Calculate Retirement With Confidence

Knowing how much you'll need in your golden years is easy to figure out with this new tool.
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An annual survey released shortly after the collapse of investment bank Bear Stearns earlier this year noted that fewer workers and retirees were confident about saving enough for a comfortable retirement. The drop in confidence measured between the 2007 and 2008 surveys was the greatest decline in the 18-year history of the

Employee Benefit Research Institute's

Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS).

Along with the decline in confidence, the survey reported that only half of workers surveyed had calculated how much they needed to save for a comfortable retirement. But of those who performed the calculations, nearly half adjusted their retirement goals and close to two-thirds started saving more.

So if worries are mounting over the status of your retirement savings, take a few minutes to figure out how your current situation translates into retirement income. One place to start: the

Retirement Income Calculator


To begin, enter your age, retirement date, how much you've saved, what you expect to contribute each year and your current tax rate. Next, make a few assumptions, including annual return on investments before and during retirement, as well as tax bracket in retirement.

Say you are 50 years old and have saved $250,000 in a tax-advantaged plan such as a 401(k) or IRA. You plan on continuing to contribute $2,500 a year and expect an annual average return of 7% before retirement and a more conservative 5% return during retirement. Your tax rate is currently 25%, but you expect it to drop to 15% in retirement. By the time you retire, you will have saved $756,978, which is enough to provide you with a monthly income of $3,767 for 35 years. (The calculator assumes that you'll live to be 100 years old.)

Bear in mind that your monthly $3,767 accounts for neither the 15% tax rate you'll pay on withdrawals from your retirement accounts (unless your money is in a Roth IRA), nor the impact that inflation would have on purchasing power. After taking taxes and inflation into account, your monthly income would be equivalent to $2,025 in today's dollars.

Conventional wisdom dictates that retirees will need anywhere from 85% to 100% of their pre-retirement income. That figure can run even higher if you plan on increased travel or higher health care costs. If you don't think $2,025 a month will be enough to support your vision of a comfortable retirement, play around with different scenarios to see how you might improve the end result. Consider how much you can expect to receive in

Social Security benefits

. And look closely at your own financial habits: Will increasing your annual contributions get you closer to your required monthly income? Will delaying retirement give you the extra time you need for savings to grow?

If playing around with different scenarios still fails to provide the kind of income you believe is required to support your retirement lifestyle, it may be necessary to adjust your retirement goals.

Peter McDougall is a freelance writer who lives in Freeport, Maine, with his wife and their dog.