retirement savings

How Long Will Your Retirement Savings Last?

One question you must ask as you’re preparing for retirement is “How Long Will Your Retirement Savings Last?”.  It’s one of the most important questions we must answer to determine when we can retire, and yet it’s a question that’s impossible to answer with certainty.  Fortunately, there are some valuable tools available for free which help visualize the future and provide some answers to the question of how long will your retirement savings last.  Today, we’re going to take a look at them.

How Long Will Your Retirement Savings Last? That's an impossible question to answer, but today we show you some tools to help. Click To Tweet

graphs to show how long your retirement savings will last

How Long Will Your Retirement Savings Last?

Most of us know about “The 4% Rule“, and other strategies we can use to determine our Safe Withdrawal Rate.  I’ve shared in Our Retirement Investment Drawdown Strategy that we’re targeting ~3% as our withdrawal rate (e.g., if we had $1M, we’d be able to withdraw $30k in Year 1 of our retirement).  I’ve also encouraged you to read Big ERN’s Ultimate Guide To Safe Withdrawal Rates, the most comprehensive series I’ve ever read on the topic.

Bottom Line:  There’s a lot out there on Safe Withdrawal Rates, so I’m not going to touch on it in today’s post. 

There's enough written about SWR's. Today's post is dedicated to sharing some free resources to visualize the future of your retirement savings. Click To Tweet

Free Tools To Visualize Your Retirement Savings

Rather than talk about the concept of Safe Withdrawal Rates, today I’m going to share some interesting tools I’ve found which help you visualize the future of your retirement savings.  To me, there’s something intriguing about seeing a graph which helps answer the question of how long will your retirement savings last.  These tools are in no particular order, and this is not meant to be a comprehensive review.  Rather, it’s a broad post meant to show some high-level graphs available from various tools. If you see one that interests you, I encourage you to click the related link and do a deeper exploration using your base scenario.  Have some fun, and help answer the question for yourself about how long will your retirement savings last. 

To simplify comparison, I’m using the same base scenario in every tool:

The Base Scenario:

  • Investments:  $1,000,000
  • Withdrawal Rate:  4% (Year 1)
  • Asset Allocation:  60% Equity / 30% Bonds / 10% Cash
  • Age Of Retirement:  Age 60 (Year 1)
  • Lifespan:  Age 95

Simply click on the hyperlinked titles below to launch the corresponding tool.


Personal Capital Retirement Planner

PC retirement savings calculator

I’m a big fan of Personal Capital and use it for my personal retirement planning.  I like how it incorporates all of your investments, including asset location (e.g., tax-deferred, as shown above) and allows easy inputs for future events (e.g., expected inheritance). The output is based on Monte Carlo analysis and presented in high-quality and easy to understand graphics. In full transparency, I am a member of the Personal Capital affiliate program, so I’ll get a bit of $ to offset the costs of running this blog if you’d happen to click on the link above.  Regardless, I am sincere when I say I’m a fan of this site, and I do use it as my main “go-to” location for my retirement and investment tracking.


New Retirement

retirement savings dashboard

When J.D. Roth says that this is his favorite retirement planning tool, I pay attention. It’s also been named a best calculator by AAII, Forbes, The Center For Retirement Research at Boston College, Can I Retire Yet and others.  Those are strong endorsements, for good reason.  I know the founder, Stephen Chen, and am impressed with his approach.  He’s committed to creating the best retirement calculator possible and is responsive to any issues/questions raised by users.  He even created the dashboard shown above based on a single email request from me, since I didn’t want to change all of the numbers in my personal dashboard for an example in this post  Yes, that means I DO use this tool and have all of my numbers uploaded on his site.  (BTW, I forgot to give him the $40k spending assumption, so his dashboard is based on slightly higher spending, but that doesn’t matter since I’m only showing you high-level overviews of the sites.  Thanks for the quick response, Stephen!).

This is one of the easiest tools I’ve worked with for making massive customization (e.g., land a short term gig working in retirement?  Easy stuff, just add “Passive Income” for the years you expect it to continue).  The graphics are the best I’ve seen in a free calculator, and offer some nice features (e.g., “hover” your mouse over an item in the legend, and that part of the chart gets highlighted).  A great way to get a visual answer to the question of how long will your retirement savings last. 


Portfolio Charts Retirement SpendingTool

chart to see how long retirement savings will last

I recently discovered the Portfolio Charts tool based on this review from My Money Blog.  One of the big attractions for this tool is the ability to easily test out various withdrawal strategies, including the flexible withdrawal strategy which allows a floor/ceiling on annual spending changes.  At the bottom of the model page, the site also shows settings you can apply to easily test 6 other popular withdrawal strategies.  It’s easy, and interesting, to play around with various scenarios, and the output shows you how much you’re able to withdrawal each year in retirement.  


Vanguard Retirement Nest Egg Calculator

Vanguard retirement savings calculator

Vanguard has numerous tools available on its website, the easiest of which to use is their Nest Egg calculator.  I included it here primarily due to the popularity of Vanguard.  In my opinion, it’s too basic a tool to be used for anything beyond a high-level comparison to the results you’re getting from other calculators.  The biggest advantage is it’s simplicity, which also happens to be it’s biggest disadvantage.  


Retirement Simulation

retirement simulation

The founder of Retirement Simulation reached out to me recently to make me aware of his simulator.  It’s a Monte Carlo based tool with a very simple input interface and is useful for a quick calculation or to test various scenarios.  The dashboard includes some handle toggles to adjust stock/bond/cash return assumptions as well as the assumed inflation rate.  Data is presented in both graphical and tabular form, though the model is a bit of a “black box” with no ability to adjust inputs beyond basic levels.


The Best Retirement Calculator

If you’re interested in using graphs to help answer the question “How long will your retirement savings last”, you’re also likely a fan of retirement calculators.  Clearly, there’s a lot of overlap in the topics, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share several relevant “Best Retirement Calculator” posts which I came across as I researched today’s post.  Be forewarned, this rabbit hole could consume the rest of your day (I should know, I’m just coming up for air after 3 hours of chasing rabbits.  It was fun…). 


Conclusion

Answering the question of how long will your retirement savings last is a fundamental part of retirement planning.  It’s great to see the number of free resources that are available to help as you analyze your personal situation.  In addition, I’ve always been a fan of spreadsheets, and encourage you to model your situation in your own spreadsheet.  Building the spreadsheet is a great way to ensure you understand your financial situation in addition to the tools shared above.

What about you?  Are there other tools you’ve found which could benefit the readers?  Let’s share resources in the comments, for the benefit of all…

23 comments

  1. Thanks Fritz….as an engineer, I love these simulation tools. To build on your great list, I also use firecalc and cfiresim. Similar in their approach, and I find that firecalc is easier to understand if you’re new to the simulation rabbit hole :).

    1. Kile, great addition to add firecalc – the link is here for anyone who wants to check it out. I did play around with it a few years ago as I was finalizing our retirement decision, and agree it’s fairly easy to grasp. I’m not familiar with cfiresim, will have to look into that one. Thanks for adding some solid suggestions to the list!

    1. Ironically, I just listed to that ChooseFI episode yesterday, and made a note to check out their “Free” 15 day trial. I’ve heard good things, but didn’t explore it for this post since it’s not a free tool. Definitely sounds like a winner, though. Thanks for adding it to the list!

      1. I’ve used all of these tools, and a few others, I have to say OnTrajectory is by far the easiest and most comprehensive I’ve found. Granted it isn’t fee, but it’s pretty close, and it’s just about everything that I’ve been looking for in a tool.

  2. Hey, Fritz. Thanks for the resources. Just checked out New Retirement and things look good. It’s nice running the numbers and having the pros look over your shoulder, so to speak. Information is good. Hope all is well in World Headquarters. Cheers.

  3. I’m a fan of New Retirement. Unfortunately, some of the features have moved beyond a paywall, but it is still useful (and I don’t blame them for charging something).

    My favorite part is the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios provide clear brackets of good and bad scenarios. And they also demonstrate the incredible variety of outcomes possible over 30 or 35 years – which helps visualize that there is no single “best” choice.

  4. I’ve seen some of these but not all. Thank you for sharing! I love crunching the numbers and seeing the outputs. I also really love my old fashioned excel spreadsheets.

    1. Mindy, I’m a bit of a spreadsheet geek myself. I use a Retirement Cash Flow spreadsheet I built (the template is available on my “Resources” page), then use these calculators to ensure that I’m in the ballpark with my spreadsheet estimates. Works for me!

