Preparing to retire takes careful planning that begins years in advance. It's helpful to have the right tools at your disposal. If you’re a numbers person and like to tinker around in Excel, then these planning tools are going to be right up your alley.
These tools cover a range of topics, from taxes to stocks. They all can be used to help you make smarter decisions about your money, whether you plan to retire early or years from now.
The Flexible Retirement Planner
The Flexible Retirement Planner offers a free demo version for download on its website. This spreadsheet takes basic inputs such as your current age or the age you want to retire. It also accounts for the total amount you have saved in tax-deferred, taxable, and tax-free accounts. You can get an estimate of the rate of return on your savings and your tax rate. Lastly, the planner can help you see how much you need to contribute to your savings yearly.
The planner then runs some simulations to account for different investment outcomes. It then gauges your chances of success, which means that you'll be able see how long you can make your money last.
A planner can help you run through the many ways your plan to retire can change.
The site also offers a series of free planning spreadsheets for download under its Tools section. These more targeted spreadsheets include a Portfolio Asset Allocation Tool, a TIPS Ladder Builder, and a Portfolio Withdrawal Simulation.
Many retirees are caught off guard by how large their tax bill is in retirement. Simpleplanning provides a detailed tax calculator that allows you to create a model of a complete tax return. The demo version is free, but the Complete Planner comes with other features. It has a built-in retirement planner, budget planner, net worth planner, and mortgage planner. The planner is fairly priced at $39.95.
Vertex42 specializes in Excel templates and offers a wide range of free spreadsheets for all types of money planning and forecasting. It has many retirement templates that can help you work out how to fund your later years.
It's has a simple planning calculator that allows you to plan how much to save. It also offers other calculators for annuities, planning withdrawals, and weighing your 401(k) savings and growth. The firm offers paid versions of some of its products for financial advisors.
Financial Architects is a wealth management firm that lets you access its spreadsheets online for free. Scroll down the page to see retirement planning spreadsheets and articles sorted by subject. If you're planning on retiring soon, you might want to look at a few of them. The One-Person Social Security Breakeven Spreadsheet and the Pension Option Analysis Spreadsheet are two excellent sheets that can help you analyze your future income.
Crunching the numbers is one reason many people avoid planning for retirement. Software and spreadsheets do this for you, letting you focus on your plan.
It also has an Investment Return Matrix Spreadsheet and the Joint Life Probability Spreadsheet that are great if you're an investor. However, you’ll need a good working knowledge of Excel to use these tools.
CFS Tax Software offers programs for tax professionals. Its software isn't free, but the price for its TaxTools packages is reasonable enough ($199 a year). If you do your own returns, you might find this program ideal.
One of the CFS tax planning tools lets you compare up to five future years side by side. This is an ideal feature for retirees, as you can project the impact taxes will have on your money when you start your required minimum withdrawals from your IRA or 401(k).
You can also analyze your Social Security benefits with these tools. The fully functional, free demo download lets you try before buying; the only limitation is that the downloads may not print or generate forms for you.
Ultimate Estate Planner
The Ultimate Estate Planner is a website whose resources and tools are primarily for practicing financial planners, accountants, and attorneys. But its reasonably priced charts, calculators, and software are so user-friendly and educational that many individuals may find them valuable.
You can find them under the "Charts for Clients" vertical of the "For CPAs" and "For Financial Advisors" sections. Their topics range from a white paper on capital-gains harvesting to IRA Beneficiary Trust Bundle packages.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When should you start planning for retirement?
It's never too early to start planning for retirement, and if you're earning steady paychecks from a job, you should start saving right now. Most Americans start saving for retirement in their 20s after graduating from college.
Who should you talk to about retirement planning?
Financial advisors will help you figure out your retirement situation, but make sure you use a financial advisor that specializes in retirement planning. Financial advising is a broad career that can cover any aspect of your financial life. If your primary concern is retirement, find a financial advisor with that as their primary focus.
What rate of return should you use for retirement planning?
Your expected rate of return should be based on your portfolio. If your portfolio consists of index funds, then you can look at historical annualized returns to get a sense of what you can expect. If you have a fixed-income portfolio, then that's even easier because you know exactly what you're expected to receive from those investments.