Life Insurance

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions & Advice Related Pages

2010 - 2013 Recommendations

Life insurance broker needed

June 2013

Can anyone recommend a life insurance broker? Preferably in Contra Costa County if at all possible. As part of my divorce, I am going to be taking out a term life insurance policy on my soon-to-be ex- husband as security for support. I would like to be able to talk to a broker about the process for taking out life insurance on someone else, get me the best deal possible, and also assess my own current policy to see if I can save any money there as well. Thanks!

I had a good experience with Life Insurance Broker Carla-Jean Barker. She's independent, local, and very personable. 800.608.7278 . BerkeleyDad

Taking out life insurance on my ex

May 2013

My husband and I are divorcing. Long story short, I will be paying for a 20-year term life insurance policy on him with me as the beneficiary. I need to get some quotes. He is ready to do whatever medical exam is necessary. I found and was wondering if anyone has used that or something similar. The information on the BPN website is somewhat old, so I wanted to request more recent recommendations. Any other suggestions for finding the most affordable policy would be most welcome. Thanks!

you are very smart to get a policy on your ex-husband - you are the owner and you pay the premiums. Very smart to do this. Many women do not know you can do this. I pay $48.00 a month for a $150,000 policy on my ex husband. We started when he was 48 - I think it has a 20 year term. Regardless, the kids are grown and raised now so it fulfilled its purpose - giving me more financial stability during the time my kids were dependent. Yes, I do think he had to have a physical, that's no big deal either. divorced mom

Life insurance for new parents

March 2013

Does anyone have a recommendation for a good life insurance broker who can recommend some options for life insurance policies for parents of two young children?

My insurance agent is Sharon Wright and I cannot rave enough about her. I purchased my life insurance policy with her about 3 years ago, and every year, she contacts me to make sure that my policy still fits my needs. I find her to be quite bright, extremely thorough, and not 'salesy' at all. I have referred her to several colleagues and they have all been very happy with her as well. Her number is 510 388-2211. Angie M.
Put your mind at ease and contact Sharon Wright. She is a smart and savvy adviser for all things life insurance but more important to me as a mother with two young children is her warmth and consistent service. As a mother and business owner I am busy, very busy. Sharon amazes me with her patient, honest, and kind demeanor. The perfect combination for someone like me who doesn't have the time to deal with paperwork and who needs a little mothering of my own. I recommend her highly. Sharon Wright (510) 388-2211 sharoniswright [at] Laura
You should contact Alex Huynh. He works for NY Life but from my understanding he can broker any product. He is a great guy to know and I give out his name to EVERYBODY I care about. As a father of 3 young kids, he has set me and my wife up with a very customized and diversified life insurance portfolio. His integrity and analytic skills are a hard combination to beat and he isn't too ''salesy.'' Here's his information... Alexander Huynh New York Life Phone: 415.393.6014 ahuynh [at] Jackson L.
I highly recommend Alex Huynh at New York Life. He is thoroughly knowledgeable, backed by an outstanding company and a fun, kind person as well: ahuynh [at] 510-508-0127 Ellen
HI, this is a reply to the posting by belindasf [at]; looking for a life insurance broker. I can VERY HIGHLY recommend Berit Suba. She is a financial planner who also has her insurance licenses . Berit is not one of the people who pitch expensive products that parents don't need , but she recommends life insurance that make sense for YOUR families specific needs. I can't stress enough how great she is! Here is Berits contact info: Berit Suba, MBA, CFP\xc3\x82\xc2\xae Financial Advisor Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM Tel 415-395-2432 berit.suba [at] SFmom

Life Insurance for mom with Type II diabetes

Dec 2012

I'm a middle aged mom with type II diabetes, an eight year old daughter and a stay at home husband. I haven't had any luck with finding life insurance. Any guidance advice on who to call/what you did would be greatly appreciated. Old diabetic mom

Talk to Alex Huynh at New York Life Insurance Company. He has given me exceptional service and I've been spreading his number to all my friends because you shouldn't have life insurance with anybody else. In your case, I know for a fact that Alex is connected with somebody in Oakland that helps people with Diabetes get life insurance. Alex can be reached at 510-508-0127 Best of luck. Randy T.
Hi, I don't know anything about trying to get life insurance in your situation, but I know that using an independent insurance broker *saved* my family when we had to switch from our group health plan to individual health insurance. we stated trying to do it ourselves online, but ran into too many confusing things. I talked with two women, neither of whom could take my business because I was moving to a state where they weren't licensed. Even though there was nothing in it for them, they went above and beyond trying to help me understand my options and the first even spoke to an insurance company WITH me on the phone to clarify something I didn't understand about the switch. Both of them said they could help me with my Life Insurance needs once we got settled into our new home, and I'm about to call because we've been needing to get me covered as the stay at home parent of our two babies. Denise Lombard is in Oakland, (510) 530-8086 (found her on yelp) Susan Polk in San Luis Obispo 805-544-6454, hope this helps... fan of the independent insurance broker

Life insurance companies (do you love yours?)

