The gap between how much life insurance coverage Americans need and how much they have is over $16 trillion

Even though Americans know they need life insurance, millions don’t carry a policy.

Ladder is a Silicon Valley startup that wants to close that gap.

Why are so many Americans going without crucial coverage?

According to a recent survey, 67% of Americans who don’t have life insurance say it’s because the application process is too slow or they’re confused about how to start. Another 62% say that no medical exam should be required to get life insurance, and nearly half say it should be available for purchase online.

In other words, many Americans rightly complain that getting life insurance should be easier, simpler, and faster than it is.

Ladder believes the process of applying and getting approved for life insurance just hasn’t kept up with the times.

To solve this, Ladder created a streamlined process that takes as little as five minutes from start to finish.

How does this process compare to buying insurance the traditional way? In this Ladder Life Insurance review, we’ll answer that question and more to help you learn if Ladder is right for you.

Company Overview

Ladder targets customers who want life insurance but also want to avoid the hassle of buying it the traditional way, which means a physical examination and a lot of paper forms.

The company’s online application and approval process cuts the time it takes to get a life insurance policy from weeks to potentially as little as five minutes.

Although Ladder markets itself towards uninsured millennials (who make up the bulk of the life insurance gap), its products and services are available to anyone between the ages of 20 and 60.

When you buy life insurance through LadderLife, the insurance policy itself is written by Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company (which is rated A- by A.M. Best), and its policies are reinsured by Hannover Life Reassurance Company (rated A+).

The Ladder Strategy

Ladder only offers term life insurance policies, which provide coverage for a predefined period. This is in contrast to permanent life insurance policies, which cover you until the end of your life (or age 100).

One unique benefit of Ladder is that you’re able to adjust the coverage as your life changes. This is known as “Laddering Up” and “Laddering Down.” In order to adjust upwards, you will, however, need to go through their application process again.

Life changes, and your insurance needs change with it. As a result, this feature is very beneficial.

Using my own situation as an example: I purchased my first life insurance policy ⁠— a $250,000 policy with a 30-year term length ⁠— after my wife and I bought our first home. My goal was to leave my wife with enough to pay off the mortgage and not have to worry about money in the immediate aftermath of my passing.

Five years later, when my wife was pregnant, I purchased a 20-year term policy for $1 million. We needed the additional amount of coverage because, with one child in the picture and knowing we wanted more in the future, it was no longer about just about giving my wife a bit of financial strength and breathing room if I were to pass.

Instead, I wanted her to have the option of not having to work, so that she could focus on raising our kids.

In order to buy that second policy, I needed to go through the entire process all over again — which included medical underwriting. (In other words, I had to undergo another medical exam.)

In financial planning, this strategy for purchasing life insurance in segmented stages is known as laddering — and you should be able to see where the name comes from.

Used correctly, a laddering strategy can save you money and still leave your loved ones properly protected.

What Ladder Offers

Having a flexible term life insurance policy lets you adjust your coverage up or down as you pay off your mortgage, send the kids to college, save for retirement, and achieve other financial milestones.

Terms can be for 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years.

But beyond flexible policy limits, Ladder also sets itself apart by having:

  • An approval process that’s tailored individually to each person
  • Coverage limits that can exceed $1 million (even without traditional medical underwriting)
  • A fully-online application experience

Let’s start with their application and approval process.

What’s unique about Ladder is that this process is different for everyone. Your answer to one question determines the subsequent questions and steps you need to go through.

For some people, this means avoiding a laundry list of questions that are not applicable to them. For others, it may mean additional steps needed.

Depending on your answers, the entire process can take as little as five minutes. Afterward, you’ll get an approval decision, rates, and the opportunity to purchase your policy immediately.

In other cases, the process will take longer if Ladder needs to gather additional data. This may include an at-home saliva test kit that they would send you and you mail in (more on that below) or blood work.

What Does the Buying Process Look Like?

In order to get an approved quote with Ladder, expect to tell the company about your:

  • Sex        
  • Age        
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Family medical history
  • Diagnosed medical conditions
  • Previous hospital stays/operations
  • Income
  • Children
  • Mortgage
  • Criminal convictions
  • Moving violations
  • Whether you’re a smoker
  • Whether you have a disease like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis
  • History of weight gain/loss

After this list of questions, you’ll be presented with choices of coverage amounts, term periods and suggested monthly premiums.

After choosing your preferred options, Ladder will collect your contact info and Social Security number to verify your identity. Then, you’ll be prompted for your billing information with a “best price” offer.

As soon as you click “Accept,” you’ll be billed at your “best price” offer. From then on, you’ll be covered by Ladder’s Temporary Insurance Agreement, which is valid for up to 60 days.

The Ladder Saliva Sample

Before your term life policy can begin with your final quote, you may be asked to submit a saliva sample via a “spit kit” sent to you in the mail. Keep in mind that the final price you pay and the “best price” teaser offer may differ based on the results of your saliva swab and other factors.

Why does Ladder sometimes ask for a saliva sample?

Saliva samples are most commonly used by insurers to verify your statements. For example, if you’re a smoker or drug user but you said you weren’t on the application, the saliva sample will show this.

Also, if you have a disease you didn’t disclose on your application, this may show up in the sample. Obviously, if you lie on your application and your saliva sample reveals this, you’ll be quoted a higher rate for your policy after the results are in (or denied).

According to Ladder, saliva samples are collected solely for testing and underwriting purposes. The results of the test are not shared with anyone except the lab and the Medical Information Bureau, a non-profit data center that helps insurers assess risk. All samples are destroyed after testing and any information obtained cannot be sold or transferred.

After you send in your saliva sample (if you were asked to do so) you should get your final life insurance quote offer within a few days. From start to finish, not including the “spit kit,” the entire application process takes about 15 minutes.

All customer service requests are handled via email or chat. Ladder’s customer service has earned a rating of 4.8 out of 5 (“Excellent”) based on customer reviews on Trustpilot.

Ladder Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • No medical exams (in most cases)
  • Fast application process        
  • Flexible coverage limits

Cons:

  • You’re only getting a quote from one insurance company
  • Age limitations: you must be between 20 and 60 to purchase a policy
  • Not available in New York

Ladder Life Review Summary

Online insurers like Ladder are changing life insurance for the better.

If you can get an insurance policy for a good price without having to fill out stacks of forms, wait for weeks, and undergo an exam, you’ll benefit. Combine that with the fact that you can employ a ladder insurance strategy (i.e., increase or decrease your coverage) as your life insurance needs change, and I really like what Ladder offers.

The big question then becomes: can you find a cheaper insurance policy elsewhere, even if that means you have to go through medical underwriting?

That depends on your health history. However, as advanced underwriting is still a new thing in life insurance, if I were to go this route (and I definitely would try) I would compare the price of coverage from Ladder to what you might find from insurance providers on a big comparison site like Policygenius.

The bottom line is that if you can save money while avoiding medical underwriting, that’s good news for you and it’s definitely worth going through the online life insurance application process on LadderLife.com to find out.