How much life insurance does a person need?

Below are two approaches often used to calculate how much life insurance to buy.

  1. One option is the income multiplier method. This involves multiplying your annual income by ten, fifteen or more. Some broaden this amount by an additional $100,000 per child for college expenses.
  2. A more accurate method considers survivors' current and future financial needs. Calculate likely expenses (normal living costs, housing, daycare, education, credit card and loan debt, transportation, taxes, etc.) for the number of years loved ones need financial support. Add anticipated funeral expenses to the total. Subtract resources that offset the total figure (bank accounts, investments, retirement plans, income-producing assets, etc.). The final number is how much life insurance you need.

Insurers offer a variety of life products. Term is less expensive but expires at the end of the policy period with no return unless you die. Permanent insurance continues until you pass (if premiums are paid) and has a savings or investment feature. Ask a life insurance agent to help you explore the options, discuss pros and cons and provide pricing details. Consider several alternatives and verify the insurer's financial stability, licensing status and complaint record before buying.

Periodically review life insurance benefits to confirm adequate protection is in place. This is especially true following life events like marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, buying a house, etc. Keep loved ones in the loop and let them know where to find the policies.