5 Tools to Supercharge Retirement Planning

Try these free and paid tools that help manage your retirement finances.

tools to supercharge retirement planning
By Robert Berger

Retirement planning and saving can be intimidating. From selecting an asset allocation to rebalancing and fund selection, saving for our golden years is not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, there are some free and paid tools that make our job a lot easier, and dare I say, even fun.

These five tools address various pain points when it comes to retirement planning. Just be careful, because the visual charts and graphs can become addictive.

1. Personal Capital. The free tool from Personal Capital is the easiest and most thorough way to track an investment portfolio. The online tool enables users to connect investment accounts, including 401(k), IRA and taxable accounts from a multitude of brokers and mutual fund companies. Once connected, Personal Capital slices and dices the portfolio to show users their asset allocation, investment performance and even investment fees.

The tool provides visually stunning graphs and charts to help understand a portfolio. With Personal Capital's 401(k) fee analyzer, users can see what percentage of their returns are being lost to fees. And its investment checkup allows users to evaluate their asset allocation and see alternative investments with lower fees.

2. Jemstep. There are two nettlesome aspects of retirement investing: asset allocation and rebalancing. As retirement accounts multiply from a single 401(k) to multiple IRAs and taxable accounts, keeping the right asset mix can be a real challenge. Jemstep is a paid tool that aims to solve this problem.

Once a user's investment accounts are added to the tool, Jemstep evaluates the asset allocation of the portfolio.
It then compares an investor's asset allocation with Jemstep's recommendation. The recommendation is based on the investor's age and risk tolerance.

It's the next step that sets Jemstep apart from other tools. Jemstep provides detailed buy and sell instructions to enable an investor to implement its proposed allocation. These instructions consider the tax ramifications of selling an investment, and it also considers asset location in its buy recommendations. If an investor doesn't like a recommended investment, Jemstep provides alternatives that can be easily selected.

3. Betterment. Betterment is an online tool that makes investing fun and easy. Once a Betterment account is opened and funded, the only decision to make is the percentage to be invested in stocks and bonds. Once that decision is made, Betterment handles the rest. It invests the funds in a select number of low-cost Vanguard and iShare ETFs. Betterment offers IRA accounts for those saving for retirement.

In addition to its ease of use, Betterment also offers a visual tool to help users select their asset allocation. Using a point-and-click slider, users can see the projected effect of asset allocations ranging from 100 percent bonds to 100 percent stocks. With the click of a mouse, the asset allocation can be selected and the invested funds are automatically moved to the right stock and bond ETFs.

4. AARP Social Security Calculator. Determining when to take Social Security benefits is complicated. To help retirees make this decision, a number of online tools have been developed. While there are some excellent paid tools available, including maximizemysocialsecurity.com and socialsecuritysolutions.com, AARP offers a free Social Security Calculator. The AARP tool helps you determine how to achieve the highest monthly benefit.

5. FutureAdvisor. FutureAdvisor, like Jemstep, attempts to take the pain out of choosing an asset allocation and rebalancing a portfolio. It makes connecting investment accounts easy, recommends an asset allocation and provides projections of portfolio performance based on its recommendations.

For a premium membership, FutureAdvisor takes its tool one step further. It will actually make the trades automatically that are necessary to rebalance a portfolio to its recommended asset allocation. It will also invest new cash and even harvest tax losses at the end of each calendar year.

Rob Berger is an attorney and founder of the popular personal finance and investing blog, doughroller.net. He is also the editor of the Dough Roller Weekly Newsletter, a free newsletter covering all aspects of personal finance and investing, and the host of the weekly Dough Roller Podcast.

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Plan now. That's the best thing you can do. Because the sooner you start, the better off you will be. You can learn about making plans at http://www.mutualfundstore.com/planning-and-retirement. There are plenty of options to consider and you really should research them before you get going. Hopefully you won't have any emergencies like medical problems to deal with, but there is always that possibility.

April 24 2014 at 12:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Retiring and going on social security and medicare. Thank a democrat for these 2 fine programs. Want to end these 2 fine programs vote republican, for that is the way your election representatives voted. In both the house and senate.

December 12 2013 at 12:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Oh great, taxpayers will subsidize low income people on Obamacare. When does the middle class get a break? I know, never.

December 11 2013 at 7:10 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

keep saving it will happen

December 11 2013 at 6:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

What the article doesn't mention is that constant tinkering with your retirement portfolio will cost you a ton of money over time. Buying and selling in the stock market isn't free. Financial advisory services are not free, either. The more complicated you allow your investment portfolio to get --- the more complicated your financial life becomes. I won't even discuss how much of a nightmare your tax returns can become as a result of a lot of financial portfolio tweaking and changes.

Fiddling around with computerized charts and pie graphs just because it's fun isn't productive and isn't making any money for you. It is, however, making money for the companies that are SELLING you those "investment tools" with the cutesie colored charts, etc.

The fatal flaw in those computerized "asset programs" is that they are devised from the standpoint that one size fits all. And that isn't true. Investment plans are as individual as fingerprints. Everyone's retirement needs are different because individual lives are different. What works for you won't be appropriate for others, etc.

So, keep it simple. (1) Save as much as you can. Make it a habit to add money to both your savings account and investments EVERY MONTH. Saving and investing is just like building a snowman. You start off small with just a little money snowball and keep rolling along (adding those steady monthly amounts) to create a big snowball that is (over time) spinning off investment profits for you.

(2) Keep your investment costs as low as possible. (Choosing index funds is a big help with this.)

(4) Pick the investment choices that are best for you and your situation.

Set goals and have a plan and stay with that plan for the long haul. No investment strategy works if you aren't willing to give it TIME to work. It's time IN the stock market -- not timing the market -- that will make you rich. (If you think I'm wrong about this -- look up the track record of Berkshire Hathaway. Buying just 100 shares of this fund, in its' early years, and then LEAVING IT ALONE TO GROW would have made you a rich person.)

A couple things to keep in mind --- the best investments are usually both very simple and very boring. Learn to control that "itch you can't scratch" that makes you want to DO something to add some excitement to your investment portfolio. It's foolish (and expensive) to dump good performing investments just because you are bored with them and want to free up some cash to buy something "new".

Remember that someone will ALWAYS be trying to sell you something they claim will "improve" your investment profits. If it isn't financial newsletters, or the latest in a series of books, or computer programs --- then it is likely to be a "hot" new stock or mutual fund. (This current article we are commenting on is a good example of that.) Usually, the only thing that gets "improved" is the amount of cash in the wallet of the investment salespeople.

December 11 2013 at 10:19 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Valerie's comment

When you write a book no one reads all of it.

December 11 2013 at 12:27 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to papajokr's comment

Gee, I'm really sorry for cutting into video game playing time and TV viewing time, Joker.

One of the characteristics of wealthy people is that they consistently READ about six times more than average. So, your comment about "no one" isn't relevant.

However, feel free to continue your preferred lazy way of life.

December 11 2013 at 6:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Most importantly to protect your retirement, DON'T vote for a lieing, decieving, tax and spend Democrat!

December 11 2013 at 8:57 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jrb359's comment

u betcha no more liberal dems

December 11 2013 at 6:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply