If you watch any TV whatsoever, the odds are really good that you’ve seen a Colonial Penn Life Insurance commercial.
You may not recall most of what was promised, nevertheless, you’ve probably seen their commercial and probably on multiple occasions.
Alex Trebek is the face of the company and has been for decades. We certainly believe that Alex Trebek is an honest man, but what he doesn’t say about Colonial Penn’s insurance products needs to be discussed.
In this article, we plan to expose the pros and cons of Colonial Penn Life Insurance and deliver an honest review.
Here are the topics we believe are most important:
About Colonial Penn
Colonial Penn has been offering life insurance to individuals and families for over six decades. They have used well-recognized celebrities like Ed McMahon and Alex Trebek who seem to be able to connect with seniors, the primary target for television commercials.
Colonial Penn was the first life insurer to offer Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance which is the primary source of the company’s revenue.
Colonial Penn eventually released its “easy-issue” term product and offers traditional whole life insurance as well. But make no mistake, the company is enormously successful because of the Guaranteed Acceptance product which requires no medical underwriting.
What Sets Colonial Penn apart from the Others
While most life insurance companies do offer products designed for the burial insurance for seniors market, Colonial Penn built its company on the senior market.
While other carriers typically offer six or more insurance products, Colonial Penn offers only three.
- Guaranteed Acceptance Whole Life Insurance
- Traditional Whole Life Insurance
- Renewable Term Life Insurance
The company continues to stay away from Universal Life, Indexed Universal Life, Variable Universal Life, and the many other types of Whole Life and stays laser-focused on the three listed above.
Although Colonial Penn could easily stand tall on their own, they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of CNO Financial and a sister company to Bankers Life. Like most companies, they use a separate insurance entity to underwrite products in New York.
Colonial Penn’s Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance
As we mentioned earlier, the Guaranteed Acceptance product is the bread and butter in the company’s minuscule life insurance portfolio, and for good reason.
It’s also obvious that the Guaranteed Acceptance policy is the money-maker for Colonial Penn because if you visit their website it’s in your face the moment the page opens and you’ll never hear about their other products unless you speak with an agent.
In fact, this is the first image you’ll be presented with when you visit their website:
While this product is heavily advertised on TV, Alex Trebek, the company’s spokesman rarely gets into the weeds or discusses the nitty-gritty nuances about the product. He does, however, stress the highlights that Colonial Penn believes seniors want to hear.
The advertising strives to make an emotional connection with the viewing audience and once they do, the phones start ringing. Here’s what Alex wants you to know:
- You cannot be turned down for coverage because of health issues
- There is no medical exam required and there are no health questions on the application
- The Colonial Penn “Rate Lock” guarantees that your premiums will never go up
- Anyone between the ages of 50 and 85 will qualify for coverage
Certainly, it’s understandable that Alex doesn’t mention the waiting period attached to every policy where the company will not pay the full death benefit if you die is because of natural causes.
He also doesn’t mention that the $9.95 per month price is for coverage that will fall well short of covering even a cremation. You might notice, however, if you look very closely and can read at the speed of sound, there are product disclaimers at the bottom of your screen.Here is the disclaimer that every viewer should take notice of:
MEDICAL EXAM REQUIREMENTS
You cannot be turned down because of your health. We can guarantee acceptance because of a two-year limited benefit period. This is permanent, whole life insurance with no health questions asked and no physical to take.
It’s important to understand that if you purchase this type of policy and die in the first two years for any reason that is not considered an accident, your beneficiary will not get the full death benefit that you signed up and paid good money for.
The beneficiary will instead receive the sum of premiums paid to the company plus an additional 7% (most carriers pay 10%).
This means if your $10,000 burial insurance policy is costing you $75 a month and you die from a stroke in the 15th month, your beneficiary would receive $1203.75 instead of the $10,000 death benefit. Good luck paying for a funeral with $1203.75.
Although guaranteed issue life insurance is a great solution for applicants with serious or multiple health issues, it should only be considered as a last resort.
Colonial Penn sells Life Insurance by the Unit | What is a Unit?
Have you ever priced life insurance either online or from an agent by the unit? What does that mean? It would make a little more sense if they priced their policy by thousands; you know, like $10 per thousand per month.
