Best Retirement Planning Calculator By Personal Capital

Retirement Life Infinity Pool, Bali Indonesia
Hanging Gardens Resort Ubud, Bali

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


Harris Poll conducted a nationwide survey of 2,000 adults ages 18 and older in 2016 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.

Personal Capital launched a new Retirement Planning Calculator embedded under their Investing Tab section of the dashboard to provide some clarity. I believe it is the most sophisticated retirement calculator available online today.

Personal Capital Retirement Planner Features

Personal Capital Wealth Management Tools1) 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 Calculator 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.

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.

Personal Capital Retirement Calculator

Below is a snapshot of all the spending options you can choose from. I think they've got all the major life expenses covered.

Personal Capital Spending Assmptions

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

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+.

Personal Capital Cash Flow Details

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.

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!

Personal Capital Retirement Planner

Will You Have Enough In Retirement?

The biggest surprise I discovered during my six 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. For example, I just checked roundtrip tickets to Honolulu from San Francisco for the Summer and they cost $850 vs. $390 during the Spring or Fall!

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!

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. He also became Series 7 and Series 63 registered. 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.

62 thoughts on “Best Retirement Planning Calculator By Personal Capital”

      1. That is a great question; the other key question is are the dollar targets one is inputting in today’s dollars or indexed to inflation for your retirement years? And I noticed in your retirement years, that dollar amount is flat-lined so does not account for inflation. Both are huge issues IMO.

  1. Its sad to see that the majority of people have saved less than $200,000 for their retirement. But still, the figures are far above average. If you are that scale of money just as you are about to retire you need to allocate that wealth the best you can. I would advise getting pension advice from a professional.

    Great read, love the depth you take with the topic.

  2. I’m curious, this program uses old-school, straight line return assumptions, instead of probability return techniques. Assuming you’re going to average 8% a year, does not take into account the sequence of returns. There are many classic works out there that show that the sequence of returns during withdrawal period has a huge impact on the success of a portfolio in providing future income. The sequence problem does not affect the accumulation phase so much, but is critical during retirement.
    I have found programs that use Monte Carlo forecasting, which look at thousands of potential annual return sequences, to be superior to the old deterministic programs. Thoughts?

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  4. I really enjoy this retirement planner. I can fiddle around with this. I can see I can retire a lot sooner than I thought if I were to make some changes now. There are some trade offs I see. I can retire 40-45 very nicely, but I also see how much of a difference my retirement income could be if I were to push retirement to 50-55or later. I suppose its all about what I really want to do. At least I have quite a bit of flexibility… retire sooner with a little less but still comfortable spending options. Or retire later with a lot more. If I get tired of the rat race, I might just pack it sooner but at least I’ll have a good buffer to do so.

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  6. When I look at some of my assets in Personal Capital, it says those assets are unclassified. Is there a way to override the classification?

  7. How would you say this compares to other retirement calculators? I have used FireCalc and thought it was the best until I started using this one. One limitation with Firecalc is that you can’t increase the savings rate pas the inflation rate.

    Another questikn I have concerns Social Security. Do you assume you will receive any Social Security. I still have 35 years before I can even start receiving it. Right now, I estimate my benefit and multiply it in half to be conservative but not too conservative.

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  10. I tried it a couple of days ago. Excellent tool.

    My suggestions, for what could be improved:

    1. Include Spouse’s retirement age/SS taking age
    2. Include one spouse’s death as an event, and show how the savings do for the survivor
    3. I could not figure out what the “average” and “poor” market scenario means? Is it 10% growth for average and -10% for poor? One should be able to specify it, or if not, it should be clarified in quantitative percentage.
    4. For each expense, the tool can intelligently forecast as to what Medical costs will be, at the age you specify to retire. No one will add individual expenses for which they are not aware what is the average. I can add wedding, or education as an estimate; but expenses like medical insurance etc. can be suggestive.
    5. I also do not know if my tax rate will increase or decrease when children/dependents are gone? For example, for a retirement income of $150K, does an old couple pay more, or a couple with 2 kids pay more? The bigger point being – People do not know what changes happen during retirement, and tool should quantitatively suggest. Currently, it shows 20% tax rate even if $150K income is expected for 2. One can adjust though.

