Calculate How Much Life Insurance you Need

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Calculating how much life insurance you need requires considering several factors, such as your income, debts, and expenses, as well as the financial needs of your loved ones in case you pass away.

Here are some steps to help you estimate the right amount of life insurance:

Key StepsDescription
1. Determine your current financial obligationsAdd up your current debts, including mortgage, car loans, credit card balances, and any other outstanding loans or liabilities.
2. Calculate your future expensesEstimate the future expenses your loved ones will have to bear if you pass away, such as college tuition for your children or ongoing living expenses for your spouse or partner. A good rule of thumb is to assume your loved ones will need a lump sum of money equal to ten times your annual income.
3. Consider your assets Consider any existing savings, investments, retirement accounts, or other assets that your family can use to cover their financial needs.
4. Determine your life insurance needsSubtract your assets and financial obligations from your future expenses to determine the amount of life insurance coverage you need.
5. Review and update your policyReview your life insurance policy periodically to ensure it meets your needs as your financial situation changes.
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How Do I Know What Life Insurance I Need?

The first two steps you need to take when buying life insurance are to determine the type of insurance policy you need and how much coverage you need.

The Type of Policy To Buy

First, you must decide which type of life insurance is right for you. Whole life insurance provides a lifelong death benefit with a fixed premium, while term life insurance offers a specific death benefit over a specific period.

If you get confused between these two life insurance products, remember that whole life lasts your entire life (your “whole life”). 

How Much Life Insurance Do I Need?

Once you have determined the type of life insurance you need, you must calculate your coverage amount.  In other words, the financial protection needed to secure your family’s future.

There are a few factors to consider. These include your current financial situation, any outstanding debts you have, and future expenses such as college for children. Knowing the financial resources that your family has access to, such as a spouse’s income, will also be helpful when making calculations.

You may need to consider funeral expenses, debts left behind, lost income needed by dependents, and estate planning. If you have children, you may need to factor in an education fund for college tuition. Making sure these expenses are covered will help provide peace of mind.

A Rule of Thumb

Those were the broad strokes above, but what if you need a quick rule of thumb?

A common one used in the industry is multiplying your annual salary by 10.

The logic here is that you will provide your family with the lost income you would have brought in over the next ten years.  That should help them cover any future obligations that are already in place.  

Other factors impacting your life insurance needs include preexisting debt, such as a mortgage, and college expenses for your children. Once you determine any debt or financial obligations you are responsible for, you can better determine the life insurance coverage you need.

It’s also important to factor in inflation, which can cause medical expenses and funeral costs to rise rapidly.

What Are Two Approaches To Calculating How Much Life Insurance You Will Need?

There are two common approaches when determining the amount of life insurance you need.

The first is summing your total financial liabilities.  This means that you take into account all of your sources of income and subtract out any debts you may have, such as a mortgage or student loans. Then, you calculate the amount of money that would have to be replaced if you suddenly passed away, such as childcare costs, household expenses, and medical bills.

The second approach is to calculate how much money your family would need to cover a certain period of time, such as 10, 20, or even 30 years. This is particularly useful for those with dependents. Considering the amount you’d need for everything from groceries and rent to college tuition and retirement savings, you can estimate how much insurance coverage you need to take care of your family if something happens to you.

Using An Online Life Insurance Calculator

A whole life insurance calculator like the one shown above can help understand your coverage needs.  Make sure to check our quote calculator as well to make sure that you can afford the monthly life insurance premium payments 

What Percentage Of Your Salary Should Go To Life Insurance?

The percentage of your current salary you should allocate to life insurance is highly individualized, so there is no single answer to this question.

When calculating your coverage need, it is best to consider your dependents’ needs, such as ongoing living expenses, college tuition, and other long-term costs.

You should also think about any short-term debts you may have, such as mortgages and other loans. Additionally, you should factor in any additional investments you already have in your portfolio, as well as potential future expenses such as retirement costs.

Once you determine your needs and how much life insurance coverage you require, you can use a variety of calculators to help you determine how much of your salary should be allocated to life insurance premiums. 

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What Is The Minimum Amount For Life Insurance?

The minimum amount of life insurance you can purchase depends on the type of policy and the carrier. 

You won’t find term life insurance policies smaller than $25,000.  However, Globe Life has an annual renewable term life policy that has face amounts as low as $5,000.

On the other hand, you can get whole life insurance policies that are as small as $1,000.  Both Transamerica and Aetna offer policies with coverage amounts this low.

Those policies have additional benefits, such as long-term cash value buildup, and are more expensive than term policies. The minimum amount can differ depending on the carrier, so it’s important to review the details of each policy before signing up for coverage.

How Much Life Insurance Do I Need As A Single Person

If you are single, you may not need life insurance because you do not have any dependents who rely on your income for their financial well-being. Life insurance is designed to provide financial support to your loved ones if you pass away, so if you don’t have any dependents, there may be no need to purchase a life insurance policy.

However, there are some scenarios where a single person might still want to consider life insurance, such as if they have significant debts or want to leave a financial legacy to a charity or loved one. In addition, purchasing life insurance while you are young and healthy can help you secure lower premiums and coverage, which may be beneficial if you plan on having dependents in the future.

How Much Life Insurance Coverage Do I Need In Retirement?

The life insurance you need in retirement is largely determined by individual circumstances, such as income needs and debt obligations.

When you are in retirement, you’re likely past the expenses of raising a child, such as a child’s education costs.  And you may be lucky enough to have paid off your mortgage balance too.

Income Replacement vs. Funeral Expenses

If this is the case, the biggest future expense you likely have is that of your final arrangements (your burial or cremation).  Funeral costs have skyrocketed over the past 20 years, and the average American funeral now costs over $10,000!

How Much Life Insurance Do I Need For My Spouse

The life insurance you need for your spouse will depend on several factors. First and foremost, you should consider your spouse’s current and future financial needs. For example, will your spouse need financial support to cover living and medical expenses, education costs for any children, and funeral expenses?  Do you or they have aging parents that will require support?  

You should also consider your spouse’s income. How much of your spouse’s income do you rely on now, and will it be needed in the future? If they are stay-at-home parents then they will likely need even more coverage.  Once you understand your spouse’s current and future financial needs, you can start to calculate how much life insurance coverage will be necessary to meet those needs.


No matter your age or health, whether you are a stay-at-home parent or not, or your marital status, a life insurance policy may be a wise investment.

Calculating what is “enough life insurance” is the first step. A good acronym to remember for this is DIME.  DIME stands for Debt, Income, Mortgage and Education.  In addition to mortgage payments and college board expenses, make sure to include credit card debt, how much debt you have otherwise, and final expenses, and make sure to subtract out your existing assets (including investment accounts) and the value of any existing life insurance policies.  

Many life insurance companies have calculators you can use to begin calculating life insurance coverage needs.  Our personal favorite is this one from Life Happens.  Check it out to get a detailed estimate of your life insurance needs!