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How do I check up on a company's financial strength?

Go to a library or to a Web site. A. M. Best Company is the leading provider of financial information and ratings for life and health insurance companies. The A. M. Best book is available in many libraries, or you can go to its Web site (ambest.com).

Moody's Investor Service, Standard & Poor's, Duff & Phelps, and Weiss Research also rate life and health insurers. Each service uses a different rating scheme, so you should read the ratings definitions for that service. Stick with companies that meet the service's criteria for being in the top categories--such as "excellent" or "very good". Also, be sure that any ratings you use have not been lowered since the publication date of the source. You should look for update sheets or call the rating company to be sure.

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