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Monday, March 2, 2009

Use A Retirement Calculator Before You Start Saving

By David C Lewis, RFA

If you are making large 401k contributions, then you may want to start using a retirement calculator before you put any more money away for your future.

Before you start planning for your retirement, you will want to use a retirement calculator. These handy tools are all over the Internet and can help you come up with some realistic numbers so that you are not "shooting darts at a dart board" trying to guess how much you will need for your future.

Financial calculators (re: retirement calculators) can often give you a basic overview of what you will need for retirement. Unfortunately, they do not always give you the specific details you need, like how to adjust for changing interest rates and taxes.

You may want to try to tackle a more sophisticated piece of software. That's not the answer you want to hear, but you might be happier knowing the truth. The alternative to plan properly could bankrupt you in your old age.

One of the things that your retirement calculations should try to adjust for is the effect of taxes and withdrawals during retirement. This can be very difficult and in many instances almost impossible. Try your best. At worst case, you can assume that taxes will not decrease over time.

Most people realize this, implicitly. Taxes, like death, are said to be unavoidable. Whether or not you believe this, it is probably a good idea to make them part of your financial plan. Consider whether you would value a smaller lump sum of money that is tax free (like a Roth IRA) or if you would rather have a slightly larger nest egg that is 100% taxable (like a traditional IRA).

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