You could figure your premium in your head instead of having to learn calculus. If your cost is $10 per thousand, and you want $10,000, your premium is $100. Simple, right?
How Much Is A Unit Of Colonial Penn Life Insurance?
According to the folks at Colonial Penn, a unit of insurance is based on the age of the applicant, and, by the way, the most you can purchase depends on your age.
Colonial Penn Life Insurance Online Quoting
If you visit with Colonial Penn online, the first thing you’ll be presented with is Alex Trebek and a video that talks about the miracle of Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance.
Alex gives you the highlights we list above and hammers home that you can buy life insurance without a medical exam for as little as $9.95 per month.
He doesn’t say how much life insurance you get for $9.95 which means you must use their quoting system to find out. The good news is (according to the website) you can apply for coverage in minutes so let’s get started!
Most online quote forms only require your date of birth, gender, and face amount but Colonial Penn needs much more to calculate your quote and then reveal what a UNIT is.
Congratulations if you’re still reading this. The eagle has landed so let’s have a look. This quote is for a 60-year-old male living in Georgia. According to Colonial Penn’s technology, our hypothetical prospect can purchase 12 units of coverage which provides a death benefit of $14,568 for a low monthly payment of only $119.40.
If we do a little math here, we can calculate that a unit is equal to $1,214 (coverage divided by premium).
That’s doesn’t seem too bad for a person who might have lung cancer and can’t get coverage elsewhere, but remember, you have to live a minimum of two years before your beneficiary can collect that $14,568.
On the other hand, if you get hit by a bus and die, your beneficiary will get the full death benefit because the plan will pay the full benefit from day one if you die resulting from an accident.
How Colonial Penn Life Insurance compare with Other Companies
We mentioned earlier in this review that there are other insurance companies that offer guaranteed issue life insurance so let’s compare them with Colonial Penn using the same assumptions we did for Colonial’s quote:
Remember: The death benefit is $14,568 and the applicant is 60-years-old.
|Insurance Company||Monthly Payment|
|Colonial Penn Life Insurance||$119.40|
|AIG – American General Life||$91.11|
|Gerber Life Insurance||$92.66|
|Great Western Life Insurance||$108.53|
Comparison Take Away:
- Colonial Penn charges more than the other 3 companies
- Colonial Penn’s maximum death benefit for a 60-year-old male is $14,568
- The other three carriers offer a death benefit up to $25,000
- Consumers will not save any money when they bypass the agent
Colonial Penn’s Claims about Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance
Insurance companies take liberties from time to time when making product claims. This may be because they are fairly certain that consumers are unaware of insurance products in general.
It’s also doubtful that anyone other than a competitor will actually care much about the liberties they take. But, in our humble opinion, the truth is the truth. Here’s a few examples where we believe they are misleading consumers:
Colonial Penn’s Guaranteed Acceptance Policy comes with a Rate-Lock
Okay, what they’re saying here is that once the policy is issued, Colonial Penn will never increase your rate.
That makes sense because the Guaranteed Acceptance product is whole life insurance and every whole life policy, once issued, has the same price forever.
It’s the nature of the product, not something that separates Colonial Penn from any other life insurance company.
With Guaranteed Acceptance, No One Can be Turned Down
Well, that sounds amazing if it wasn’t for the fact that guaranteed issue whole life insurance (guaranteed acceptance) never takes health conditions into consideration.
This non-medical underwriting is why the policies cost so much and you have to wait two years to be covered for death from natural causes.
Since only a handful of companies offer this product, there probably isn’t a lot of profit in it or these few life insurance companies are just smarter than the rest.
You can take some comfort here because insurance giants like AIG and Gerber offer guaranteed issue life insurance as well.
How Much Insurance Do You Get From Colonial Penn For $9.95 A Month
Seniors (Colonial Penn’s target market) aren’t that naive to believe they can buy a life insurance policy for $9.95 a month and they are correct, they can’t.
The $9.95 rate is for one unit Colonial Penn of coverage. How much life insurance is a “unit”? You won’t know unless you call for a quote or go online for one because the amount of insurance in a “unit” is based on your age, gender, and the state you reside in.
