UPDATED: Mar 4, 2021

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Written By: Jeff RootReviewed By: Benji CarrUPDATED: Mar 4, 2021Fact Checked

TIAA has all of the primary life insurance products to offer from the affordability of term coverage to the pricier but more robust permanent policies.

As well as the life insurance we’ll look at today, you can take advantage of investment products and banking services, along with a broad spread of educational tools to help you with everything from estate planning to retirement planning.

From relatively humble beginnings, TIAA Life Insurance has developed into one of the nation’s primary providers for life insurance.

What is the history of TIAA life insurance?

TIAA LogoThe Teachers Insurance & Annuity Association of America (TIAA) was first named TIAA-CREF when it was founded in 1918. Now, the TIAA-CREF Life Insurance Company is usually just referred to as TIAA Life.

TIAA is a Fortune 100 company, and it’s the leading provider of financial services for cultural, medical, and governmental fields while also catering to research and academic fields.

Initially created by the Carnegie Foundation as a pension system for educators, the objective was to combine academics’ life insurance together with a guaranteed income post-retirement.

Thanks to a very conservative strategy of investment, TIAA navigated the stock market disaster of 1929 with assets intact.

After WWII, life expectancy in the US started to increase, as did inflation.

The education field saw explosive growth thanks to the GI Bill, and TIAA began investing more in equities to diversify their retirement funds.

This led to the creation of the CREF (College Retirement Equities Fund), and the full name TIAA-CREF was used from then until 2016 when it was shortened to TIAA.

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Who is TIAA today?

Despite roots in education, TIAA today offers life insurance along with a full spectrum of financial products in more than 50 countries throughout the world. You don’t have to be a teacher to qualify for a life insurance policy.

Buying 50% of a Las Vegas development with General Growth in 2013 and then acquiring Nuveen Investments followed by EverBank Financial Corp for $2.5 billion, TIAA’s acquisitions continued along with further diversification.

TIAA continued making history into 2018 by granting parental leave to both sexes, showing that progressive company values are still just as strong now as when the company was founded over 100 years ago.

Commended by Fortune Magazine and the Congressional Committee, TIAA is a safe bet if you’re looking for the most effective life insurance coverage.

TIAA is one of three US insurance groups to get the highest ratings from three of the four principal rating agencies. This is crucial since you need to know the carrier you intend to do business with is in solid financial shape.

TIAA touts an AA+ rating from A.M. Best Company and Standard and Poor’s, and an AAA from Fitch Ratings.

What products are sold by TIAA Life Insurance?

From term insurance to more comprehensive universal life policies, you can find a policy to match your requirements and your budget with TIAA. One of the reasons they continue to dominate the world in life insurance sales is because they are known for their affordable life insurance premiums.

The four broad types of life insurance offered are:

  • Term Life Insurance
  • Universal Life Insurance
  • Variable Universal Life Insurance
  • Survivorship Universal Life Insurance

What is Term Life?

Term life insurance provides death benefits only with no investment component at all. Since you won’t get cash value building up, the premiums are much lower to reflect this type of coverage. If the cost of life insurance is something you’re very worried about, this could be a great choice.

The amount of coverage you get depends on the specifics of the plan you choose. Terms range from 10 years to 30 years.

One advantage of term life coverage with TIAA is the ability to convert the policy to a permanent plan if your needs change. Instead of a traditional renewable term life plan that would allow you to just continue coverage, you can convert this policy to a permanent one.

You can make this change without needing to take another medical exam, and you won’t need to prove insurability again so any changes in your medical history will not impact your ability to continue your coverage. One issue with renewal plans is that premiums can go up.

Death benefits go to a maximum of $1 million from a baseline of $100,000. These benefits and the premiums remain level.

As a dependable way to ensure your dependents can pay off any debts and benefit from a tax-free income, TIAA’s term life coverage is affordable and also more flexible than many term policies.

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What is Universal Life?

The first of TIAA’s three permanent life insurance policies, the regular universal life coverage comes with flexible premiums making it a solid option if you’re not sure about a stable income.

