AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company Review

Since 1859, AXA Equitable has been providing financial protection to families and businesses through insurance and annuities. Formerly ‘The Equitable’, the company now has just over half a $1 Trillion in assets under management.

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Financial Ratings for AXA Equitable

The financial rating agencies put AXA Equitable near the middle or below other companies rated. Standard & Poor’s has given them an ‘AA-‘or ‘stable’ rating as of March 2010.Moody’s concurs and has also given them a ‘stable’ rating of ‘Aa3’, placing them near the middle of the companies rated in 2009. Fitch has a less optimistic view of AXA Equitable and has given them a ‘negative’ overall rating for financial strength. The ‘AA-‘rating was given in March 2009.

Term Series from AXA Equitable

Level premium term is available in terms of one, ten, fifteen, and twenty years. AXA also offers an annual renewable term (or ART) which includes a unique guaranteed ‘maximum’ premium.Term policies can be converted to permanent insurance policies without the need for medical or blood tests. This is a great way to preserve insurability and begin accumulating cash value in a permanent policy.AXA Equitable offers a full complement of riders for most of their term policies. They even offer a Living Benefit Rider at no added premium to help finance the expenses of a terminal illness. Other riders may add to the premiums the cost of the customized benefit.

Still Offering a Whole Life Policy

While some insurance companies are opting not to offer them, AXA Equitable still offers one whole life policy, the Interest Sensitive Whole Life policy. Premiums are guaranteed level for life and the policy is designed to mature to face amount at age one hundred. Policy owners have access to the cash value through loans and withdrawals. A policy owner can tailor the policy to their specific needs with a number of riders, which may have additional costs.

Universal Life Insurance Options

AXA Equitable currently offers two iterations of universal life, the Athena Universal Life Policy and the Athena Survivorship Universal Life III Policy. Both versions offer flexibility and potentially lower premiums when compared to whole life insurance. The Athena UL is a flexible premium policy that offers lifetime protection. The policy has a build in No lapse Guarantee Rider to protect against funding issues or unforeseen problems.

The Athena Survivorship Universal Life III insures two lives, providing a death benefit to beneficiaries after the second insured passes. Death benefits for such policies are generally used to help pay estate taxes and settlement costs. Both policies offer flexibility with the premium schedule as opposed to policies that offer an adjustability of the death benefit or amount of insurance. This solidifies the protection provided by the insurance policy, leaving no uncertainty for the family as long as premiums are paid. Premiums can reduce over time as performance in the cash value could be better than expected.

Variable Universal Life Choices

AXA Equitable currently offers two variable universal life policies, the Incentive life Optimizer and the Survivorship Incentive Life Legacy. These policies offer the same premium flexibility but with variable investments and the added element of market risk. The investment options within both policies are good. AXA Equitable offers a range of well known money managers and fund families which include proprietary funds. They also offer institutional options and portfolios from fixed/conservative to aggressive growth.

The market performance can influence the premiums to maintain the policy. This can either help or hurt policy owners depending on the movement of the selected investments. AXA Equitable does offer an optional downside protection; read on for more on the rider available for customers with lower risk tolerance.

Unique and Notable Features, Riders, and Policies

Both UL’s and VUL’s offered from AXA Equitable include a unique option for the death benefit. Policy owners can choose a variable death benefit which is equal to the face amount plus the policy account value.AXA Equitable VUL policies offer an innovative ‘Market Stabilizer Option’. This option puts in place a growth cap and a floor for downside protection. This is an expensive option, adding a charge of 1.40% to the annual costs of the policy and investment expenses. However, this option can reduce direct market risk and provide peace of mind to policy owners.

Unique to AXA is a ‘Variable Whole Life Policy’, a variant on whole life insurance. The premium is fixed and the insurance is permanent, however the cash value and death benefit will fluctuate with the cash value of the selected investment options. This is essentially an adjustable death benefit VUL with a different name.

Summary for AXA Equitable

Overall the company has a nice selection of policy choices, riders, and some notable unique offerings. However, the financial ratings of the company are not among industry leaders. Stable and negative ratings from the leading rating agencies raise some questions about the direction of the company and their financial strength and stability.

An additional concern comes with the fixed securities within their bond portfolios, which support the fixed accounts and non-variable universal life policies. The security portfolio also gets below average ratings, which could mean they are pursuing higher rates to attract business – taking on more risk in the process.

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