I cannot believe how cheap term life insurance is. Seriously cheap.
With the new baby on the way in a couple of short months, and my lovely bride now at home full-time, we decided that a larger life insurance policy was an absolute necessity. Before, when it was just the two of us, and we were both working, it was acceptable for us to carry minimal life insurance. We both only carried what our employers provided (two year's salary in both cases). That was plenty because neither of us was completely dependant on the other's salary to get by. If I died, she could have carried on with just her salary, and I could have done the same if she died.
But, with a baby coming, life insurance got vitally important. So we searched out some level term policies to make sure my wife and child could live comfortably if I passed, and I could get by if she passed.
There are lots of "rules of thumb" when it comes to the amount of insurance to get. Kiplinger's, CNN's Money magazine, Smart Money, etc., all have some really good guidelines. To get to my number, I used the 8-12 times my annual salary estimate. This way, the house would be paid off, and the wife and child could pay for college and still live comfortably (albeit not without some changes) for a long time. One million dollars covered us more than acceptably for my policy.
For my wife's policy, we elected to get a much smaller amount. When she's working, she makes less than I do, so we're much less dependent on her income than mine. Since she won't be working (for a while, anyway), we won't be dependent on her income at all. So, basically, the amount just had to cover childcare costs so that I could continue to work and get an income. We settled on a $250,000 policy for her.
For terms, we decided on a 30-year term for me and a 20-year term for her. Since this life insurance is so inexpensive for me right now, we felt it made sense to lock in my rate for 30 years. Granted $1,000,000 won't be worth as much in 30 years, but my health likely won't be as good when I'm 60 and getting insurance may be tougher. With a 30-year policy, I'm covered until our son is WELL out of college, and covered farther in case we decide to have more children.
For my wife's policy, since it's mostly about covering childcare costs, a 20-year policy seemed more than adequate. 16-20 year olds don't need day care.
So exactly how cheap were these policies? Well, since we're both fairly young (30-ish) and in good health (her moreso than me), they were really cheap. My 30-year, $1,000,000 policy was only $800 a year, and her 20-year, $250,000 policy was only $140 a year.
For more information on insurance policies and such, here's my recommended reading:
The Simple Dollar
Free Money Finance
Free Money Finance Again!