There are plenty of retirement calculators out there, but which one is the best retirement calculator? I've tested out over 20 retirement calculators since 2012 and all aren't very good because none of them use your actual income and expenses.
Most people just guesstimate how much they've been spending on average over the past year or so. The reality is, we usually spend way more than we think and we usually earn slightly less than we think.
If only there was a retirement planning calculator that could take your actual real spending and earning history to come up with as realistic a retirement cash flow scenario possible. I'm happy to say that such a calculator exists thanks to Empower Personal Capital, a company founded by ex-Paypal CEO and Intuit co-founder, Bill Harris in 2001.
Empower Personal Capital has an interactive retirement calculator that incorporates real data. You simply link your financial accounts on their dashboard and their free financial tools will allow you to track your net worth, x-ray your portfolio for excessive fees, management your cash flow, and most of all, plan for your retirement!
A BIG RETIREMENT PROBLEM
In 2019, Harris Poll conducted a nationwide survey of 2,000 adults ages 18 and older that unveiled some interesting retirement takeaways.
Unprepared: 55% of U.S. adults who aren’t currently retired say they feel unprepared for retirement, and 51% feel very/somewhat overwhelmed when thinking about the amount of money they need to save for their retirement. Only 24% of Americans who are not currently retired said they feel somewhat financially prepared for retirement, and only 8% report feeling very financially prepared.
Not Enough Savings: 32% of those who aren’t currently retired reported that they have nothing saved for retirement. 86% of those who aren’t currently retired reported that they have not yet determined how much they will need to save in total to have adequate retirement savings.
Most Important Retirement Concern: Among those who aren’t retired but have begun planning for retirement, cost of living during retirement (28%) outweighs health care costs (14%), the age at which they’ll retire (12%), and the amount of their Social Security benefits (4%) as the most important factor when planning for retirement.
Fee Ignorance: Nearly two in five (39%) Americans who have opened a retirement savings account do not know how much they pay in fees each year.
Family First: 30% of Americans rely on family for financial advice over a financial advisor (27%); 8% receive advice from a broker. Mom and dad usually know best, but not necessarily when it comes to investing your money. After the basic tenet of spending less than you make, there may be a lot to gain from listening to a professional.
A Million Bucks: Nearly two in five (39%) of those who aren’t currently retired believe they need to save $1 million or more for retirement.
Unprepared For A Correction: The majority of U.S. adults (59%) are unprepared for a bear market, citing they have taken no precautionary steps for a potential downturn of 20% or more.
It's clear there's a lot of angst and confusion in America regarding the issue of retirement. Some people are probably saving way more than they need to, while other people will clearly come up short.
Empower Personal Capital Retirement Calculator Features
Here are five great features of Empower Personal Capital's retirement calculator.
1) Utilization of real data instead of guesses: The Planner pulls in your actual savings and spending, not just your expected spending/savings habits. We usually think we spend much less and save much more than reality. This is why people who don't create a budget or track their spending carefully will often ask, “Where did it all go?!” years from now.
2) Scenario Planning: Users can enter major life events, such as weddings, college savings, or buying a home to see how their chances of retirement could be affected and see how they can adjust their savings rate accordingly.
3) Customization: Adjust savings upward if more income is anticipated at some point in the future. Perhaps you're expecting an inheritance, or a liquidity event with your company going IPO. The Retirement Planner lets users add in these cash inflows to anticipate when they might occur. The tool then recalculates your financial future. You can basically test an endless amount of scenarios!
4) Real-Time Data & Accuracy: By using Monte Carlo simulations, account aggregation and real-time data, Retirement Planner’s level of accuracy is unlike many others in the market. The Retirement Planner literally calculates thousands of different scenarios to come up with their output.
5) Recommendations Page: For Personal Capital registered users with over $100,000 in investable assets, the tool offers a recommendations page that provides key insights on how to adjust current and future activity to increase the likelihood of meeting retirement goals.
RETIREMENT PLANNING EXAMPLE
Once you click on the Retirement Planner link under the Investing Tab on the top of the dashboard, you'll basically see some default settings based on the accounts you've linked in your dashboard. The more accounts you link, the better the results.
It's up to you to decide how much you can save a year, at what age you plan to take Social Security, whether you have other streams of retirement income, what age you plan to retire, and what you plan to spend in retirement.
Annual Savings Goal + Capital Appreciation: $100,000
Annual Retirement Spending Goal: $100,000
Age To Retire: 60
Age To Withdraw Social Security: 70
I've added a $92,000 Range Rover Sport purchase at age 40 because he'll be going through a mid-life crisis. In seven years, he plans to add another 700 square feet of living area to his house since he plans to have a child. Finally, when his kid goes to college in the year 2035, he plans on spending $70,000 a year, which might be too conservative. Below are key input variables.
Below is a snapshot of all the spending options you can choose from. I think they've got all the major life expenses covered.
Below is a sample of the variables you can input after clicking the Education Spending Goal as an example.
Below shows the detailed cash flow table with the $92,000 car purchase at age 40, and the $200,000 house wing expenditure at age 45. What you don't see is the $72,000 a year in college expenses he'll have to pay starting in his early 50s. If you log on, you'll see your numbers out until 90+.
Below is a snapshot of the recommended strategy allocation compared to the existing strategy allocation and the projected portfolio value difference over time. Of course, there are no investing guarantees. But, based on this person's risk tolerance and other input values, a small strategy shift could lead to millions more dollars in retirement. You'll also get recommendations on existing cash allocation.
Below is the overall snapshot of Steph's financial future. The most exciting graphic is the Monthly Retirement Spending Ability on the right. He can spend $31,825 a month no problem, but he only desires to spend $8,333 a month. Thanks to such large underspending and the default 7.5% annual growth assumption, his retirement portfolio will grow to $9 – 17 million dollars!
In addition to all these great features of the best retirement calculator by Empower Personal Capital, they also launched a Recession Simulator tool in June 2020 due to the global pandemic. Now that's forward thinking.
Utilize The Best Retirement Calculator For Retirement
The biggest surprise I discovered during my eight years of early retirement was how much less I really needed to maintain my lifestyle. A lot of people forget that once you are retired, you no longer need to save for retirement. There are plenty of free activities, early bird specials, and senior discounts to help you save. You'll also never have to travel during peak season again.
When making retirement assumptions, it's best to be conservative in order to end up with too much, rather than too little. Once you've chosen some realistic variables in the Retirement Planner, click “Save My Plan.” Revisit your figures once a year or whenever there's some big money event at the very least. Make the adjustments accordingly and enjoy the journey!
See if you're on the right path to a healthy retirement today.
About the Author:
Sam began investing his own money ever since he opened an online brokerage account online in 1995. Sam loved investing so much that he decided to make a career out of investing by spending the next 13 years after college working at Goldman Sachs and Credit suisse Group as an Executive Director. During this time, Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley with a focus on finance and real estate. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $200,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, advising leading fintech companies, and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.
About Financial Samurai:
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