How much life insurance do I need?

Experts suggest your life insurance coverage should be 10 to 15 times your income. Our coverage calculator can do the math and help determine how much coverage is right for you.

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Katherine Murbach

Katherine Murbach

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Katherine Murbach is an associate editor and a licensed life insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

&Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

Edited byAntonio Ruiz-Camacho

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

Associate Content Director

Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

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By

Patrick Hanzel, CFP®

Patrick Hanzel, CFP®

Certified Financial Planner™ & Advanced Planning Team Lead

Patrick Hanzel, CFP®, is a Certified Financial Planner™ and Advanced Planning Team Lead at Policygenius. His expertise has been featured at Lifehacker, Consumer Affairs, Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, and Fatherly.

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How much life insurance do you need?

Date of birth

Age is one of the many factors that determines your life insurance rates.

Gender

Most insurers do not offer a gender-neutral or nonbinary option on their applications, but if you are transgender, you can choose your actual gender, not your gender assigned at birth.

Your total annual salary and/or earnings, before taxes.


Do you have a spouse or partner?

We can recommend a coverage amount for your partner, too.


We'll take the number and ages of your children into account when calculating your coverage.


Include all debts, such as mortgages, student loans, car loans, credit cards, etc.

Your total household liquid savings (i.e. the funds are accessible without taxes or other penalties whenever you need them).

We don’t sell your information.

Recommended coverage for you

Optimal coverage

The most comprehensive level of protection to replace your lost income.

Your term

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Your coverage

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Monthly cost estimates reflect the current average monthly life insurance premiums for the indicated profile/policy type across 10 policy options offered by insurers in the Policygenius marketplace. Product availability, your eligibility, and your individual rate may vary.

These estimates are for educational purposes only and shouldn't take the place of professional advice. Your coverage needs may vary based on other factors not considered here. Interested in more personalized quotes? Compare for free online, or call 1-855-695-2255 to speak with one of our licensed agents.


Your term

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Your coverage

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How our life insurance coverage calculator works

Personal information like your age and gender, along with details about your financial situation, help us calculate how much coverage you should get, how long your term should be, and how much you can afford to pay. 

Here’s how each piece of information plays into calculating your life insurance needs.

Date of birth

The younger you are, the lower your premiums will be. Your age will also determine how long your coverage should last. 

Gender

Based on current offerings, women pay an average of 24% less for life insurance than men; women tend to live longer than men, so covering them is considered less costly by insurance companies.

Annual income

The higher your income, the more coverage you’ll need to replace it. It’s important to have coverage that’s proportional to your income, expenses, and lifestyle.

Do you have a spouse or partner?

You don’t have to be legally married; if you share finances with a partner, there’s likely a need for coverage. 

Number of children under age 18

If you have multiple children under 18, you’ll need enough coverage to support them until they’re financially independent.

Total household debt

Add up any debt such as a mortgage, credit card debt, car loans, or student loans. Account for any financial obligations your beneficiaries would need to cover in your absence. 

Total household savings

Add up any checking and savings accounts between you and your spouse, if applicable. These are the liquid assets your beneficiaries can count on.

The right policy for you will include the coverage amount, but also the term length — or how long your policy lasts

  • Optimal coverage: Ideally, your policy will have enough coverage to pay for your family’s expenses for a meaningful length of time, and a term long enough to last through your final financial obligation — whether that’s paying off a mortgage or getting your children through college.

  • Coverage on a budget: It’s important to buy a policy you can comfortably pay for year after year. You can opt for a shorter term to lower your premium, and speak with an agent who can walk you through different options to make sure you’re getting the best policy for you.

Keep in mind you can have multiple life insurance policies at once, so if your finances change in the future and you need to supplement your existing coverage, you can always ladder policies.

How did we calculate your term (and your spouse’s)?

Your term length is calculated based on your age and the age of your children. This is designed to last until you reach retirement age or until our youngest child turns 26, whichever comes later.

