How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?

Anyone with a family to protect understands the critical role life insurance plays in their financial plan – but how much? In determining the actual amount of coverage to provide essential protection needs, many people tend to adhere to simplistic rules-of-thumb, such as a “multiple of income,” which may leave them wondering if they own too much or too little coverage. That’s not exactly the “peace-of-mind” we hope for when buying life insurance. We will review steps you can take to achieve the peace from knowing how much life insurance you should have.

With your family’s financial future at stake, wouldn’t it be better for all concerned to simply clarify and quantify your family’s actual needs? While it does require a bit more time, some frank discussion with family members, and some number crunching, it will provide the assurance everyone needs that their financial lives can be secure.

5-Step Process for Estimating How Much Are Your Life Insurance Needs

Determining your actual life insurance needs is best done with your personal financial advisor who can help you evaluate all aspects of your situation. A little preparation on your part can help the discussion be most fruitful. Start by thinking through and documenting your estimated needs following a simple five-step process:

1. Identify and clarify your goals and needs

Firstly, it is critically important to determine, as a family, what is it you want to protect. Is it important that your family be able to maintain their current lifestyle? Is it important that your children be able to obtain a college education? You should thoughtfully consider these and other family goals.

2. Quantify the actual financial need

Secondly, you need to determine what your actual financial needs are. Immediate cash needs are obligations that need to be met by the surviving family, including

  • Outstanding debt (mortgage, student loans, credit cards)
  • Final expenses, including funeral costs, estate settlement costs, medical expenses
  • You should pre-fund future goals such as a college education for the children
Final Expenses

You shouldn’t understate the final expenses when you estimate. Some financial planners suggest a figure as high as $50,000 to provide a cushion for unexpected expenses.

College Funding

You should estimate college funding or other family goals to cover the projected cost at time of need. (Don’t forget to adjust for inflation?) Initially, base the estimate on a present value of what you would expect to pay today. Then you factor it by a rate of inflation up until the time you need the funds.

Determining Income Replacement

You should determine income replacement based on the amount of lost income and the ability of surviving family members to replace all or a portion of it. Quantifying the income replacement need can be a little more complicated; however, the most important thing is to use realistic assumptions. You should base it on the family’s actual budget (assuming to pay debt obligations and future goals), and then adjust the budget for post-dependency years when the children are on their own. Most importantly, you should realistically assumption as to the ability of the surviving spouse to replace any portion of the lost income throughout his or her lifetime. For the dependency years and retirement, you can apply an estimated Social Security benefit to offset the income replacement need; however, a more conservative approach would be to exclude it from your calculation.

Determining the capital need for income replacement is obviously more complex. The critical point of this explanation is to recognize that, when you are determining how much capital will be needed to replace your income, there are a lot of factors to consider, which a simple “multiple of income” formula cannot account for. Your advisor can lead you through that evaluation.

Related: Banner Life Insurance Review

3.  Determine how much existing capital or life insurance is available

Take an inventory of your liquid assets, retirement plans and existing life insurance. If you own a business or real property, you would need to determine whether these assets are to be made available. Additionally, you would need to determine the practicality of having to liquidate them.

4.  Determine the amount of your capital need

To do so, simply subtract your capital available from your capital needs to arrive at your net capital need. (Capital needs are immediate cash needs plus income replacement needs.) That is how much life insurance you need.

5.  Review your needs with a registered insurance advisor.

Finally, life insurance is too important to rely upon guesses or simple formulas to determine the amount of coverage needed to fully protect your family. There are many factors and variables that go into determining how much life insurance is needed in any particular situation. Therefore, nothing short of a complete capital needs analysis will provide an accurate assessment of how much your actual life insurance need is.

It’s strongly recommended that you work with a qualified, objective life insurance professional that has access to a wide range of solutions from the top life insurance carriers. Using this process, you will gather much of the documentation and information your advisor needs to help you make wise choices. You will also feel more confident in your choice having a better understanding of how to evaluate your needs.

Our team would be happy to review your analysis and help you select a policy that meets your needs.  It is as easy as completing our simple quote request form.

Get Physician Specific Financial Planning

Work with advisors that know physicians.

Get Financial Planning

Need help with something else?

Get Free Disability Insurance Quotes

Have Your Contract Reviewed

Get Your Free Life Insurance Quote! It’s easy!

About the Author