On the Internet: Retirement Planning Web Sites
by CI Staff
Retirement planning is a subject that hits close to home for many people, no matter their age. Baby boomers are quickly approaching retirement, and many are wondering if they will outlive their money. Gone are the days when retirees could depend on the government to support them throughout the later years of their life. The reality of the situation is that Social Security’s resources are being slowly consumed, while the number of workers supporting it is shrinking, forcing retirees to rely more heavily on personal savings. Fortunately, there are a multitude of options to help you prepare for this stage of your life. Some Web sites offer information on the basics of investing for retirement, while others offer tools and products to help you create a personalized retirement plan. A sampling is described here.
This Web site is an SEC-registered investment adviser devoted to providing retirement advice for individuals. The site implements quantitative techniques and prudent investment principles to recommend appropriate mutual funds for a user’s 401(k), 403(b), or IRA accounts based on user inputs. Advice is updated quarterly to reflect current market conditions and other investment and economic variables.
Members first create a profile containing personal information such as age, employment status, salary, and marital status. You are then asked to identify your retirement goals by answering questions related to desired retirement income, anticipated retirement age and estimated Social Security benefits for you and your spouse. Once all of the necessary background information is entered, you select a risk tolerance based on a scale ranging from low to high. If you are unsure of your own tolerance for risk, a short questionnaire is provided for guidance.
Next, LTSave takes into account your existing retirement portfolio and gives projections for portfolio growth. After analyzing all existing investments, recommendations are made for how to reach your retirement goals. The recommendations are designed to help balance the risk and return of your retirement portfolio based on your needs. Additionally, you can see how changing contribution percentages to your retirement accounts will affect your future income in retirement.
Once users have defined how they want to invest for retirement, LTSave can also help execute the plan by providing a list of action steps for each retirement account. Finally, you can print a customized report that shows a record of your profile, the site’s advice and the steps recommended to achieve your retirement goals.
Annual membership to LTSave costs $131.40; a quarterly membership is $47.85.
Social Security Online
Because the Social Security system can be extremely complicated, the government-sponsored Web site devoted to this subject is a good place to get basic information. Users can calculate retirement age and benefits as well as learn about different factors that may affect the benefits they expect to receive. There is also a link featuring a question and answer section about the future of Social Security.
This site offers information on government pension rules, how taxes affect Social Security payments and general laws and regulations regarding pensions, retirement and Social Security. You are also able to apply for retirement and benefits through this Web site. The site is free.
Fundamentals of Financial Planning
For investors who need basic facts or general questions answered about retirement, the Fundamentals of Financial Planning Web site, sponsored by Florida State University, offers just that. In the Retirement Planning area, IRAs, defined-contribution plans, Social Security benefits and other investment tools for retirement are described in detail, and mathematical examples show how each investment strategy works.
The site also discusses other issues that affect retirement planning such as insurance, taxes and Medicare. Additionally, there is a Retirement Worksheet that allows you to estimate your appropriate retirement income and how much to start saving today. Users can take mini quizzes to test their knowledge of retirement facts as well as explore their personal views on goal setting. This site is free.
American Express Financial Services
Whether you are just starting to save for retirement, already retired or anywhere in between, this site provides advice and educational information relevant to your retirement needs. American Express Financial Services offers expertise on a wide array of topics including 401(k)s, small business retirement plans, IRAs, mutual funds, annuities, pension plans and life insurance.
Additionally, users have access to multiple retirement calculators to assist in retirement planning. The retirement plan calculator determines how many months you will be able to live comfortably in your retirement based on your current portfolio and asset values. Users can also determine their total contributions, how much their investments are earning in interest and how much will be paid in income tax and penalties.
For those looking for more guidance, an asset allocation planner is available. After the length of time until retirement and an appropriate risk score are determined, a suggested portfolio mix is recommended. You can also request free asset allocation and mutual fund guides along with a free retirement kit. Access to this site is free.
This site’s retirement section, found under Personal Finance, offers comprehensive information and tools to aid in retirement planning. The One Asset Allocation System helps you figure out which asset mixes may be appropriate for you under varying circumstances. For example, as an investor nears retirement, the system will add bonds and cash to the asset mix. Users also have access to a 401(k) Contribution Calculator, which shows how increasing or decreasing your contributions will affect take-home pay, and The SmartMoney 401(k) Planner, which calculates the value of your 401(k) at retirement. A How Long Will My Money Last worksheet helps investors assess their current retirement nest egg.
Site users can complete the Retirement Worksheet to determine if they can meet retirement goals at their current level of savings and investment. You can also learn more about retirement plans, IRAs, rolling over accounts, variable annuities and much more. Additionally, the site addresses tax issues that retirees face. Access to this site is free.
CNBC on MSN Money
With this Web site’s comprehensive retirement planner, future retirees can find out if they can afford to retire early, if their current investments are too risky and what to do if they haven’t saved enough money to suit their retirement needs. The site also features a decision center that provides information and advice on how to escape the rat race, create a plan, invest savings, retire early, play catch-up, retire in style and plan an estate.
Furthermore, a service to help investors find the right adviser is provided. The system matches personal needs with thousands of pre-screened professionals and then refers you to an adviser who is best suited to help you reach your financial retirement goals. All advisers have passed a rigorous due-diligence check to ensure their validity and intentions. Access to this site is free.
This site contains a Retirement Planner that estimates required return in order for your planned savings to meet your retirement needs and the likelihood of achieving that return. It takes into account your asset allocation and can calculate how much more you will need to save to meet your goals for retirement cash flows. This site is free.
Financial Planning Toolkit
This free Web site provides information on retirement planning including calculators, planning tools and worksheets. Included are a Retirement Planner and a Retirement Shortfall Calculator, which allow you to see if your current savings will meet your retirement goals. You can also change assumptions and see a year-by-year cash flow for post-retirement.
This retirement planning and forecasting system is designed for professionals, but a free trial version is available for individuals. You can measure the likelihood of success of your financial plans based upon personal information, and perform a probability analysis to determine the likelihood of meeting your goals.