How did we calculate your coverage (and your spouse’s)?

Your coverage is calculated based on your age and term length, and is a multiple of your income. If you’re 40 or younger or your coverage needs to last 30+ years, we multiply your income by 15; the older you are, the lower the multiple is.

How to calculate how much coverage you should have

You can manually calculate how much life insurance you need based on your financial situation, or you can use a financial advisor or independent insurance broker to help guide you. 

In essence, you need to calculate your financial obligations and then subtract your liquid assets. The result is the amount of life insurance you need.

How to calculate your financial obligations

Take into account your annual income, as well as your monthly bills and any anticipated expenses your family will face (for instance, bills, mortgage, childcare costs, and funeral costs).

How to calculate your future expenses/plans

Keep in mind any significant future expenses, like if you’re planning to pay for your children’s college. 

How to calculate your liquid assets

Make sure you’re keeping track of how much you have in any savings accounts — along with any other existing life insurance policies you may already have, like a group policy sponsored by your employer. Ideally, however, you don’t want your family to have to drain their savings in the event of your death.

While it’s important to account for inflation when calculating your life insurance needs, It's generally a best practice to apply for coverage based on your current need. 

The closer you are to retirement, the fewer working years you have ahead of you, therefore the less life insurance you need. So, if you take out $500,000 of coverage at age 30 today, you’ll still have that same $500,000 at age 50 with a 20-year level term policy.

The coverage is the same across the lifetime of the policy, but in theory you’ve accumulated more assets and a higher salary as you’ve progressed through your career. This helps counter the fact that, due to inflation, $500,000 won’t have the same value 20 years from now as it does today.

Other rules of thumb for calculating how much life insurance you need

Some of these methods can offer a more accurate picture than others. The best way to determine more precisely how much life insurance you need is to work with a financial advisor or an independent broker.

Multiply income by 10, plus $100,000 per child

One common rule of thumb is to multiply your annual income by at least 10 times (and up to 15 times) to get your estimated coverage amount. So for example, if you make $100,000 per year, you likely need around $1 million in life insurance coverage.

Many choose to add an additional $100,000 per child to that estimate to account for each child’s education, but this doesn’t account for existing assets like 529 plans. 

The DIME Method

In this method, you tally up the following:

  • Outstanding debts 

  • Your income multiplied by the number of years your family will depend on it

  • The amount left on your mortgage 

  • The cost of your children’s education

Your tally of your outstanding debts, separate from your mortgage, should include co-signed debt like car loans and student loans that your co-signer would become responsible for when you die. You can also include personal debt that might be taken out of your savings, like credit card debt.

Remember to also factor in income growth and the number of working years you have left.

The human life value method

Generally speaking, the younger you are, the more working years you have ahead of you and the higher your earning potential. The human value method accounts for the current and future financial worth of the insured person using their annual salary, age, and planned retirement age. It factors in inflation to help determine the current value of future earnings.

If you’re interested in this approach, talk with a financial advisor to get an accurate picture of your life insurance needs.

The 1% income method

The 1% rule is simple: Choose a coverage amount that will make your premiums about 1% of your annual income. It’s an affordable way to get life insurance if you’re on a budget.

“It’s important to make sure that the policy you’re purchasing is one you can afford even on your worst day, month, or year,” says Patrick Hanzel, certified financial planner and advanced planning manager at Policygenius. 

One percent is an amount most people can fit into their current budget without making other sacrifices. If affordability is your top priority, the 1% rule may be the right estimation method for you.

How much does the life insurance that I need cost?

Life insurance companies estimate risk for each individual policyholder, so the cost of your life insurance will depend on your age, gender, health, and other lifestyle factors. You can use our cost calculator for an estimate of what you can expect to pay, or speak with a licensed agent who’ll be able to give you personalized quotes.

What’s the difference between cost and coverage in life insurance?