Nov 2012

Hi, have checked archives but have seen mostly recommendations for insurance brokers. We are looking for life insurance for two (one breadwinner and one SAHM who works PT occasionally) and would like to choose the specific company, if possible. Over the years, we will be paying a fair amount of money to this company and once you sign up, you are sort've locked in. These are our hopes:
1. The company is professional, responds in a timely and efficient manner, courteous, compassionate, and fair. If one or both of us dies, we do not want survivors to have to fight for a claim.
2. The company treats their workers well.
3. The company invests in socially conscious, cruelty-free things and perhaps even helps out the community! They do not have to be strictly not-for-profit, but hey, that'd be a bonus.
4. Seems like they will be around a while.
5. Would be okay with a history of cancer in my partner's family (one brother died at age 40) and undiagnosed auto-immune disease in me (asymptomatic for years, never needed meds)
Any leads? Please don't laugh (at least not in my face) if I'm asking for something unrealistic. I'm already discouraged!
We have no military ties so we are not eligible for USAA.
We have had our renter's insurance from Amica and have heard good things about them (and they give you a small refund if they don't pay out many claims!), but not anything about life, and lately they may not be as ''mom and pop'' as they used to be (based on online reviews I've seen).
We also have TIAA-CREF for our retirement funds from past jobs and have been happy with them but as with Amica, I've never filed a claim so don't know how they are if you actually ask for money!
We would also be interested in any specific feedback on your experience with them, if any.
Thank you very much in advance. Love this list. So many minds and hearts working together. Wanting to be able to live with our life insurer

Hi. I hope this message finds you well. I have recently found a hardworking life insurance agent. He responds quickly to my massive amount of questions. His name is Alex Huynh and lives in Piedmont. 1) He works for New York Life Insurance Company. NY Life has been dominating life insurance for the past few years because people have flocked toward quality due to the economic turmoil. NY Life is the highest rated life insurance company out there based on it's financial strength. New York Life has integrity, just look at the thousands of stories from current and past clients. They have an awesome free rider in my policy that if both of us die, we beneficiaries get extra death benefit because they would assume we would exercise this rider that Alex would be happy to talk about.
2) I'm not sure how well Alex is treated there, but he chose them over about 10 other financial institutions.
3) I just found out that New York Life donated about a million dollars for the Superstorm Sandy relief.
4) NY Life will be around for awhile. They have the highest financial ratings possible, unlike Met Life, Mass Mutual, State Farm, etc. They've been around for over 100 years and are a mutual company which is one of the most important things when it comes to insurance companies.
5) I have no idea about NY Life in that regard.
I really like the company structure that Alex has outlined for me. He is a life insurance specialist but his role is service and has a lot of awesome people working with him, for example I set up a meeting with a long-term care insurance specialist after talking to Alex for HOURS on it.
Overall, I love Alex and what he has done for me, my family and a few of my friends that I have gone out of my way to refer Alex because of his rare combo of analytic and people skills. Alex Huynh 510-508-0127 ahuynh [at] Best, Randy
Hi there, To clarify, some USAA services including life insurance *are* now available to individuals who aren't affiliated with the military (''Our investment products, most checking and savings products, credit cards, life insurance, and shopping and discounts are available to other individuals.'')
Why Join USAA -- Other Individuals:
I've used USAA for more than 20 years because of the consistently courteous, prompt, and accurate service. I don't know about life insurance as I'm insured through my employer, but USAA has always had the best coverage and rates for renters & auto insurance as well as credit cards. My husband switched his auto insurance from Amica to USAA because our combined rate was so much more economical.
You might want to give them another look... More Than A Number
If you are considering life insurance you have to consider Northwestern Mutual. They are one of the last mutual companies (kind of like a co-op) and have consistently had the strongest financial ratings. Also, their agents can look at other companies products if need be just like a broker. However, only their agents can sell their products \xc3\x82\xe2\x80\x93 brokers do not have access to them. I have been completely satisfied with Matt Wakefield and actively recommend him to my family and friends. Matt researched other companies too and gave me a handful of options to choose from. You can reach him at 415-733-6595 and matthew.wakefield [at] Leia

Recommendation for Life Insurance for over 50

Nov 2012

HI, Does anyone recommend a Life Insurance Company or Rep for a couple over 50 years old? Thank you Emma

We're over 50 and got our Life Insurance through an agent, Judith Breakstone 510- 276-2800. She's located in Emeryville and is also over 50 so she knows what that's about. We're very happy with her. rf

Looking for Life Insurance Specialist

Sept 2012

I had a financial advisor in NYC that I am no longer working with. I wanted to ask the BPN you guys knew a good life insurance specialist in the bay area to review my policy. I'm not sure if what I have makes sense for my current situation. I'm pretty positive I am under-insured like most Americans, but I just want an honest opinion. Things have changed quite a bit since moving to California. I have taken control of my finances but insurance is something I obviously cannot do personally. I currently have a policy from ING. I am positive I need more, since I have 2 kids and another on the way. I will have insurance through my new work, but I have been told that it is not portable like my last job. I want a life insurance specialist from a mutual company. I want somebody who will care about me and keep a relationship with my family. Does anybody currently have a good relationship with a Life insurance agent or specialist? -Randy

I just bought life insurance from Larry Davidman, a life insurance broker who represents a variety of different companies. I thought he did a great job of finding the best policy for me. His phone number is 866-226-0363 and his web site is www.TermWorks.Com Anon
I can recommend Steve Robinson; I have been working with Steve for 25 years. He is based in San Ramon, but comes to my home for appointments. I have purchased both life and long term care policies through Steve. He represents a variety of insurance companies. 925-277-7515/ 925- 277-7500. Insured customer
Because life insurance is an investment, it can often be an expensive thing to purchase, especially if you purchase it later in life. I would check out,* which offers a few recommendations that will help consumers get the coverage they need at an affordable rate. One way of going about this is purchasing only the amount that is needed. Sometimes it is better to seek out a company with real agents that can help you get the right amount. I use Allstate ( To encourage customers to buy, insurers will often offer discounts. Ask them about it and try to look for any advertised discounts, as you may be able to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in coverage for a fraction of the cost. =)

Policy holders can determine the amount of coverage they need by looking at the factors that establish what their standard of living is, the California Department of Insurance suggests. This includes determining what outstanding debts and assets one has, how much savings they have accumulated and what sources of income they will have after their death. I hope this helps. Has anyone had better experiences getting quotes online than in-person? *according to on April 2, 2012 Laura

Life insurance for parent of two teens

Jan 2011

I just realized that I don't have life insurance-not good since I am a full custody single parent to two teenagers! I don't have the time or energy to research firms/prices/etc so am hoping someone out there has recently done this and found the best deal around! thanks! better late than never

Wendy McLaughlin is great. she studied $ because she had so many friends who did not have a clue of how to handle their money. My partner has life insurance with her, we have long term insurance and some investments with her. She is a mother of two and I have known her over 40 years. Everyone I have sent to her is happy with her. McLaughlin wendymclaughlin [at] She will come and visit you! Meet her and see what you think. write her and tell her what your situation is and what you are looking for. Best Judy

Have a new baby, looking at life insurance

Jan 2010

Hi- We're looking at buying a house in the next year, and between that and having a baby last year, we really need better life insurance than what we have through work. I'm not quite sure where to begin looking. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks.

