It seems that many people approaching retirement are in desperate of need good advice, but don’t like paying for it. So they turn to free tools and resources that promise to do the job of retirement planning. Unfortunately, those free retirement planning tools available online may not cost anything – but some of them just might steer you wrong.
We recently discovered this timely article about retirement planning on the website of CNBC, written by Texas Tech professor Barry Mulholland. Mulholland conducted a study to find out how many of the free online retirement planning calculators readily available on many financial websites actually give users accurate advice about retirement savings. “Finding a good tool to help you prepare for such an important phase in your life is a very smart move,” Mulholland writes. “But finding a good online tool to work with may not be as clear-cut as you think.”
Mulholland and his team of researchers first visited a professional financial advisor and used the advisor’s comprehensive software to come up with accurate, detailed retirement savings goals for a hypothetical middle-aged family. Then using the same parameters, the researchers plugged the same data into 36 different retirement planning tools available on the internet, most of them available for free. The results were disconcerting for those who rely on free services for financial planning.
When the researchers compared the recommendations of the free planners against the professional data, “only 30 percent of the online tools suggested the clients needed to save more,” says the report. The rest, 70 percent, gave recommendations Mulholland termed both inaccurate and inadequate. These planning tools either suggested the family was on track when they weren’t, or else gave inconclusive plans and recommendations. And even the 30 percent that suggested more savings gave wildly different recommendations, limiting their accuracy and usefulness.
Mulholland says, “Our work reiterates that consumers need to be diligent about the advice they seek — especially if it’s free. And the better prepared you are when seeking the advice, the better able you will be to use the advice.”
The CNBC article includes a list of parameters Mulholland and his team suggests any retirement financial plan ought to include. It’s a comprehensive list, including some elements that free planners don’t take into account, including risk tolerance, inflation assumptions, future rates of return on investments and life expectancy. Once again, for the full list and accompanying CNBC article, click here.
The CNBC article is helpful, in our view – but as we always advise our clients and radio listeners here at AgingOptions, there is much more to retirement planning than finances. You should also be ensuring that your legal affairs are in order, your housing plans are well thought-through, your family members are advised of your desires and your health care needs have been considered. We’ve helped thousands of clients put together just this sort of plan – a LifePlan, as we call it – to guide them into a secure and fruitful future. We would welcome the opportunity to do the same for you.
The best way to start the process is by attending one of our free LifePlanning Seminars, held at various locations in the region. To find out when and where the next series of LifePlanning Seminars will be, click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website. You can register for the seminar of your choice – and remember, space is limited. We’ll consider it a privilege to work with you to make sure the information you receive is accurate and comprehensive. After all, your retirement future depends on it!
(originally reported at www.cnbc.com)