  5. I tried the personal Capital link and can’t seem to do anything unless I link my accounts to them (which I do not want to do), am I missing something? Also tried signing up on NewRetirement Planner in chrome and explorer but that also doesn’t seem to be working, anyone else having problems with that one?

    My go to has been firecalc as well.

    1. Cath, you are correct that links are required to get Personal Capital to build your dashboard. I checked into their security in the past, and was comfortable that they have appropriate safeguards in place. Essentially, they get only a “feed” from your accounts, and are not able to manipulate them.

      As for NewRetirement/Chrome, I’ll shoot a note over to Steve Chen and ask him to reply directly. Thanks.

    2. Hi Cath,

      Thanks for your note – Fritz gave me a heads up that you ran into issues logging in.

      Could you email me directly with your browser and operating system and then we can take a look at what’s happening. stephen.chen@newretirment.com

      I’ll also have our development team take a look at our logs and see if that shows anything.

      Thx Steve

  6. I really like http://www.portfoliovisualizer.com and use its Monte Carlo simulation. After comparing a few of these tools, I like this one because it gives different percentiles for a portfolio based on the historical performance of different asset classes and savings/spending plans. So it gives a range of outcomes. Personal Capital is interesting is interesting because it makes some behavioral assumptions that are a little more conservative but probably appropriate. While it uses historical performance it takes a percent or so away for behavioral mistakes, costs/fees.

    1. Jim, thanks for adding Portfolio Visualizer, I have looked at that in the past but it’s not one of my “go to” calculators. I agree it’s worth having on the list. Also, I agree that each of the calculators (PC in your comment) make slightly different assumptions, which is why I use a variety to “double check” the math I come up with in my retirement cash flow spreadsheet. Thanks for jumping in with a strong comment.

  7. Ok I may be a bit naive but I have my rule of thumb – very simple – but it requires you know how much it costs to live your lifestyle ( aside: I’ve tracked my outflows(expenses) for >35 yrs (and still do) and know within $100 how much it has cost to live any given year in my lifestyle).
    Simple rule of thumb: Y=C/E
    C=accumulated capital amount
    E =annual expenses(outflows)
    Y= result in years
    if Y plus current age exceeds your life expectancy – you’re good to go
    e.g. C= 1M E=30K Y = 33.3 current age =60 if you figure your time is up before age 93 – go for it – else add some to C or decrease E
    as stated very simplistic but fairly accurate (imo) based on personal experience only
    btw: my Y is > 40 and age is 65 so I think I’m good to go 🙂 (unless a truly miraculous life extension happens) and when I stopped working at age 50 the Y number was also in the low 40s so again good to go in my simplistic POV.
    when I run my numbers through the various calculators I always get surpluses – darn didn’t optimize 🙂

    1. Interesting calculation, f. I can understand why all of the calculators say you have a surplus, your calculation example leads to a very low Safe Withdrawal Rate of 3.0% (30K/1MM) with a Y of 33.3, and your actual withdrawal rate (with Y=40) is likely in the 2.5% range.

      Therefore, if others followed your calculation, it could likely lead to folks working longer than “the experts” say they’d have to (targeting a 3.5 – 4% SWR), which could result in them giving up some very early years of their retirement when they’d feel they still had to work to get your formula to say they could go. Essentially, your formula says your investments only need to keep up with inflation, and that your spending will remain flat (adjusted for inflation), but I agree it’s a handy calculation to add to the mix.

      As you say, it’s a conservative approach, and it works for you. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I started out using the I-ORP.com calculator, and it’s still my favorite. The downside is minimal output graphics. The upside is it’s free and takes into account your various asset types, assumed tax rates, optional IRA to Roth conversions, and other variables that can affect long term success. It optimizes to provide your maximum yearly disposable income. It does have a Monte-Carlo simulator if you chose to use it. It will tell you the mean and minimum yearly disposable income encountered in the simulation. It’s not a sexy-looking calculator but it does the job.

  9. Hi Fritz,
    The resources available are overwhelming…we primarily are depending on our 2 teacher pensions, a rare luxury in these days, and a comfort as well. Luckily, the MTRS is well funded so we feel quite safe. Our 403(b) will fill in where needed, and it is nice to see the projections from the various tools.

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