Larry Davidman ( has a BPN connection as a father of Berkeley Public School kids and husband of beloved music teacher Kristen Brooks-Davidman (my daughter is one of her students). When I was laid off, Larry explained life insurance to me in a very non-oily way (I used to think of insurance sales people and used-car sales people as cut from the same cloth, apologies to all sales people but this reflects my prejudices more than it represents reality), then shopped my application (which he gave me guidance on filling out)around. He received a quote for me that he thought was too high and KEPT ON LOOKING and found a better deal! Termworks is his own independent company. No pressure, no slick presentation--hooray for Larry. Sally
I highly recommend Tammy Plotkin-Oren at TPO Financial and Insurance Services. She specializes in helping new families understand and select the right insurance plans and is great to work with. Tammy makes the whole experience easy and stress free. You can reach her at tammy [at] or (510) 601-3362 Liz
we just went through that process. had better rates than others we contacted and they were pretty easy to work with. good luck!
I highly recommend Greg Guardiano in Lafayette. He won't try to sell you just whatever, he'll educate you so you know what you're getting. His number is 925-254-7100. -Anon

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Seeking Life Insurance Broker or Agent

March 2009

After reading some of the postings about life insurance, I thought I should look into it again. We have tried in the past to get life insurance, but my husband got rejected by one company because of a pre-existing condition. I was hoping to find an insurance broker or agent that is trusted and can provide some good advice for our situation. Someone near the Walnut Creek area would be preferred - or someone who is willing to meet at our house is even better. Anon

I highly recommend our insurance agent, Henry Lutzky 510-652-5200. He will meet at your home. He's based in Oakland--you'll have to ask him whether he'll go to the Walnut Creek area. He has been our agent for both life insurance and health insurance for over 20 years, under differing circumstances. He sells a wide variety of products from a wide variety of companies and has the software to search the best rate for your needs. Francesca
We LOVE our agent, Scott Santos. He is with Nourse Insurance Brokers in Walnut Creek. He has saved us and many friends/family members a lot on all kinds of insurance. Best thing is that he is a real stand-up guy. Please give him a try. 925-935-0545. Tell him I sent you! Ellen
I made this recommendation last week, but in case you missed it, I highly recommend Arnie Sarkar at Northwestern Mutual in Walnut Creek. His number is (925) 296-5152 or arnie.sarkar [at] He is very experienced and highly trustworthy. Ariel
Hi - We used Sarah Tolson in Danville. She came to our house and was really easy to work with. We highly recommend her. Sarah Tolson CA Insurance License #0F43069 Blomberg & Tolson Financial Planning and Insurance Services 4155 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Suite 220 Danville, CA 94506 Work: (925) 736-3024 / Fax: (925) 736-3026 Cell: (925) 519-4460 a
I highly recommend Sue Breedlove of Breedlove Insurance. She is located in Orinda and will also come to your house. She is a broker so has access to many different insurance companies and can come up with a plan that will meet your needs and will be cost effective. You can contact her at 925.254.6262 or email at sue [at] Her web address is marika
Yes, Life Insurance is good to have and I know a great broker, Michael Baron (415.391.4920 or mbaron [at] He is wonderful, thorough and smart. He works in San Francisco, but will make house or work visits, so it's very convenient. Michael helped us get Life, Auto, and Home Insurance at much better rates then we were paying for the same or better coverage. . . and there is no broker fee, so even better! Do call or email him, he will guide you through the entire process. Good Luck! jill
March 2009

I'm interested in getting recommendations for a life insurance agent in the Oakland/Berkeley area and who is working for a single insurance company (if there is such an agent...) Preferably, someone who has worked/is working with single parents. Parent

Try Carmen. She is great and was a great help to me in getting a policy. She is also a CFP and helped me a great deal in sorting out college plans etc... ccheung [at] mathew
If I understood you correctly, I recommend you NOT look for someone representing a single insurance company (i.e., a ''captive''). Your best bet is to look for someone who brokers many different insurance companies rather than someone who represents a single insurance company - there's just no way to know which insurance company will have the best product for the best rates for YOUR situation (i.e., your age, amount and type of coverage needed, goals, etc.).
Larry Davidman at larrydavidman [at], 510-848-6444, is the person I recommend. His wife Kristin is the flute/recorder teacher for a few of the Berkeley public school after-school programs which is how we know the family. When I was laid off and lost my employer-provided life insurance Larry found me my current life insurance. I know he was good at getting me the best rate because the first insurance company gave me an offer that Larry felt was too high so he put in even more time to find one that was cheaper, which he did. Sally
March 2007

With the recent arrival of our first baby, we've decided to get life insurance. The most recent archive recommendations are from 2002. Does anyone have any more recent recommendations for where to buy life insurance. Any other sage advice on this topic much appreciated. Thanks! Signed: how much is my life worth?

We work with Harold Jamison, who works on his own. We really like and trust him. It's so easy - he'll drop off/mail information to you, and the medical exam takes place at your home. 510.233.9690.
Gregg Brown of G.F. Brown Insurance, 510-524-8812, is where I go for all of my insurance needs. He is an independent broker. So, he can shop around to find you the policy that best meets your needs at the best price. Every time I go to him I end up saving money! Also, if you own your home, and/or have a good amount of assets, you might want to think about a trust. It is an investment, but it would save your beneficiaries quite a bit avoiding probate. I went to Richard Lee, 510-272-0200. I know I feel much better having life insurance and a trust. Your passing is not a pleasant thing to think about, but there is comfort in knowing the ones you love will be taken care of. Julie P
I recently found Cathy Gran with State Farm Insurance on Solano in Albany (1639 Solano just a bit down from Tangerine) to be very knowlegeable and just an incredible sweet person overall. Her phone number is (510) 527-6011. I feel really good about the type of life insurance I bought with her after she explained the options. Good luck to you! Ann Ray
Definitely talk with Phuoc Khong of State Farm Insurance. He is so knowlegeable about all aspects of insurance and has become a very good friend as well. His phone is 527-2000, or email him at phuoc.khong [at] David

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Incredibly nosy life insurance questions!

Dec 2005

I think I know the answer to this but I just want to check. We are currently applying for life insurance. We've been asked more questions up the wazoo, they're checking all our medical records, and being really picky about little details. It makes me uncomfortable both for privacy reasons (someone could quit and make an awful good living selling identities!) and just because it's personal stuff. I'm sure this is the underwriting business, but I just wanted to check if others had this experience. Also, I am currently a stay at home mom but I plan to go back to work soon. We asked for $600,000 for each of us, based on our age, our earning potential, and our mortgage. They want to give me only $400k because I'm not working. Have others had this experience? Thanks. trying to be responsible

Sounds like my experience too! Wait until they make you pee in a cup. They will also take blood for an HIV test. Never thought to worry about identity theft; seems unlikely. Our agent (actually a financial planner) recommended I carry a much smaller policy than my husband, since he makes three times the income. That seemed reasonable to us. Sometimes you hear that SAHMs need no life insurance at all, which is incorrect. If you want more coverage, go for it, but you might prefer to save the premiums. N.
I spoke with my father who works in insurance and he said that, while the personal questions sound normal, it surprised him that you weren't able to get the amount you wanted. He said that there are usually ways to make a case for an amount that is higher than what people might otherwise qualify for. He would be happy to chat with you about your situation - even if you decide to buy insurance from the agent you're currently working with. His name is Neil Weinstein and his number is 510- 567-9770 x115 Best of luck to you. Amy

What kind of insurance should we get?

June 2005

My husband and I have been without life insurance for the past two years and after a scare with a friend decided we needed to get some again. We used to have it thru my husband's work but don't know where to start looking now. I did check out the website but most recommendations were over two years old. It seems most folks recommend term life insurance. I would be interested in any recommendations for types of policies, agents, or companies. Thanks!
Looking for some security

I just wanted to put in another plug for my insurance agent, Kai Langenberg. I wrote a recommendation that is archived on the website: He is great. I am not financially savvy at all and he was very patient with me, helping me to understand my options (term vs. whole, for example) and what would work better for our family. I still highly recommend him: Kai Langenberg, M.B.A. Insurance & Financial Services Specialist FARMERS INSURANCE GROUP Langenberg Insurance & Financial Services 1401 Derby Street Berkeley CA 94702 Bus: (510) 649-1322 Fax: (510) 217-6640 kai at License # 0D96872 Laurel C
If you want the highest amount of life insurance for the least amount of premiums, then I would go with term. Because you want the greatest protection in case of the death of a spouse. In our case, I work, while my wife is a stay-at-home mom, so most of our life insurance is on me. All other forms of life insurance are of the ''investment'' type. Compared to other safe investments (CDs, bond funds, etc), life insurance as an investment is more expensive and provides lousy returns. Shop around for the best rates. Anon
The reason so many people mention term life insurance is that it's cheap - but not necessarily the best out there. You can get a quick overview of the types of insurance from the Insurance Information Institute ( - click on the ''life'' button on the left and then scroll down to the ''Types of Policies'' section); they're a nonprofit organization that isn't affiliated with any particular insurer, so they offer objective and impartial information. That will allow you to choose the type of insurance that will work best for your family.

Once you're ready to buy, though, you couldn't do any better than to contact Daun Pullem (bdpullem [at] She's thoughtful, intelligent, understanding, and absolutely thorough. You can call her, too (559-994-6101), but don't be put off by the area code! She drives up here regularly, so there's no problem with wherever you're actually located. Kathleen Hunt

I am a financial planner and life insurance agent with New York Life. As with most financial issues, each person's situation is unique and so the right type of insurance plan must be crafted for each person. Since life is so expensive in the Bay Area, most of my clients purchase term life insurance (20 year term) or a combination of term and permanent insurance. It depends on the goal of the insurance plan (to protect family while children are still in the house v. a long term retirement plan). I'd be happy to talk to you about your situation and provide you with recommendations. Thanks Tammy
Jay Fischer is a brilliant, patient and excellent Life Insurance/Long Term Care Agent. He has an amazing ability to match his clients with the policy best suited for their needs. Jay has an extensive background in finance as well which really helps when planning for long term care or for purchasing a life insurance policy. He is extremely trustworthy, and easy to talk with. I am sure you will really like working with Jay. His phone number is 925-487-3253. Anon
I have recently acquired a term life insurance policy. I went onto this website first to get some comparison quotes: You plug in some basic information, and they give you quotes. I went to it several times, and a few times after answering the questions, I got a message saying to contact an agent. I did not, but instead just logged off and tried it again later, and I would often get the quotes again. I decided to go with a 30 year term policy because it is cheaper, and I figured in 30 years I won't need it anymore, as it is mostly for my children and they will be grown by then.
My husband and I recently purchased life insurance from a New York Life agent, Tammy Plotkin-Oren. Tammy was extremely helpful in explaining the differences between whole and term life insurance, and in suggesting appropriate policies for us. She is very knowledgeable about many aspects of life insurance and financial planning, and she spent a lot of time patiently answering all of our questions. She is also a personal friend, so I can vouch for her integrity and her professionalism. I highly recommend calling Tammy for a consultation, at 510-601-3362. Karen L
For the person looking for life insurance. My husband and I are both self- employed and have had to rely on outside life, disability and health insurance policies. Tom and Tom Fleming (father and son team) have been doing this work for many years and we have used them for 20 + years, as needed. They really know the business and have been very easy to work with. They are personable and non- intrusive. They initially looked for the best match(es) for our needs and then call us periodically when something else is available that would be better and less expensive. They were helpful with the sometimes overwhelming amount of paperwork that it takes to get these things going. We met with them once (they came to our office) at the beginning and maybe another once or twice and we have been able to take care of any other needs (not often) by phone. They are professional, experienced, respectful and not at all pushy. Their phone number is (925)891-3000. We use them for our life insurance, disability policies and individual health insurance policies. HBS
We were happy with Fast, easy, and competitive coverage. Helena

