As American workers began to shoulder more of the responsibility for funding their retirement, retirement calculators became a popular tool to help people plan for retirement and achieve their goals. A Google search for “online retirement calculator” garners tens of thousands of hits. People are anxious about their retirement readiness and concerned about whether they will have enough money to last through their lifetime.
In this article, we look at two popular retirement calculators available online. The following online calculators do the best overall job we've seen of translating sophisticated retirement income planning methods into an understandable and easy-to-use layperson’s planning tool.
- Online retirement calculators can help you manage your retirement goals by helping you figure out how much to save and see if you're on track to meet your goals.
- There are many online retirement calculators available, but some are better than others.
- Having your financial information at hand will make using a retirement calculator quicker and easier.
- Finding a calculator is as easy as doing a Google search for one.
- The T. Rowe Price Retirement Income calculator and the MaxiFi are two superior examples.
How Retirement Calculators Work
A retirement calculator can be a helpful tool to steer you in the right direction for a comfortable retirement, but some of them can easily throw you off track. The most effective and useful calculators let you model different retirement scenarios, taking into account the variables that can affect how long your money will last so that you can save and invest accordingly.
If you're going to use a calculator, there are some key facts you'll need to have at your disposal. These include:
- Projected age of retirement
- Annual income
- Any income you expect to have when you retire
- Current retirement savings
- Whether you plan to work during retirement
- Where you plan to retire
- Investment style
- Estimated living expenses
Once you plug in this information, the calculator you use should give you an idea of whether you're on track to meet your goals or which direction you need to take to achieve them.
3% to 5%
The percentage of your assets that most calculators assume you can safely spend each year in retirement.
T. Rowe Price Retirement Income Calculator
The T. Rowe Price Retirement Income Calculator is widely lauded for its strong emphasis on income planning. It enables you to project your monthly retirement income based on various planning scenarios. It projects your monthly shortfall for each scenario, if any, and shows the likelihood of your savings lasting throughout your retirement. It then offers options for making up for potential shortfalls.
You can compare scenarios side by side while changing the variables and assumptions to see their effect. It also has a built-in Monte Carlo simulation tool to help you see how your retirement savings will fare in various market conditions. The major drawback is that it calculates only one retirement age at a time. If you and a spouse plan to retire at different points, you would need to run two separate calculations.
The presentation is straightforward for the level of sophistication that the tool employs. The interview process is somewhat involved, but there is plenty of pop-up support along the way. You can expect to spend up to 20 minutes inputting data if you have all of your financial information at hand.
MaxiFi Planner (formerly ESPlanner)
Many retirement calculators do not allow for the varying tax consequences of different sources of income, which can have a significant impact on projecting your retirement income. The MaxiFi Planner accounts for variable taxation, which can help you work to achieve greater tax efficiency using Monte Carlo simulations or other financial models. It also allows spouses to plan for two different retirement dates.
The first thing you may notice is the detail of the input screens. The added detail allows for greater flexibility in using planning assumptions. It requires some upfront reading to understand the process. You can choose from several different planning modes, such as Conventional or Economics. It offers two other modes, Upside Investing and Monte Carlo, which you need to purchase. A self-help guide can be accessed by clicking on any underlined word.
MaxiFi has the following noteworthy features:
- It provides separate inputs for the assets of each member of a couple.
- It assigns a different tax status to each asset, such as after-tax, pre-tax, no-tax, etc.
- It calculates income taxes automatically based on your data inputs.
- It allows for variable inputs of expenses and income to account for temporary situations or anticipated changes in the future, such as downsizing, the sale of a business, an inheritance, paying for college, etc.
Once all the assumptions and variables are finalized, the program works with a simple click. You may find the detailed output a little difficult to understand at first, but it provides several pages of numbers and graphs that are easily clarified. The only real negative is that you have to assume age 100 for life expectancy, and you cannot specify the payout type for a pension, such as single or joint life. And if you don't want to spend a lot of time reading and combing through financial details, MaxiFi may not be for you.
Most online calculators, including the one from T. Rowe Price, are free. But MaxiFi services come at a cost. The options include a $109 Standard plan for an annual household subscription (renews at $89 per year), a $149 Premium plan for an annual household subscription (renews at $109 per year), and up to $599 annually for financial advisors (renews at $459 per year).
How to Save for Retirement
One of the biggest hurdles that most people experience when it comes to saving for retirement is starting the process. But there are certain things you can do that can take the guesswork out of saving. You can accomplish this by enrolling in programs that allow you to save using automatic deductions. For instance:
- Enroll in an employer-sponsored plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). Doing so allow you to choose how much you want to stash into your retirement account. Your employer deducts this amount from every pay on a pre-tax basis so you don't have to on your own. This not only takes the onus off you, but it also reduces your annual income and lowers your tax liability. And if your employer provides a matching contribution, you get extra money for your retirement fund.
- Open an emergency fund. You can choose from a range of options, including savings accounts. Like the employer-sponsored account, you can choose to have the money transferred from your checking account automatically each time you get paid. And if you have a high balance, you may earn more by investing in an account that pays high interest.
And don't forget, there are other options available, including individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and other non-traditional savings vehicles like certificates of deposit (CDs) and brokerage accounts that you can use specifically to fund your retirement.
If your age is preventing you from saving for retirement, just remember that it's never too late to start. Even though it's a good idea to begin early, you can always start at any age. Keep in mind, though, that you'll probably need to save more the later you start. Consider speaking with a financial professional to help guide you in the right direction. They can assist in choosing the right investment mix to help you meet your goals and stay on track.
How Much Should I Save for Retirement?
That depends on a few different factors, notably your age. If you start saving in your 20s, you can probably afford to save a little with each paycheck because you have a longer time horizon to meet your goals. But if you start saving in your 40s, you'll probably need to stow away more in your retirement accounts. Fidelity suggests putting aside at least 15% of your pretax income in order to meet your retirement goals. But consider this figure to be a guide as it may be fairly conservative for your needs. It's always best to talk to a financial expert who can help you with your retirement planning.
When Should I Start Saving for Retirement?
It's always a good time to start saving for retirement when you're young. You can afford to save a little (or a lot) when you're in your 20s. But if you're in your 40s and you haven't already, the best time to start saving for retirement is now. Keep in mind that you may have to put aside a little more than you would have if you were younger. One important point to note is that most investment accounts work on the principles of compounding. This means that any money you deposit and the earnings on that money both increase with interest over time. So if you deposit $1,000 and earn $50 in interest, that $1,050 will grow together.
What Are Some of the Easiest Ways to Save for Retirement?
One of the easiest ways to save for your retirement is by taking advantage of employer-sponsored plans like the 401(k). These accounts allow you to choose a percentage of your paycheck that your employer will deduct automatically from your pretax earnings. Some employers offer matching contributions, which gives you an extra boost and free cash to stow away.
You can also consider opening up another qualifying account, such as an IRA and an emergency fund. Because of banking technology, you can also choose to have a specific amount transferred from your checking account at regular intervals, such as payday. Automatic transfers take the guesswork out of investing and eliminates the temptation of skipping deposits.
The Bottom Line
Online retirement calculators are good for determining how much you need to save to provide sustainable income for your lifetime, and the T. Rowe Price Retirement Income Calculator and MaxiFi Planner are two of the best tools. It is important to keep in mind that retirement calculators rely on accurate information and realistic assumptions.
In other words, if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. Before using any planning calculator, plan to have all of your relevant financial and benefits information on hand and spend some time thinking about your goals for retirement.