This site may be best known for retirement calculator reviews, including the most comprehensive collection of retirement calculator reviews on the web. Ultimately, we would love to find “the one” perfect retirement calculator for everyone.
Unfortunately, that perfect retirement calculator doesn’t exist. We all have unique preferences, needs, and desires. It is important to find the right tool to meet your needs.
Read on to learn the differences between these powerful financial planning tools and which may be the better fit for your retirement planning needs. I’ll then walk you through some of my favorite features of NewRetirement’s PlannerPlus.
Before diving into the NewRetirement PlannerPlus review, let’s compare a few key differences between these two powerful retirement modeling tools to help you decide which may better fit your needs.
|Feature||NewRetirement PlannerPlus||Pralana Gold|
|Application||Web Based||Microsoft Excel|
|Support||In program prompts and feedback, chat/email, Facebook group, option to upgrade to personal assistance||Online manual, email, online forum (coming 2021)|
|Modeling||Average returns, Monte Carlo (Beta version)||Average returns, Historical returns, and Monte Carlo|
|Updates||Constant, iterative||Annual, updates require download|
|Cost||$72/year||$99 initial purchase, $49 annual upgrade|
Ease of Use
A few features make NewRetirement’s PlannerPlus tool attractive. Using a web based interface means you can start using it immediately and access your scenarios by logging into almost any device. In contrast, Pralana needs to be downloaded to a device (license allows download to up to 3 devices) and requires Microsoft Excel to run.
If using multiple devices, you simply log into your NewRetirement account to access your information. Pralana Gold requires exporting and importing data from device to device.
NewRetirement’s slick user interface and outstanding customer support each shorten the learning curve. PlannerPlus provides ongoing assistance and feedback in a variety of ways. This includes in-app help and links to off-site resources.
These resources provide information as the user needs it. This approach provides convenience and helps insure more accurate data collection, which is vital to get the most valid and useful output possible.
“Coach suggestions” help identify inputs that seem questionable or could be optimized. There is also a chat window, an active NewRetirement Facebook group and occasional webcasts where users can interact with PlannerPlus developers and other retirement experts.
You can also upgrade from the base PlannerPlus to PlannerPlus Live and have someone individually walk you through the program, review your plan, and answer personal questions.
In contrast, Pralana requires referring back and forth between the program and a user manual. Pralana does offer email support directly from the developer and is planning to launch a user forum starting in 2021.
This makes for a slightly longer learning curve with Pralana Gold. It also requires more technical and financial planning competence and confidence from the user.
Both the NewRetirement PlannerPlus and Pralana Gold retirement calculators start with basic inputs and quickly provide useful outputs to give you an overview of your financial picture.
Each then prompts you to enter detailed personal and financial inputs which lead to detailed outputs. Beyond helping you answer the basic question “Do I have enough money to retire?” these are both advanced personal financial modeling tools with ability to model withdrawal strategies, federal and state income taxes, Roth conversions, healthcare expenses and much more.
An advantage of Pralana Gold is that it provides outputs based on average returns, historical returns and Monte Carlo simulations. NewRetirement provides outputs based on average returns. They recently launched a beta version using Monte Carlo simulations in PlannerPlus.
There is no “best way” to model outcomes. Each method comes with its own advantages and drawbacks. More outputs are generally better for those who want a broader picture of the range of possible outcomes.
How and Why Behind the Calculators
Understanding the background of the creators of these calculators, the motivations for creating them, and how they continue to improve these tools can help determine which may be a better fit for your retirement modeling needs.
NewRetirement PlannerPlus is web based. Their team’s strategy is to release new features frequently, get feedback from users, and incorporate the feedback quickly as the team continuously improves and upgrades PlannerPlus.
This model is a reflection on the mindset of founder Steve Chen and his team at NewRetirement. Chen started NewRetirement after struggling to assist his mother navigate her finances. He created an affordable and user friendly product for people interested in their personal finances, but who need help navigating the complexity. Chen’s goal is to revolutionize retirement planning by creating a detailed and accurate tool that is accessible to the widest possible audience.
Pralana founder Stuart Matthews is a retired engineer. He is a one man team who started Pralana to scratch his own itch in retirement. He wanted to create powerful and accurate retirement planning software that didn’t previously exist for serious DIY planners at a reasonable cost.
Matthews turned his creation into a business, creating a cult-like loyalty among highly financially literate DIY planners who want the most powerful computational tool with the ability to model complex and specific scenarios.
He is extremely detailed and works on perfecting updates to the calculator which he releases once a year to introduce new features and update contribution limits, tax brackets and other changes in the law. Updating requires renewing your license annually and downloading the newest version, exporting your data from the previous model, and importing it into the newest one.
As I’ve hopefully made clear, these are both valuable and powerful retirement planning tools. Each fills a need for different subsets of our readership. Fortunately, both are tremendous values.
Before discussing the price of these tools, I want to point out that both have free versions. NewRetirement offers the free NewRetirement Planner. Pralana offers the free Pralana Bronze.
