The Best Retirement Calculator Review – I Review 26 In One Day (#calculatormountain)

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you compared the top 26 retirement calculators online? Who would be crazy enough to do a retirement calculator review of this many – in a single day? Me, apparently.

Now, I love playing around with retirement calculators. But doing 26 of them in a row is quite an achievement, even for me.

I know in most parts of society, doing this makes me a bit weird. But here, in personal finance land, I know you understand. Playing around with retirement calculators, and reviewing them in my mind, is something I do all the time.

I’ve been playing around with retirement calculators for almost twenty years now. I turned 20 in the year 2000, so I was using them in my 20’s. My income was increasing quickly, as would be expected for someone that age just starting a career.

My age, combined with my income increases, meant that most retirement calculators I used at that time were terrible. We were entering the “lost decade” of zero returns in the S&P 500 – although we wouldn’t know it until 2010. My income was going up, starting the decade at under $30k and ending at more than three times that amount. My husbands income was volatile – starting the decade equal to mine, going down as he went part time when our oldest was born, back up when he returned to full-time work, and down when his workplace closed in 2009 during the Great Recession.

It’s amazing just how much can change in your 20’s.

Now that I’m on the “wrong side of 35” (I’m 38 now), I thought it was time to try again. I’m going to share what I learned with all of you today.

Retirement Calculator Review – Before We Begin

In the calculators, I’m going to be looking for a few things. How easy is it to use? What are the underlying assumptions, and can you change them? Does the calculator let you put in low retirement ages, and % of income to be replaced (i.e. does it work for people looking to retire before 65)? Does it use Monte Carlo simulations, or does it just use a straight rate of return calculation?

Note – this will just be my opinion, you should use the calculators and form your own opinions. I have no relationships with any of these companies, so this will be my honest opinion. 

There are going to be some major differences between the calculators that cause wild swings in the amounts they calculate what you will need, and have, upon retirement. Some use current dollars, others use future. Some let you change their assumptions, and some don’t.

I’ll tell you what you get with each calculator,what I like and don’t like about each one, and what I’m doing as I write.

The TL; DR Version Of The Retirement Calculator Review

Don’t want to read all the details? Here’s the summary of what I found.

There were not many calculators that used Monte Carlo simulations to calculate your chances of success. Several were buggy. One was down entirely on the day I went to do this.

There were major differences in the data you get to input, which leads to wild swings in results. I will say, the results were all clustering around a few numbers. But some of the calculators had vastly different answers – because of the assumptions or the data.

So be careful about what calculator you use. Take a close look at the assumptions and whether (or not) you agree with them. And you’ll probably want to run a few different calculators and take an average, instead of relying on one.

I also discovered that doing this 26 times makes you very tired, hungry, and then just annoyed at bugs and gaps in the various calculators.

Frankly, it’s no wonder people are confused about what they need for retirement.

TIAA Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

TIAA Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Gross income, Age, Gender, State, Spouse Income, Spouse Age, Dependents ages, Desired Retirement Income % (defaults but you can change), Retirement Age (defaults but you can change), Retirement contributions and assets, Social Security, Additional Retirement Income, Life Insurance information (under the heading – secure your future earnings with life insurance!)

For retirement contributions and assets – you can add multiple accounts. You need to enter the type of account, the financial institution it’s with (although this seems unnecessary), your monthly contribution, monthly employer contribution, current balance, and asset allocation.

What kind of calculation does it do?

It takes the retirement income you requested – based on the % of current income you asked for – and compares it with their projection of how much you will have. The amount you’ll have must be based on the retirement account information you input, although it’s hard to find the assumptions they use.

They’ll also compare your strategy with their “proposed strategy”. This part doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because with “your strategy” they assume you’ll maintain your current asset allocation forever, but their “proposed strategy” has it becoming more conservative over time. Most investors will get more conservative over time anyway, but there’s no way to tell this to the calculator.

Information looks to be provided in today’s dollars.

They’ll also helpfully tell you that you need life insurance. I had left that blank, because I’m trying to calculate what I need for retirement, not for life insurance, but there you go.

What I Liked

They let you put in a fairly low percentage of your income (down to 25%) and a low retirement age. I was able to put in 45 without an issue.

Also it’s nice that they calculate Social Security for you. Some calculators make you input this.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Only asks about income – not bonuses, vested stock, etc. Although you could put that in the income.
  • They try to pitch you life insurance. There’s a section that states “secure your future earnings with life insurance” and asks about life insurance for dependents over the age of 18. What the heck?
  • It’s confusing. WHY does it not let you select 401k as a retirement account type. It makes you pick an “asset allocation” for your account type, but it doesn’t tell you what those asset allocations mean UNLESS you go to the FAQ and click on “How retirement advisor calculates and provides advice”
  • No nest egg. It only tells you how much monthly income you want, need, and a proposed strategy. It doesn’t tell you what nest egg you need!
  • No details on inflation, assumed return, income increase, tax rates. I can’t tell which of these are included, if any, and it’s not clearly outlined in their FAQ
  • It doesn’t say what kind of withdrawal rate they’re using.

What am I doing?

Going strong – this is only the first one, after all. Feeling good! Let’s do this!

Voya Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Voya Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Age, annual income, retirement account balance, savings per month, future monthly income from other sources

What kind of calculation does it do?

It provides your estimated monthly income, estimated monthly goal, and the difference between the two. Once you’ve answered the five questions, you can adjust things like your retirement age (default is 67, it only goes down to 50) and investment rate of return.

The calculation appears to be in future dollars.

What I Liked

The calculator was very simple to use. I also like how easy it is to find the assumptions.