Seeking a Life Insurance Broker

May 2005

My partner and I are looking for a Life Insurance Broker. Someone who does not work for a specific insurance company (i.e. Allstate, State Farm), but a broker who can offer us clear advice about the type of life insurance that would be best for us and then be able to ''shop'' different policies and companies to find us the best price. r

I'd highly recommend our insurance broker, Jo Ann Givin. My husband and I had very different requirements and health issues when we purchased life insurance, and she found the best policies for each of us. She is located in Marin but will travel to your home at no charge (we live in the east bay). Her phone# is: 415-897-2808.
I work for the state department of insurance so I cannot recommend a specific broker but I do want to tell you to be sure that you ask that the broker disclose their commission. Brokers will advertise that they work for you however they will often place with the company that pays the highest commission to them. Given that you are paying the broker to find you the best deal, be sure to have the broker show you the other estimates anonymous

Life Insurance with diabetes?

Feb 2005

My husband and I each have life insurance through our jobs but we are trying to get supplemental life insurance as well. I have a pre-existing condition (Type I diabetes that is in excellent control) and have looked into term as well as the group plans that our universities offer the alumni. The problem is the term is extremely expensive because of the diabetes (and when you are in your 30s, paying that much seems crazy!) and the group plans are giving me a hard time for the coverage without even seeing my records or my condition. Does anyone know how to get coverage or what I can do with this chronic illness? It is so wrong that the insurance companies judge me without talking to me and it is really just to benefit our child. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks looking for life insurance

Medical underwriting criteria for all life insurance carriers is different. Empire General seems to have the most liberal guidelines for folks with diabetes (both Type I & II) that is under good control, i.e., A1C 6.6. If you are not familiar with what your glycohemoglobin number is, then call your doctor before checking on a quote. Call Selectquote. They are an independent broker based in San Francisco. You can either call them directly or submit a request via the internet for an accurate quote. Banner Life is also good in this area. colin
I also have type I diabetes that is well controlled (with a pump), but was denied for my partner's life insurance through her job. I don't ha! ve any answers for you, but I share your frustration. Good luck. mel
I also have well-managed Type I diabetes and am in my 30s. My husband and I decided to get life insurance when we had our twins last year. I had previously been turned down from supplemental plans offered by my employer, so we knew my diabetes would be an issue. (They really don't care how healthy you are or how well you manage it!) We worked with a SelectQuote insurance broker who could guide us to a plan that would accept me. They would offer my husband a 30 year term, but I could only get a 10. If I am still healthy when it comes time for renewal, I should have an easy time of it. This was really the only way to go. If you want the specific name of the person at SelectQuote we dealt with, feel free to email me. minda
I have several clients with Diabetes who have qualified for term as well as permanent insurance. Depending on your use of insulin, height, weight and general health will depend on what insurance companies to approch. Neil

Recommend a life insurance broker?

Aug 2004

Can anyone recommend a life insurance broker? I'd like to have a number of offers from different companies compared to chose the most appropriate for me. Julia

I saw the question about a life insurance broker in today's Berkeley Parents newsletter and have a recommendation: Tom McManus, insurance broker Tel: (925) 830 - 0630 th3rd [at] My husband and I have two children (3 1/2 and four months) and recently decided it was time to get serious about life insurance. After some asking around, and attempted avoidance of sharks, we called an insurance broker who had been recommended to us. Tom met with us at our house and we were favorably impressed. He asked questions that helped us determine the kind of life insurance plan, payments, etc. that is a good fit for us. - Renate
We used Cal Grad Matt Davies at 510-452-0458 He works for an independent insurance brokerage: Sitzmann Morris & Lavis (located in downtown Oakland). He ran a screen of the entire Life Insurance market, all alternatives, even pointing out a USAA option available to us (where I don't think he would have been paid) -- he found us something more affordable than USAA that fit our budget and our need for coverage. He and his firm made the process very easy and provided great service (house call when needed!). Matt is a great guy and there was no 'hard sell'. I think the website is MATTHEW J. DAVIES SITZMANN MORRIS & LAVIS, INC. ONE KAISER PLAZA, SUITE 1101 OAKLAND, CA 94612 510.452.0458 x 1230 -Kristine & Brian

Term Life Insurance - Amica?

