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The Best Free Retirement Calculator

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The Best Free Retirement Calculator on the InternetDo you think online retirement calculators are useful? When I was trying to quit my job, I spent an inordinate amount of time projecting our post retirement finances. If you retire at 40, your retirement will be 20 years longer than a normal retirement. It’s really difficult to predict how your investment will do over 50 years and I don’t want to run out of money when I’m 70. These long retirement years are why most financial advisors don’t support early retirement.

One important tool I used was the online retirement calculators. Whenever I found a new free retirement calculator, I’d run my numbers and see the result. Unfortunately, most retirement calculators don’t like early retirement either.  Many retirement calculators are from financial institutions that are still stuck on the traditional retirement at 65. There are some useful retirement calculators, but I always thought there must be a better one. Actually, there is no such thing as a perfect retirement calculator because they have an impossible job. Nobody can really predict the future accurately. Anyway, they were all useful to some degree and they helped me refine my retirement strategy. FIRECalc  was the best retirement calculator I tried, but now there is a better retirement calculator from Personal Capital. Here are my issues with various online retirement calculators.

  • Project retirement spending based on current income. Most retirement calculators look at your current income and use that data to estimate how much you would need in retirement. This is probably fine for most people because they spend 90% of their income and save 10%. It might be perfectly valid for the Jones, but that won’t work for the super savers like you and me. We save and invest much more than 10% of our income and I’m sure you do as well. I made about $120,000/year for the last few years I was working, but we were saving all of that. It doesn’t make any sense to base retirement spending on your current income if you save a large chunk of your income.
  • Capped saving rate. CNN Money’s retirement calculator caps the saving rate input at 25%. Vanguard’s calculator caps the annual saving at $60,000. This is good enough for most people, but we were saving far more than 25%.
  • Expected average annual rate of return. You need to estimate your annual ROI and it’s a shot in the dark. I usually go with a conservative 7%, but who knows if that’s accurate. Some calculators use the historical data and Monte Carlo simulation to calculate your chance of success. I like the Monte Carlo method because it estimates your chance of success and give you the result in %. For example, you have a 75% chance of outliving your money. You can’t take it too seriously, though. There are too many variables in life and you never know how the stock market will perform or how long you’ll live.
  • Financial events. We plan to help RB40 Junior with college and it will be a huge expense in 14 years. This will have a negative impact on our finance for 4 years and most calculators don’t take that into account.
  • Post retirement income. We have income from blogging, rental properties, P2P lending, and other sources. I’m also hoping we’ll get at least 70% of our social security benefit once we’re qualified.
  • Overly complicated. Some retirement calculators are quite good, but you need to input a lot of variables. On FIRECalc, you can enter your asset allocation, spending model, lump sum changes, and more. That’s great for those of us who know our portfolio inside and out, but it is still a lot of data to enter every time you want to check your retirement number. It would be much easier if they can just pull that data directly from my accounts.

retirement spending abilityDid you see that big hint at the end? Now, there is a retirement calculator that will take your real time data and calculate the chance of a successful retirement (outliving your money.) I’m a big fan of Personal Capital and I have been predicting that their tools will get more sophisticated and more useful. Personal Capital’s latest effort is their Retirement Planner, a real time retirement calculator. Personal Capital already has the data for your portfolio, income and cash flow so the logical next step is to crunch all that and figure out if your retirement plan is realistic.

If you are not familiar with them, you can read my review of Personal Capital here.

As you all know, Mrs. RB40 is still working. She likes working, but it would be great if she has the option to retire too. Our challenge is to reach Financial Independence by 2020 and she can quit her job or try a different career. She has been thinking about getting a different job, but it’s tough to walk away from a well paying job. Let’s see if Personal Capital’s new Retirement Planner can help her make up her mind.

Income

Let’s look at our income first.

The Best Free Retirement Calculator

  • Saving – We are saving over $50,000 per year and will continue to do so until Mrs. RB40 quits her job in 2020.
  • Social security – I use 70% of our estimated social security benefit here.
  • Rental – Income from our rental property.
  • Blogging – Can I continue to blog for 20 more years? I’m not sure, but our post retirement income should be over $50,000 for a good long while. I will most likely be self employed part time until I’m in my 60s.
  • Sell Rental – I’m pretty sure I will want fewer responsibilities as I grow older. I’ll target selling our rental properties when I’m 61. I’m pretty sure we can net at least a million when we sell in 20 years.