Colonial Penn does it backward so consumers will think that age doesn’t matter. The $9.95 price per unit doesn’t change, only the size of the “unit” changes. It’s not only misleading, this pricing scheme is confusing and kind of secretive because you really can’t compare Colonial Penn’s rates with other company’s unless you approach an agent that doesn’t represent Colonial Penn.
To give you an idea of how the Colonial Penn rate system works, we’ve done some work to show you. Remember, instead of your rate going up, the amount of insurance you get goes down.
Certainly, most people understand that life insurance costs more the older you are when you apply but the problem here is that Alex Trebek is offering guaranteed life insurance that will pay for a funeral and burial for $9.95 (at least that’s how many people hear it) and nothing could be further from the truth.And, by the way, an average funeral and burial cost about $10,000 so basically none of the policies listed above would mitigate the risk except for the 50-year-old female’s policy.
Colonial Penn vs. other companies offering Guaranteed Acceptance
The tables below demonstrate how Colonial Penn competes in the senior market with other highly-rated carriers that offer guaranteed acceptance (guaranteed issue) burial insurance policies.
Male Smoker & Non-Smoker
Face amounts change because of the way Colonial Penn uses Units for rating rather than coverage amounts.
Notice: The minimum amount of coverage for Gerber, AIG, and Great Western is $5,000.
Female Smoker & Non-Smoker
Face amounts change because of the way Colonial Penn uses Units for rating rather than coverage amounts.
Notice: The minimum amount of coverage for Gerber, AIG, and Great Western is $5,000.
The final expense and burial insurance policies offered by Gerber, AIG, and Great Western require no medical exams, blood or urine tests, and health conditions that are not considered during the underwriting process. Virtually any person from 50 to 85 who is alive can get life insurance.
The Pros and Cons of Colonial Penn Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance
- Guaranteed issue life insurance coverage
- No health questions or medical exam required
- Available for consumers up to 85-years-old
- Simple purchase process – online, over the phone, or mail-in application
- A-rated insurance company
- Guaranteed death benefit
- Guaranteed level premium
- Non-cancelable by the company
- Flexible payment options
- Cash value life insurance
- Higher rates compared to underwritten policies
- 2-year waiting period for a death-from-natural-causes death benefit
- Maximum coverage amounts reduced for older consumers
- Only available from age 50 through 85
- Cannot purchase through an independent insurance agent
- Cannot be serviced by an independent insurance agent
- Death benefit cannot be delivered by an independent insurance agent
Each year, life insurance companies publish the number of in-force policies they have on their books. When this policy count is totaled and compared with American households, we find that only 43 percent of Americans have life insurance of any kind.
Although every person knows they will eventually die and although every person knows that it will cost someone to pay for their burial or cremation, 43 out of 100 people are not insured.
We should understand that there are a variety of reasons why people do not purchase life insurance, even if they feel they should.
- Life insurance is not a top priority for many adults. Most adults are concerned primarily with paying the mortgage or rent, the car payment, and feeding their family if they have one. Life insurance is way down the list of priority needs, especially for young adults.
- Single adults are not as concerned as married adults about what will happen to surviving loved ones when they die.
- Families who are struggling financially and living paycheck to paycheck do not place a priority on life insurance.
- Many working adults obtain life insurance through their employer and do not understand that in most cases, the policy will cancel if and when they leave the employer.
- Older adults may have cashed in policies for a financial emergency and have not re-applied for coverage.
- Many Americans have health issues that they feel will prevent them from getting coverage.
Certainly, there are other reasons not listed here why an adult has not purchased and does not carry life insurance, but we are going to look primarily at those adults who feel they will not qualify for coverage.
These are adults who may have applied for coverage and were either substantially rated up or declined a life insurance policy based on health issues or other reasons such as alcohol and drug abuse or a dangerous occupation.
The Bottom Life for Colonial Penn’s Guaranteed Acceptance Plan
While guaranteed issue life insurance is certainly a needed insurance product in the marketplace, purchasing directly from an insurance carrier and not having the advice and support of an experienced and reputable agent may put the policyholder at a disadvantage.