July 2004

We would like to purchase term life insurance (archives are quite dated) and are considering Amica. 1. Is Amica a good choice? We have them for auto insurance. 2. Do you have other suggestions? 3. We have a 2.5 yr old and three-month-old. We're considering $500K per parent for 20 yrs. (Our employment coverage is really small, whatever the default is with UC). We don't have a house - yet! Does this sound realistic? Thanks so much. EAnnis

Are you aware that UC also offers supplemental life insurance? That's probably cheaper than anything separate. I (34 year old female) am currently paying a bit more than 11$ a month for a coverage corresponding to 4 times my annual salary (annual salary about 85k$). anon please
I just went through the search for term insurance and it was a tough decision for my family. 500k amount sounds reasonable and unless you cannot purchase it through the school at the subsidized rate. Term life insurance can get expensive depending on how much you want, what your age is, what health you're in, whether you smoke, whether your parents died young, etc. The rate that companies initially quote you is based on what they think your health category is, and just be forewarned that it can easily be double the initial rate (usually they quote the best category to get you the cheapest quote).

Also, what do you want the life insurance money to do for you? Do you just want to cover expenses if your spouse should pass away, do you want to pay for your child's college tuition, or pay off the mortgage on the house and then some? There are lots of questions to ask in regards to how much insurance to get. I met some very smarmy life insurance sales guys who want to sell you as much insurance as you can afford, and this may not be the right approach so becareful who you go with in terms of sales persons.

If you are a part of a society, you may be able to get cheaper insurance.

Just make sure that which ever insurance company you choose to go with has high ratings by standard and poor's, and the other major insurance rater (I can't remember the name).

Goodluck, Sandra

2003 & Earlier

Seeking a life insurance broker

Aug 2003

Just had a baby, and neither my husband or I have life insurance provided by work. Does anyone know of an honest/reputable insurance broker for term life insurance? Also, how much life insurance should one generally get? Anything else i should consider? (I noticed that the existing postings on life insurance are old and some of the referred agents are no longer there.) sandy

I highly recommend Eric Tyson's advice about life insurance. He makes his case in ''Personal Finance for Dummies'' (ignore the name!) but also has a more extensive book, ''Life Insurance for Dummies.'' We went with Select Quote Insurance Services and were very satisfied. Ellen
MyersStevens 415-543-4040. They provide a myriad of insurance services and should eb able to help you. Of course, as the daughter of a State Farm agent I should put in a plug for them. My husband and I have our life insurance through them. You may also want to check your work or your husbands as many companies offer a life insurance program. Good luck. Juliette
We love our life insurance agent. He is VERY knowledgeable about insurance AND financial decisions (helped us with our daughter's college savings plan too). He also loves CAL grads :-) (Either he or his children went to CAL... can't remember now.) He never pushes us, but calls once a year or so just to say hello and see if we have questions. Rex Takahashi with Prudential - 925-355-3060 x6213. Jaime

Life insurance for the difficult to insure

June 2003

I've requested advice on a life insurance situation on the advice digest, but also would like a recommendation. Can anyone suggest where to get guaranteed or simplified life insurance for someone who has been told they are uninsurable? An agent or company you've worked with? I've done a google search, but it's both overwhelming and hard to tell who's reputable. Thanks. Anon

Try Myers Stevens at 415-543-4040. They are a very good insurance broker who have been around for 25 years.I use them for health, life, vision and dental. They also do continuing care. Juliette

Insurance company says my husband is uninsurable

June 2003

My husband and I recently did some financial planning, at the end of which, we each applied for additional life insurance. My husband had previously been denied insurance because of some unusually high readings on his blood test related to liver function. We thought not too much of it because he had not fasted the day of the tests and when he went to the doctor, they seemed unconcerned. Additionally, he doesn't smoke, drink much, and he is rather slim. He doesn't fit the profile of someone with these kind of test results and the doctors seemed rather puzzled how this could have happened. They suggested he not drink for awhile and see if they got better, which they seemed to do.

We figured the next insurance tests would be fine. Well, they were better, but the insurance company again said he was uninsurable because of his blood tests. Our insurance agent suggested that we apply for any insurance available without medical testing (guaranteed life), even though it's expensive and we won't get as much coverage as we need. The only suggestion the gastro- enterologist has is to get a biopsy and see if there is a problem.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to approach this? The situation is becoming rather stressful because we need the insurance. The doctors say that you can have these high readings and still be healthy and a biopsy might confirm that. But this seems rather extreme and not that helpful on the insurance situation. We're not averse to non-western approaches. Some of suggested herbal and acupuncture. Any ideas on the health or insurance? Anon

My husband and I faced a similar issue when we tried to get life insurance following the birth of our first child. We found the cost for him to be very high due to health reasons (none of which should result in an early death). What we decided to do was to put the premium amount away in a college fund (or some savings plan) each month. That way, even though there was a costly expenditure each month, we'd get to keep the money versus the insurance company getting all of it over the next 20 years. This plan seemed to make the most sense since life insurance is typically set up to cover the cost of either schooling for children or the mortgage on the house. Good Luck Catherine
My husband experienced the same thing when applying for life insurance. I freaked out, because I thought the high liver enzymes were a sign of liver cancer (which they can be, but not at the relatively low levels my husband had. He also is not a smoker or a big drinker.) His MD referred him to a specialist, who ran some tests and re-discovered Gilberts Syndrome, previously diagnosed when my husband was a child but forgotten about. From what I remember and in layman's terms, it simply reveals a healthy person with higher liver enzymes than big deal. The specialist then wrote a letter to our insurance agent explaining the Gilberts Syndrome and my husband was subsequently approved.

