How to calculate your life insurance needs and premium

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Buying a house, getting married, having a child, or some combination thereof brings many wonderful things into your life. It also causes a sobering realization: you’ve now reached a stage of life where your mortality has practical ramifications for your loved ones. If you die early, there are people who could be left scrambling to make ends meet, even as they deal emotionally with your loss. In short: you now have dependents, which means you now need life insurance. But once you’ve reached that conclusion, there are still questions, from how much life insurance you need to what the premium could cost, to how long will it take to have a policy in place.

The good news is that getting life insurance is probably simpler and cheaper than you think, especially if you do it online. And the better news is that we’ve answered some of the most common questions in order to get you started calculating your life insurance premium.

How do I calculate how much life insurance I need?

The back-of-a-napkin answer is that most experts recommend coverage that’s 5 to 10 times your annual salary. While that’s a good rule of thumb, your calculations may vary depending on the specifics of your financial situation and family structure.

If you’re currently paying off a few debts, and want to make sure your loved ones aren’t saddled with them after you’re gone, you should take out a policy that will cover those repayments in the event of your death. If you’re the family breadwinner, and you want to make sure your spouse can pay the mortgage and put your kids through college, that will imply a larger policy, and probably a longer term.

Make it easy on yourself and utilize an online life insurance calculator to get a personalized recommendation.

Life insurance needs aren't one-size-fits-all.

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What will it cost me?

The short answer is, happily, “less than you think.” It’s been found that millennials overestimate the cost of life insurance by more than 200% on average, so you may be surprised to learn that, for example, a healthy 35-year old man could get a 30-year, $500,000 term life insurance plan for around $35 a month. When it comes to life insurance, it can be hard coming to terms with the fact that your financial responsibilities could outlive you. But at least calculating what it costs to take care of them is easy.

How do I calculate my life insurance premium?

A life insurance policy lasts for many years, but remarkably, the process of getting an estimate online lasts one minute, less if you type fast. (For comparison, try assessing a mobile phone plan in that amount of time.)

Many online agencies like Haven Life offer a rate calculator page, along with their remarkably simple application process. Enter four bits of information (date of birth, gender, level of health and whether you smoke), say how much coverage you’d like for how long, and voila – you’ll be given a rough monthly price. On that page, you can also look at what it would cost for different levels of coverage and terms, which is invaluable when choosing a plan.

If you like what you see, you can proceed to apply online – and possibly become insured on the spot if you’re approved – without leaving the comfort of your laptop.

How do I describe my health?

To get a life insurance premium estimate, you’ll be asked whether your health is “average”, “good” or “excellent.” Obviously, these categories are less subjective than they sound. “Excellent” health generally means you have good weight, blood pressure and cholesterol readings, haven’t smoked in the last five years, and have a relatively uncomplicated medical history. The “good” category is the same when it comes to smoking and family history, but it’s less strict about weight, height, and cholesterol. “Average” is for everybody else. Those guidelines are enough for an accurate estimate, and when you apply for a policy you’ll provide more detailed answers that enable the insurance company to make a precise calculation for you.

Should I be honest about my health and lifestyle?

As anyone who has used a dating app, engaged in online debate, or just read the news lately knows, the internet makes lying very, very easy. However, while fudging your height on Tinder might result in nothing more than a raised eyebrow or an awkward conversation, being less than accurate when you apply for life insurance online can invalidate your claim. If you die while insured, the insurance company will check various details before paying out, which means they will discover if, for example, you pretended not to be a smoker, or neglected to mention that you go base jumping on weekends. If you’re looking for life insurance, honesty really is the best policy.

In summary, while life insurance is obviously less fun and exciting than becoming a parent/spouse/home-owner, it’s also cheaper and quicker than all of those things. Which means you can spend your time focusing on the new aspects of your life, confident that they’ll be protected come what may.

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Michael Davis is a freelance writer and editor who has covered everything from fashion and music to parenting, work, and finance. He has been a chef, restaurateur and record label owner.

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC15DTC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. Not all riders are available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is 0K71922 and in Arkansas, 100139527.

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