What I Didn’t Like

  • No early retirement. You can’t put a retirement age below 50.
  • Some assumptions can’t be changed. Can’t alter any of the assumptions around inflation or your retirement goal. You’re stuck with 70% of income!
  • No taxes or income increases. I can’t see where they’re taking into account the impact of taxes, or income increases over time.
  • It does not include your spouse. So the calculation is just for a single person
  • Social security is on/off. You can say to take it into account, or not, but you can’t alter the assumptions.
  • It doesn’t say what kind of withdrawal rate they’re using.

What am I doing?

Feeling a bit disappointed about how simple this one is.

Prudential Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator 1

Link to calculator 2

Prudential Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Calculator 1 – Current age, Retirement age, Salary, How much will you contribute (1-5% of salary), When will you start contributing (today, in 1-6 years, never)

Calculator 2 – Marriage status, Current age, Retirement age, Number of dependents upon retirement, Where in the US do you want to retire, What kind of lifestyle do you want, Household income, Current retirement savings, Annual retirement savings

What kind of calculation does it do?

Calculator 1 -This tool is designed only to tell you what the impact of increasing your contributions is, and the impact of waiting to start contributing. It was so not useful that I had to go Google another Prudential calculator.

Calculator 2 – This one is what I was looking for. It calculates a needed monthly income based on the type of lifestyle you select – Modest, Moderate, Comfortable, or Luxury.

What I Liked

Calculator 1 – It’s a good, simple illustration of the impact of increasing your contributions and on waiting to start contributing.

Calculator 2 – It’s pretty simple, and you can tell they went for the gamification trend when creating it.

What I Didn’t Like

Calculator 1 – It is pretty much useless as a retirement calculator. Prudential, why did you buy ad space at the top of Google for this! Your other one is much better.

  • You can only input a contribution of 5% of your salary
  • It doesn’t let you put in retirement accounts
  • No assumptions
  • It doesn’t calculate how much you need

Calculator 2

  • Confusion. The results screen states “Our calculations…are shown in present day dollar values”. But the FAQ states “The information provided in this calculator is based on FUTURE DOLLARS.” Which one is it?
  • No social security, and no option to add it in. Most people agree that even if social security isn’t around in its current form when us 30-somethings retire, it will be around in some way
  • Lack of lifestyle assumptions. I can’t see what assumptions they make on the income needs of each type of lifestyle (Modest, Moderate, etc.)
  • Only 3% safe withdrawal rate. Four percent is more commonly accepted as standard, as I discussed here. This is pretty conservative.

What am I doing?

Feeling annoyed at the first calculator. Why do I have to Google to get a better calculator??? That first one is basically marginally educational (save more and earlier and you’ll have more… really?!) and a pitch to contact them for a financial advisor.

Edward Jones Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Edward Jones Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Current age, Retirement age, Beginning contribution age, Investment rate of return, Minimum annual contribution, Maximum annual contribution, Current Plan Value

What kind of calculation does it do?

It calculates how much of a retirement nest egg you will have based on the data you input.

In current or future dollars? Who knows? They don’t tell you.

What I Liked

Finally, a calculator that shows your nest egg! It’s also simple, and lets you put in a range of annual savings so you can see the impact of increasing your contributions. It also lets you put in a retirement age of whatever you want – down to age 2! Gotta start them young.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Confusing. You can’t make your “Beginning Contribution Age” lower than your current age. I believe this is on purpose, but then there’s probably a better name for this field. I was trying to put 20 because I started contributing at 20, before I realized it was really for use if you want to delay the start of your contributions
  • No retirement income. It doesn’t calculate your income needs, or your retirement income. Just how much you’ll have based on the strategy you input.
  • What Assumptions? It doesn’t tell you any assumptions. Are you seeing future or current dollars?
  • Got Questions? Too Bad! They list the kinds of questions you might have that this calculator doesn’t tell you – like, what if I have social security? How can I estimate retirement expenses? – and then tells you to go call your financial advisor. Your Edward Jones financial advisor, of course!

What am I doing?

Wishing this was a better calculator.

Vanguard Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Vanguard Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Age, Retirement age, Income, % of salary saved, Current retirement account balance, % of income needed in retirement, Expected annual return, Include Social Security option, Include pension option

What kind of calculation does it do?

It shows you your anticipated monthly income based on your current account value, rate of return selected, and annual contributions.

What I Liked

This is clearly in current dollars! It also lets you make lots of adjustments to your strategy and easily see the impact.

What I Didn’t Like

  • No early retirement. You can’t put a retirement age below 50, and they throw some asterisks up on the retirement age when you go below 62, to warn you that you’re not going to get Social Security.
  • Can’t change inflation assumptions. Can’t alter any of the assumptions around inflation.
  • Gaps in calculation. I can’t see where they’re taking into account the impact of taxes, or income increases
  • Can’t lower % of income past 60%. I don’t like how you can’t go below 60% of current income needed in retirement.
  • They make you calculate your own social security. Painful. I just input mine based on what TIAA said above.
  • No withdrawal rate. It doesn’t say what kind of withdrawal rate they’re using.

What am I doing?

Feeling somewhat sad. I <3 you, Vanguard, but I wish this calculator was better.

Bankrate Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Bankrate Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Curent age, Age at retirement, Annual household income, Current retirement savings, Expected income increase, Income required at retirement, Years of retirement income. Optional – you can elect to include social security, and change the expected rates of return.

What kind of calculation does it do?

It calculates how much you’ll have upon retirement (total nest egg), what you’ll have every year through the end of your retirement, and whether or not your nest egg will last for the period of time you requested.

