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Four Tools to Help You Plan for Retirement

by Melissa Batai on October 22, 2012


In the dark about how to plan for your retirement?  Overwhelmed by your choices?  Surprisingly, AARP may be just the place you need to go to make sense of your finances and learn how your money choices now, in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, can affect your financial future. These tools can help you make informed, smarter choices.

Social Security Benefits Calculator

The Social Security Benefits Calculator is simple to use; input some basic information such as date of birth, marital status, current salary, and get an estimate of your benefits. You’ll then get a colored chart that shows how much more you can earn if you wait to claim benefits, and you will likely be surprised. In my case, claiming benefits at 70 instead of 62 would result in $462 more monthly income a month or $5,500 a year. Later on, the tool also shows how you and your spouse can maximize the monthly benefits you receive.

The only drawback is if you are self-employed or a state employee, as those both affect Social Security, and there is no place in the tool to handle these situations. This tool is helpful for those with traditional jobs, not with the state.

AARP Retirement Calculator

If you are a finance nerd, the AARP Retirement Calculator tool could get addictive! Input your income and your spouse’s, your current age, when you plan to retire, how much you already have saved and then if you expect your lifestyle to be more expensive, equal or less than what it is now.

The tool produces a nifty bell curve that shows when your money will run out. (They use a life expectancy of 90). Under other options, you can play around with salary increases and decreases as well as retiring earlier or later to discover how your retirement will be affected. If my husband retires one year early, our retirement goes from a surplus to a negative. That is a sobering thought.

401(k) Fee Calculator

Unlike the other tools, you must register with AARP to use the 401(k) Fee Calculator. Not only is it harder to access, but it isn’t as user-friendly. I entered my husband’s employer as well as his age, salary, and retirement contributions and then stared at the screen, not knowing what to do next.  Turns out, this tool is only for certain companies. If your company doesn’t pop up, this tool will be of no use to you.

If you do work for one of the companies included, this tool could be very useful, especially when you are just joining a company and deciding what companies to invest in as you can compare the fees within the stocks you can choose.

Credit Card Payoff Calculator

You can find credit card payoff calculators anywhere, but AARP’s Credit Card Payoff Calculator is simple to use and not spammy. Enter your debt, interest rate, current payment amount and when you want to pay off the card. A graph shows you how long it would take you to pay off making your current payments, and how much you have to increase your payments to pay it off by your designated goal. Click, “Show other payoff scenarios” and you are given how much you should pay a month to pay off the credit card in one to five years. Print the report for more motivation.

These tools are available with a few strokes on the keyboard, but they can help guide you to the right financial course to be financially solvent your entire life.

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