How much income can you plan on receiving in your annuity when you retire? Anyone planning to retire, especially those getting to within several years of actually walking out the door, should be interested in this question.
Fortunately, there are various calculators on the internet that will help in your planning. They have a wide range of capabilities, ease of use, and accuracy. This article will consider five calculators, but it will not be a detailed critique; rather, it will be a brief survey of the features claimed. The candidates:
The software must arrive at a result through actual calculations, with no guesswork involved. This rules out the first and last of the above candidates, because they each ask the user to provide his or her own estimate of the high-three average salary.
All three of the remaining tools offer "private" versions of their software with more advanced features, enhanced capability, etc. Details are available on their web sites.
Fedcalc. This is a comprehensive, easy to use suite of calculators.
It does not appear that sick leave credit for FERS employees has been integrated into the program flow. Due to the many ads, it takes eight screens to get through the data entry process. This site offers several calculators available nowhere else, but it lacks a calculator for the extremely complex FERS annuity supplement.
(Historical note. Fedcalc was known originally as fedbens. Several years ago, when the fedbens developer decided to set up his own site, he took the copyrighted fedbens name with him – see below.)
Fedretiresoftware. Like fedcalc, this is comprehensive, but ease of use is questionable. The user manual is 163 pages! This tool claims to do the annuity supplement, but the data entry form does NOT ask for FERS earnings, so it appears to be, in reality, an estimate based on Social Security earnings.
Fedbens. Quite easy to use, and comprehensive, but will not run with the Firefox browser. Only three screens are required for data entry (fewer ads). The chief distinguishing feature of this site is that it includes a program for actually calculating the annuity supplement. This does not appear to be available anywhere else. (There are also several other unique tools, but they are not nearly as important as the supplement calculator.)
In the interests of full disclosure, the author of this article is also the author/proprietor of the fedbens site.
So, check them out. See what you think. Perhaps you know of other calculators? Let other Fedsmith.com readers know. The site developers will be glad to hear any constructive criticism, I’m certain.