    Overall, the best I’ve seen.

    Thanks for sharing!

  11. wallstreet26

    slightly curious as to how your survey would look if we break it down by age and net worth or level of confidence for that matter.

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  13. Hey Sam I signed up for PC bc of your blog posts about it and have enjoyed being able to track my spending/savings in one place. I was going through this retirement planning calculator yesterday and I think it is great. But I don’t see how to get my actual savings/spending imported in…I think it is using my retirement goals that I have established previously like 100k retirement spending and a set amount of annual savings. Also, is there a way to adjust retirement spending for inflation and income as well? For example, when I put in rental property income it is the same each year for the next 30 years, but I know there will be rent bumps along the way that will make a huge difference over time.

    1. Hmm, the Retirement Calculator should work in a way that you don’t have to import anything in b/c it is based on what you actually have and are spending/saving. But, click the area for Spending Goals and add things as you thin they’ll come.

  14. I might have to check this tool out to supplement my other ones. While I can’t say that I am ahead, I can say that I am starting to think and prepare for retirement.

  15. Umm, slightly off topic, but can you please tell us where you took that picture? Love that picture and love your blog.

  16. Where did the input of $100k income in retirement come from? I must have missed something… of course retirement works out if you still make as much as you spend?

    1. It was a default variable that can be adjusted based on the $1.2 million saved/invested at age 38.

      Check out the tool for yourself and you can see how easy it is to make different scenario analyses.

      1. I should have been more specific with my question I was wondering where the “Other Retirement Income” of $100k/year came from? The model already assumes you’ll have a $100k/year income from your portfolio “Retirement Spending”. I don’t see a reference in your article to a $100k/year in outside income coming in, so I’m confused about why you’re bringing in $100k/year from your portfolio AND outside income. Seems like there’s an error in your inputs, unless I’m missing something.

        I played around with the tool for a while yesterday putting in retirement savings, planned kids, kids’ future college expenses, etc. It’s a big step forward in other retirement tools out there!

        1. The “other retirement income” seems to only apply if you’ve income producing properties or some other secondary business.

  17. Pretty cool…similar to others out there, but still a great cross check! Good news it says I have a 97% probability that I’m in good shape…I’ll take those odds!

    1. I’ll take those odds too! Now play around with your expenses and desired retirement spending to see where you can push those odds down to an uncomfortably low level. It’s all about finding those two extremes!

  18. supernova72

    I should try Personal Capital again. Twice I’ve signed up only to find out it won’t link to my megacorps 401K account (160,000 employees). I sent notes to the on-line help link but no resolution last time. Not trying to rain on your parade but that’s why I’m on Mint.

    That retirement calculator looks pretty cool. I’ve used many including firecalc. Cheers.

    (edited, my 401k account links fine with Personal Capital)

  19. Adam @

    I’ve been playing with this tool myself. It’s quite powerful and visually looks great.

    My only PC complaint is that they still don’t connect to Tradeking, where I have my IRA’s and brokerage account. It misses a lot that has to be updated manually.

  20. I mostly use PC on iPhone app and it doesn’t look like they’ve implemented it for mobile app yet (as far as I can tell anyway). Matter of fact I don’t even remember my PC password because I’m always using iPhone Touch ID. Hopefully, they implement it for iPhone shortly so that I can try it out.

    1. I’m sure they will be implementing the feature on both Android and iPhones soon. But in the meantime, play around with the Retirement Planner on your laptop. I think you’ll really find it useful and insightful.

