The Best Retirement Calculators

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Anyone who searches for “retirement calculator” will quickly discover that there are over 22 million results.  Not many people have the time to go through even a small portion of those sites to discover which is the best.  Luckily, some experts have done the hard work for us and have created a list of the best retirement calculators.

On expert, in particular, has personally used more than 80 retirement calculators.  By relying on these tools to help plan his own retirement trajectory, he was able to retire early at age 50.  

In order to weed through the millions of different websites listing retirement calculators, he decided to use a selection criterion.  This process led to a comprised list based on key data points such as fidelity, returns, platform, cost, and notes/features.  Since each person’s journey to retirement is different, there is not one single calculator for everyone.  

Fidelity

Fidelity is how well each calculator can potentially duplicate the real world.  As more information is entered as data, the measure becomes more complex.  Therefore, fidelity is divided into three different types:  low-, medium-, and high-fidelity.

  • Low-Fidelity — featuring input fields of 12 or less, these calculators usually are for simple fixed rate/average return calculations.  Time for use is usually less than 5 minutes.
  • Medium-Fidelity — adding a few more fields than the low-fidelity calculator, multiple accounts with different asset allocations and arbitrary financial events that do not occur on a regular basis.  Time for use is usually 10-20 minutes for answers.
  • High-Fidelity – with the ability to compare scenarios, Social Security and taxes, and many different information inputs, this type of calculator could easily take several hours to understand the options, input the data, and discover all of the different capabilities.  However, these are the most accurate outputs, assuming that a person takes the time to enter reliable data.  Time for use is general 30 to 60 minutes.

Just remember that these calculators are not crystal balls that foretell the future.  Rather, they are more like a set of binoculars that allows a person to have some visibility, at different levels, into the future for a short distance.  

Returns

There are three different approaches to modeling stock market returns over a period of time:

  • Average return – This is the simplest approach and unless a person reduces the average return by some amount, this type of model does not take into account the impact of volatility on a portfolio and can be a bit optimistic.
  • Monte Carlo – This type of analysis takes volatility into account with the addition of a standard deviation, but because the necessary mathematical parameters must be chosen, the randomness of this choice doesn’t reflect the real world.
  • Historical Analysis – Using actual market data over the past century, this popular approach counts on whether the future will be like the past.

Platform

Where you run your calculator is a matter of personal preference.  A majority of the modern retirement calculators run in a browser as an application.  However, there are a few calculators that can use Excel, iOS, or Windows if a person wishes to keep their financial data on their local computer.

Cost

There are many free retirement calculators, including the very good ones at each fidelity level.  However, a few retirement calculators are available at different price points.  It depends on personal preference and finding the right calculator for a particular task.

Notes/Features

With brief notes on different features of each program, the “flavor” of a retirement calculator’s functionality can be easily scanned.

  • Income replacement – the calculator estimates expenses as a percentage of income
  • Spouse – dedicated fields for a spouse’s data
  • Spending policies – algorithms automatically adjust spending in retirement
  • Financial events – arbitrary incoming and outgoing cash flows are simulated
  • Scenarios – comparing different financial alternatives
  • Tax calculations – performs detailed marginal tax calculations
  • Today’s dollars – results are in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars
  • Save data – the ability to save work and come back to it later
  • Well documented – does an above-average job explaining its assumptions

Best Retirement Calculators from Can I Retire Yet?

