It’s the ultimate dream. Make enough money and set up your finances in such a way that you can retire early and quit the rat race that everyone else is caught up in. Here’s some good news for you: more and more people are achieving this goal, and there’s a chance you might be able to as well!
We did some digging around for financial calculators that help figure out if you can retire early or how far away you are from retirement. These five tools will give you an idea of how close you are to financial independence and what you’ll need to do to get there.
Financial Independence and Early Retirement
There’s a community growing around the concept of FIRE (Financial Independence, Retiring Early), a concept championed by one of the best daily personal finance advisors, Mr. Money Mustache. He used these principles to retire at age 30 and now spends his time telling the world how he did it.
It’s all a matter of simple math, he says, and it largely comes down to your savings rate, the amount of your income that you’re putting away in a savings account. Exactly how much you need to save depends on a number of factors, and optimizing finances is a big part of what the FIRE community spends their time doing.
If you need help getting started on savings or increasing them, check out these four apps and sites to save more money. By automating your savings and taking that decision out of your spendthrift hands, you don’t need to exercise willpower to stop from over-spending.
Let’s start with Networthify’s Early Retirement calculator, which is based on the principles laid out in the aforementioned Money Mustache post. The idea is that you need to concentrate on your savings rate, not on your investment returns.
The basic calculator asks for your current annual income, savings, and expenses, as well as your portfolio value. Put all that together and the calculator spits out the Savings Rate, which aligns with Money Mustache’s formula for figuring out how many years away from retirement you are.
Once you have your answer, it’s just a matter of fiddling with the numbers to figure out your savings target. If you want to retire in another 10 years, just increase the savings rate till you see the magic number, and follow the recommended values. Or move your cursor along the graph to see different savings rates and how many years that puts you away from retirement.
Not a finance person? Want a calculator that doesn’t seem daunting? Need an app that speaks in simple plain English, asking you easy questions? Your Fidelity Retirement Score (owned by Fidelity Investments, one of the top retirement fund managers in the world) is a good way to figure out your retirement plans.
Six simple questions are all that the Fidelity Retirement Score calculator needs. Once you answer those questions, it’ll give you your score. Additionally, you can tweak factors like your age, savings, lifestyle, and investment style to see how the score changes and what you need to do to meet your targets.
The easy-to-use interface sets Fidelity apart from the rest of the calculators, making it all about the bare basics of personal finance and retirement.
Networthify keeps it simple by focusing on your savings rate, but that might not be a philosophy you’re willing to live by. Let’s say you want a more holistic picture about your finances and how to approach them, which includes aspects like your retirement fund, benefits and windfalls, pensions, and so on. Financial Mentor’s calculator might be what you need.
The best part about this calculator is that it explains financial jargon and terms in simple and easy language, with each field having an explanation. Key in your current age, your targeted retirement age, life expectancy, desired retirement income, and so on in today’s numbers — and the calculator will do the heavy lifting like figuring out taxes, inflation, and other factors. Then click “Calculate and Create Schedule” to get an idea of how much you need to save and how far away you are from retirement.
Financial Mentor also creates a year-by-year balance sheet of all the values, which shows you how much your monthly savings need to be and how much they need to increase over the years. It’s a fantastic starting point to figuring out if you’re saving enough for retirement.
The concept of FIRE seems appealing, but the question still remains: will your savings last? One subset of FIRE enthusiasts believes that answer lies in checking if your savings (adjusted for different periods of time) would last if you went through some of the worst financial meltdowns in history.
Crowdsourced FIRE Simulator (CFireSim) takes this philosophy and turns it into a robust calculator. Input your targeted retirement year, life expectancy, portfolio amount, and annual spending. CFireSim will run this simulation across historical data from the 19th century to today, taking your money through the Great Depression and other recessions. In the end, the simulation tells you how many scenarios it was a success or failure in.
You probably want to read through the CFireSim tutorial before you use it, but it’s pretty simple. As the developer says, in the end, what you get is a percentage likelihood of your retirement savings lasting you through any scenario. Whether that percentage or risk is acceptable to you is your call. But at least you get clear data and can safely answer the big questions.
As with most things on the Internet, if you want to find a community of like-minded people, head to Reddit. In fact, r/financialindependence is one of the super useful financial sub-reddits out there. At one point, one of the members decided to make a FIRE calculator based on the community’s feedback, and just like that, Spread FIRE was born.
Spread FIRE is run entirely in Google Spreadsheets (side note: Google Drive has great money management tools) and can be copied to your personal Drive so that the data entered is private. The green cells are what you change, the white cells are explanations or calculations, and you should go through each sheet carefully.
In fact, you might want to check out the original Reddit thread, which has the maker’s notes as well as helpful comments by other Redditors. Got a question? Ask it there and someone will probably help you out.
Of all the tools, this is probably the most comprehensive FIRE or early retirement calculator around, given the sheer number of things you can control and the help you’ll get from Redditors to tweak or add more formulas.
Can You Retire Early?
It’s not easy to figure out if you can retire early, especially when there are so many different strategies and philosophies out there that people ascribe to. But these five tools can help you get an idea of what kinds of savings you’ll need to put away to safely have enough cash on hand. Play around with them and see how far you have to go!
Did you run your finances through any of the calculators above and find that you can retire early? How far are you from financial independence? And how much do you trust these calculators to determine your financial future?
Image Credits:man with calculator by Asier Romero via Shutterstock