Welcome to the Exploring Your Retirement with Willowfinch Series, where we’ll be going over all of the information, dreams, and numbers that can make your plans for “What’s next?” get you somewhere you actually want to go! Today’s post "How to Round Up Your Retirement Numbers" is the first in the bunch. Keep an eye out for the rest in our upcoming blogs!
Before we get into the whats and how-tos, remember that we’re not financial advisors or giving any specific recommendations or advice here. We’re going through the topics that we’ve found helpful when gathering all of these thoughts and showing how they pair up with your Willowfinch account dashboard to get you the most personalized and helpful data possible with our tools and resources. We always recommend getting insight and advice from financial professionals!
Good decisions and clear plans come from taking the time to map out important data, desires, and possibilities. Personal and financial goal-setting and roadmaps are a lot to take on, especially when coming up on a big shift or new stage like moving into retirement.
Retirement comes with a unique set of considerations, with new interests, more flexibility, new expenses, changed income, possible tax changes, and more. So what numbers and information do you need when you start planning for your retirement? And how, exactly, are you supposed to get all of them pulled together and mapped out in one place?
If you’re starting the process of exploring your options and brainstorming what’s next, you don’t need to have all the numbers and dates figured out right away. More details and clarity often emerge over time and as you dig deeper into different options, so it’s important to stay flexible and be willing to start despite ambiguity.
This is why we built the Willowfinch tools the way they are! They are designed to be flexible and changeable over time. They’ll flag anything that’s not possible, but other than that you get to play with it, compare, rethink, adjust, and keep exploring.
Numbers to get your retirement planning and house hunting off to a great start
We’ll be breaking these down in a way that fits Willowfinch’s onboarding process, so you should definitely go grab a free Willowfinch account! It will take the numbers you calculate and combine them with millions of data points to customize your planning and house hunting as you go. But these numbers are helpful even if you don’t have an account to plug them into.
Also, we’ve made a handy one-page Retirement Numbers Round Up worksheet for you to make finding and keeping all your numbers easier than ever! You can sign up here to download it.
There are a lot of elements interacting here, so it can feel complex. You’ll want to think about any avenue you plan to have consistent income coming from. We’ve focused your planned income, desired savings from that income, and breaking your income into Social Security, 401Ks and IRAs, and pensions. Let's take a look at how to get each figured out:
1) Overall Projected Income
Your projected retirement income needs to fit the lifestyle and expenses you plan to have. You can keep that consistent with your current budget or even bump it for big dreams, but most income calculators will work on an estimated retirement income that’s 80% of your current budget. (We’ve linked a few examples of these calculators at the end of the post.)
Tip: One of the simplest ways to get your current income is to look at your tax return. Then factor in any decrease or increase you believe will fit your retirement plans. To get the estimated 80% of your current budget, just multiply by 0.80.
2) Savings Goal
We recommend adding a savings goal, even if it’s not something you’re working on right now or in the near future. Willowfinch calculates 10 years into the future, and you will likely eventually want to start saving. If you add a goal, it will show you when a property or location moves you closer to hitting that target right on your personal heat map.
That means if your income on your tax return is $100,000, your retirement income estimate could be $80,000. Rather than entering $80,000 as your income (like in Figure 1), you can add an annual savings goal of $20,000 and mark the income at $100,000 (as in Figure 2).
2) Social Security
To find your specific Social Security estimate, you’re able to look in your Social Security account. Otherwise, we recommend doing a search for the average Social Security income in your current income bracket.
If you’re planning this out by hand, that’s as far as you’ll be able to take this. However, you’re able to play around with when you start claiming your social security in your Willowfinch account, like in this screenshot below. You’ll see that it shifts the amount from year to year.
This is why we ask if your birthday is in the first or second half of the year! It gives the most personal estimates possible.
If you have a public or private pension, your income from those will depend on the account you have and the amount it is set up to provide you. If you don’t know those, your work or the organization behind the account should be able to help you. (It’s always good to check in on those kinds of accounts from time to time, anyway!)
4) Retirement Accounts
If you have a 401K or IRA, you’ll want to estimate when you plan to pull from it, how much, and for how long. Remember, how much income you draw here is adjustable over time. If you know a certain year will have other income sources, you can plan to withdraw less from your 401K account to and still meet your overall income and savings goals.
You should also add other less common accounts like annuities in this calculation.
Working With Your Numbers
Once you have estimated income and target savings amounts mapped out, you can start to see what plans make sense. This includes house decisions!
- Is your current spot the best setup?
- Would you prefer to head off on a new adventure?
- Will you need or want to downsize?
- What else matters most to you and your household?
If you're thinking about selling, you can use a calculator tool to see how much house you can afford. If you aren’t sure about the interest rates you qualify for, just assume a worst-case scenario with low down payment amounts and high rates on the current interest rate range. That way lower rates and monthly payments are a bonus!
Your Personalized Willowfinch Results
All of these numbers will impact your Willowfinch heat map of favorite properties since taxes and other costs are affected by different income streams. The same base amount from your 401K will look different in your budget since one is taxed and the other’s not. Adding a savings goal also impacts the heat map, since it turns on the orange ratings to show progress toward a total savings number.
Remember that Willowfinch is a tool designed to look at the immediate impacts each location would have on the more predictable financial elements of your personal situation over the next ten years. None of us can possibly predict big economic shifts or unexpected changes in personal budget needs.
So how do you keep on top of those shifts? At Willowfinch, we refresh data annually so that the calculations are able to keep up with what’s actually happened each year. It’s also best if you refresh your own data each year! This makes sure your personal projections keep up with your life and goals and continue to show you a whole ten years in the future.
Now for the Fun Parts of Retirement Planning!
The goal of all of this isn’t to buy a house right away, make any immediate money moves, or figure it all out for good. You’re building a database of important numbers, considerations, and dreams for yourself to help track and plan over time. It helps you keep an eye on what you have, know, want, need to figure out, and can explore.
Take time to look at your favorite places, dream changes, and explore the expected and unexpected options out there!
You can always edit things, hone in details as you get new numbers, and make adjustments if you decide you want different outcomes. It’s all flexible and it’s all up to you! The best step to take is to get started.
You can grab that one-page PDF to help gather your numbers here.
Don’t forget to set up your Willowfinch account for immediate personal calculations from those numbers, too!
Still not sure about some of the specific numbers?
You are able to set the “Will you have income from any of the following? 401K, IRA, Social Security, Pension.” question to “No” and skip them for now. Your general income estimate will be enough to get your planning started.
But the sooner you’re able to play with each category specifically, the more you’ll get out of your personalized data and projections for each location in your Willowfinch account!
Retirement Income Calculators and Other Resources
- Calculator.net Retirement Calculator
- FireCalc Retirement Calculator
- cFireSim Retirement Calculator
- How Much House Can I Afford? from Calculator.net
- Willowfinch Resources Page
Catch all of the posts in our Exploring Your Retirement with Willowfinch Series:
How to Round Up Your Retirement Numbers
The Power Behind Your Willowfinch Heat Maps
The Big Questions You Have to Answer Before Selling the Family Home
How to Use "War Gaming" to Make Strategic Housing Plans