Don't get me started on my intense dislike of insurance companies because of this experience (not to mention our highly inflated private health insurance, due to a plantar wart on my husband's foot). I hope this helps, and good luck. If you want the name of the insurance agent who dealt with our liver enzyme issue (who is a great guy, despite my negative attitude towards insurance companies), let the moderator know and she can send me your e-mail address. Been there

We need a bunch of insurance

Dec 2002

We need a bunch of insurance. Our building is insured for hazards, but we need homeowner's insurance for the contents. (We've recently inherited a bunch of stuff worth insuring.) Since we just had a child, we need two term life insurance policies (we're healthy and in our mid-30's, is it better to get 10 year policies and renew them? or a 20 or 30 year policy?). And since I'm now working freelance, I need some disability insurance. I've heard that if you group your policies through a carrier, the rates can be lower, so I'd like to do that as much as possible (as well as for administrative ease). I have car insurance, but would be willing to move the policy if the pricing worked out. Sadly, we don't qualify for USAA. Should I try Reliaquote or Selectquote? They don't seem to handle all of our needs, would it be worth it to do each policy separately through them? No one seems to offer disability...? I've checked the website, but didn't see anything about grouping policies and how to arrange it all through one place. Any advice and/or recommendations would be appreciated! Thanks!! Jenna

It is not possible to bundle all types of insurance. Usually you get the best break for bundling home and auto and an umbrella policy. Life is usually separate.

We have used RWM (Bob Moody) for life and liked him quite a bit. That said, our friends have had a rether negative experience with him, so it is hard to know what to say about that. He's in Orinda. I found him over the web.

We like Christ, Elliott, and Machette for property insurance. Bill Linville is our agent. He's great. Good luck to you! Elisabeth

I don't know anything about insurance, but a former graduate student of mine, who is an excellent problem solver, and whose integrity I have no doubts about, recently went into insurance brokering. I'm sure she'd be happy to advise you. Her name is Paria Mahani, and you can reach her by e-mailing pmahani AT sreilly
My husband and I bought term life insurance through Select Quote Insurance Services. They only use A++ (superior) to A (excellent) rated companies (you can do your own homework after they come back with a quote). We worked with Brian Van Valin out of the San Francisco office at 1-800-436-7000,

Select Quote came back with a list of 3-4 term life insurance quotes that were significantly lower than what we were quoted from our insurance agent at State Farm (we were trying to keep things simple too). They say to take out enough term insurance to take care of your debt at the time of your death, unless you want to leave extra to your family. (So if your house will be paid off in 15 years, do you really need a policy past 15 years?) Rates are supposedly the lowest they have been in years, so take advantage of this if you think that you will continue to need life insurance in 20-30 years.

Self-employed people can apply for and purchase elective coverage disability insurance through the state of CA and the EED. For more info see, Kathleen

I don't know the answers to your specific questions, but can highly recommend an agent who would be happy to answer your questions. His name is Harpreet ''Harry'' Chadha and he's a rep for New York Life. What I especially like about Harry is that he listens to your desires and makes recommendations based on what you want, not what will get him a higher commission. His phone number is 510-624-4140. R. Low
My wife brought this post to my attention. I don't want this to sound self-serving, but I may be able to at least act as a sounding board for what you are looking for, specifically for Life and Disability insurance. It really is hard to say what kind or how much life insurance you would need without knowing more about your situation. Lastly, it very important to check the credit ratings of the insurance company that you finally select to make sure they are sound financially.
Feb 2002

hello, I am looking to sign up for life insurance. I checked the website but the recommendations are a couple of years old. if you have a good insurance person I would very much appreciate your recommendation. thank you! gael

I did a fairly thorough comparison of cost for life insurance policies. AAA came out way ahead. Here are some tricks to keep in mind:

* a single policy for a husband and wife couple is cheaper. One person is added as a rider.

* other riders in case you cant pay etc add unreasonable costs.

* Pay a lump sum each year and costs are further dramatically reduced

* try to get super preferred / preferred rates.

My insurance agent was Conrado Bongco. He is absolutely meticulous. Extremely timely. Very polite. Great at getting back to you on time. Just never missed a beat and did everything he could to get us the lowest possible rate:
3060 Hilltop Mall Road Richmond, CA 94806-1920 (925) 671-2708 x 308 cell: (925) 550-2340
Let him know I sent you! Peter

I have had excellent service from Helena
Recommend Carlon Cagle, (also CPA and investment/financial advisor) for insurance. PH: 510/428-0442, Piedmont area. Susan
Regarding your life insurance needs, I feel we take your entire survivor needs into account. I work for Waddell & Reed, and what we do is first take your needs into account (what you would like to see happen if something happened to you today). We then analyze the assets you can use for these goals and then come up with an insurance need (if any). You and I then figure out what is the best and most cost effective solution for you (term vs. permanent vs. a mix of both). Since we work with over 15 top-rated insurance companies, we find the carrier that is right for you, your situation and your family. If you would like to talk further, please let us know. Vincent Galindo pvgdad AT yahoo DOT com

Is Term Life Insurance Better?

Nov 1999

I've done a quick look into term life insurance. As a university employee, the employee-paid life insurance is cheaper than what I can get outside, but only until I reach 40 (only 3 years away for me). After age 40, the rates for UC employee-paid life insurance increase substantially, and continue to do so after each 5 years. Seems like I'm better off dropping my university coverage (employee-paid), and going for a 20-year term policy (20 years since I have a newborn), where the rates won't increase. Plus, with rates possibly going up this year (Regulation Triple-X), seems like I should do this now, rather than wait until I'm 40. Has anybody else looked into this? Is there a flaw in my logic?

