Life insurance seems like a second thought to so many people. You’ll notice that the title of this article isn’t “Do I Need Life Insurance?”. That’s because there really isn’t much question about whether you need life insurance or not. I suppose there might be a few exceptions, but pretty much everyone needs and should have life insurance. It’s just a matter of how much you need. There’s a couple of ways to figure out how much you really need.
How much life insurance can I afford?
This is probably the most popular method of choosing life insurance. And it’s completely wrong. If you ask most people how much life insurance they can afford the answer is almost always “little” or “none”. Again, wrong answer. Most of us carry car insurance because it’s something that covers us against a loss. If our car is damaged in an accident, we have the insurance to help with the cost of repairing or replacing the car. To the people who depend on us for income, we need to have life insurance in place to help with the costs of continuing on when our income is lost.
How much income do I need to replace?
This question is usually a pretty good place to start when determining how much life insurance you need. If you’re a regular budget-maker, you probably have a pretty good idea of how much income you and your family need to pay the bills and keep food in the fridge. It’s probably not your entire salary, but it might be close. Take into account any investments you have, as well as assets that might become unneeded if you die. You’re family probably won’t need that second car anymore, for instance. Also, any payments on those assets that can be disposed of can be discounted as well.
How long do I need to replace the income?
Once you know how much income you need to replace, the next question you need to ask is how long you need to replace it for. In an ideal world, you’d be able to buy enough life insurance to set your family up for life. Your spouse would be able to quit work and take care of the kids full-time. You’d be able to pay for the children’s college education. But, the world we live in is far from ideal. Most of us won’t be able to afford the premium payments on a life insurance policy that will pay out enough to do those things. In a romanticist world, your spouse would grieve for your loss for the rest of his or her life. That isn’t all that likely either. It’s far more likely that your spouse will remarry at some point.
All of that still leaves us without a real answer to the time question though, doesn’t it? You’ll have to make some assumptions in order to really answer the question. Assume that your spouse will get remarried. Assume that you’re not going to be able to pay for your kids’ college education with the pay-out. I think a good starting point is somewhere around 3-7 years. Some will say that’s too long. Others will say that it’s too short. I don’t think there is a perfect answer. And, when you’re faced with a question that has no perfect answer, you’ve got to find an answer that is as close as possible.
Calculate, then purchase.
You’ve answered how much income you need to replace, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of how long you need to replace it for. Now, you’ve just got to put the two together and come up with how much life insurance you need. Multiply the income number by the length and you’re in the ballpark. Let’s say that you determine that you need to replace about $30,000 a year in income. You’re married to a real hottie, who shouldn’t have any issues with finding suitable future spouses, but you don’t want him or her to rush into it, so you use the 5 year length. $30,000 a year X 5 years = $150,000.
You might want to add a bit extra for sudden expenses at the time of death, like funeral, casket, and burial. But, that’s a pretty good ballpark number for how much life insurance you should buy. Now comes the big step… You’ve got to purchase it. Find a good place to compare life insurance policies and costs and get all the information compiled. Then pull the trigger and purchase the policy.
That will be the hardest part of the whole thing. If anything does happen to you, your family will be thankful that you did.
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Betsy @ ConsumerFu says
I am a firm believer in insurance and fortunately so is my husband. We looked beyond the mortgage and thought about lifestyle, college costs, graduate school and even expenses of relocating since neither of us would try to take care of this house and property alone….not at our age!
Here in the UK – there is a form of life cover called family income benefit which is very similar to mortgage term insurance (the cover you get to cover a repayment mortgage). Family Inc Ben pays out a monthly income to the surviving partner of a relationship until a specified date in the future eg childs youngest childs 21st birthday.
Each year that goes by without a claim, the total amount of insurance cover falls. So it can give you great amount of cover at a more affordable price.