Universal life coverage continues until the maximum age, which varies among life insurers. The cash value of this TIAA policy grows tax-deferred as with all universal life coverage.

As long as you stay within the guidelines of the policy, premiums can be more flexible. Just be mindful of this, as differences in expense can be hard to estimate and you must make sure you pay your premiums.

What is Variable Universal Life?

You’ll get the same benefits as universal life coverage with the variable life policy to give you complete peace of mind for your whole life.

The primary difference concerns the cash account side of coverage. With the choice of over 60 investment options, you can exercise some control in the hope of added growth.

This is obviously not guaranteed, though, so you need to be sure you can weather the risk. Most people choose to work with a financial advisor when they have this type of coverage. Especially because the death benefit is not exactly guaranteed with this type of policy, which could wreck your retirement plans, or worse, leave your family strapped with your medical expenses and other end-of-life expenses.

What is Survivorship Universal Life?

Both universal life and variable universal life with TIAA give you the option of a survivorship life insurance policy.

This is the best option if you want coverage for you and your spouse for less than the price of 2 separate policies. This is a good choice for life insurance if income replacement is less of a priority for your spouse because this policy type only pays out when both policyholders pass away. It is less popular but has a wide variety of applications if you’re just interested in taking care of your children.

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What other products can you get with TIAA?

TIAA has come a long way from its roots as the TIAA-CREF Life Insurance Company. Now, this life insurance business offers a great deal more than just your average life insurance.

You can take out a combination policy covering you for long-term care benefits along with permanent life insurance. This type of policy is valuable if you think you might need help with the price of assisted living, daycare, or hospital and nursing home expenses. You can also add other life insurance riders to help protect your family.

TIAA has a wide range of investment products, from mutual funds and annuity products to managed accounts, brokerage accounts, and education savings plans, retirement accounts, and beyond. These products can help give you a greater sense of financial security and can offset your life insurance cost by boosting your bank accounts in other ways.

You can also take advantage of credit cards and general banking services with TIAA.

Beyond these products, TIAA also delivers education on planning for retirement and investing to estate planning or general tax information.

Should you purchase a life insurance policy from TIAA?

Selecting the right individual life insurance coverage is a very personal matter.

There are so many variables that it’s not really possible to say TIAA is right for you without knowing what coverage you need and how much you can afford to pay in premiums.

As a carrier, though, TIAA is in great financial shape.

With assets totaling over $280 billion, more than 90% of which are in Investment Grade options, and substantial financial strength ratings from the major agencies, the company is also universally well-reviewed. These financial ratings provide a glimpse into the distinguished history of the TIAA-CREF Life Insurance company and provide you with peace of mind going forward that this carrier stands on solid ground and that you can trust they are going to be around to continue offering quality life insurance for years to come.

These reviews extend from policyholders to beneficiaries of TIAA policies, so if the coverage is right for your needs, you can be sure of excellent treatment and an impressive array of policies to choose from.

Another major selling point with TIAA is its full commitment to you, the customer. They have excellent customer service

With a grounding in education and a strong desire from the onset to provide affordable coverage for those who educate our children and young adults as they move into retirement, diversification has done nothing to dampen TIAA’s desire to provide first-rate customer service.

The company works to ensure that your needs are met now, and the needs of your family are served in the future.

What is the bottom line?

Having read this review and conducted your own due diligence, you might feel that TIAA offers the best life insurance for you, or you might still have questions and uncertainties.

As a life insurance brokerage, we can help match your needs with the ideal insurance carrier.

We make this happen at no cost to you, so you can enjoy impartial advice without any pressure.

Get in touch today or take advantage of our free quotes, and we can help you make the right decision.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about life insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything life insurance-related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by life insurance experts.

Jeff is a well-known speaker and expert in life insurance and financial planning. He has been featured and quoted in Nerdwallet, Bloomberg, Forbes, U.S. News & Money, USA Today, and other leading finance websites. He is a licensed life insurance agent and has helped over 3000 people secure life insurance. He is licensed in all 50 states & DC. Jeff has spoken at top insurance conferen...

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Written by Jeff Root
Licensed Life Insurance Agent Jeff Root

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 Benji Carr