How much life insurance do you need? The answer is different for everyone. It depends on your life, your investments and your monetary obligations.
Some might say it’s complicated, but such is the nature of a resource that is designed specifically to provide posthumous financial aid to an individual’s surviving loved ones, accounting for oftentimes decades of potential expenses along the way.
The future is impossible to predict, but life insurance asks that you do your very best to anticipate your loved ones’ every need. Think of the people in your life that you want to protect, then consider the income and expenses they would need to take care of if you were gone.
We’ve compiled a checklist of a few common needs to consider when thinking about your life insurance coverage.
Even families that put a lot of effort into planning their future can overlook the immediate financial needs that follow the death of a loved one. When the insured passes away, the death benefit kicks in soon thereafter, but before it can be allocated toward everyday expenses, the lingering matter of his or her final financial needs takes precedence. This may include the cost of funeral expenses and burial, which alone can amount to at least several thousand dollars.
However, it may also extend to any outstanding medical bills, especially if the deceased was facing a serious medical condition in the end. Then there’s personal debt and other expenses such as credit card bills, mortgage loans and student loan debts, many of which simply pass down to the next of kin (likely also the life insurance beneficiary) at the time of death. Sure, your death benefit is intended to span your entire lifetime, but it accounts for immediate expenses as well.
One of the best things you can do for your loved ones is to make sure they are protected and secure.
Of course, one of the principal purposes of your life insurance policy is to compensate for any loss of annual wages that you currently contribute to your household and ensure that your family is provided for. In many cases, you may be the sole breadwinner for your family, or you might share this load with a spouse or significant other who could be thrust into financial strife without your assistance.
To maintain your family’s standard of living and ensure their financial security, you need to scale your life insurance coverage to match your annual income. Naturally, doing this accurately means accounting for years of unpaid wages in advance. If you cannot purchase enough coverage to match this total, at least adjust your insurance to match your desired annual income needs. Lost wages may not be an expense in the traditional sense of the word, but neglecting to factor it in will certainly cost you sooner rather than later.
Depending on your financial stability, your family might be facing a financial future entirely reliant on your life insurance coverage. This certainly won’t be the case for all though, and depending on the premium rates you are able to qualify for, you might wish to account for your other assets. If you have investments and other benefits at your disposal, then your expenses, by definition, would be at least somewhat reduced.
By calculating the planned return of your asset portfolio, you may be able to save yourself the heartache of having to unnecessarily invest too much money in your life insurance policy. Sometimes, pumping too much money into your plan can itself be an overwhelming expense. So be sure that you don’t buy so much insurance that it begins to threaten your long-term livelihood.
Based on your stage of life (and that of your family members), you will need to plan out your insurance coverage accordingly. Especially if you have a whole life insurance policy, you need to account for not only your family’s lifestyle and survival – including necessities like housing, food, clothing, etc. – but also anticipate any curveballs the future will surely send your way. Coming up with an annual long-term expense figure isn’t a bad start.
As you determine this number, don’t forget to consider the rate of inflation. In addition, if you have children, include education, mortgage and other expenses that you would otherwise have provided for them, allowing you to ensure that they have little to nothing to worry about financially in your absence. Without the benefit of clairvoyance, you might not be able to pinpoint their future needs with 100% accuracy, but you can at least invest enough to cover the inevitable expenses that will arise.