There are many, many retirement calculators out there – perhaps hundreds. I could review a couple a week for a whole year and not run out of calculators. However, there are very few retirement planners. Many people may use calculators and planners interchangeably. There is certainly some overlap. In my opinion, a retirement planner goes a lot deeper than a calculator. A good retirement planner can give you estimates year-by-year how your money situation is going to change. Many retirement calculators give you the bottom line of whether you can retire and how much money you may have.
Retirement calculators have their place. Some people may want a quick and dirty calculation to see if they are on track. Calculators could be perfect for them.
I’ve found that retirement planners provide more detail. That gives me the information I need to not only know if I’m on track but also details like what our Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) may look like 25 years from now. That forecasting into the future is important because it allows me to make money moves now. A couple of years ago, a retirement planner showed that our retirement savings were huge and would grow to be bigger by the time we can access them. That’s when we decided that it’s better to switch to investing with a regular brokerage account. It’s great to have access to that money now if we need it.
WealthTrace is one of those retirement planners that I’d like to focus on today. WealthTrace has all the features that you’d find in most retirement planners. Some features include:
- Import and link accounts from all your financial instutions – This gives WealthTrace the information it needs to do its calculations as well as keep holdings and balances updated
- Adjust assumptions – Retirement planning requires making some assumptions for unknowns. This lets you adjust tax rates, inflation, and even asset allocation in the future. The last one is useful as most people shift to a safer asset allocation with lower returns as they get older.
- Projected Performance – WealthTrace looks at the historical performance of your investments and uses that to predict future performance. Predictions of future performance are just that “predictions.” WealthTrace gives you Monte Carlo Simulations where they look at many different things that could happen in the future and let you know the odds of success.
- Live Customer Support – This is one area that sets WealthTrace apart from the other retirement planners. There’s phone, chat, and email support.
- Run “What-If” Scenarios – WealthTrace allows you to simulate what an extended bear market might do to your portfolio. I find this particularly useful because we’ve had such a good run for a dozen years now. There may be a bear market coming and it could last a while.
- Rental Property Analysis – You can model rental income and the sale of real estate. I’m specifically looking into this scenario with one of our properties right now. It’s a pain to calculate manually. I’ve set up a spreadsheet to do most of the number crunching. However, many people would like software that just does it for you.
- WealthTrace Expert Available – My biggest problem with Quicken and Microsoft Money was that I didn’t know how to use either of them properly. When I made a mistake they multiplied on me. Soon the numbers didn’t accurately show my portfolio at all. WealthTrace has people who can help you with that. That’s very important because if you put garbage numbers into the simulators, the simulators are going to give you garbage numbers back.
I should add that you get what you pay for. While Personal Capital is free (except for the cost of annoying phone calls), WealthTrace averages around $250 for the first year. They have different plans and one is a little cheaper and another is a little more expensive. So you can spend more on some features or save a bit if you need fewer features. The renewal is about $30 off, but again, it depends on the specific plan.
If you are looking to take control of your retirement, check out WealthTrace here. (In the interest of full disclosure, I do not receive a commission if you choose to sign up for WealthTrace.)