Empower (Personal Capital) Retirement Planner Review

Personal Capital Retirement Planner Review

The Empower (Personal Capital) Retirement Planner is an excellent tool for analyzing how much retirement cash flow you will have compared to your retirement expenses. When it comes to planning for retirement, you cannot be too careful because there is no rewind button in life.

Do you really know how much you need to retire? A lot of people like to throw out random numbers without really doing the math. One million dollars is a nice round number that often gets brought up for retirement. Unfortunately, $3 million is the new $1 million thanks to inflation in rent, property prices, tuition, automobiles, and food.

Even if you come up with a retirement number, chances are high that your number will change due to unanticipated life events. Maybe you'll become unemployed for a year and draw down most of your savings.

Or maybe you'll find an amazing new job with a 50% pay raise. Maybe you'll end up having triplets due to the latest $20,000 IVF procedure when you were hoping for just one baby. Who knows? Life has a great way of keeping us on our toes.

What we need is an interactive retirement calculator that is dynamic, has multiple adjustable variables, and also incorporates real data. This is where Empower's Retirement Planning Calculator comes into play. Because you're linking real accounts where expenses and incomes are generated, Empower is able to realistically calculate your future cash flow needs.

Let's first have a look at some current retirement concerns by the public at large. 

Main Fears Of Retirement

Harris Poll conducted a nationwide survey of 2,000 adults ages 18 and older in 2019 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. Fortunately, the Empower Personal Dashboard has a fantastic fee analyzer feature to help users save a lot in fees!

Empower Retirement Fee Analzyer
Empower Retirement Fee Analyzer

Even More Retirement Insights

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.

Fear Is A Big Motivator For Greater Saving And Wealth

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.

Below is the historical US personal saving rate chart. Clearly, the pandemic showed us that people are capable of saving a lot if they have enough motivation. Fear can be an incredible motivator for positive change. A certain amount of fear is necessary to achieve financial independence.

It's quite concerning that the personal saving rate has dropped below 5% as of January 2023. That's clearly NOT enough to lead a comfortable retirement without help from Social Security, a pension, or various forms of passive income.

Historical Personal Savings Rate Chart 2023
Historical US Personal Saving Rate

Empower (Personal Capital) Retirement Planner Features

Empower Personal Capital Wealth Management Tools

Everybody should sign up for Empower Personal Dashboard's free financial tools and utilize their free Retirement Planner.

Here are some of its features:

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 you expect more income 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 Empower Personal Dashboard 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.

Empower Retirement Planner
Empower Retirement Planner

Get even more details in our comprehensive Empower Personal Dashboard review.

Retirement Planner Example

Once you click on the Retirement Planner link under the Investing Tab on the top of the Empower Personal Dashboard app, 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.

Steph's Profile:

Age: 38

Savings/Investments: ~$1,200,000

Income: $250,000

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.

Empower Personal Capital Retirement Calculator

Below is a snapshot of all the spending options you can choose from. They cover all major life expenses.

Empower Personal Capital Spending Assumptions

Below is a sample of the variables you can input after clicking the Education Spending Goal as an example.

Empower Personal Capital Private School Assumption

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+.

Empower Personal Capital Cash Flow Details

Allocation Strategy Recommendations

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.

Empower Personal Capital Retirement Planning Asset 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!

Empower Personal Capital Retirement Planner

In addition to the Empower (Personal Capital) Retirement Planner tool, in June 2020, Personal Capital also came out with their Recession Simulator. This is a great tool to help see how your portfolio will hold up during bad times.

Empower Recession Simulator

Will You Have Enough In 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 retire, 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!

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About the Author: Sam began investing his own money ever since he opened a Charles Schwab 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 $300,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.