Yes, you are right. Term life insurance is a much better deal than any other type of life insurance (we bought whole life and are keeping it just because we paid so much already, but it is really a rip-off - you get so little coverage for so much money!). So, we bought a term policy for 20 years. Now that the new law is going into effect at the end of the year, we are upping the policy (rates actually went DOWN), and adding 10 years, for a 30 year policy. The rates are very reasonable. We went through an agent, who shopped the rates of all carriers. My rate was lower with a different company than my husband's because he is a man and is older. We used Cave and Cheney (800) 774-1084 and they have been helpful and polite (they're in the South somewhere). The medical tech to test our blood and do a mini exam came to our home at 8:00 am at our request. Good luck.
I believe your decision is correct. You can get much less expensive life insurance to replace the university employee-paid policy, where the cost jumps as you get older. It looks like it's a good idea to act before the new year, though I've read that some companies may attempt their way around the new Triple X regulations to keep rates low. I am also making the switch from the university policy.
I haven't looked into the UC insurance but am currently trying to purchase term insurance outside UC. I've been told and have read in a couple of places that term rates are the lowest that they've ever been and that they are expected to increase January 1 by as much as 50%! If you apply now and get the application process started, I believe you can lock in the current rate. I searched a few places on the net and came up with a site called ReliaQuote ( You can plug in some info and get instant quotes from a variety of companies and then decide whether to proceed. If you proceed, you can start the application process over the phone with ReliaQuote, who also helps schedule the home visit for the blood and urine tests. Process takes about 6+ weeks. They will also shop your policy around and help you get the best deal.
You are on the right track. I think that coverage for 20 years is quite realistic with a new baby. And, with the price hikes due in January, now is the time. Researching and comparing and testing takes time, so start now. An agent that was referred to me by my wonderful new mom's group leader, Sherry Reinhardt, worked out very well. The agent's name is Anjeli Singh. She is a Northwestern Mutual agent who also represents other companies. She came to our house, discussed everything, and suggested Northwestern just because they are a very well respected company. The big plus, however, is that the term policies are convertible to whole - which isn't necessary for us as any money we'd like to invest, we would certainly do elsewhere and not through a whole life policy that pays closer to a savings account than any other investment. So, we had her policies through her less expensive agencies. It was helpful to have her working for us though, as my husband's family has a history of cancer, and she was great in pushing our case and getting him coverage. For me, I have no problems and had her just get me a policy through a less expensive company - she still did all the legwork, etc. Her number is 925-296-5159. Regardless of who you call, or if you go on the web to the myriad of sites for life insurance, it is a very good idea, in my humble opinion, to have the 20 year policy and get it now to save $ in the long run.
There's one factor to consider if you purchase the UC insurance: What will happen if you leave university employment? My understanding (though I don^Rt know for sure) is that your policy would be cancelled. Then you're faced with the prospect of purchasing new insurance when you're older (and theoretically, when the policies are more expensive).

New York Life or Equitable Agent?

October 2001

Can anyone recommend a life insurance agent for New York Life or Equitable in the east bay? I can't seem to find anyone in the archives that represent these companies. Thanks. eric

We have found the most personable, conscientous and professional agent that is locally based. After a frustrating experience with a small-time broker in San Ramon we decided to go with a larger company that had local representation. Her name is Susan Strahan, an agent for Allstate. She's located on College Ave. (above Barclay's Pub). Her number 510.450.9050 Good luck- Jason

Experience with

July 2001

Has anyone had any recent experiences (good or bad) in shopping and/or purchasing term life insurance through I checked the website, but the recommendation for them was made in 1999...I'm interested in hearing more recent info about them. Also, is it typical for insurance brokers or companies to provide the medical staff (arranged through them) to conduct the pre-application medical exam, rather than having one use his or her own doctor? Any info would be appreciated. clarisse

Yes, I have had good experiences buying life insurance through Select Quote. I bought insurance through them several years ago and now we are in the process of increasing our coverage (now that our family has increased). It is taking longer this time (a couple of months) to get the whole process finished because we have been slow to respond to follow up questionnaires and to schedule tests. I am not sure if it is because we are tripling our coverage or if it is because we are now older, but this time they required an EKG from my husband and two follow up questionnaires. But they make it very convenient for you and come to your home or office for the blood tests, EKG, blood pressure readings, etc. They have also asked my husband's doctor for records. Good luck and congrats on making this step to protect your family. Helena

Reasonably priced life insurance?

Oct 1999

Can anyone recommend an insurance company/broker who offers reasonably priced life insurance? Thanks.

We've been pretty happy with 800-963-8688.

They are a broker of TERM Life policies and will happily provide you with quotes from hundreds of companies. Typically, you call them, give them your zip code, age, whether you smoke or not, and other brief medical details, as well as the kind of policy you wish: amount of coverage, years, etc., and they then mail you quotes from say the top ten policies that fit your situation.

Both my wife and I have policies through them, and when I have compared the rates with other brokerages, or with organizations I belong to, their rates have always been the lowest.

As you might already know, what is often perceived as more difficult than finding a low rate and a reputable company is determining what insurance you need: term life, whole life, convertible, etc. Most personal finance books (Dummies Guide, etc., ) recommend pure and plainly: fixed term life for say 10-30 years. The amount you would pay for whole or for convertible is best used separately investing and not being given to an insurance agency to invest for you.

We got our insurance through Preferred Quotes in Palo Alto 800.333.3750. They are independent and carry a number of different lines. But do not get attatched to any set broker. Brokers and indeed insurers are pretty fungible these days. There is an excellent article in Forbes on buying life insurance; it is at Once you are there, click on the table for a list of web sites for independent insurance brokers. Then you can shop online.
We bought term life insurance through an independent insurance broker, Henry Lutzky, 652-5200. He is an agent for many different companies; the companies he's recommended all are highly rated. The rates he has gotten us have been better than those through our professional society. He also sells other types of life insurance and health insurance. I find him to be an honest and decent broker to work with. He sells the steak, not the sizzle. (E.g., he tries to sell the product, not himself.) Fran
I am responding to the request for reasonably priced term life insurance that is convertible. My agent, Charles Payne, works for Northwest Mutual. My husband and I bought a policy which we found to be a good deal. You can reach Charles at home at 547-8127. I don't happen to have his work phone with me today. Hope this helps Lori
On insurance: you might want to check with any professional organizations you belong to. The America Physical Society offers both life insurance and disability insurance for incredible rates. I think I pay about $50 per year for $100,000 of term life insurance (yes, that's per year, not per month). Don't forget about disability insurance -- a parent who can't work and even requires home care can be a huge drain on family resources. Beth