A large mutual insurer has set the dividend rate it expects to pay policyholders in 2010.

The board of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, Mass., says the anticipated rate for new, eligible participating life insurance policies will be 7% in 2010. In November 2008, the MassMutual board said the 2009 dividend rate would be 7.6%.

MassMutual now expects to pay participating policyholders a total of about $1.23 billion in dividends in 2010, the company says. A year ago, the company said it hoped to pay policyholders $1.35 billion in dividends in 2009.

MassMutual has paid dividends every year since the 1860s.