Calculator Fidelity Returns Platform Cost Notes/Features
Analyze Now Pre & Post Retirement Planner 3-High Average, Historical Excel $0-$29 Spouse. Multiple accounts. Asset allocation. Real estate. Financial events. Two scenarios. Graphical output. Today’s dollars. Save data. Well documented.
CalcXML Retirement Savings 1-Low Average Web $0 Simple input. Income replacement. Social Security estimate/override. Spouse. Graphical/tabular output. PDF report.
cFIREsim 2-Med Average, Historical, Monte Carlo Web $0 Spouse. Asset allocation including gold. Rebalancing. Financial events. Spending policies. Graphical/tabular output. Dip analysis. Investigate scenarios. Save data. Support forum.
Chase Retirement Calculator 1-Low Average Web $0 Nice interface. Simple input. Social Security estimate. Spouse. Graphical/tabular output. Explore Options offers more parameters and simple scenario comparison.
Dinkytown.net Retirement Planner 1-Low Average Web $0 Nice interface. Income replacement. Social Security estimate. Retirement work. Graphical/tabular output. Well documented.
ESPlanner 3-High Average, Monte Carlo Web, Windows $0 – $199 Social Security estimate. Spouse. Spending policies. Consumption smoothing. College saving. Tax calculations. Roth conversions. Today’s dollars. Save data.
Fidelity Retirement Income Planner 3-High Monte Carlo Web $0 Nice interface. Detailed expenses. Social Security estimate/override. Spouse. Multiple accounts. Asset allocation. Rebalancing. Real estate. Financial events. Retirement work. Scenarios. Tax calculations. RMDs. Annuities. Graphical/tabular output. Today’s dollars option. Save data. Well documented. (Requires signup.)
FinancialMentor Ultimate Retirement Calculator 2-Med Average Web $0 Simple input. Social Security override. Financial events. Retirement work. Tabular output. Computes savings/contributions needed to fully fund plan.
FIRECalc 2-Med Average, Historical, Monte Carlo Web $0 Simple start. Social Security override. Spouse. Spending policies. Asset allocation. Financial events. Scenarios. Graphical output.
Flexible Retirement Planner 3-High Average, Monte Carlo Java: Web, Windows, Mac, Linux $0-$20 Nice interface. Social Security override. Spending policies. Multiple accounts. Financial events. Scenarios. Sensitivity analysis. RMDs. Graphical/tabular output. Today’s dollars. Well documented. Support forum.
Great-West Retirement Investment Calculator 1-Low Average Web $0 Simple input. Social Security override. Click ‘Show Detail’ for tabular output. Computes value of nest egg at retirement, and how long it will last.
J&L Financial Planner 3-High Average, Historical, Monte Carlo Windows $80 – $140 Spouse. Multiple accounts. Asset allocation. Rebalancing. Real estate. Powerful financial events. College saving. Scenarios. RMDs. Graphical/tabular output. Today’s dollars option. Save data. Import/export. (21-day free trial.)
MoneyChimp Retirement Planner 1-Low Historical Web $0 Simple portfolio survival analysis. Input retirement length, expenses, asset allocation. Outputs success rate and list of failing time periods.
NewRetirement 3-High Average Web $0 Nice interface. Simple input. Social Security override/optimization. Spouse. Multiple accounts. Real estate. Financial events. Retirement work. Scenarios. Tax calculations. RMDs. Annuities. Graphical/tabular output. Save data. Well documented. (Requires signup.)
OnTrajectory 3-High Average, Historical, Monte Carlo Web $0 – $3/mo, $30/yr Nice interface. Simple input. Spouse. Multiple accounts. Asset allocation. Financial events. Retirement work. Scenarios. RMDs. Roth conversions. Graphical/tabular output. Today’s dollars option. Save data. Well documented. Budgets. Goals. Track progress/view history. (Requires signup.)
Otar Retirement Calculator 3-High Historical Excel $10 – $100 Spouse. Spending policies. Multiple accounts. Asset allocation. Rebalancing. Real estate. Financial events. Scenarios. Risk analysis. Annuities. Graphical/tabular output. Save data. Well documented.
Personal Capital Retirement Planner 2-Med Monte Carlo Web $0 Nice interface. Simple input. Social Security override. Spouse. Multiple accounts. Asset allocation. Real estate. Financial events. Retirement work. College saving. Annuities. Graphical/tabular output. Today’s dollars. Save data. Well documented. (Requires signup.)
Pralana PRC2016/Gold 3-High Average, Historical, Monte Carlo Excel $0 – $119 Simple input. Social Security estimate/optimization. Spouse. Spending policies. Consumption smoothing. Multiple accounts. Asset allocation. Rebalancing. Real estate. Financial events. Retirement work. College saving. Scenarios. Sensitivity analysis. Tax calculations. RMDs. Roth conversions. Annuities. Graphical/tabular output. Today’s dollars option. Save data. Well documented.
Retiree Portfolio Model 3-High Average Excel $0 Social Security override/optimization. Spouse. Multiple accounts. Asset allocation. Financial events. Scenarios. Tax calculations. RMDs. Roth conversions. SPIA. Graphical/tabular output. Save data. Support forum.
RetirePlan 2-Med Average iOS $5 Simple input. Social Security override. Spouse. Multiple accounts. Financial events. Scenarios. Graphical/tabular output. Today’s dollars option. Save data.
Scottrade Retirement Savings Calculator 1-Low Monte Carlo Web $0 Nice interface. Simple input. Social Security override. Multiple accounts. Retirement work. Graphical output. Today’s dollars. Well documented.
SmartAsset Retirement Calculator 1-Low Average Web $0 Nice interface. Simple input. Social Security estimate. Multiple accounts. Tax calculations. Graphical output.
Social Security & Retirement Financial Modeling 3-High Average, Historical Windows $2.75 Social Security override. Spouse. Multiple accounts. Asset allocation. Financial events. Tax calculations. RMDs. Roth conversions. Graphical/tabular output. Save data.
T. Rowe Price Retirement Income Calculator 1-Low Monte Carlo Web $0 Nice interface. Simple input. Social Security estimate/override. Spouse. Asset allocation. Rebalancing. Scenarios. Graphical output. Today’s dollars. Save data. Well documented.
Vanguard Retirement Nest Egg Calculator 1-Low Monte Carlo Web $0 Nice interface. Simple input. Asset allocation. Graphical output. Well documented.


All
information contained in the table above came directly from Can I Retire Yet? By Darrow Kirkpatrick.

The Best of the Best

Even with a comprehensive list provided, choosing a retirement calculator can still be confusing.  Therefore, based on a particular set of circumstances, there are a few calculators that stand out as the best of the best.

  • J&L Financial Planner – A solid retirement calculator, J&L can handle simple inputs for future cash flow and more powerful and complex problems.  With logical and optimal internal architectural features for modeling finances, this calculator is powerful and flexible with superb traceability of results.
  • Flexible Retirement Planner – For in-depth financial planning, this simple, clean, yet professional user interface allows for powerful financial modeling.
  • Pralana Bronze/Silver/Gold – Possibly the most powerful retirement calculator on the market today, this calculator is for those “hard core” retirement planning junkies who lean to a more technical running application.  There are three levels:  bronze, silver, and gold.  The bronze level is free and is probably the easiest to use.
  • On Trajectory – Intended for the younger worker looking toward financial goals for different stages of their career.  This very user friendly calculator can also be used by those closer to retirement.

More than a simple calculator, these tools are more personal financial models for people at different stages in their careers.  They should be utilized to help make financial decisions in all stages of life.  From those beginning their career, to young families, empty nesters, those closing in on retirement, and retirees, all can benefit from a retirement calculator.  Instead of thinking of these tools as a one time use to decide when to retire, they should be utilized as an ongoing relationship that is built up and revisited over the years.

 

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