurance policies. In many cases, you can apply and be approved immediately. The entire process takes place online, avoiding an uncomfortable face-to-face meeting with a commissioned insurance agent.
Ladder offers no-frills, low-cost life insurance. Because they offer only term life insurance policies – and no policy riders – they can provide some of the lowest cost life insurance available anywhere.
Insurance policies are provided by Ladder's partners: Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company issues LadderLife policies and Hanover Life Reassurance Company of America reinsures those policies.
Why are they called “Ladder?”
Besides fast life insurance policy approvals, with Ladder you can start with a base level of life insurance coverage that's within your ability to pay right now. But as you age, and as your financial needs and obligations grow, you can adjust your death benefit to better match your changing circumstances. In other words, you can add to your policy and “ladder up.”
For example, a young family may not be able to afford a policy with a large death benefit today; but as their income grows, they can increase the policy death benefit. Conversely, if you pay off your mortgage and your children are grown, you may prefer to reduce your death benefit and premium.
If you increase your coverage, that's “laddering up.” If you decrease your coverage, that's “laddering down.”
Ladder lets you do both. You can increase or reduce coverage with the touch of a button. It won't cost you any extra in fees to ladder up or down, but you will pay more or less because of the higher coverage. As is the case with life insurance, the per thousand premium cost will be higher based on your increased age at the time of laddering up.
If you wanted to ladder up elsewhere, without a built-in method, you would have to get another insurance policy and go through that process all over again. To ladder down, you would let that policy lapse. It's a less elegant way of executing what Ladder lets you do seamlessly.
What Policies Does Ladder Offer?
Ladder's primary policy is its LadderLife plan.
It's term insurance that covers deaths resulting from either accidents or natural causes.
In the case of suicide, there is a two-year waiting period after a policy is signed before benefits are eligible to be paid. Should the applicant die within those two years by suicide, no death benefit will be paid but all premiums paid will be refunded to the beneficiaries. This is a typical provision in life insurance policies with all insurance companies.
LadderLife policies are available in terms of 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years. The specific term of the policy is determined by your age at the time of application. The length of the policy term cannot exceed 70 minus your current age. For example, the maximum term length based on certain ages are as follows:
- 40 years old, 30-year term
- 45 years old, 25-year term
- 50 years old, 20-year term
- 55 years old, 15-year term
- 60 years old, 10-year term
Coverage is available with death benefits ranging from a minimum of $100,000 to a maximum of $8 million.
Temporary coverage. Ladder also offers temporary coverage while the underwriting process is being completed. The coverage is instantaneous since there can be a delay in the underwriting decision if a health check is required. You'll need to complete the application and pay the first month's premium. The policy will be in full force and effect pending the underwriting decision. If you die before approval, the policy will pay your beneficiaries. If the application is ultimately denied, the premium paid will be refunded.
Ladder Insurance Policy Riders
Ladder does not offer policy riders. They believe that riders increase the cost of the policy premium, and complicate life insurance without providing a benefit sufficient enough to offset the higher cost. This reflects the company policy of remaining a low-cost life insurance provider.
How Ladder Works
As you'll see in the “How to Apply for Life Insurance with Ladder” section below, the entire application process takes place online. Policies are available in all states except New York.
Customer service is available only on an “as-needed” basis. You can get answers to most questions through the platform's “Help Center”. But if you need live support, it's available by live chat, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 am Pacific time. (There is no phone support availability.)
To help you determine how much life insurance coverage you need, Ladder offers its “Calculator” to help you make the decision. By answering a few questions, it will tell you the recommended level of coverage for your needs.
Refer a Friend. Residents of California can earn extra income by referring others to Ladder. You'll be provided with a unique referral link that you can share with others. When the referral gets an offer, you'll get $50, regardless of where the referral is located; but if the referral is in California, he or she will get $10. The company advertises that you can earn up to $1,000 through this program.
How to Apply for Life Insurance with Ladder
To qualify for life insurance through Ladder you must be a US citizen or lawful permanent resident living in the US for at least two years. Coverage is available to applicants between the ages of 20 and 60 and will provide coverage through age 70.
The application process takes place entirely online through a series of screens that will ask the following questions:
- What is your sex?
- How tall are you?
- How much do you weigh?
- Have you used any form of tobacco or nicotine in the last three years?
- What is your birthday?
- Has a biological parent or sibling been diagnosed by a member of the medical profession with diabetes, cancer, or heart disease prior to the age of 60?
- What is your household income?
Once you have completed the above questions, you'll be taken to a screen that will ask you to select your desired coverage amount and term length. When that’s finished, you'll be given an estimated monthly premium; however, you'll then be taken to the second set of questions. There are at least 20, but below we present the first seven, so you'll get a general idea:
- Do you have plans to engage in any of the following activities within the next two years? Options include skydiving or parachuting, skin or scuba diving, motor vehicle racing or boat racing, and other potentially hazardous pastimes.
- Do you have plans to travel, live, or work outside the US within the next two years? If you answer yes, you'll be asked to specify the country.
- Do you have plans to fly as a student pilot, license pilot, or crew member in any aircraft within the next two years?
- Have you use marijuana in the last 12 months?
- In the last 10 years, have you used cocaine, heroin, narcotics, hallucinogens, or other controlled substances, not prescribed by a physician?
- In the last five years, have you been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, have you served in a probationary or parole program, or do you have any criminal charges pending?
- In the last five years, how many moving violations or convictions have you had?
As you move through the questions, you'll be asked to supply personal information, such as your name, address, email, and phone number, among other information. Once you complete that information, you'll either get instant approval, complete with a final monthly premium payment, or you'll be asked to submit to a medical exam.
If a medical exam (referred to as a “health check”) is required, an appointment will be scheduled with a lab technician at your home or office. It's generally completed in less than 30 minutes. The exam will include a basic medical history review, height, and weight measurements, collection of urine and blood samples, as well as checking your blood pressure and pulse. You'll even be able to access the results from your exam from the accounts page. If a health check is required, it will delay the final approval of your policy by several weeks.
Ladder Pros & Cons
- You can apply and be approved in minutes if no health check is required.
- The unique “laddering” feature enables you to increase or decrease the amount of coverage you have with your policy as you move forward.
- Premiums are on the lower end of the industry scale.
- Temporary coverage is available while the underwriting process is being completed (typically when a health check is required).
- Ladder employees are salaried, and noncommissioned. You won't get a sales pitch when you speak with them.
- The Refer a Friend program enables California residents to earn up to $1,000 by referring others to Ladder.
- Ladder does not offer policy riders that can be used to customize your policy.
- Only term life insurance policies are offered. If you want a permanent or cash value policy, like whole life, you'll have to work with another carrier.
- Ladder provides life insurance only, and not any other types of insurance, such as auto or homeowner's insurance.
- There's live chat for customer support, but no phone contact.
Should You Get Life Insurance with Ladder?
If you're looking for an inexpensive term life insurance policy, with fast approval, Ladder is well worth checking out. It's one of our best life insurance companies. You can complete the application process in a matter of minutes and get coverage without a medical exam if you're in good or excellent health. The premiums are among the lowest in the industry.
However, if you're over 60, or looking for a different type of life insurance (like whole or universal life); you'll need to look somewhere else. Ladder offers only term life policies; and to keep premium prices to an absolute minimum, they don't offer any type of riders to customize your policy.
They're an excellent choice if you're looking for basic life insurance coverage at a low price, and don't need any of the additional provisions that are common with most other life insurance policies.
If you'd like more information, or you'd like to sign up for an insurance policy, visit the Ladder Insurance website.