Coverage refers to the total “face” amount on your insurance policy, or the amount of money your beneficiaries will receive if you die. Some common coverage amounts are $250,000, $500,000, and $1 million.

The cost of your life insurance is your premium — how much you pay each month or year for your insurance coverage. 

According to the Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index, a 35-year-old male in good health will pay an average of $30.36 per month for a $500,000 policy with a 20-year term duration. The cost of life insurance for your particular situation will come down to your age, gender, health, and lifestyle.

What is life insurance and why do I need it?

Life insurance is an agreement between the policyholder and the insurance company. You make payments toward your policy for its whole duration, and your beneficiaries receive a tax-free payout if you die while your coverage is active. 

You need life insurance if you have anyone who depends on your income, or any financial obligations that your loved ones would have to assume in the absence of your income.

Who needs to buy life insurance?

Anyone who has financial obligations or dependents whose livelihood depends on their income should consider buying life insurance. However, some people may benefit even more from the financial safety that a life policy provides.

Families

It’s especially important for families to have life insurance. If you have a spouse or partner, your financial plan should include both of you, especially if you’re providing for children. 

If you’re the sole income earner or caretaker in your family, having coverage ensures they’re taken care of if you die.

Anyone with dependents

If you have dependents other than children, or expect to care for an aging parent, life insurance is equally important. Anyone who relies on your income needs to be considered when you’re shopping for life insurance as financial protection.

Stay-at-home parents

Stay-at-home parents provide significant value to the household even if they don’t take home a traditional salary. In the event of the loss of a stay-at-home parent, you’d theoretically need to pay for any cooking, cleaning, and childcare services they provided, which can add up quickly. 

A term life insurance policy of even $100,000 or $250,000 for a stay-at-home spouse or parent can make a significant difference in protecting your family’s lifestyle and financial well-being. 

Consider the life insurance gender gap

Despite the fact that they can benefit from lower rates, women are historically underinsured for life insurance compared to men, with just 47% of women owning a policy in 2021 compared to 58% of men. [1]

LIMRA, a financial industry trade group focused on life insurance, estimates that in 2022 there are 57 million women who need life insurance in the U.S., and 43 million of those women currently do not own any life insurance. [2]  

Every contributing member of your household needs life insurance, regardless of gender.

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Do I need life insurance after age 60?

In most cases, you should have life insurance up until retirement or until your major financial obligations are covered (for example, a paid-off mortgage or financially independent children). 

However, retirement looks different for everyone. People above the age of 60 likely need less coverage than people in their 30s, but older adults might still need a policy for any remaining responsibilities, or final expenses

An insurance professional can help you shop for a new policy if you’ve outlived your old one, or if you’re not sure about your current coverage needs.

What is a life insurance coverage gap?

life insurance coverage gap is when you don't have enough life insurance for your needs. If you die during a coverage gap, your dependents likely won’t have the financial support they need to replace your income and pay for bills and everyday expenses. To provide a safety net for your family, you should get life insurance coverage that covers all of your financial obligations and ensure you have coverage for as long as someone depends on you for support.

How coverage gaps happen

  • You don't shop for life insurance when you need it: Most people know that life insurance can cover end-of-life costs, such as funeral expenses, and assume they can cover the costs themselves or put off buying a policy. But life insurance is also meant to replace your income so that your loved ones can afford everyday essentials, mortgage payments, and college tuition. If anyone relies on your financial support or would become responsible for your debts after you die, you should have a policy that can cover your loved ones' needs.

  • You don't buy enough life insurance: If you make $100,000 a year, a $1 million policy might seem like too much for your family. This belief can lead people to buy much less coverage than they actually need. In reality, your coverage should equal at least 10 to 15 times your annual income. Life insurance is a long-term replacement for your income, so that high death benefit actually accounts for the financial support your dependents will need for decades.