While circumventing the agent distribution system would save the insurance carrier the commissions normally paid to the agent, Colonial Penn’s rates do not reflect that they are passing on this savings to the consumer.
When a consumer takes advantage of an insurance professional’s experience and advice, their insurance rates are no more than if they purchased directly from the insurer. Since most independent agents represent multiple insurance companies, it’s logical that the consumer would better off shopping in one place with many carriers, than to approach each carrier on an individual basis.
Go with an Independent Insurance agent to see all the plans available to you. 844-528-8688
Colonial Penn Traditional Whole Life Insurance
Their traditional whole life product is a straightforward life insurance policy without the marketing gimmicks used to push their Guaranteed Acceptance plan.
We use the term “traditional” when discussing whole life insurance because this product has been around since “Moby Dick was a minnow” and most people are fairly familiar with the guarantees and benefits found in traditional whole life insurance products.
Unlike universal life, indexed universal life, and variable life insurance, most people can actually understand the statement of values for a whole life policy when it comes in the mail every year.
Since the interest paid is guaranteed by the insurance company, there are typically no projections or warning notices involved other than the status of any loans you may have taken against the cash value.
There are 3 Guaranteed Components with every Whole Life Policy
1. Once your policy has been issued, the insurance company cannot cancel the policy for any reason other than non-payment of premiums. You can cancel it but they cannot. Even if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness must live the remainder of your life in a hospice facility, the insurance company cannot cancel your policy as long as the premiums are paid.
2. Once your policy has been issued, the insurance company cannot raise your premium for any reason whatsoever. The premium that is due on the first month after your policy is issued will be the same each and every month. It cannot be increased because of your age and it cannot be increased because of your health. It is, what it is.
3. Your whole life policy will build cash value over time and earn a guaranteed interest rate that is tax-deferred. The minimum interest that will be paid on the cash value account will be stated in the policy contract and cannot be reduced. Additionally, the money in your cash-value account can be accessed via policy loans or withdrawals. These funds are not considered income and therefore can be taken tax-free. Yes, you do pay a small amount of interest but you can pay your loan back in any manner you choose. There is no credit check involved and you can access your cash value for any reason. It’s your money!
Right about now, you might be wondering that since traditional whole life insurance is such a great product, why Colonial Penn doesn’t push it like they push the Guaranteed Acceptance product? The answer is one simple word – Money. The Guaranteed Acceptance product is the company’s bread and butter when it comes to profits and therefore the Guaranteed Acceptance policy will always get the lion’s share of the advertising budget.
If Colonial Penn’s Whole Life is so Great, Why aren’t Consumers Demanding It?
It’s all about the underwriting. In what appears (we have no proof) to be an underwriting process that is extremely difficult for most consumers (especially seniors) if they are trying to get burial insurance when they have some pre-existing conditions.
Colonial Penn will decline an application for many reasons that other companies will not.
They medically underwrite every whole life application by asking a considerable amount of health questions and go back further than most companies for information.
In other words, when Colonial Penn asks you if you’ve ever experienced a heart attack, they go back three years while most other insurers only go back one or two.
This extended “look back” they employ makes it much more difficult to get medically approved for their traditional whole life insurance.
Like every other life insurance company, they will also order a Prescription Drug report to verify or uncover medications that you might have left off the application.
What’s important to know here is that if a drug has been prescribed for you by a physician, the underwriter will assume you are actually taking that drug even if you’re not.
Here is a table of Drugs and Conditions that will cause a Decline with Colonial Penn. If you answer “yes” for any of these drugs or conditions, you will automatically be offered a Guaranteed Acceptance Plan:
The problem here is that many of these medical issues are perfectly fine with other highly-rated insurance companies.
In fact, most companies that target the senior market have liberal underwriting standards because they assume seniors will generally have health issues.
Remember this? “If you answer “yes” for any of these drugs or conditions, you will automatically be offered a Guaranteed Acceptance Plan”
Do not accept the Guaranteed Acceptance plan unless and until you have contacted us 844-528-8688. Doing so is like throwing hard-earned money right out the window, and you might qualify for level first day funeral insurance coverage with no waiting period at a much lower rate.
