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  • Writer's picturePeter Mu, CFP® ChFC®


Ah 2020… Can we unplug and start over? Or maybe there will be a moment that I wake up to discover that all this has been a dream and everything has been just fine. Or maybe there won’t be. The situation we have at hand amid this pandemic may have many of us feeling uneasy. And today I received an annual report from the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, one of the four large mutual life insurer in the US, and I thought I’d start sharing with you what I read from this report and some of the resources available for you to do your own research.

This report is public information and regardless if you are a customer for the company you can find it here.

As a full disclosure, I am a licensed insurance producer and the Guardian is one of the companies I work with. Personally I own a few life insurance policies at the Guardian.

Additionally, my education and experience does not give me any advantage reading this report than you. I am not a corporate finance person. Opinions expressed here are just that, my opinions.

The first thing that came to mind is that the CEO Deanna M. Mulligan is scheduled to retire at the end of the year. This was in the plan when in 2011 she started. The board has already picked the successor and the company will be making an announcement soon. Deanna is retiring at the age of 56. Thats remarkable in today’s environment. If i have a chance I’d ask her what is her secret for success to be able to retire this young and how she plan to spend her time now.

From the condensed financial report the first thing that got my attention was the nearly $1B in dividend paid to the policy holders! Wow! I remember when I first started working with the Guardian it was about $500-600 million annually. It’s great to see how they’ve grown over the years.

It is also encouraging to see that compares to 2018 the company has grown it total assets from $58B to $62B and that the growth has come in all areas of the business. Net income for the company also grew in 2019 to $549 million fro $310 million in 2018.

When it comes to life insurance companies their ratings are a good indicator of their financial strength. All the life insurers are rated by major rating agencies like Moody’s, A.M.Best, S&P and Fitch.

Guardian’s rating is relatively high in the ranks of all possible ratings and are comparable to its competitors.

Each company uses a slightly different rating system to report their interpretation of how a company’s financial strength is and how likely they are to meet their financial obligations. These information can be used by creditors to evaluate the pricing for Guardian’s bond.

According to S&P, the definition of AAA and AA are as the following:


An obligation rated 'AAA' has the highest rating assigned by S&P Global Ratings. The obligor's capacity to meet its financial commitments on the obligation is extremely strong.


An obligation rated 'AA' differs from the highest-rated obligations only to a small degree. The obligor's capacity to meet its financial commitments on the obligation is very strong.

You can subscribe to S&P Global Ratings System and search for Guardian and read their detailed reports here.

The Comdex ranking really is not a rating. It is an average of all the different ratings from different agencies. This ranking compares one life insurance company to all the companies that are in the ranks. A score of 99 means that the Guardian’s score is higher than 99% of all the companies. publishes a list of 555 life insurance companies ranked by Comdex here.

Now I want to emphasize that the rating and ranking alone do tell the full story and there are issues with using these measures. For one, the rating systems are all very complex and confusing. What makes it worst is that a A- rating for one firm, like S&P, is actually the 7th best rating after AAA, AA+, AA, AA-, A+. At Weiss the same 7th rating would be a C+.

At the end of the day picking a good insurance company means to have the peace of mind that the company is going to come through for you many decades in the future at a time that may be most trying for your family. Many low cost insurance company may offer attractive rates but it may not reduce your worries. I’ve discovered something new in the research of this article and I’ll be writing my experience with the Genworth Life Insurance company in another article shortly.

In conclusion, I think the Guardian is doing well. I feel confident in the personal policies I have with them and I would continue to do business with them.

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