  • You rely on coverage through your job: Employer-sponsored life insurance policies rarely offer the amount of coverage people actually need.“ This is one of the most common mistakes we see,” says Patrick Hanzel, certified financial planner and Advanced Planning Team Lead at Policygenius. “Many people have some form of coverage provided by their employer, but some employers offer a base benefit amount of something like $50,000 or one year’s salary — far less than the average recommendation of 10 times your annual income. These types of benefits are also not portable, so if you leave that employer you risk being left without any coverage at all.”

  • You allow your policy to lapse: If you don’t pay your premiums on time, insurers can cancel your policy. There’s usually a 30-day grace period for late premium payments. If you don't pay during the grace period, you’ll lose your coverage. If you can't pay your premiums on time, talk to your insurer to see if they have any additional options, like payment plans or extended grace periods for extenuating circumstances. If you can no longer afford your premiums, you can lower your death benefit to lower your premiums.

What's the minimum amount of life insurance that I need?

You can buy as little as $2,000 of life insurance if you buy a burial insurance policy, whereas most term life insurers require you to have a benefit of $50,000 or more. Most of the term life insurance providers on the Policygenius marketplace have a coverage minimum of $100,000. 

But the smallest amount of coverage available isn’t the same as the minimum amount of protection you should have. 

At the lowest end, your life insurance policy should be able to support your dependents’ everyday needs for several years and cover your end-of-life expenses. 

You can potentially lower the payout of a new policy if you have significant savings or existing life insurance.

What factors should you consider when buying life insurance?

Your age

Generally, the younger you are, the cheaper your life insurance premiums will be. That’s because we all become riskier to insure as we age.

Shopping for life insurance while you’re young can help you lock in affordable rates for your entire term. Plus, the younger you are, the more income-earning years you have ahead of you to protect. 

Age of your spouse and children

The above logic applies to your spouse, too — the younger they apply for life insurance, the cheaper their rates will be.

Many people aim to have life insurance coverage until their children are financially independent, so it makes sense to get coverage while your children are young. If you have adult children who are financially independent, you likely don’t need to factor them into your coverage amount.

Any dependents that require long-term financial support

If you have dependents who will be financially dependent on you for longer than 10 to 20 years, you may want to speak to a financial advisor about getting permanent life insurance to ensure they’ll always be covered. 

For instance, if you have a child with a disability who requires long-term financial support, permanent life insurance coupled with a special needs trust could help cover their care needs.

Your mortgage and other debts

You’ll want to know how much debt you have, including your mortgage, since your spouse will be held accountable for it after your death. Life insurance can help relieve the financial stress of those debts, too. 

Your children's college expenses

If you’re planning to pay for or contribute to your child’s college expenses, life insurance can help achieve that goal even if you pass away.

Your current income

You can use your current income as a starting point to find coverage by multiplying it by the number of years during which you want to support your family. Buying life insurance is a way of planning for the future, but make sure you’re addressing your current needs, too. 

Funeral expenses

The national median cost of a funeral in 2021 was $7,848. [3] If you know it would cause your loved ones financial stress to pay for burial services, life insurance can help ensure they’ll have the funds they need.

Your estate planning needs

If you anticipate your loved ones having to pay estate tax, life insurance can be used to help offset the cost. For more complex estate planning, it’s best to consult a financial advisor and an estate planning attorney.

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What type of life insurance should I buy?

The two main types of life insurance you can buy are term and permanent. 

  • Term insurance lasts for a set term, usually 10 to 30 years, and offers affordable financial protection for your prime earning years. 

  • Permanent insurance lasts your entire life and comes with a cash value component that can be used to invest or build wealth, causing the premiums to be more expensive.

Who should consider term life insurance?

Term life insurance is the most straightforward and affordable way for most people, especially young families, to get the financial protection they need. If you’re considering coverage for income replacement or debt repayment, term insurance is likely the best fit for you. 

Who should consider permanent life insurance?

