Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. said Tuesday it increased its surplus to the highest level in its history during 2019 and expects to pay out a record $6 billion in dividends to policy owners.

The Milwaukee-based company said the total surplus, which is an insurer’s cushion against the unexpected — and a key measure of its overall financial strength — was more than $30.4 billion, up nearly 14% from $26.7 billion in 2018.

The expected 2020 dividend payout is nearly $400 million more than last year.

“Through our unwavering commitment to our clients, we have once again achieved exceptional financial results,” John Schlifske, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Northwestern Mutual has a history of generating solid results, but 2019 was strong even measured against its previous performance.

“We’ve had good years before,” said Todd Jones, vice president and controller at Northwestern Mutual. “We had a ‘wow’ year in 2019.

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