Both of the free versions are valuable if you are looking to get a rough estimate of your financial position. They also give a good feel for how the paid versions look, feel, and work. Neither is in the same league as the paid version for those who want to get serious about detailed financial planning projections.
DISCLOSURE: Can I Retire Yet? is an affiliate partner with both NewRetirement and Pralana. As such, if you purchase either calculator through the links on this website we are paid a portion of the purchase price. This allows you to support the blog without increasing your cost. We are proud to be associated with both of these products.
NewRetirement PlannerPlus costs $72/year. You can upgrade to PlannerPlus Live for $125, which gives you access to live support. NewRetirement also gives the option of reviewing your plan with a Certified Financial Planner for a flat fee of $500.
Pralana Gold costs $99 when you purchase. Annual updates to the software are $49 after the initial purchase.
Darrow recently reviewed the Pralana Gold 2020 calculator. If you’d like to learn more about this powerful tool, you can read his full review.
For those of you that find the NewRetirement PlannerPlus more intriguing, I’ll walk you through how you get started with it and point out a few of my favorite features.
NewRetirement PlannerPlus has you start with a quick onboarding process. You enter basic information which takes only a few minutes and you quickly get a rough idea of your financial position. Inputs include:
- About You: Simple entries of your name, age, marital status, spouse’s info and retirement goals.
- Income: Gross pre-tax earned income (self and spouse), desired retirement ages, SS benefits & planned starting ages, and pension income and starting age (if applicable).
- Assets: Retirement savings and ongoing contribution amount and frequency, other savings, home ownership status, home value, and mortgage balance.
- Expenses: Mortgage payment and interest rate, medical expenses, & other expenses.
- Health: Answer a few questions about whether you’re a smoker, what Medicare coverage you anticipate having, and LTC plans.
After entering these quick inputs you’ll be taken to the Dashboard, where you’ll get an overview of your financial picture, discover ways to improve your plan, and learn more about key planning decisions.
At the top of the dashboard screen you will see key outputs based on the information you’ve entered. Outputs include your:
- Overall score that reflects the odds of meeting your goals based on your inputs and assumptions,
- Current net worth,
- Estimated monthly retirement income,
- Estimated estate value (reflected as a negative number if you aren’t projected to have enough money to meet your needs),
- And estimated age when savings will be exhausted.
In the dashboard, you can easily toggle between optimistic vs. pessimistic assumptions, assumptions based on your ideal budget vs. only expenses you define as necessities, and different withdrawal scenarios. This quickly and effectively demonstrates the wide variability of outcomes possible when even small changes in assumptions or inputs are compounded over time.
You can later create up to five additional scenarios to imagine and compare different potential retirement outcomes.
PlannerPlus — My Plan
Your next step is to enter detailed inputs to give a more accurate and nuanced look at your financial situation. All of the inputs are easily found under the My Plan tab. You can enter your information over multiple sessions and update it easily at any time.
We won’t cover every input option, but I will highlight a few key features under each section to give a sense of the degree of detail possible and features I found helpful.
Basic Profile and Goals
One key variable in retirement planning is life expectancy. This is unknown for all of us, so I would look up average life expectancy or use a generic number.
NewRetirement provides an in app link to a life expectancy calculator that has you enter variables such as your current age, health status, family history, and behaviors to give you a personalized number.
While you can’t know with certainty when you will die, this personalized number may give you more insight. After seeing my results, I increased my life expectancy assumptions.
Work and Other Income
PlannerPlus has you enter your gross income and assumed rate of increase. It then does detailed federal and state tax calculations. It also allows modeling of passive income including real estate, royalties and franchises.
PlannerPlus links out to the MySocialSecurity website to make it easy and convenient to find your information. It also provides multiple resources about SS rules and claiming strategies to help you develop the optimal claiming strategy.
Annuities and Pensions
PlannerPlus enables modeling of annuity income and includes an annuity calculator and annuity suitability quiz to help you make a more informed decision about incorporating an annuity into your retirement plan.
The program also allows modeling of either monthly pension income or a lump sum pension.
Savings and assets
PlannerPlus provides simple and intuitive inputs allowing you to model:
- Tax advantaged accounts (tax-deferred, Roth, HSA, 529) and taxable savings,
- Roth conversions,
- Ongoing savings, and lump sum investments such as an inheritance or selling a home,
- Growth of private business value and/or a lump sum investment when selling the business.
PlannerPlus models withdrawals based on spending needs and maximal withdrawals while still meeting legacy goals, and compares each to fixed percentage withdrawals. You can also model any number of one time expenses in the year you anticipate them, such as paying for a child’s college.
Expenses and Inflation
You can model expenses as a single monthly total or use the Budgeter tab, which lets you enter expenses with as much specificity and detail as you like. I prefer the Budgeter both for the amount of detail it enables and as a checklist to avoid forgetting any categories of spending.
Another great feature is the ability to label each expense as “must spend” or “like to spend” and then be able to toggle back and forth to see the difference in outcomes between the spending you would desire and a pared down budget with one click of a button. This is a great way to visualize the impact of spending decisions.
