An important part of responsible financial planning is to protect yourself against risk events that can be financially devastating. One such event is a premature death. When trying to understand how much life insurance you should own, you should take into consideration two things: 1) What lump-sum expenses you might want paid for, for example a mortgage, college tuition costs, other debts, and funeral expenses, and 2) Any income that you and/or a survivor might want replaced, such as a prior salary. Generally you don't want this salary to be replaced indefinitely, but rather a common practice is to replace it until the survivor reaches retirement age. This calculation is a bit too complex to work out here, but the proper way to calculate this income need is to ensure that it inflates each year and will keep pace with inflation.
One very crude way to get a ballpark estimate of how much life insurance it would take to create an income stream is simply to capitalize an income need. For example, if you think that you need $2,000 a month in replaced income ($24k a year), then simply divide $24,000 by an interest rate at which you think you could invest the funds to spin off $2,000 a month in income. So, $24,000 divided by 8% results in a capital need of $300k. To put this differently, if you invested $300,000 at 8%, it could generate $2,000 a month in income. Again, this is very crude and inaccurate, and it shouldn't be used for anything more than rough estimates (it's inaccurate because it doesn't take into account taxes and fees, nor does it cease to create an income stream at retirement, and thus it can over-inflate the need, and it also doesn't adjust for inflation).
Finally, one needs to subtract from the income need and the lump-sum need any other sources of income or capital, for example rental income (if the survivor will continue to be a landlord), or other sources of life-insurance or assets that could be earmarked for a survivor's needs.
If you would like assistance with calculating how much life insurance you need, or if you would like a professional overview of your existing policies, feel free to reach out to us here.
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