What I Liked

This calculator is better than the other ones, while still being simple. It will make a lot of the defaults for you, but lets you make lots of adjustments. The calculator also lets you put in a very low percentage of income and retirement age, so you can do lots of different calculations. I also like how it shows your nest egg over time, and whether or not you’ll run out of money.

You can change the assumptions around inflation and rates of return.

This is also the first calculator that both split out pre- and post-retirement rates of return, as well as included an income increase option!

What I Didn’t Like

  • Not clear if this is current or future dollars
  • It doesn’t tell you what kind of income to expect – only that the amounts provided include you paying for your estimated expenses.

What am I doing?

Feeling surprised the Bankrate calculator has been better than the other ones so far.

AARP Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

AARP Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Marital status, Age, Partners age, Your/partners retirement age, Gender/partners gender, Salary/partners salary, Amount saved each year, Retirement account/partners retirement accounts, Pension, Social security, Lifestyle (More Modest, About the Same, More Extravagant)

What kind of calculation does it do?

It calculates your nest egg at retirement, and shows you details of your annual income needs based on the type of lifestyle selected, retirement account withdrawals, and social security earnings.

What I Liked

It was nice that it not only showed my estimated nest egg at retirement, but also how much income I would need every year.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Wrong Social Security for non-income earning spouses. Not sure why it’s assuming $0 for spousal social security estimate. Spouses get 50% of their partners benefits if they didn’t have their own income.
  • BUGGY. It was a buggy calculator. I had to reload and lost all my data. Whenever I tried to click on options to see the assumptions, it froze. This happened THREE TIMES. I even switched browsers to try to fix it, but no dice. So I couldn’t tell what assumptions they’re using, and I couldn’t change them.
  • Income assumptions. I selected “More Modest” as the type of lifestyle, and it showed only a small drop in income need from pre- to post-retirement.

What am I doing?

Feeling highly frustrated at these technical difficulties. I literally had to run this calculator three times!!! Come on AARP, you had $1.6 billion in revenue in 2016. Put some of that towards your IT department!

Merrill Edge Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Merril Edge Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Your age/spouses age (if you select you have a spouse), Annual income/spouse annual income, Total savings, Savings each month, % of income needed in retirement (from 60-110%), Investing style

What kind of calculation does it do?

It gives you monthly, annual, and total amounts in a range based on market condition.

What I Liked

You can see monthly, annual, or total results. It also shows you a range, which is nice, rather than a single dollar amount. The calculator uses Monte Carlo simulations. It includes the impact of taxes, which the other calculators so far do not. It also clearly outlines its assumptions

What I Didn’t Like

  • Low withdrawal rate – It uses a safe withdrawal rate equal to inflation – so 2.18% by default. This is pretty low.
  • It only goes down to 60% of income.
  • Current or future dollars? – I can’t tell, and they don’t say.

What am I doing?

Feeling like these companies don’t understand the 4% rule.

Nerdwallet Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Nerdwallet Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Age, Pre-tax Income, Current Savings, Current monthly savings,

Optional: Monthly retirement spending, Other expected income, Retirement age, Life expectancy, Rate of return

What kind of calculation does it do?

It calculates the total of how much you’ll need, and how much you’ll have, based on the data you input.

What I Liked

You can adjust a lot of the assumptions, and can put in a low retirement age/income requirement. It can be simple – only entering three pieces of data if you want – or more complex if you’d like. The assumptions are clearly outlined.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Odd assumption – They’re assuming your salary increases don’t outpace inflation, with inflation at 3% and your salary increases at 2%.
  • Social security – I wish they calculated social security for you. You have to calculate and input it yourself.
  • Current or future dollars? – I can’t tell, and they don’t say.

What am I doing?

Starting to feel tired of doing all these different retirement calculators, and getting different answers.

Charles Schwab Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Charles Schwab Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Age, Retirement age, Investment style (Low-high risk), Annual income, Current retirement savings, Annual savings, Social Security, Supplemental income, Annual spending

What kind of calculation does it do?

It shows you the total amount you’ll have, and how much you’ll need.

What I Liked

You can adjust a lot of the assumptions – and can put in a low retirement age/income requirement. It also uses Monte Carlo simulations, at a 90% level of confidence.

The assumptions are clearly outlined, although the explanation is rather lengthy.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Unclear if it’s current or future dollars. A common error
  • Assumes all pretax investments. So no way to put in something like a Roth.
  • Assumes inflation = income increase. So your income will never outpace inflation?

What am I doing?

Going to quit for a while and go take a nap. I’m halfway through. Need some rest and coffee to continue. I’ll call this my pit stop on #calculatormountain

Calc XML Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Calc XML Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Current age, Current annual income, Spouses annual income, Current savings, Desired retirement age (1-120), Number of years of retirement income (1-40)

What kind of calculation does it do?

It told me how much I’ll have at my retirement age based on my current savings, and how much I would need to draw down each year in retirement.

What I Liked

I like the flexibility – it defaults a lot of the data, but it lets you change them. It also lets you put in a very low or high retirement age, % of income to be replaced, rate of return, and years in retirement.

I also like how it shows you year-by-year details if you request it.

It also told me “The total amount needed for retirement, including amounts already saved, is $0.” So that made me happy.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Current dollars? Future dollars? Who knows? Once again, no statement if these are current or future dollars.
  • Bad calculation. This one calculated the lowest “amount I will have in retirement” of all the calculators. Why? Because it had no where for me to put in my annual contributions!

What am I doing?

Feeling glad I made myself that coffee. I’m going to need it.

American Funds Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

American Funds Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Year of birth (you & spouse), Current salary (you & spouse), Current federal tax bracket, Expected salary increases (you/Spouse), Inflation rate, Retirement age, Annual income desired at retirement, Estimated social security, Estimated pension, Account details

What kind of calculation does it do?