      1. Thanks, I’m pretty patient. I’ll wait. It’s not that useful for me on desktop. Even when reading your site 99 percent of the time I’m mobile :)

  21. Done by Forty

    Love the tools at Personal Capital, and glad to see a new shiny one. :) Will have to give it a whirl this weekend.

  22. Sam,
    Isn’t your example actually a bad outcome? Saving $30M when the target is $8M seems to be way overshooting expected goals. (of course, not as bad as being so far *under* target) Unless there is some desire for a significant estate, then either this example saver could move to much more secure investments (sacrificing return) or live it up a little.

    Isn’t the point to hit the target?

    1. Hi Matt – Where did you get to $30 million? The calculator has an expected outcome of around $8 – $17 million and the recommendation might boost the figure up to $23 million.

      Remember, the current max for estate and inheritance planning purposes is $5.3 million per individual, or $10.6 million per couple that can be given away without the death tax kicking in. Therefore, $8 – $23 million is in the range, given the law might increase this death tax limit figure in the future to account for inflation.

      The great thing about the Retirement Planning calculator is that there are plenty of ways to test out the outcome. The easiest solution is for me to change the desired spending from $100,000 a year to $150,000 a year and see how it goes. You can play around with all your own figures yourself.

      Let me know how it goes!

      1. Sorry, I had mixed up monthly spending with an aggregate total. But the comment still stands. If he can spend $31,825 a month, but only desires to spend $8,333, isn’t he over-saving? If he desired some kind of large estate for charitable giving or inheritance, shouldn’t that be on the spending goals? Otherwise, he could be living it up. (or, doing good now with increased charitable giving)

        1. Sure, but would you spend to the max of what the planner says you can spend? Or would you spend under, just to be safe?

          Everybody is different in the way they spend and save money. Hard to judge them.

          Instead, let’s talk about you. What does your Retirement Planner output say in terms of what you can spend and earn a month? And do you have a retirement target in mind? How do you make sure you’re spending the optimal amount that makes you happy? And do you know from experience that spending $300,000 a year made you happier than if you spent $100,000 a year?

          1. I will have to try this out, but I have had a live review with a fee-only financial planner this year. I will say I am happy with where I am at. I’m not ready to retire yet, but I see it on the horizon 10-15 years away. Most importantly, I think I will be able to choose my exit time: savings (and therefore, spending) vs. my career development vs. my family’s development. (kids)

            I do think I am happier working, knowing that I don’t have too–If I was unhappy, I could quit today and do OK.

            I will also say that 3x a target is not a cushion, it’s something else entirely. That would be like driving 25 mph in a 70 mph zone, just to make sure you don’t get caught speeding. But for sure, to each his own. It does not make me angry or something, but it certainly is not for me. I do have goals to leave a legacy, but I expect to continue to be as active with my finances in retirement as in my working life, so I will not leave so much money idle–I will do something with it. (not necessarily immediate spending on fun, but either giving to worthy charities, helping family, or making plans for where it goes when I am gone)

    1. Don’t think so. Will check and get back to you. One of the key attributes of the RPC is that it uses your real data, not guesstimates to give you a realistic look at your future finances. That is a very strong differentiator that is powered by Yodlee.

  23. Wow thanks for the heads up and thorough review of their cool new calculator. The future can feel scary when it comes to money because we’ve all heard horror stories of people not having enough money. But being able to use technology to help paint a clear picture of where we’re headed and what we can do now to get to the retirement we want is eye opening and comforting. Can’t wait to try it out myself. Thanks!

  24. Prof. Services Consultant

    Sam, if you can utilize your influence at Personal Capital to encourage them to make just one improvement, I would ask for this: the ability to divide single transactions into multiple categorized transactions and to hide transactions.

    As cool as this tool looks, Personal Capital drastically over-estimates my personal income and my personal spending because I travel for work and submit for expense reimbursement. my paycheck and reimbursement are in the same direct deposit and I can’t separate it in Personal Capital. I also don’t want my work’s travel spending to be counted as if it was my personal spending in this retirement planner.

