Retirement Calculator Comparison (1st Edition)

My husband and I are a year and a half into our retirement savings goal (still have a long way to go). Over the last year and a half, our major focus has been on saving and investing, taking much needed vacations and buying things we had been putting off when getting out of debt.

To better understand the various retirement tools available, I will be doing a blog post every few weeks comparing two retirements savings calculators. This will force me to learn the ins and out of these tools and allow me to gain more knowledge on what is available. I also hope you get something useful out of it as well. In each post, I will provide the things I liked and did not like about the calculator as well as a star rating.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and I am not being paid or compensated in any way for sharing my thoughts of the products/services provided in this post.

This week I looked at 2 retirement calculators I have been playing around with for a while now, but only started taking an interest as the year ends and I begin to review my progress during the year and plans moving forward. I compared these two calculators because they had much of the same simplicity and ease of use.

Edward Jones Retirement Calculator

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Simple to use: I like this calculator for its simplicity and brevity. There is not a lot of information you need to input, only 7 fields before an answer is generated. This calculator is great for someone that only knows a limited amount of information about their retirement, or only has one source of retirement contribution.

Useful to have two scenarios: This calculator offered two scenarios for my retirement planning. A minimum and maximum annual contribution field. This was super helpful as I won’t be able to contribute the same amount each month until I retire. For my two scenarios, I looked at realistic contributions I could make while on a single income (for example if either one of us got laid off, or we had a baby). I also looked at contributions on a dual income, which for now is our current situation. Having these two numbers available gave me a good comparison. I figured my retirement nest egg would end up falling somewhere between these two numbers, which is not too bad.

To keep things simple, I excluded my husband’s information, but our contributions are about the same (although he started off with a larger retirement nest egg before we got married). If I was to include his information, I would suspect the amount would be a little bit more than double.  I also excluded future windfall income that we would receive that would go towards our retirement, because I am not sure what that number would be, so better to underestimate and have more at the end.

Offers a current plan value to start: Some retirement calculators do not allow you to input your current retirement nest egg in addition to future monthly retirement contributions. This calculator offered this feature which was nice.

 Dislikes:

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Too simple: This calculator may be too simple, making it difficult to come up with numbers based on detailed information. For example, the calculator only allows you to input information based on an annual basis. But what if like most people, you make contributions every week or paycheque. When it comes to compound interest over multiple decades, making this distinction between weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or annual contributions becomes important, and not including this information can distort the numbers.

Does not allow for multiple investment contributions at different rates of return: many people contribute through their work usually through pre-tax contributions like the RRSP and 401k (and company matching, if your employer offers) and also may contribute after-tax dollars in retirement vehicles like the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) or Roth IRA. These contribution frequencies, amounts and rates of return may be different for different reasons. This calculator does not offer the opportunity to make this distinction.

Assumptions made on calculations not readily available: Simplified calculators like these usually have a tone of assumptions to make the calculator easy to use. These assumptions allow the user not to have to worry about answering these questions as they are already answered for them. There is nothing wrong with that, except on most online calculators, these assumptions are readily displayed on the page, or a hyperlink is clearly visible where you can click and find out what assumptions were incorporated into the calculation. In reviewing this page closely, I couldn’t find where the assumptions were written. Even in reviewing their Disclosure section (which is on a completely different page), I couldn’t find this information. This made it difficult to answer questions like: does the calculator account for inflation, are Canadian government benefits like CPP and OAS included in the calculation? If so, at what assumed age has the calculator set the person to withdraw from these benefits 60, 65, 70? So many unanswered questions. If they do have an assumptions page, it is not readily available.

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TD Retirement Calculator

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Simple to use: Like the Edward Jones calculator, this calculator is very easy to use. With only 3 fields needed to fill out as a single person or 8 fields if you include the 5 fields regarding your spouse or common law partner. Its simplicity and brevity makes it very useful for those who have little time or information regarding their retirement savings.