And, even if you end up having to purchase guaranteed issue life insurance, Colonial Penn’s product is overpriced compare to other carriers like AIG or Gerber unless you fit in a very tiny age and gender group.
While we’re at it, let’s have a look at Colonial Penn’s whole life insurance vs. the other guys.
Colonial Penn Whole Life vs Other Popular Highly-Rated Insurers:
Male Non-Smoker $10,000
As you can see by the rate chart above, Colonial Penn is very competitive for applicants between 50 and 55-years-old. However, applicants who are 60 or older will do much better with one of the alternative companies listed.
Moreover, if you are 76 or older, Colonial Penn does not offer traditional whole life insurance.
Female Non-Smoker $10,000
Here again, Colonial Penn comes out of the gate being very competitive for 50 and 55-year-olds but once you turn 60 there are many other companies out there that offer lower rates and are much easier to qualify for.
Although we used $10,000 as a comparison policy, it’s important to note that the maximum death benefit available with Colonial Penn’s whole life product is only $50,000 which is far lower than what other highly-rated national carriers offer.
With a $50,000 cap on the death benefit, the Colonial Penn Whole Life product is not adequate for many of the risks consumers need to mitigate and the policy will never build enough cash value to be considered much of an asset.
Most consumers who are not in the market for final expense insurance will typically consider whole life insurance for financial risks and opportunities such as:
- Tax-preferred retirement planning
- Income replacement
- College funding
- Be your owner Banker concept
- Financial Legacy to heirs or a favorite charity
Qualifying for Colonial Penn Whole Life Insurance
Earlier, we mentioned that purchasing traditional whole life insurance from Colonial Penn might be difficult because of the company’s ultra-conservative medical underwriting.
Here are two questions on their application that would ordinarily knock most seniors out of getting a whole life insurance policy from Colonial Penn:
Are you currently, or have you within the past year used a wheelchair, used oxygen, been confined to a hospital or nursing facility, received or receiving home health care, or been disabled due to an illness?
Have you been advised by a member of the medical profession to have surgery that has not yet been performed or testing that has not been completed, ever had an organ transplant, or are you currently undergoing an evaluation or diagnostic testing for symptoms of an illness?
These two questions alone would typically be answered in the affirmative by many seniors and would likely result in a decline or a table rating that most would find affordable.
So then, we have to ask, why is it important to have very competitive rates for a small segment of prospective customers when in reality, a large portion of applicants will likely not qualify for the best rates in the first place?
Colonial Penn Term Life Insurance
It’s important that consumers understand Colonial Penn’s term life insurance product. The company’s term life insurance is not a level product that is readily available from a multitude of highly-rated insurance companies. Rather, it is a five-year renewable term policy.
This means that the monthly premium is not the same throughout the term of the policy like with other term products most consumers are familiar with.
Although the underwriting does not require a medical exam, the rates being charged are much higher than other highly-rated term providers.
But, the real problem with Colonial Penn’s term product is the maximum available death benefit. It is only $50,000!
Why Most People Purchase Term Insurance
Since term life insurance offers temporary coverage, the risk that is being covered should be temporary as well. Typical reasons to purchase term are:
- To provide replacement income during the family formation years. Since term insurance is so affordable, a young breadwinner can afford the face amount that would be needed to cover expenses for surviving loved well into the future.
- To leave a paid-for home for surviving loved ones (mortgage protection insurance).
- Leave a financial legacy for heirs or a favorite charity.
- Leave the funds needed to continue a retirement plan for a spouse or partner.
- Leave enough money for college tuition for children.
All of the reasons that an individual would purchase term life insurance are temporary but the problem with Colonial Penn’s term policy is that the company doesn’t offer a death benefit sufficient to cover the needs listed.
For example, if the primary breadwinner wanted to cover the needs listed above, the face amount required would likely amount to $750,000 or more and yet, Colonial Penn’s term policy is capped at $50,000.
That just doesn’t make sense. Could it be that the company is offering term life insurance in an attempt to attract consumers looking to purchase inexpensive term insurance but hoping to sell them a Guaranteed Acceptance policy?
Colonial Penn Term Insurance Underwriting
Most insurance carriers have pretty strict underwriting guidelines for their term policies. This makes sense since the premiums are so low.