I ran the “detailed calculator” – it calculated how much money I’ll have in retirement, and how much I’ll need per year.

What I Liked

They give you the option for a “quick” or “detailed” analysis – always a good idea for those of us that are good with money, while still helping those starting out.

In the detailed analysis, I love how you can put in current amounts, future contributions, years to contribute, and rate of return by account type by person. It makes the calculation more accurate

What I Didn’t Like

  • Not clear if this is current or future dollars

What am I doing?

Feeling surprised this calculator was so good.

Betterment Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Betterment Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Marriage status, Zip code, Annual income/spouses income, Current account value, Annual contribution, Current age, Target retirement age

What kind of calculation does it do?

Calculates how much income you’ll be able to generate in retirement based on the data you input.

What I Liked

Simple data entry

What I Didn’t Like

  • Very slow. It had to pause to load after I input every. single. field. Do some more performance testing and tuning, please.
  • What’s the rate of return? You can’t see or adjust your rate of return
  • No Social Security? Does not include social security, and doesn’t give you the option to add it in.
  • You can’t see your total nest egg
  • What’s the rate of withdrawal? They don’t tell you their safe withdrawal rate assumption.

What am I doing?

Feeling bored as I wait a few seconds for the calculator to load after every field I input. This is when I start to think I need some more coffee.

Fidelity Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Fidelity Retirement Calculator ReviewNOTE – When this article originally ran, the calculator was down. It’s been updated with the calculator results now that the calculator is working.

For Fidelity, you create a guest account to use their tools, which are only available for thirty days. I actually have an account with Fidelity and can access their customer tools, but I wanted to keep this review to only publicly available calculators.

What data do you enter?

Name (twice – once when signing up for the Guest account, and again in the calculator), date of birth, partner information (Name/DOB), salary, bonus, commissions, retirement status, expected retirement age, age to plan to, expected expenses, retirement accounts (including amount, account type, and investment account type breakdown)

What kind of calculation does it do?

Monte Carlo – 250 simulations per the pop-up.

What I Liked

The retirement age can be set as low as your current age, which is nice. They also let you slice and dice your results however you want – by monthly income, annual income – and give you a handy score.

I also like how they let you use defaults for certain data (like spending in retirement, and social security), but allow you to adjust multiple variables. You can adjust pretty much anything at the end of your analysis, and re-run the simulation.

They also make it easy to find the assumptions they’re using. For example, there’s a handy link about their inflation assumptions right in the expense area.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Disclaimers: There were eleven pages of disclaimers to read before I got in. Then there was another disclosure pop-up. This was written by the anti-customer experience team, aka the lawyers.
  • Slowness: It was a bit slow when I was going from screen to screen
  • Guest Process: Unfortunately I don’t like this need to sign up as a guest, and only have access for thirty days. First, this is easy to game, because you can just sign up using other email addresses if you want to use it again. And second, you have to provide your name in the guest process, and again when you do the retirement calculator.

What am I doing?

Feeling very annoyed that the site is down, but there’s no errors saying that. It just simply won’t load as a guest or as a customer. I even tried on my other computer, no dice.

TD Ameritrade Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

TD Ameritrade Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

First name, Date of birth, Marital status, Employment status, Employment income, Where do you live now/in retirement, Estimated Life Expectancy data (smoking status, health, family life expectancy), Social security data, Other retirement income sources, Assets, Investment breakdown between cash/bonds/stocks, Estimated future assets (like home sales), Level of risk (from less to more)

What kind of calculation does it do?

Calculates how much you’ll have at retirement, and how much you’ll need. It also provides you a nice year-by-year breakdown.

What I Liked

I like how they calculate your life expectancy based on your personal data. It uses Monte Carlo simulations to estimate returns, which I prefer as they’re more accurate than a simple calculation.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Not exactly with the times. I had to select my spouses occupation as “Homemaker”. I’m sure my husband Todd will be happy to hear that.
  • Usability issues. The “Next” button is in an odd place, I had to hunt for it. Please put it on the bottom.
  • Bugs. Under “Life Expectancy” it said [Object Object} for both me and my husband. Please ask your testers to go back and test this.
  • Can’t tell if this is current or future dollars
  • Taxes? Unclear how taxes are being taken into account

What am I doing?

Starting to get hungry for dinner. Luckily my husband is getting it started as I write this. Problem is, it smells so good it’s distracting. Retirement calculator reviews apparently stimulate my appetite!

T Rowe Price Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

T Rowe Price Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Include a partner?, When were you born, Where are you with retirement (saving/preparring/living), Amount saved, Income, Retirement contributions, Asset allocations pre and post retirement, Social security and other income

What kind of calculation does it do?

Provides how much income you’ll need in retirement, and where it estimates you’ll be based on its calculations.

What I Liked

You can provide different asset allocations for pre- and post- retirement. Uses Monte Carlo simulations for a more accurate result.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Failure? There’s only a 70% chance my savings will last until 95, but it’s providing me a very rosy picture of where I am vs. where I “need to be”. In fact, it estimates I’ll have an extra $3k per month. The 30% failure rate is concerning to me, though, and I wish it was more prominent
  • You MUST replace 75% of your income. I don’t like how you can’t change the % of income you need replaced from the default of 75%

What am I doing?

Need. Dinner.

Smart Assets Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Smart Asset Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Location, Income, Age, Savings per month, Estimated annual retirement expenses, Year born, 401k/403B/457 balance, employer contribution, Traditional and ROTH IRA, Pension, Cash savings and investments

What kind of calculation does it do?

