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How much life insurance do you really need?

Our calculator uses the Human Life Value method to suggest your life insurance needs based on what you're earning now and what you expect to earn for your family in the future.2 If you're between 18 and 40, you multiply your annual income by 30; as you get older and have fewer working years left, that multiple decreases. It's a rough estimation method, but there are other ways of estimating your protection needs, such as the DIME method, which looks at your family's DebtsIncomeMortgage obligations, and Education goals. 

How term life insurance works

  • You’re covered for a set period of time. Term length typically ranges from 10 to 30 years; our calculator shows you the cost of a 20-year policy but lets you see how rates change for a longer or shorter term.
  • Your rate never changes. The quote is for a “level” term policy with rates that won't vary for the entire length of the term; your premium can never go up.
  • Your loved ones are protected with an income tax-free death benefit. If you pass away while your policy is in effect, your beneficiary gets a lump-sum payout for the amount of coverage purchased.
  • It typically costs less than a permanent policy but doesn’t build cash value. Whole and universal life policies cost more because they protect you for life and include a cash account that builds over time, while a term policy is worth nothing after the term ends.3,4,5

Why to consider buying term life insurance

  • It can help replace income for your family if you pass away during your working years
  • It can help pay off a mortgage so your family can stay in your home
  • It can help repay other debts, such as student and personal loans
  • It can help cover higher education costs for your children
  • It can help pay for childcare and other expenses while children are growing up
  • It can help with living expenses to support your family’s lifestyle
  • It can help pay health care and other expenses
  • It can help pay funeral expenses and other final costs
  • It can help replace Social Security benefits or retirement savings you would have otherwise earned

How different factors affect the cost of a term life policy

Coverage amount

The bigger the policy, the higher the cost. 

Term length

The longer the term, the more you'll pay per month.


The older you are, the higher the cost.


Women tend to live longer than men, so they pay less.

Health status

People in better health qualify for lower rates.


Tobacco use and other hazardous activities raise your cost.

Frequently asked questions about life insurance quotes


This article is for informational purposes only. Guardian may not offer all products discussed. Please consult with a financial professional to understand what life insurance products are available for sale.



2 The Human Life Value method of estimating life insurance needs:


Maximum Life Insurance


30 times income


20 times income


15 times income


10 times income


1-time net worth


1/2 times net worth


case by case

All whole life insurance policy guarantees are subject to the timely payment of all required premiums and the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company. Policy loans and withdrawals affect the guarantees by reducing the policy’s death benefit and cash values.

4 Some whole life polices do not have cash values in the first two years of the policy and don’t pay a dividend until the policy’s third year. Talk to your financial representative and refer to your individual whole life policy illustration for more information.

5 Permanent life insurance consists of two types: whole life and universal life. Cash value grows in a participating whole life policy through dividends, which are declared annually by the company's board of directors and are not guaranteed. Cash value grows in a universal life policy through credited interest and decreased insurance costs. The cash value of both policy types benefits when the policyholder pays an amount above the required premium.


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