Woman showing document to clients

Assessing your life insurance needs


If your family relies on your income, it’s critical to have enough life insurance to provide for them in the event of your passing. But too often, life insurance is an overlooked aspect of personal finances.

According to a study conducted by Life Happens and LIMRA, which closely follow life insurance trends, more than a third of households would feel the financial impact within just one month of the death of their primary wage earner, and one in five people with life insurance say they do not have enough coverage.1

Recognizing the role life insurance can play in your family finances is an important first step. A critical second step is determining how much life insurance you may need.

Rule of thumb

One widely followed rule of thumb for estimating a person’s insurance needs is based on income. Waddell & Reed typically recommends a life insurance policy that is 10 times a person’s annual income. If you’re looking for a more accurate estimate, consider completing a “DNA test.” A DNA test is a Detailed Needs Analysis that takes into account a wide range of financial commitments to better estimate insurance needs.

The first step is to add up needs and obligations.

Short-term needs

Short-term needs include final expenses, such as a funeral, final medical bills, and outstanding debts, such as credit or personal loans. How much you should make available for short-term needs will depend on your individual situation.

Long-term needs

To determine long-term needs you’ll need to consider how much it will cost to maintain your family’s standard of living, specifically necessities like housing, food and clothing. Also, you should factor in expenses such as travel and entertainment. Answering the question, “What would it cost per year to maintain this lifestyle?” is good place to start.

New obligations

Beyond your family’s known long-term needs, you’ll have to consider anticipated, yet unknown future expenses. Will you be able to afford your children’s college tuition? Will your aging parents need your support? Factoring in potential new obligations allows for a more accurate picture of ongoing financial needs.

Once you’ve finished adding up your needs, subtract all liquid assets.

Any assets that can be redeemed quickly and for a predictable price are considered liquid. Examples of liquid assets include cash, money market accounts and government bonds. Illiquid assets, on the other hand, are assets than cannot be sold quickly for a standardized price. For instance, houses and cars are not considered liquid assets since they may require time to sell.

Needs and obligations — minus liquid assets — can help you get a better idea about the amount of life insurance coverage you may need. While this exercise is a good start to understanding your insurance needs, a more detailed review may be necessary to better assess your situation.

1 2018 Insurance Barometer Study, Life Happens and LIMRA

Need more insight? Let us be your guide.

Our national network of experienced financial advisors can help you create a personalized plan to help you identify financial goals and get you where you want to go in life.

Find an Advisor

Related Insights

Man talking with hand gestures

Understanding long-term care

Is your financial plan ready should you need care on an ongoing basis? Long-term care insurance can help defray the costs of the medical and non-medical services you may need in retirement.

Read More
The words "open enrollment" written on a notebook

Open enrollment tips

Open enrollment period is when employees choose their workplace benefits for the next year. Waddell & Reed Insights has some tips as you renew your benefits this open enrollment season.

Read More
Father and Child having fun outside.

Life is for the living. So is life insurance

Are you aware of all the roles life insurance can play in your financial plan? Waddell & Reed Insights offers some life insurance tips and strategies.

Read More

Associated Tags: Insurance, Long-term care

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2018 FMG Suite.

Insurance products are offered through insurance companies with which Waddell & Reed, Inc., has sales arrangements.