Calculates your income needs, retirement nest egg, and whether or not you’re on track

What I Liked

Pretty flexible with retirement age and % of income to be preplaced

What I Didn’t Like

  • Doesn’t allow you to see – or change – assumptions around rate of return and income increases
  • Can’t tell if they’re doing Monte Carlo simulations, but I suspect not, because they don’t ask about asset allocation

What am I doing?

Finished dinner and I’m ready to finish this marathon! Come on! Almost there!

Dave Ramsey Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Dave Ramsey Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Current age, Retirement age, Current retirement account balance, Monthly contributions, Annual return

What kind of calculation does it do?

Calculates how much of a nest egg you’ll have at your retirement age based upon your current account value and annual contributions.

What I Liked

Very simple – a good place to start if you’re a beginner, which is precisely Ramsey’s audience

What I Didn’t Like

  • Not for advanced calculations. I assume this is on purpose.
  • Doesn’t tell you the assumptions.

What am I doing?

Time to head out swimming with the boys – it’s a hot day here, and the pool closes at eight. Check out my Instagram stories for the little guy having fun.

CNN Money Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

CNN Money Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Current age, Annual salary, Current savings

What kind of calculation does it do?

Tells you how much you should target saving each year to have enough to replace 80% of your pre-retirement income by age 65.

What I Liked

Very simple – only three pieces of information entered, and it spits out the amount you should save each year

What I Didn’t Like

  • You can’t change any of the assumptions. This is aggravating to someone like myself who likes to play around with the assumptions.
  • Very simple calculation, Which means its highly likely wrong. Also it would be hard to understand what kind of asset allocation you should have, or where you should be saving this money, unless you found that information elsewhere.
  • Doesn’t tell you what income or nest egg to target. So how will you know if you’re on track?

In full disclosure, I did try using another one of their calculators first, but couldn’t get it to load.

What am I doing?

Back from the pool, in my pajamas, and getting ready to have some sort of wine-like substance to get through the rest of this list.

Financial Mentor Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Financial Mentor Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Age, Retirement Age, Life Expectancy, Retirement Income, Every “X” years of retirement reduce our income needs by “Y” %, Desired estate, Estimated annual inflation rate, Retirement balance, Monthly savings, Age to stop contributions, Expected annual return, Estimated tax rate, One time benefits 1-4, Post-retirement income (like social security, pensions, etc.) 1-4

What kind of calculation does it do?

Calculates the nest egg you’ll have for retirement, and whether or not you’re on track to meet your goals (as input into the calculator)

What I Liked

Very comprehensive data entry – you enter all the data, and there’s no defaults. So you can totally customize your simulation for what you want. This helps avoid the problem of some of the other calculators where they make default assumptions you can’t change.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Too complex for a non-financially minded person – they wouldn’t know what to input for the variables
  • You have to input every variable, including Social Security. So you’ll need to do some homework before using this one.

What am I doing?

How many of these do I have left to do? Five? Almost done. Come on Liz, you can make it. If someone can paint 100 coats of nail polish on their nails (#polishmountain), you can run 26 retirement simulations.

Market Watch Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

MarketWatch Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Age, Retirement age, Salary, Total Assets, Annual Savings, Optional – Retirement/other accounts, Social Security, Retirement spending

What kind of calculation does it do?

It calculates both the nest egg you’ll have, as well as what you need, and how much retirement income you’ll have. You can also see how your spending is projected to change in retirement.

What I Liked

It lets you change pretty much every assumption. I like how it provides both income and nest egg information, and it shows you spending by category type. You can even tweak inflation by spending category, and it includes income inflation (which seems to be a rarity). And it shows spending breakdown changing by lifestyle phase, assuming you’re less active as you get older

What I Didn’t Like

Hard to fault this one. The only real thing I would want to add would be an option to tell you how you can alter your strategy to meet your goal, rather than just telling you that you won’t make your goal.

What am I doing?

I just checked and I am out of my favorite wine. Sadness has ensued. 

I have another wine but I am unsure of cracking it open. This retirement calculator review may drive me to it, though.

Kiplinger Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

Kiplinger Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Gross income, Years until retirement, Percentage of income to replace, Social security income, Pension income (COLA adjustments), Current retirement account balance, Estimated return on investment, Home equity drawdown, Life expectancy, % in stocks during retirement, Any additional retirement assets

What kind of calculation does it do?

It gives you your retirement income and nest egg, and tells you if you’re falling short of what you need.

What I Liked

Clearly in future dollars. Pretty straightforward calculator.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Social Security. It makes you enter your social security rather than estimating it for you
  • Home Equity? Why is there an option to include your home equity? That’s unusal, and this is the only calculator so far that did that.
  • Where’s the assumptions? I don’t know if this calculator is including the impact of taxes, or annual income increases.

What am I doing?

I have decided to risk the wine, with only three left to go.

U S News Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

US News Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Current age, Age you want to retire, Cost of living in retirement, Annual contribution, Annual pension, social security, other income

What kind of calculation does it do?

It tells you until what age your savings will last. For me, it said 110+, which I think may be the max.

What I Liked

It was simple, there were only a few things to input. And it lets you know something that many calculators don’t – until what age will your money last

What I Didn’t Like

  • You can’t change any of the assumptions
    Doesn’t give you a nest egg, or income to target. Or what you’ll have.

What am I doing?

Still haven’t gotten that wine. I’m too suspicious. Only two left to go!

MSN Money Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

MSN Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Annual income, Current age, Retirement age, Life expectancy, Current savings, Annual income after retirement, Annual investment return

What kind of calculation does it do?

Calculates both income and nest egg based on the data you input.

What I Liked

Straightforward calculation, with some nice bar charts as well as the option to see detail.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Where are the assumptions? It doesn’t tell you what they’re assuming for inflation, income increases, or taxes. So I’m not sure what they are
  • Current or future dollars????