Retirement Spending Goals

The Best Free Retirement Calculator

  • Retirement Spending – $59,594 per year is a bit higher than I thought. That’s because we spent more than usual last year when we purchased the rental property. We paid various fees and fixed a few things at the rental. Our spending should be back to normal in 2015 and this should be reduced to about $50,000 in a year or so. You can manually set your spending target if you’d like. I’ll leave it set to dynamic for now.
  • International Travel – We’d love to travel more once Mrs. RB40 retires. Actually, I think a travel budget of $20,000 per year is pretty extravagant.
  • Healthcare – Once Mrs. RB40 quits her job, then we’d need to buy private health insurance. I’m not looking forward to that at all.
  • College – $80,000 per year for 4 years starting in 2029. Yikes! Hopefully, Junior can get some scholarships.

The Result

You’re in great shape for retirement. We forecast that your portfolio will comfortably support your goals, including $57,469 per year in basic retirement spending. How Can I Improve This?

The Best Free Retirement Calculator

Alright! It looks like we’re in great shape. They also have some suggestions on how to improve our asset allocation to reduce risk and increase return. You also have the option to schedule a call with a human advisor and discuss the result if you’d like.

The Best Free Retirement Calculator

Personal Capital’s Retirement Planner addressed most of the issues I have with other online retirement calculators. It pulls data directly from my accounts so I don’t have to manually input them every time. The calculation is made dynamically, so you can’t get any better than that. The Retirement Planner uses the Monte Carlo simulation* to calculate your chance of having a successful retirement. I know some people don’t like it, but it’s probably better than using a flat percentage like I’ve been using.

All in all, I really like the new Retirement Planner. It’s easy to use and it’s dynamic. In real life, you should not run your calculation once and forget it because there are too many variables in life. You need to crunch your retirement numbers at least once a year to see if you’re still on track to a financially secure retirement. Personal capital made it a lot easier to make sure you’re on target. It uses real time data so if your portfolio is depleting too quickly, you’ll get an early warning and figure out how to adjust it. You can work a bit longer, save more, invest more aggressively, or work after retirement. There are many ways to adjust your retirement and a dynamic retirement calculator can help you make those decisions. Of course, if you need more help, then you should talk to a good financial advisor.

Retirement calculators can’t predict the future, but they can be very useful when you’re trying to figure out your retirement. Personal Capital uses real time data and calculates your retirement projection whenever you want. I don’t see how it can get better than that.

If you don’t have an account with them, you can sign up for free through this Personal Capital link.

Try it out and tell us if you think the Retirement Planner is the best free retirement calculator available.

*Some people think the Monte Carlo simulator is too optimistic and doesn’t model bear markets well.

Personal Capital Best Retirement Calculator

Disclosure: If you join Personal Capital, I may receive a referral fee depending on the size of your portfolio. You don’t have to use their wealth management service and all the financial tools are free.

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{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Ernie Zelinski June 22, 2015, 1:56 am

    Not so good news for you Joe. I didn’t try your favorite retirement calculator because I am Canadian. It wouldn’t apply to me. So you won’t receive a referral fee due to me.

    Having said that, I tried a number of retirement calculators over the years, mainly ones for Americans. Some of the calculators say that I am doing fine; others say not so good. But as you say, “there is no such thing as a perfect retirement calculator.”

    The good news for me, nonetheless, is that I know that this will not apply to me:

    “I have now the gloomy prospect of retiring from office loaded with serious debts, which will materially affect the tranquility of my retirement.”
    — Thomas Jefferson

    Incidentally, ING, provided a simple calculator to find the “retirement number” that applied to you several years ago. All you had to do was fill in your age, your present income, what age you plan to retire at, how much retirement income you will require, and how long you want the money to last, etc., and your number would pop up (cleverly in the same font and orange color as in the commercials).

    I did that 5 years ago. These are the figures that I plugged in response to the questions so that I could get “my number”.

    1. How old are you? 61 Years old

    2. Are you married? No

    3. Present income? $100,000

    4. What age do you plan to retire? 63 Years old

    5. How much annual income will you require during retirement? $60,000

    6. Provide income through what age? 81 Years old

    With these figures, the simple calculator cranked out my retirement number to be $643,434. There was a major problem, however: I only had $375.000 in my retirement savings accounts at the time and I didn’t have any company pension.

    No problem, however, according to that old ING calculator. I just turned 66 on June 18. My retirement account did not have $643,434 at the age of 63 but it has more than that now.

    Incidentally, this former Beatle who said the following and I have birthdays on June 18 (also National Splurge Day).