    That’s why I’m forced to use Mint for anything related to income and expense. It’s the closest thing to accurate besides the data I enter into my spreadsheet.

    1. I’m happy to pass along feedback. Personal Capital is more hollistic/bigger picture than Mint. Personally, I do a budget in Excel every 2-3 years, or whenever there’s a big change, like me leaving my job in 2012. Once I set up the maximum amount I want to spend based on the savings goal or investing goal I have, I stick to it. It don’t check all the details, and instead try to spend freely under a certain amount. It feels much better this way.

    2. I had the same minor challenge, with the same direct deposit account for salary and travel expenses. I too travel a lot. All I needed to do was manually re-categorize the expense account checks hitting my direct deposit account to “expense re-imbursement” or “transfer”, and they are removed from Income. Quickly cleaned up that problem.

      I have a separate company credit card for all re-imburseable expenses; I do not link this card to my PC account, so the expenses never show up either.

  25. I really like the new Retirement Planner too.
    It seems too optimistic for some reason. Maybe we’re in a better shape than we thought.

  26. Interesting example – other than the net worth I thought it might be you! :)

    Are you using this tool to track all of your spending and for budgeting purposes? If not, what do you use- Mint, Quicken, other?

    1. I figure why not create a profile that I can easily discuss! Range Rover at 40 ain’t out of the question in my mind, as that’s when Rhino’s 3-year lease is up.

      I use PC to see how much I’ve spent overall (which includes investments made and debt pay down). I no longer do basic budgeting because my spending habits have been very automatic, no matter how much I make. And what I make now is larger than what I spend, so the need to budget in detail is no longer there.

      I use PC mainly to xray my portfolio for fees, track my net worth, and now play around with the retirement planner. I have a net worth goal I’d like to hit by a certain age, and PC is helping me get there.

  27. I’ve been using PC for a while now, but haven’t explored this tool. It is amazing! Thanks for highlighting it Sam. Check out what a rental property does to the projections…I need to get me some high quality rentals like you.

    1. It really is sweet. Makes me wonder about what differentiated, value-added product I can build for FS if I am to start a bigger company. I see so many talented folks with lots of capital building great products already, so I’m thinking the competition will be fierce!

      Rentals + build products to sell online. Just give it a go. There are so many platforms that allow you to sell something now.

      1. Barry Allen

        “There are so many platforms that allow you to sell something now.”

        Perhaps there should be an article on this.

  28. Does the how much you save each year in the “savings’ category include 401k (i.e. pre-tax)?
    Or should that just be how much I save (or plan to save) with after tax money?

    1. Good question. I’ve personally not including any pre-tax contribution to be conservative in my liquidity needs.

      I also don’t have a regular 401k contribution amount. Basically, I’m contributing 25% of my operating profits at year-end to my Solo 401k as I’m a solopreneur now.

      1. The solo 401k is exceptional. You can put in the 401k limit for an individual AND 25%!

        I work for a company but my wife is self employed. She put in about 50% of her earrings last year!

  29. Thank you, Sam, for highlighting this tool from Personal Capital. Although I do not make a large income, the tool is very helpful, and it looks like if I can tweak it slightly, I may be able to retire (modestly, but that’s perfect for me) on time. It all depends on whether the market cooperates, and I stay healthy!

    1. Robin – No problem. The great thing about the Retirement Planning Calculator is that you can make multiple different assumptions, click Recalculate, and the algorithm computes your realistic results and outcome.

      Want to retire earlier? Maybe lower your desired monthly spend and increase the annual savings rate.

      Want to try and hit X number by 65? Change some other assumptions, or rebalance towards more or less risk.

      I like that the calculator is based off real data linked to the dashboard. The output gives me way more confidence than any other calculator I’ve found.

      1. Thanks again! I did modify the desired amount and may be able to retire earlier than I thought. This calculator IS the best I’ve seen too.

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