What am I doing?

ONE MORE! ONE MORE!

FireCalc Retirement Calculator Review

Link to calculator

FIRECalc Retirement Calculator ReviewWhat data do you enter?

Spending, portfolio amount, years

What kind of calculation does it do?

Shows a Monte Carlo simulation results set based on historical stock market results.

What I Liked

It’s very simple. Enter three pieces of data, and see your results.

Or make it more complex by entering more data around Social Security, pensions, set retirement into the future, spending model, investments, portfolio lump sum withdrawals, and investigating other results.

What I Didn’t Like

  • This is my favorite calculator for complex analysis. But I wouldn’t recommend it to someone brand-new to personal finance.
  • The look and feel is not very sophisticated, if you like sleek design you probably won’t like this.

What am I doing?

Feeling glad this is done, and wondering why I thought this would be a good idea.

Wrapping Up The Retirement Calculator Review

If you made it this far in my retirement calculator review adventure, thank you! I hope this was useful. I have the different aspects of the different calculators compiled into a spreadsheet, and I’ll post it on the site later this week.

If I missed your favorite calculator, let me know in the comments or let me know on social media. If I get enough suggestions I might do #calculatormountain part 2.

Want to redefine retirement? Explore re-FIRE-ment.

Be sure to follow my blog for more great posts via e-mail or WordPress, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter and say hello! You can also check out what I’m buying or baking on Instagram,  what I’m pinning on Pinterest, or the latest books I’m reading (or want to read) over on Goodreads.

 

chiefmomofficer

IT professional, MBA, working mother of three, avid reader, geek and personal finance nerd

49 thoughts on “The Best Retirement Calculator Review – I Review 26 In One Day (#calculatormountain)

  • July 2, 2018 at 11:09 am
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    Yowzers! You are a glutton for punishment, kudos for doing this. It’s clear that waaaay too many of these do not even factor in how much you plan to spend in retirement which is kind of a huge factor (mild sarcasm).

    I don’t use calculators any more after reaching FI but I think Darrow Kirkpatrick’s calculators at CanIRetireYet get great reviews.

    Reply
    • July 3, 2018 at 1:42 am
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      I’ll put that one on the list in case I ever do this again. If I do, I’ll check my wine supply before starting next time.

      Reply
      • July 4, 2018 at 12:05 am
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        Fidelity is my Go To and has been for at least 20 years. I have been retired 3 years now but I still check it – never ever have found it inoperable. It takes a bit of work but is for a good reason: you can take some assumptions about needs or go in and enter all of your expected expenses, which can be edited easily any time you wish. I think this is also a good exercise and I have edited and re-edited half a doze times based on some changes in our pre-retired and retired life. It performs a Monte Carlo simulation and will also offer things you can change to put you on track if needed. I do have part of my retirement savings with Fidelity from a 401K account I had, now converted to an IRA, and it may be that in their Fidelity Net Benefits site one must be an account holder to access this tool but it beats the pants off any of the other dozen or so I have tried.

      • July 4, 2018 at 12:14 am
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        I will definitely be checking it again-I’ve used it in the past and thought it was pretty good. It may have been having issues because I did this on a Sunday. Many systems do their technical maintenance on Sundays.

  • July 2, 2018 at 11:32 am
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    Wow. That is an incredible review and I can only imagine how tedious it was to keep inputting data for that many different versions.

    I get a kick out of Firecalc because just visually it looks nice at the end but comes with a huge caveat that the past does not predict the future.

    It is a bit comforting knowing that your portfolio could survive even the worse periods of time in past though.

    For me the simplest one is personal Capital. Has pretty much up to the minute values of pretty much all the assets with only a few I need to input manually.

    Thanks for doing this. I may have to check out a few more.

    A suggestion would be to end the post just with the top 10 list of calculators you liked.

    Reply
    • July 3, 2018 at 1:42 am
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      Good idea-maybe I’ll make that a future post!

      Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 12:38 am
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      Three years ago I retired and it was using Firecalc some twelve years ago that helped me make it to retirement in far better financial shape that I probably would have been. When I entered various values into Firecalc and saw how changes in the numbers of my pension or investments made a long-term inpact, I became a tiger at looking at my financial picture. I decided a date at which I would get the most bang out of my pension (years of service, age, and largest 12 month salary are the factors) but most importantly I cut out “silly” expenses and saved, saved, saved. I shot past the goal I had by several hundred thousand dollars. The closer I got to the date I had set as my goal, the more expenses I found I could cut out. And the less I felt the urge to splurge-spend the bonuses and raises I got as I advanced in my career.
      Another thing that helped me was the explanations of the different options in Firecalc. It helped me to better understand factors that I may not have thought about in my long-term financial planning.
      Some three years out, I have to say that the projections given by Firecalc still seem to inspire me and give me perspective. My investments have done well recently, but I know that will not last so I’m not sitting on autopilot thinking I’ll get the same future gain. So neither am I being careless in my spending. What I am doing is enjoying more of the “gains” in spending power I’ve seen since retiring by going on some 3+ month trips to Europe and South America. I’ve bought a very nice chair for my soon to be 90 year old Mother who found it hard to lift herself from her recliner. I’ve found some great charities and volunteered my time and donated my money – stepping into leadership roles as I am able.
      All this comfort is due to the education and perspective I got when I began to want to know more about how my money would work in retirement. Firecalc gave me that. I have a brother who is 10 years away from retirement and for several months now I’ve been trying to talk with him about those last ten years and how I made them pay-off. You reminded me that it was Firecalc that helped me gain the focus and awareness by playing with the numbers and by looking at the options they offered. I think I’ll get him to plug in some numbers to Firecalc and see if it makes a difference.

