These free online investment calculators rival the tools financial advisors use.
Financial advisors have access to the best investment calculators. Their financial planning software and programs lay out a "tremendous road map" to help clients answer complex but essential questions, such as if they're on track to retire or how long their savings can last once they do, says Chuck Cumello, president and CEO of Essex Financial. Financial advisors may be the easiest path to these answers (they'll do all the number crunching), but they aren't the only way. With a little legwork and the help of free online investment calculators, investors can answer many big financial questions themselves. Here are eight of the best free online investment calculators to get you started.
CalcXML is the calculator database to rule all calculator databases. It provides more than 150 free investment calculators, ranging from cash flow and taxation tools to retirement savings and investment calculators. Shannah Compton-Game, a Los Angeles-based certified financial planner and host of the "Millennial Money Podcast," loves them for their sheer variety and "because they're independent from any particular (financial) site." In fact, many financial sites use CalcXML's calculators on the back end, she says. She often uses them herself to "help fill in the blanks for a financial plan." After you get your calculations, you can download or print the results to keep forever more.
Vanguard's Retirement Nest Egg Calculator
Wondering if you'll run out of money in retirement? Vanguard's calculator has an answer. With four simple inputs, it'll estimate the probability of your savings lasting to your goal or how much your investments may grow. To do this it uses Monte Carlo simulations, which are essentially playing the "what if" game 100,000 times. What if we have over 25 percent declines like in 1974? What if the market soars 52.6 percent as in 1954? It's important to keep in mind that by using historical data to model potential future scenarios, Monte Carlo simulations assume the future will resemble the past. That said, with 100,000 possible combinations tested, Vanguard's results are pretty robust.
Fidelity Investment's Calculators & Tools
At Essex Financial, they work a lot with Fidelity, Cumello says. "Fidelity's website has a lot of great resources, and you don't need to be a client" to use most of them. Just go to "What We Offer" under the Planning & Guidance tab then click on "tools" (or search for "calculators & tools") for a full list of all the investing calculators it provides. With free, 30-day guest access, non-clients can even use the full Planning & Guidance Center, which helps you create a holistic financial plan or investment strategy and stress test it with more of those fun Monte Carlo simulations.
Personal Capital's Financial Dashboard
You don't have to be a client to use Personal Capital's Financial Dashboard, either. Link your current bank and investment accounts for one of the most holistic views of your financial life on offer free of charge. The dashboard shows users everything from net worth and spending habits to if you're on track to retire and what your kid's college is really going to cost. It also shines a spotlight on how hidden fees can impact your retirement with its fee analyzer. As Personal Capital puts it, the dashboard shows "your entire financial life in one place."
There's a reason Bankrate features its calculators in the center of its homepage: It's got "a bunch of neat ones," Cumello says. While only the most popular calculators make the front page, look to the right and you'll find a link to all the calculators on offer. These cover the financial gamut from a mortgage payment calculator to a return on investment calculator and even a cost of living calculator, which lets you compare the cost of living in two cities. Another unique offer is the annuity calculator, which helps you evaluate how much you need to generate a desired payment or how long a certain payment level can last.
Take Charge America
Another site Cumello likes is TakeChargeAmerica.org. The nonprofit provides free financial education to help Americans improve their financial futures. Available calculators under its Financial Education tab include a credit card pay-off calculator, personal net worth calculator, retirement savings contribution calculator and a 401(k) early withdrawal calculator ("which, by the way, we don't recommend" doing, Cumello says). Come to evaluate your savings plan and stick around for the blog posts, articles and free financial assessment.
The U.S Securities and Exchange Commission at investor.gov is another great source for free online investment calculators. Under the Additional Resources tab there's a link for the free financial planning calculators on offer. These include a required minimum distribution calculator, savings goal calculator and a compound interest calculator to see how your investment can grow over time. Investor.gov also connects users with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's (FINRA) fund analyzer tool, which illustrates the impact of a fund's fees and expenses on your investment, and FINRA's 529 Expense Analyzer that does a similar evaluation for 529 college savings plans.
U.S. News & World Report's Retirement Readiness Calculator
U.S. News' Retirement Readiness Calculator is one of the most straight-forward retirement calculators. With a few quick inputs (such as your current and retirement age, current savings, and cost of living in retirement), it'll forecast roughly how long your retirement savings can last. To do this it makes a few key assumptions, namely: a 4 percent annual inflation rate, 7 percent annual return on your investments and a 24 percent tax rate on retirement income. It also assumes all withdrawals from your retirement accounts will be taxable. Given these assumptions, the calculations are intended as a ballpark estimate, but it's a quick and easy way to make sure you're in the right field to retire.
The best free online investment calculators
To recap, here are eight of the best free online investment calculators:
-- Vanguard's Retirement Nest Egg Calculator
-- Fidelity Investment's calculators and tools
-- Personal Capital's Financial Dashboard
-- U.S. News & World Report's Retirement Readiness Calculator
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