Adjust my expectations feature: This calculator has a neat feature which allows you to adjust your retirement expectations according to how much retirement income you will need based on your pre-retirement income. The default setting is 70%, meaning you will require 70% of your pre-retirement income (before you retire) to live off at retirement. 70% accounts for the fact that after retirement someone would more than likely have little to no debt (although many seniors are retiring with debt), have a paid for home, won’t have to worry about work expenses (e.g. commute to work, buying work attire etc.). The calculator also lets you set this number at 60% or 80% for those who may need to live off of less or more than the 70% prescribed.

Percentage in progress and savings rate feature: After you have input the 3 fields, the calculator generates your retirement nest egg, along with what percentage of the way you are at to reaching this goal based on what you currently have saved and your annual income. As a visual learner, I found this was a helpful way to track progress.

It also includes the monthly contribution amount needed to reach this goal along with the savings rate to make it happen. For example, when I used the calculator, it generated a 18% savings rate. Since I am all about saving a percentage of your income as oppose to a dollar amount each month, I found this feature very useful. It also helped me confirm that I am on track to reaching my retirement goal based on my current savings rate versus proposed savings rate.

 

Provides you with a retirement target amount based on your income: Unlike some calculators where you tell them how much you want to have saved by retirement and they tell you how much you need to contribute each month, this calculator does not. Instead, this calculator tells you what your retirement nest egg will be by looking at your current income, current amount saved and withdrawing 70% (or you can change it to 60% or 80%) of what you currently make now (adjusted for inflation) in retirement. This can be a relief if you have no idea how much money you might need for retirement. Is a million dollars enough? What would that look like 30 years from now? \

Link to assumptions is clearly visible: This calculator clearly provided a link to the assumptions made when coming up with the calculations. The link was on the same page and only half a scroll from calculator. With such a simplified calculator (only requires 3-8 fields), I found having this information very helpful.

Dislikes:

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Does not factor in monthly contributions: This calculator tells you how much to save and does not factor in what you can save each month. Because the calculations are based on your income and not your contributions, if you are an ‘under saver’ then the generated results can demotivate you and if you are an ‘over saver’ then the retirement nest egg value provided will be less than what you can expect.

Annual incomes change and sometimes drastically: Because much of this calculator’s computations are based on your current annual income, this can be problematic. Gone are the days of ‘secured employment’, even government jobs are no longer secure (although their pensions are still amazing). It is not uncommon for people to change jobs every 2-3 years, to get laid off every 5-7 years and for incomes to fluctuate (sometimes drastically) from one job to the next.  Although I understand why they used annual income so they can account for the 70% rule (mentioned above), I think using this information along can be problematic.

Not too crazy about some of their assumptions: Even though it is great that they made the assumptions for the calculations readily available on the page, I am not too crazy about some of their assumptions. Much of this is based on my own personal preference and I understand that some people may be perfectly fine with these assumptions. Even still, I would like to share them with you:

  • Assumes a 5% rate of return before you retire and 2% rate of return after you retire- I understand the logic behind this, but this does not take into consideration different risk tolerances
  • Assumes CPP is taken at 65- many people are opting to take their CPP early or later
  • Assumes average CPP payout and maximum OAS payout- Although this may be the case for many born and raised Canadians, immigrants that have moved to Canada in their later years will have a much lower OAS payout if any. For example, to get the maximum OAS payout you would have had to live in Canada for 40 years after the age of 18, in order to receive OAS at 65.
  • If you include your partners information, the calculator will use the older spouses age when figuring out time to reach retirement (assumed retirement age of 90). If let’s say your partner is 10 years older or younger than you, your monthly contributions would be distorted and not accurately reflect the time you have left before retirement

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What retirement calculator do you use and what do you like/not like about them?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and I am not being paid or compensated in any way for sharing my thoughts of the products/services provided in this post.

 

Categories: Investing, Savings

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