How Much Life Insurance Do I Need?

How Much Insurance Do I Need?

There are many methods in which to calculate your insurance needs. Three of the more simple methods are explained below. Some factors to take into consideration are:

  • Living expenses - Monthly income your family will need to live as they do now.
    • Consider the reduction in expenses due to your absence
    • Additional child care expenses
    • Health care coverage that may no longer be provided due to your death
    • Lawn care or other home upkeep expenses normally handled by a spouse
    • How long will your spouse needs the income from a life insurance policy
    • Your spouses life expectancy
    • When will payments need to begin; immediately, in three months, six months, etc.?
  • Funeral Expenses - can average between $5,000 - $10,000, or more.
  • Mortgages & Loans - Allowing enough insurance to pay off a mortgage and other loans will offer your family more security and peace of mind.
  • Taxes & Estate Administration Costs - these costs can be 40% or more of a large estate. You can reduce these costs through careful financial planning, trusts, wills, etc. Plan for the costs and then if you have not already done so, meet with an estate planner or estate attorney.
  • College Expenses - In 2007 for a 4 year degree plan on $31,000/$36,000 per child for a state and some private colleges for tuition and fees. However, these costs can be as much as $75,000 - $90,000...or more per child for some private colleges.
  • Contingencies - There will always be unexpected expenses, car repairs, medical expenses, a new furnace or roof. Add an additional amount to cover for uncertainties.
  • Take into consideration the ages of your children and if the surviving spouse will continue to work, or return to work.
  • Consider any sources of income that are received now that will discontinue.
  • Consider sources of income that may begin, such as, payments from Social Security, investments or pensions.
  • Consider both the rate of return on investments and inflation. How long will income from these sources need to last?

All the above factors and more need to be considered when you are deciding on the amount of life insurance to buy.

Three simple and quick calculations that can give you a start towards determining your life insurance needs. 

The D.I.N.K. Method - Dual Income, No Kids

Use this calculation when each spouse has a similar income, both currently enjoy good health, and the survivor will continue to work. Add the following to determine the total insurance needs.

  • Funeral Expense
  • 1/2 of the Mortgage
  • 1/2 of Auto Loan(s)
  • 1/2 of Monthly Credit Card Balance
  • 1/2 of All Other Debts

It is wise to add an additional "insurance cushion" in the event of emergencies or other uncertainties.

The Simple Method

This method takes into consideration the rule-of-thumb needs of a typical* family.

Current Gross Income X 5 = Total Insurance Needs

This will usually allow 70% of the wage earners salary for seven years, during which time the family should gradually adjust to the loss of income due to the wage earners death.

A *typical family is considered to be three or fewer dependent children, good family health, average debts and considers that the spouse will continue to work or return to work.

Non-Working Spouse Method

This method can be used when there is only one wage earner in the household.

Number of Years before the Youngest Child is Age 18 X 10 = Total Insurance Needs

More insurance may be needed if there are more than two children under age 13 in the household, poor health of any family member, high debts, stressful employment, etc. Less insurance may be needed if the children are in their teens, the mortgage is paid and there are investments that will supplement lost income or can be used to pay for services that the deceased had performed (ex. home repair, lawn care, child care). 

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