Planning for retirement can be tedious and confusing, so much so that the task is often handed over to expensive financial advisers. The increased popularity of financial technology services and associated online tools is prompting hundreds of startups and storied financial services companies to vie for new users, though, making for plenty of free tools and services worth trying.
Retirement calculators rely on estimates and assumptions, but can still provide a general assessment of a user's financial future. There are many calculators out there, and just about every major wealth management company offers a free one. Every good calculator takes into account the number of years until retirement, current portfolio balance, and planned contributions, and adjusts for inflation. AARP's calculator
also considers the presence (or not) of a significant other, pension and Social Security income, and expected retirement lifestyle. The free calculator at Financial Mentor
takes things a step further by letting you include one-time benefits, such as the sale of a home, and up to four income streams during retirement.
For people with multiple investment accounts, keeping track of asset allocation can get messy. The website Personal Capital
allows for the connection of multiple accounts, including 401(k)s, IRAs, and checking accounts, for a complete look at finances. Users can see easily how investments are divided among economic sectors (e.g., health care, energy, technology) by percentage and dollar value, check the assets' performance, and track net worth. An investment checkup, retirement planner, and retirement fee analyzer are included for free. Users with $100,000 or more in assets under management can pay a fee (less than 1 percent of the portfolio) to work with a financial adviser.
Half a percent or even 2 percent may not seem like much in the moment, but over time small fees charged by mutual funds and the like eat away at earnings and can have a significant effect on a portfolio. Another bite comes from fees charged by financial advisers and wealth management companies (including many online and automated services). FeeX
is a free tool that analyzes investment accounts for several types of fees and shows how to reduce or eliminate them. The company makes money with referral arrangements to some financial services providers.
Recommended by David Weliver, founding editor of Money Under 30, iQuantifi
is a goal-centric planner that helps create a life timeline with goals, and a financial plan for realizing them. One likely goal is retirement, but users can also stipulate travel, a new vehicle, a child, marriage, and other major life events. iQuantifi guides users toward goals as they pay off debt and build a cash reserve. There are monthly ($10) or annual ($89) fees to use the service.
When retirement is decades away it's easy to forget that the day-to-day can make a big difference. Saving and investing a little extra today can mean extra years in retirement without financial worries. But how do you find the extra money to invest? Creating a budget
, or even just tracking expenses without one, is an important first step. Mint
lets users connect bank accounts, credit cards, and loans to track monthly cash flow. It also provides access to a free credit score, reminds when bills are due, and can be used to set financial goals and budgets.
Robo-advisers replace human financial advisers with algorithms that manage investors' money based on factors such as age, risk tolerance, financial position, and goals. Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
and competitor WiseBanyan
provide this service for free. The former makes money by investing in Schwab funds and the portion of the portfolio kept in cash; WiseBanyan earns money by selling additional services, such as tax preparation. WealthFront
, one of the most popular robo-advisers, is free for users with less than $10,000 in their account, or up to $15,000 for those who are referred to the service through an online ad or a friend (the friend then enjoys up to $5,000 more managed at no charge). Intelligent Portfolios requires a minimum $5,000 initial investment, WealthFront requires a minimum $500, and WiseBanyan sets no minimum.
Free Credit Scores
Free credit scores are easy to come by these days. Some credit card issuers include a free score for cardholders. Financial management services such as Mint use a proprietary algorithm to calculate scores for users. Several free services, such as Credit Sesame
, and Quizzle
, focus on helping users track and understand their credit scores. Maintaining a good credit score can mean thousands in savings when taking out loans -- an especially welcome result for retirees.
Quick Background Checks
If deciding to work with a financial adviser, be sure to do a quick background check first. Three certification organizations (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
, the Certified Financial Planner Board
, and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
) let you search to see if an adviser is still certified and/or has been disciplined. An additional option is to search for the person's name online to see if they've published articles and what sort of material they post on social media.