    “See, my trick in life has been to get away from having a job. That’s been my guiding light.”
    — Paul McCartney

    That same guiding light has served me well.

    • retirebyforty June 22, 2015, 9:12 am

      Retirement calculator just doesn’t work if your finance is not steady. They have to make some assumptions and many of those assumptions are invalid with us. Your company pension is the income from your IP! 🙂

    • Darren June 17, 2017, 10:47 pm

      I hope you’re still subscribed to this comment feed. My best friend and wife live in New Westminster just outside Vancouver, BC. They’re in a ton of debt because they chose to pay a fortune for their ND degrees from a naturopathic college near Seattle, WA. Do you know of any great bloggers, tools, and resources that might help them?
      Darren

      • retirebyforty June 18, 2017, 9:30 am

        There are a lot of resources on the internet and the library. You just have to look for them. For now, I’d concentrate on working hard to grow their income and pay off the debt. Here are some good resources.
        http://rockstarfinance.com/
        Books – Your money or your life, The Millionaire next door, Millionaire Teacher, etc…
        Good luck!

  • Mrs. Budgets @MrandMrsBudgets June 22, 2015, 6:18 am

    I have a personal capital account already, so I’ll definitely be checking it out. Thanks for the post.

    • retirebyforty June 22, 2015, 9:12 am

      Yes, check it out and see if you like it. I think it’s great.

  • Ken June 22, 2015, 6:28 am

    Personally, I think the best retirement calculator is the one you construct yourself from Excel. No excuses. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t retire 😛

    • retirebyforty June 22, 2015, 9:14 am

      You can also try the excel from Bogelheads. That one is pretty complicated too. Personally, I think maintaining an excel sheet is a great exercise. You’ll know your investments inside and out, but it does take time.

  • chris June 22, 2015, 8:14 am

    This is funny. I also subscribe to the Financial Samuri blog and just posted a similar article on the Personal Capital retirment calculator…co-incidence or did they pay bloggers to write good reviews of their product??

    • retirebyforty June 22, 2015, 9:17 am

      The retirement calculator is just released today. They don’t pay us to write good review, but we do get a referral fee if someone join (and has a portfolio with over $100k.)
      I really like this new retirement calculator. It’s great that they can use real data from your portfolio. That’s a big criticism with the Monte Carlo simulator. Other Monte Carlo simulator don’t have accurate investment data.

  • Stockbeard June 22, 2015, 8:51 am

    Firecalc is free. It’s not perfect either, but is a simple website, no subscription required or anything, and is based on the trinity study. I’d recommend people to test that before joining yet another investment company just for their graphs

    • retirebyforty June 22, 2015, 9:17 am

      I like FIRECalc too. It is still one of my favorite retirement calculator.

  • Kristi June 22, 2015, 8:55 am

    Thanks for this! I use Personal Capital already, so I will have to check out their new tool.

  • Bryan June 22, 2015, 9:13 am

    Thanks for the information on Personal Capital. I will go over there and take look.

    It has been a challenge for me to find a retirement calculator that takes into account that we have a high savings rate, live on a lot less than our income, will have significant expenses drop off next year, and we have a large passive income investment in rental real estate.

    I have used Quicken for years for tracking my expenses. Is there a lot of work involved with making sure that transactions updated by Personal Capital are posted to the correct category?

    • retirebyforty June 22, 2015, 11:34 am

      Check it out, I think you will like it. I also like FIRECalc. Try that one too. It’s fun to crunch some numbers and see various scenarios. 🙂

      • Bryan June 23, 2015, 9:34 am

        Thanks for the heads up on FIRECalc! I will go check that out and see what retirement picture looks like! 🙂

  • Kayla @ Add Vodka June 22, 2015, 1:30 pm

    Interesting Joe! I like that you can add some significant one-time events to the planner so it’s more accurate of what your situation is.

  • Mr. Retire by 35 June 23, 2015, 5:34 pm

    Joe,

    This looks promising! I have been doing all of my calculations in Excel, and even though Excel is functional and works great, it would be nice to have a little modern touch and visual aids readily available. Thanks for the review, I’ll have to check it out!

    -Mr. Retire by 35

    • retirebyforty June 23, 2015, 10:06 pm

      Try Personal Capital and FIRECalc. They are both pretty good. Enjoy!

  • Chella June 25, 2015, 3:35 pm

    From what am reading here, it sounds like a very amazing tool. I will go check it out as i have just read about it here.