Permanent life insurance policies are typically five to 15 times more expensive than term, which can make it difficult to get the coverage amount you need at an affordable price point. Permanent life insurance can be helpful if you’re a higher earner, if you’re looking to minimize estate tax, or if you know you'll have lifelong dependents.

Who can I talk to about life insurance?

Figuring out how much coverage you need is an important decision, and all of the options and numbers can get overwhelming. At Policygenius, our experts are licensed in all 50 states and can walk you through the entire life insurance buying process while offering transparent, unbiased advice.

Tips for calculating how much life insurance you need

  1. Get involved with your family’s finances. Ideally 10 to 15 times your annual income is a good benchmark if you’re not sure where to start, but it’s helpful to make sure you have an accurate and up-to-date picture of your own finances before deciding on a coverage amount.

  2. Buy the coverage you can afford, even if it’s not enough. If you find your ideal coverage amount doesn’t fit into your budget, it’s better to put a smaller policy in force that you know you’ll be able to pay comfortably than not getting coverage at all. This way, you won’t have to worry about your policy lapsing due to late payments and having to go through the entire application process again.

  3. Keep in mind that the application process is non-binding. If you’re not sure which coverage amount is right for you, you can still speak to an agent and start the application process, which can take up to five to six weeks. After the insurance company extends your final offer, you’ll be able to review and make any final changes to your policy before putting it in force.

Frequently asked questions

Should you use life insurance as an investment?

Many permanent life insurance policies have high premiums and low interest on the cash value, so there are better options for investment accounts where you can gain higher returns. Consider using life insurance as an investment only if you’ve exhausted other options with higher returns. The primary purpose of life insurance is to provide financial protection for your family rather than serve as an investment.

How much life insurance do I need at age 60?

You’ll likely need less insurance at age 60 than you did at age 30 or 40 — but the exact amount will depend on your income, assets, liabilities, and dependents. Speaking with a licensed agent or using a life insurance calculator can help you determine how much you need.

What percentage of your income should you spend on life insurance?

A common tactic is to spend 1% of your annual income on your life insurance premiums if you’re on a budget. Generally speaking, you should buy a life insurance policy you can comfortably afford for the length of your term.

How much life insurance should a stay-at-home parent get?

Every family has different needs, so it depends on your financial situation and how many children you have. At least $100,000 to $250,000 in coverage for a stay-at-home parent can make a big difference when it comes to covering childcare, funeral, and other household expenses.

What are the benefits of life insurance for women?

Life insurance is on average 24% cheaper for women than it is for men, because women have longer life expectancy rates. Anyone who has financial obligations would benefit from having life insurance, women included — but they’ve been historically underinsured compared to men.

What's the lowest amount of insurance you can buy?

You can buy as little as $2,000 of life insurance with a burial policy. Most term life insurance product offerings, however, have a minimum coverage amount of $50,000 or $100,000.

How do I find the cheapest life insurance?

Working with an independent broker can help you compare quotes and offers to get you the cheapest life insurance coverage for your profile.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. LIMRA

    . "

    "Understanding the U.S. Women's Market"

    ." Accessed September 16, 2022.

  2. LIMRA

    . "

    2022 Insurance Barometer

    ." Accessed September 16, 2022.

  3. National Funeral Directors Association

    . "

    Statistics

    ." Accessed September 16, 2022.

Authors

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Katherine Murbach

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

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Katherine Murbach is an associate editor and a licensed life insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

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Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

Editor

Associate Content Director

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

Associate Content Director

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Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

Expert reviewer

Certified Financial Planner™ & Advanced Planning Team Lead

Patrick Hanzel, CFP®

Certified Financial Planner™ & Advanced Planning Team Lead

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Patrick Hanzel, CFP®, is a Certified Financial Planner™ and Advanced Planning Team Lead at Policygenius. His expertise has been featured at Lifehacker, Consumer Affairs, Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, and Fatherly.

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