      Reply
  • July 2, 2018 at 11:49 am
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    Impressive list! I can’t even imagine how much time it must’ve taken you to do this. I did something similar when working on my post about calculating your retirement number, and it was incredibly frustrating and time-consuming. As you said, no wonder people get fed up and just move on with their life.

    My conclusion was to just focus on expected expenses then multiply by 25 to get a 4% SWR as a general rule of thumb. It’s overly simplified, but at least it’s a starting point. Of course, the younger you are, the less likely you even have a clue as to what your expenses are going to be. Even more reason to track your expenses and start saving early! Thanks for putting this together for those that want to get more specific about calculating their retirement number.

    Reply
    • July 3, 2018 at 1:44 am
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      That was the main issue in my 20’s-i was really frustrated at how bad all the calculators were for my situation. And at least for me, my life situation changed a lot in my 20’s, which made predicting expenses darned near impossible.

      Reply
  • July 2, 2018 at 12:43 pm
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    I wonder if these companies are steering clear of building a better, comprehensive calculator because people might actually rely on it? You know, make all of these assumptions and then something happens and they fall short? Otherwise, there’s no excuse that major financial/retirement corporations can’t put out a better product, including for their paid clients!!! (That was surprising).
    Brava for this effort!!

    Reply
    • July 3, 2018 at 1:45 am
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      It was Sunday when I did this, and Sunday is often IT maintenance day for big companies. So I assume it was just down for a while. I’ll go back and update the post later with their info. Not today though, I’m too burned out on calculators 😑

      Reply
  • July 2, 2018 at 1:23 pm
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    Wow, I applaud your efforts here in checking all these out and spending the time to do it…

    Reply
    • July 3, 2018 at 1:45 am
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      Thanks Cooper!

      Reply
  • July 2, 2018 at 2:49 pm
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    Excellent work! You’ve captured in one post the exercise that so many of us FI nerds have repeated over and over again…though not all at one time. What’s really sad is that the quality and accessibility of financial planning tools mirrors the level of financial literacy out there. Kinda feels like the system is rigged to make us think the only option is the earn/spend cycle!

    I tried out the Market Watch calculator – pretty decent, will have to mess around with that a bit more. Another calculator I’ve found helpful is the Retirement Planner in Personal Capital.

    Reply
    • July 3, 2018 at 1:47 am
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      I was surprised at some of the good ones. I specifically just picked the top Google search results, and people who bought ads, because I figured no one is going past Page 3 of Google to find a retirement calculator

      Reply
  • July 2, 2018 at 3:19 pm
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    Wow. Thanks for doing this- looks like quite a bit of work. Bookmarking this page.

    Reply
    • July 3, 2018 at 1:47 am
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      Thanks MD-glad it’s useful!

      Reply
  • July 2, 2018 at 5:53 pm
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    I like FireCalc, too, but I got so frustrated with these things that I just made my own in excel. Infinitely customizable that way, and I could tweak and adjust as needed.

    I really enjoyed reading your post, and I’ll try out the Market Watch one – it was not on my radar.

    Thanks,
    Mouse

    Reply
    • July 3, 2018 at 1:48 am
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      I love excel for most things. Wish I knew enough to build a calculator in it. I might have to try that sometime

      Reply
      • July 19, 2018 at 11:13 pm
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        OK I didn’t see there was a comment area below your post so I sent you a message on the ‘Contact me’ tab. Sorry.

        Excel has a retirement calculator that I accidentally found in their templates that is actually pretty decent. At least it doesn’t force you to live on 70% or more of your earnings. However it does assume when you first retire you’ll be pulling your “pension” (which is where I put my SS money). So it wasn’t totally early retirement friendly. But With some minor fiddling i was able to enter parameters to handle my early retirement situation, a plan to take Social Security at age 67 or 70, and made the spreadsheet work.

        What I liked was that you could put in your own guesses for inflation and investment returns both before and after retirement. Also allows you to put in a percentage of uncertainty. This is helpful when deciding how to allocate investments when you retire.

        I also liked that it did the calculation for the amount you’d need to pull out of savings by deducting social security (pension) from your desired income level.

    • July 3, 2018 at 8:10 am
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      Thanks-I’ll put that one on my list for next time!

      Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 12:18 am
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      Thanks Malik-I’ll put that one on my list!

      Reply
  • July 3, 2018 at 12:58 pm
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    Did you not try Personal Capital Retirement Planner? I have found that to be the most useful

    Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 12:18 am
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      I didn’t, but it’s going on my list of reader suggested calculators!

      Reply
  • July 3, 2018 at 6:11 pm
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    Unfortunately I invest with Fidelity so was very disappointed you weren’t able to review their calculator, because it wasn’t working at the time. This was an amazing undertaking; you deserve some kind of award or something. I suggest collating the results into a comparison spreadsheet, if that’s possible … there may be too many things that aren’t directly comparable. I ran into that with trying to “chart” retirement locations considering taxes, amenities, climate, social policies, and etc.

    Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 12:17 am
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      I do have a nice spreadsheet-I was hoping to get to add in the Fidelity calculator before putting it on the site. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to check it again soon!

      Reply
  • July 3, 2018 at 6:17 pm
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    Thank you for spending the time to review these calculators. I have accessed many of these and always have walked away dazed, confused and scared to death of even thinking about retiring. Then I found the calculator/planner at Newretirement.com. That one allowed me more flexibility in the answers I provided, and allowed multiple ‘what-if’ changes Tobe entered. I would like to get your feedback on that tool.

    Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 12:16 am
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      Thanks Mike-I’ll put that one on my list! I plan to try out the reader suggested calculators and write about how they compare to the top ones from Google.

      Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 12:15 am
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      Thanks Lucinda-I’ll put that one on my list!

      Reply
  • July 3, 2018 at 8:49 pm
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    I don’t own or work for E*Trade, but they have a nice calculator. You don’t have to have an account. The have moved the link a few times but this one appears to still be alive …

    Retirement quick calculator

    https://us.etrade.com/e/t/plan/retirement/quickplan

    They have a more complex one, but perhaps you need to have an account.
    It used to be on this page, but I don’t see it today….. It is a bit more complex, in terms of all the kinds of accounts and different incomes streams you can add. It took about 15-20 minutes to complete all the options and input all the various balance amounts.

    https://us.etrade.com/planning/retirement-planning

    Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 12:15 am
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      Thanks for the suggestion Chris! I’m putting together a list of reader suggested calculators, and I’ll include it in the list.

      Reply
  • July 3, 2018 at 10:01 pm
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    Wow. Thank you for this Herculean accomplishment. I just recently started using retirement calculators, and I’ve been looking for just such an article.

    Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 12:14 am
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      You’re welcome-I hope it was helpful!

      Reply
  • July 4, 2018 at 12:25 am
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    Hi. I tried to fill out my email to get your updates by email. It was not working. Wanted to let you know. Would love updates. Thanks. Bev Franklin

    Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 12:27 am
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      Thanks for letting me know Bev-I’ll see if I can get you signed up!

      Reply
  • July 4, 2018 at 10:29 am
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    Would you look at Quicken Lifetime Planner
    I use it but would like to use another program to validate its results
    Thanks for providing options for me to consider

    Reply
    • July 4, 2018 at 10:31 am
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      Thanks Ed, I’ll add that one to my list!

      Reply
  • July 4, 2018 at 4:20 pm
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    Way to grind through. It is to bad Fidelity wasn’t Working. I agree with Chris. Their calculator is super super detailed. I spent days getting the details in but once you do the upfront work. Easy changes and well worth it. Best on the web. Full disclosure most of my money is with Fidelity. And I am already retired.

    Reply
  • July 4, 2018 at 6:50 pm
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    Hi Chief Mom O,
    Thanks for slogging through all the calculators. I saw this linked on Four Pillar Freedom. I’ll bookmark for this later when I’m looking to dive into some of these calculators.

    You might be interested in taking a look at my FIRE simulator (Rich, Broke or Dead): https://engaging-data.com/will-money-last-retire-early/

    It is similar to FIRECalc in that it uses historical cycles to simulate success probability for early retirement but adds another dimension of looking at life expectancy as well. It is version 1.0 and I’m currently adding social security, taxes, and other features that aren’t included in the first version. I can ping you again when the other features are added to the model.

    thanks,

    engaging-data.com

    Reply
  • July 5, 2018 at 11:51 am
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    It is so funny how similar you and I are. How many 20 year olds play with retirement calculators? The list you provided was comprehensive and I agree with your analysis. I like AARP because it includes pension income, but it is buggy. I tend to mess around with Vanguardand FireCalc the most.

    Reply
  • July 8, 2018 at 10:59 pm
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    You get an A+. If I did this examination it would be good not to drink. By the time I got to half way I’d be calling it a tirement calcliomigator. Personal capital is the best I have found. I actually half way believe its results (more than half) It’s easy to get accurate data into it, it is monte carlo based and suggests corrected allocations to get you on the efficient frontier if you’ve been winging the allocations. I also use the monte carlo section of portfolio vizualizer to do failure simulations on my portfolio. Depending on the complexity of the portfolio you can get an accurate picture and the program allows you to front end load bad SORR scenarios to further stress test your withdrawal assumptions. The monte carlo engine runs 10,000 simulations so your failure data is statistically quite good. I don’t really care about how well I do as long as we have “enuff”, but I do care about dying poor. No body knows the future but PV monte carlo is a pretty deep dive into “stastically probable future fails”. I’m not a fan of rearward looking calculators or simple future value calcs except for the simplest understanding.

    I enjoyed the read CMO

    Reply
  • July 9, 2018 at 2:30 am
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    Surprised you didn’t mention the flexible retirement planner. It’s extremely well designed and powerful. Only “problem” is it requires a computer web browser since it uses java.

    Reply
  • July 9, 2018 at 10:38 am
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    Call me a nerd but I love i-ORP. It has both a simple calculator and one that allows everything to be customized. https://i-orp.com/
    My situation is unusual in that I’m 10 years younger than my husband but make ~2x as much. Try modeling the age we can retire together, when to take SS, when we should sell our house and move to a lower COL area. Much complexity. I-ORP can handle it all.

    Reply
  • July 10, 2018 at 2:05 am
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    You should look at Pralana Gold – http://pralanaretirementcalculator.com/ . I’ve used it for 2 years now – it is excellent. It’s definitely on the “upper end” – for real Finance geeks, and it also takes some time to use. It’s also built on Excel, so a bit different than the many online ones. Once you’ve used it – everything else seems to me like a toy.

    Reply
  • November 12, 2018 at 7:34 pm
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    I was hoping to find a recommendation based on your research on the best tool available for most of us average people. I might have missed it ??? Thanks!!

    Reply
    • November 12, 2018 at 8:05 pm
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      Hi Timothy- The reason I described each calculator instead of recommending one is because different people at different financial levels would have a different answer. Some of the calculators are simple and would be good for a beginner, but aren’t very accurate. Others are more accurate and only a bit more complex, while some are very accurate but very complex.

      Reply

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