Calculate Your Needs

How we calculated your needs

Predicting your future income and savings needs is not an easy task. When Protective created our life insurance calculator, we looked at government websites, inflation trends and national averages, and then used the best information we could find to set rates and reference points for our calculations. Here's how we did it:

Our Life Insurance Needs Calculator Explained

The formula at a high level:

+ Funeral expenses
+ Total debt
+ Future income needed for beneficiary
+ Total college funding needed
+ Lump sum needed
- Total 'Liquid' Assets

= Your Life Insurance Needs

We calculated all your future expenses and income needs…

Within your total college funding need, we looked at the type of college you wanted your dependent to attend as well as the number of children you wanted to send to college and their current age. Their current age helps us determine what college might cost by the time they turn 18.

Then we subtracted your total 'liquid' assets…

This is money that your family could access without penalty in the event of your death. In other words, we subtracted traditional savings or stock, but not 401ks or IRAs, which could result in a substantial tax penalty if accessed before your beneficiaries meet the age requirements. And we subtracted any individual life insurance you already own from your total insurance need. 

Please note that we didn't calculate employer-based life insurance. While we think having insurance from an employer is great, if you lose that job or leave it, you also lose that insurance. Our belief is that it's best to leave it out of this calculation.

What remains is your total life insurance need.

Once you have this figure, you may want to go back and review your inputs to fine-tune your estimate. But by now you should have a good idea of what your dependents will need if you pass on.

The numbers we used...

If you're interested in the actual numbers used in our calculation. Here's the background:

Funeral expenses:

We used $10,000 as our estimate for final expenses. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral in 2012 (the latest year of the study) was $8,343; however this doesn't include the cost of a cemetery plot or monument, which can cost an additional $1,000-$2000. You should also be aware that like general cost of living expenses, funeral expenses vary greatly by state and city.

Inflation Rates:

Inflation rates are used to project the amount of money you will need in the future to maintain the buying power of your current income. We used a 2 percent annual rate of inflation to calculate our numbers. According to the, the average annual inflation rate for the last 10 years (2005-2015) was 2.14 percent, and it has trended down over the last several years.

Investment Return Rate:

This rate varies greatly based on your risk tolerance and market performance. For our calculations, we assumed your current investments grow at a solid 5 percent annual growth rate.

College expenses:

According to, the average costs for college in 2014-2015, including tuition, room and board were:

  Estimate Per Year

Type of School 

 $18,943  public in-state
 $11,052  Two-year, public in-district
 $32.762  Public out of state
 $42,419  Private non-profit


As for how to project that out into the future, many sources indicate that while costs have risen dramatically in the past, they likely cannot continue at the same pace moving forward. Most advisors will tell you to plan for college costs to escalate at twice the annual rate of inflation. With that in mind, we projected college expenses to grow at a 4 percent annual rate.


There you have it: our best estimate of what you and your loved ones may need. Of course we can't know everything about your personal situation, so if you've made it this far in the calculations, you might want to speak with a financial advisor. They can verify whether you're taking everything you need to into account. Particularly if you have special circumstances, may be a good next step.

Ready to take the next step?

We've shown you sample costs at this level of life insurance. Why not get your personal quote.
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Calculating your life insurance needs can seem complicated when you take all the factors into consideration. Protective Life provides an explanation of how they developed their life insurance calculator. For more information, visit our learning center.  For more information, visit the Protective Learning Center