Before considering what type of life insurance to buy (term or cash value) or where to get a good buy, you need to choose an amount. This depends on your unique financial picture and you will not get your best answer using a rule of thumb such as "you need ten times your annual income." Individual circumstances vary greatly. Even among life insurance professionals, you'll find a range of recommendations for the same family situation.

While life insurance is an important element in providing protection for one's family, its cost is just one of many competing needs. Most people's discretionary money (what's left after taxes, tithe, housing, auto, groceries, etc.) is pretty limited. But the ways to spend it for the family's welfare are unlimited: building emergency funds, reducing debt, saving for the next car, children's education, and of course a host of different insurances (like life, health, disability, and homeowners).

The Scripture commonly used to promote insurance is 1 Timothy 5:8. But that must be balanced with other Scriptural instructions that would suggest using one's income for other purposes such as paying off debt (Proverbs 22:7, Psalms 37:21, Romans 13:7-8), building a savings reserve (Proverbs 6:6-8, 21:20), or investing for your children's future (2 Corinthians 12:14b). It's easy to overly focus on the insurance decision to the neglect of the others. Is it better stewardship to spend on life insurance premiums what could go, say, into the children's Education IRAs? I counsel my clients to take a balanced view -- don't over plan for dying and under plan for living.

Here are a few reasonable guidelines which you can adjust to your comfort level: