One way to calculate how much life insurance you need involves figuring how much investment capital it would take to replace all of your income for two decades or longer if it were invested in secure Treasury/municipal bonds and certificates of deposit. Another approach focuses on four categories of need. The first, funeral/burial expenses, ensures that beneficiaries will receive up to $20,000 in tax-free proceeds faster than they would from an estate. Next, mortgages and other debts are taken into account so that surviving members don’t have to face the prospect of needing to sell the family home. Lastly, add the (future) cost of education as well as your current pretax earnings (until retirement) to your family’s income replacement needs.
NOTE: Use the calculation of need in the above four expense categories to get an estimate of how much life insurance is appropriate, then fine-tune the numbers to reflect personal circumstances.