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As prepared its 2023 Father’s Day Index, the editors had a number of questions about the importance of fathers, new and old, acquiring life insurance: When should a father buy a policy, how much should they buy and what type of life insurance should they get?

To answer those questions and to discuss the importance of life coverage, spoke with Alison Salka, Ph.D., senior vice president and research director at LIMRA, a life insurance industry research group. A lightly edited version of the conversation follows. When is the right time for a father to buy life insurance?

Salka: Fathers love and support their families, which is why we recognize them this month. Good fathers set a positive example for their children and help them to grow into responsible and kind adults. They protect their family’s financial security to the best of their ability. One way to do that is to make sure the family is provided for should something unexpected happen.

There is no one right time to buy life insurance. There are some general milestones, though, that should serve as reminders to think about insurance coverage. These include:

  • Becoming a father (or stepfather): Every type of father wants to ensure his family’s financial well-being and security, even in the event of premature death. Life insurance can provide a safety net to replace lost income, cover debts and support a family’s future financial needs. Covering expenses is the most common reason fathers buy insurance, according to the “Insurance Barometer Study,” an annual report on the perceptions, attitudes and behaviors of insurance consumers produced by LIMRA and Life Happens, an industry nonprofit.
  • Taking on significant financial obligations: When fathers take on large financial commitments like a mortgage or other loan, life insurance can help cover those. It ensures that a family isn’t burdened with that financial responsibility if the father passes away before the debt is repaid.
  • A job or career change or career advancement: If fathers change jobs and their new employer doesn’t provide sufficient life insurance coverage or they receive a significant increase in income, it may be wise to supplement existing coverage or purchase a new policy to reflect their new circumstances.

There are many considerations when buying life insurance. Fathers should consider their age and health. As people age, life insurance costs generally increase, and their health may affect the availability and cost of coverage. Buying life insurance earlier in life, when you’re younger and healthier, usually means more affordable premiums.

Ultimately, it’s a good idea to consult a financial advisor who can assess your unique situation and help you determine the best coverage for specific goals and needs.

Our research shows that most parents of young children (59%) have life insurance. Interestingly, they were also more likely than the rest of the population to say they didn’t have enough coverage, especially among Millennial and Gen Z parents. How much life insurance does a father need? How can he determine the best level of coverage?

Salka: A good level of coverage can be determined by looking at income, financial obligations, family needs and long-term goals. Fathers can start by reviewing their needs and goals and determining what they want to cover. Would they want to replace their income, cover childcare and household expenses, cover debts and financial obligations, pay education expenses or leave a legacy? These are important questions, and the answers point to types of policies and amounts.

If his goal is to cover the mortgage or a child’s tuition, factoring that into his calculations can help determine how much life insurance he will need. A father can also use his salary as a guide, determining how long he would like to replace his income to support his family if he passed away. Many carriers have life insurance calculators that can help determine how much coverage is enough. 

It’s essential to reassess your life insurance needs periodically, especially when significant life events occur, such as the birth of a child, a change in income or financial changes. Consulting with a financial advisor or insurance professional can provide valuable guidance in determining the appropriate coverage amount for your specific situation.

Fathers also need to consider their budget and how much they can reasonably afford to pay monthly premiums. It is important to note that the No. 1  reason people say they don’t buy coverage they know they need is “it is too expensive.” 

Yet, most Americans vastly overestimate the cost of life insurance ― sometimes by as much as three times. The industry needs to overcome misconceptions about the cost and accessibility of life insurance to help parents begin the buying process.

Fathers must decide whether they want term or permanent coverage depending on its purpose and the amount needed. What are some of the advantages of having a term life insurance policy?

Salka: Generally, if someone knows they’re only going to need life insurance for a fixed period of time, such as while they have children living with them or for the duration of a mortgage or other expenses. In that case, term is a good, simple and effective option.

Term life insurance is temporary. It lasts for a specific amount of time. The most common product is a 20-year term. Term tends to be the most affordable type of insurance, which enables families to purchase larger coverage amounts for less than it would cost to purchase a permanent policy. In general, term life premiums are level, meaning they will not change while the policy is in effect.

Parents often choose term policies when they need more coverage for a limited time period. For example, a young family raising children with a mortgage may need more coverage than an older couple without a mortgage whose children are grown. What are some of the advantages of having a whole life insurance policy?

Salka: Permanent life insurance offers lifelong coverage, provided the policyholder keeps making the premium payments. Those premiums stay the same throughout the person’s life, although exceptions exist.

While permanent life insurance may be more expensive per dollar of coverage, there are benefits to considering it. Permanent policies offer a savings or investment component, known as a cash value, which grows tax deferred over time and can be withdrawn or borrowed against while the owner is still living. Fathers can use the cash value for things like paying for emergencies, funding their children’s education or supplementing their retirement income.

Fathers must consider what they can reasonably afford to pay in monthly premiums. If they have a limited budget, term-life coverage tends to be significantly cheaper than whole-life coverage. If they are more financially comfortable and have longer-term goals, such as wanting to build cash value for their retirement, permanent life insurance may be a better choice.

If interested in buying a permanent policy, LIMRA encourages working with a financial professional to learn about the various products and their features. Considering one’s financial objectives, a financial professional can recommend the type of policy best suited to achieve their financial goals and help them apply for coverage.

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John McCormick
Editorial Director


John is the editorial director for, and Before joining QuinStreet, John was a deputy editor at The Wall Street Journal and had been an editor and reporter at a number of other media outlets where he covered insurance, personal finance, and technology.