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How much term life insurance do I need?

When purchasing term life insurance, key considerations are how much do I need and how many years into the future will my income need to be replaced? This article addresses these questions and more.

If you've decided to buy term life insurance, how much should you buy? Even if $100,000 sounds like a lot, how can you be sure whether or not it's enough? There are many things to consider when determining how much term life insurance to purchase. The information presented here is to provide you with information on what you should consider when selecting life insurance, and how to estimate how much you may need.

There's no standard answer to how much coverage is enough. Some financial planners have indicated that you should buy enough life insurance to replace five to seven years of your salary. But what if you have small children or are carrying a lot of debt? That calculation might not be nearly enough. So based on this formula if you earn $60,000 a year, you would need to purchase at least $300,000 of life insurance coverage.

Many people put off buying life insurance because they don't think they can afford to buy what they need. In this case, term life can often be a more affordable way to get the coverage you want - but you still need to calculate how much. From the example above, you already know that there are many factors to consider. Remember, the main purpose of life insurance is to replace your income in the event of your untimely death, allowing your dependents to maintain their current lifestyle as much as possible. Ask yourself the following questions.

Will your surviving partner have enough to live on, pay off debts, and take care of child care expenses with you out of the picture?

Do you have other assets that he/she can draw from to meet these expenses - including immediate cash for funeral and burial expenses?

Since term life insurance is meant to cover your needs for a specific time period (typically 10 to 30 years), make sure the amount you are considering is consistent with the number of years your dependents would need it.

For example, for how many years into the future will your income need to be replaced? In other words, will funds be needed until your spouse gets a job, retires, or dies; until your children graduate from college; or some other benchmark is reached?

Then figure how much you make a year and multiply it by the number of years calculated earlier. Next, think about your debts. How much debt do you have (mortgage, car loans, credit cards, other loans, etc.)? Finally, don't forget to subtract the value of your current savings, investments, pension plan (if you have one), and any life insurance you already have in place.

Using these formulas and figures, you'll have a general estimate of how much term life insurance you might need. In addition, there are many useful life insurance calculators that you can use, or you can work with a qualified life insurance agent who can provide detailed needs analysis. Regardless of which method you choose, you'll still need to provide the numbers based on your individual needs to an agent or to plug them into a life insurance calculator.

For more information on types of life insurance, visit our learning center.


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All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Learning Center articles may describe services and financial products not offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries. Descriptions of financial products contained in Learning Center articles are not intended to represent those offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Neither Protective Life nor its representatives offer legal or tax advice. We encourage you to consult with your financial adviser and legal or tax adviser regarding your individual situations before making investment, social security, retirement planning, and tax-related decisions. For information about Protective Life and its products and services, visit

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