Home and Real Estate
I’ve written about the myriad of planning options that come with the decision to own a home. PlannerPlus allows you to model these options and see the financial implications.
This section allows you to model owning your home outright, carrying a mortgage, or renting. It also enables modeling a reverse mortgage, relocating, and buying or selling additional properties. When you enter your state of primary residence, PlannerPlus will then also use that information to model state income taxes.
My posts about relocating in retirement have been popular with a lot of readers, and domestic geoarbitrage has been a topic with several readers I spoke with over the past couple of months. NewRetirement PlannerPlus is a great tool for modeling different scenarios such as downsizing or moving to a state with higher or lower housing costs or state income taxes.
This section enables you to model both health insurance premium and out-of-pocket expenses. It also enables you to experiment with different inflation rates than you use for other expenses, which is wise considering that medical costs typically increase at a greater rate than general inflation.
Other inputs include the ability to model long-term care needs. There are also tips and links to resources relating to all of these topics as well as Medicare expenses to help you model your situation as accurately as possible.
This section allows you to model non-mortgage debt. It also provides resources to help you consider the impact of entering retirement with debt and options to pay your debt off more quickly.
This section prompts you to consider the potential of leaving a legacy and provides resources about leaving a legacy. There is also a checklist to help you assemble and maintain documents for a comprehensive estate plan.
More Than a Calculator
I have gone through the inputs to give potential users an idea of what the tool can do and the level of detail it enables. I’ll highlight just a few outputs and highlight more of them in future blog posts when I model scenarios as I explore different concepts.
I want to point out that NewRetirement PlannerPlus is more than a retirement calculator that takes in and spits out numbers. What I really like about PlannerPlus is that it is a comprehensive retirement and general financial planning tool.
The access to resources, checklists, and tips to help you gather and enter more accurate data and then optimize your plan will allow many DIY planners to have more confidence in their plans. People who use or are considering using a financial advisor will gain more insights and confidence, enabling them to ask better questions of the advisor and more accurately assess the advice and quality of service they’re receiving.
I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating. This tool performs all of these powerful functions without overwhelming the user. The tool is very intuitive and the ability to jump right in and start playing with it makes it fun… at least for a geek like me who likes thinking about things like the impact retiring sooner has on tax minimization and Social Security benefits.
NewRetirement PlannerPlus takes the inputs you enter and gives a lot of useful outputs. I’m going to highlight just three that will give a sense of the information you get and how it can impact your planning.
In the dashboard, your Lifetime Retirement Projections are on display in a clear easy to understand bar graph. You can hover over any specific year, and see a breakdown of year-by-year cash flows to meet your projected inflation-adjusted spending needs.
As an example, in the picture above from a scenario I created you can see the following:
- In this example, I hovered over the year 2052. It shows living expenses and taxes total $180,000 which would be met by $100k Social Security (light pink), $19k RMD (gold) and $61k from other savings drawdown (dark pink) .
- In the early years, part-time work (represented by the color purple) covers most spending needs and is supplemented by savings drawdown (dark pink).
- The next 12 years model a small income from decreased part-time work (purple) and most expenses being funded by savings drawdown (dark pink).
Under the Insights tab from the Dashboard, PlannerPlus analyzes:
- Savings timeline,
- What you need,
- Cash flow forecast, and
- Net worth and estate.
The PlannerPlus Inspector provides intuitive visual representations of your lifetime:
- Income and expenses,
- Withdrawals, and
- Surplus or Gap
I’ve included a screenshot of the tax inspector from a scenario I created where one spouse works a few more years until 2023, then they have only a very small earned income in early retirement through 2035. You can easily see that this would provide a twelve year window where the couple would pay no federal income tax (represented by blue bars). This would present an excellent opportunity to convert funds from a traditional to Roth IRA in the lowest tax brackets, potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars in federal income tax over the couple’s lifetimes.
How To Improve
PlannerPlus Dashboard also has a How To Improve tab. Here you will find general strategies to strengthen your retirement plan, depending on your goals. Strategies are divided into:
- Don’t Run Out of Money,
- Prepare for Risks and Unknowns, and
- Maximize Your Wealth
This section of the program also stores individualized “coach suggestions” based on your data inputs and links to resources on topics about which you requested further information as you were entering data. You can then learn more and go back and improve your plan based on new strategies as you learn.
You can also find links to resources on a variety of retirement planning topics, ways to connect with a fee-only Certified Financial Planner, and information on live online events NewRetirement hosts periodically to assist users.
Try It Now
NewRetirement PlannerPlus is a powerful and easy to use retirement calculator and much more. PlannerPlus is outstanding if you are looking for a way to integrate all of your information into one user friendly tool to create a comprehensive financial plan.
It allows you to test different planning scenarios, model cash flow and tax consequences of your decisions, and provides resources and feedback to increase confidence in the completeness and accuracy of your plan.
Give it a try and share your feedback.
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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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