  • Carol June 30, 2015, 8:59 am

    I’m guilty of constantly running retirement projections based on everchanging scenarios as well. It’s hard to forecast this out, particularly if income isn’t stable, but I like that this Personal Capital one allows for one-off situations.

  • Laura Beth July 5, 2015, 6:04 pm

    Hey Joe! This is another great tool. I’m going to be checking it now. I’m currently using Excel primarily but it gets messy. I’m also going to subscribe because I see you’ve got some other great articles on the site.

    Have a nice evening!

  • Lisa December 2, 2015, 8:13 pm

    Hi Joe, as other commenters have said, I have my own Excel spread sheet with a financial draw down strategy by year. The calculators just can’t get close when it comes to some of the strategizing around drawn down scenarios. But it’s still fun to play with them!

    Since I did my year by year draw down, and really gotten into the details, I’ve had to increase my estimates on health care spending. I notice that you only have $1200 for healthcare spending. If you are checking out the healthcare exchange, you’ll see that most plans go for $500-600 per month. Even with the tax subsidy, which you might qualify for if you both aren’t working, is closer to $300 a month for a silver plan for a single person, and the deductible is $1500 per year on top of that. This doesn’t include dentist or vision either.

    Just a suggestion — you might want to up your expense projections there. I went up to about $5K per year.

    • retirebyforty December 2, 2015, 11:29 pm

      Thanks for your suggestion about healthcare. The price went up quite a bit for 2016. I will update the estimate and see what it looks like. $5k per year sounds reasonable.

  • Matt February 11, 2016, 5:35 pm

    I used many calculators and they seem to be informative but you have to use conservative numbers. If you use a low return (5%) and a realistic inflation rate (3.5%) that can add a nice cushion. especially if retiring in 40’s. I found Paul Merriman on the web and he has some research using the 4% rule of thumb and actual numbers if you retired in 1970 to 2015. They are very positive over many different market conditions. 1 million invest in a diversified 60/40 (stock/bond) portfolio grew to 10.9 million and a total distro of 9.6 million. I retired at 46 and have rental properties along with a 6 day a month part time job. So my portfolio is the cushion and I talked to Paul and that is what he calls “How to retire in luxury” retirement when your portfolio withdrawals can be flexible with market conditions. So calculators can guide you in how much to save but for early retirement it basically means saving (investing) above and beyond the average amount. Now that i don’t rely on earned income I found that having rental property really adds a steady flow of cash and hopefully an asset that grows with inflation over time. My properties are paid off so I have no loans to service.

  • ap999 June 3, 2016, 1:15 am

    The calculator is great, but of course one needs to be consistent and follow with the savings part and also market returns would need to meet expectations. So far I have been consistent and things look pretty bright. But I know I need to adjust and adapt if situations and returns are sub par. So far I am saving over 70% of my income and plan to continue this route for at least the next 5 to 10 years. My income situation could change due to possible lay offs or might not be able to save as much due to pay decreases. Anything is possible! But when it comes to lifestyle expenses I am very flexible and capable of living a low cost life style if need be. But more is better and my goal is not necessarily to live off 24k a year like Mr M style. If I wanted to do that I could probably retire today in that case with what I have already saved up and invested.

  • LeVanTai October 29, 2016, 10:42 am

    really hate it when people tell me what to do too… Good luck

  • Cash in the Kitty March 10, 2017, 4:09 am

    Great article. My retirement age should be 67 when I get there. (I’m 34 now). I’m hoping hubsy and I can retire early at 50, then our investments should keep us until we are 67, then our company pensions and state pension kick in. Do you think 16 years between now and 50 is feasible? We are only starting on this path and I am afraid of putting my 70k savings into investments, even an ETF, yet I know they are deflating in value in the account. If I had put it into an account last summer, I would already be up 7k before tax. How do you get the courage to take the plunge?!

  • Mr. Mofi October 15, 2017, 8:33 am

    Good piece here, thanks Joe! Your article was wht alerted me to this calculator in PC. One great feature is that it allows you to save several scenarios for sensitivity analysis. They even let you compare 2 at a time.
    Feature that I will request from The PC team are:
    – compare multiple scenarios (more than 2)
    – show internal rate of return (this is currently fixed based on the asset allocation you have today.
    – allow one time events to include change of asset allocation
    – download the data after performing the calculations (so that I can manipulate it further in excel etc)
    So far, it’s been a great tool and I think a genuine improvement on some old favorites in a few key areas.
    Other noteworthy calculators are yFIRECalc 2.0 and, cFIRECalc and the Networthify calculator.

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