Insurance companies need to turn a profit on their products so it makes sense that underwriters need to insure healthy people.
But, Colonial Penn’s term insurance product comes with extremely conservative underwriting guidelines. Even though they don’t require a medical exam, many applicants are declined for coverage for health conditions that other companies are willing to accept.
In fact, when you apply for term insurance with Colonial Penn, all of the medical conditions that knock you out of obtaining coverage under their whole life policy will also knock you out of getting covered under their term policy.
Again, we have to ask the question: Does Colonial Penn really want to sell any product other than Guaranteed Acceptance whole life insurance?
Colonial Penn’s Term Insurance Rates compared with Other National Carriers
The rate chart below compares Colonial Penn Term Life Insurance rates with other highly-rated carriers that offer level term insurance rather than 5-year renewable term insurance.
Here are the actual rates for a $50,000 Term Policy for a Female Non-Smoker when purchased at age 51 compared to other carriers over a 20-year period of coverage:
Female with Standard Rating – No Medical Exam
It’s evident that the rates for a 20-year level term policy from other national carriers are substantially less than the rates for a 5-year renewable term policy from Colonial Penn.
Why would any informed person purchase a term policy from Colonial Penn if they qualified for a level term policy from companies like Sagicor, Foresters, or Mutual of Omaha?
Male with Standard Rating – No Medical Exam
Once again you have to wonder why would any informed person purchase a term policy from Colonial Penn if they qualified for a level term policy from companies like Sagicor, Foresters, or American Amicable?
Finally, it’s certainly worth noting that when you begin your search for term life insurance at Colonial Penn, you’ll get term insurance rates from one company. That’s it, only one.
If, on the other hand, you begin your search for term life insurance with My Burial Insurance Plan, an independent insurance broker that represents multiple highly-rated insurance companies, you’ll get term insurance rates and options from the top-rated life insurers out there.
Colonial Penn’s List of Renewable Term Life Insurance Highlights
It’s always a good idea to read and understand the highlights of any product when shopping for life insurance. The highlights provide a “macro” view of the product and allow you to make a quick decision on going forward with a quote.
Here are the highlights provided by Colonial Penn along with our comments (if any) on each particular detail:
“Here, it’s important to point out that they don’t mention your medical history when this will determine if a policy will even be offered”
“Never forget the old saying: “the devil is in the details.” Notice the maximum death benefit for Colonial Penn’s term insurance is only $50,000”
“This is interesting. They mention cash value MAY be available to borrow against but then fail to mention that term life insurance DOES NOT have a cash value component”
Optional Riders to add Living Benefits
We were pleased to discover that Colonial Penn’s Term Life Policy can be enhanced by adding Living Benefits (commonly called Accelerated Death Benefit) that allows the insured to get up to 50% of the death benefit if they are diagnosed with a heart attack or stroke, cancer, or covered chronic illness.
Unfortunately, each of these optional coverages costs an additional $17.67 per month for a 50-year old male but many insurance companies offer the chronic illness rider at no additional cost.
Accidental Death Benefit Rider
Colonial Penn offers an accidental death benefit rider that can broaden your death benefit in the event you die as a result of a covered accident. The additional charge is based on the additional benefit:
- $10,000 ($1.80)
- $20,000 ($3.60)
- $30,000 ($5.40)
- $40,000 ($7.20)
- $50,000 ($9.00)
“Certainly, this is a good thing, however, every life insurance policy comes with a 30-day free look period”
The Bottom Line
It’s amazing to me as an experienced life insurance broker, that Colonial Penn, a company that offers products with below-average value can sell so many policies in such a competitive marketplace. The bottom line is: they just do. They do pay a price in the long-run, however… see below:
It certainly appears Colonial Penn receives its fair share of complaints from dissatisfied policyholders and beneficiaries. You visit the BBB website where Colonial Penn has been given an A+ rating and yet there are pages and pages of complaints listed on the website.
It appears to us that as long as the company responds to a complaint, the BBB assigns it a “resolved” status. Kind of reminds me of the IRS.
Why not take a little time and see how Colonial Penn stacks up against other highly-rated final expense companies: