Money and Markets: Investing Insights

Top 15 Personal Finance Calculators for Practical Life Decisions

amber-dakar

If you’re like me, there may be times when an online personal financial tool or calculator is needed to help make an economic decision.

Whether you’re calculating if you’re saving enough for retirement or estimating how much house you can afford, there are several online tools available to assist.

Below please find a series of calculators that aim to do just that.  The calculators covered in this article are as follows:

Autos, College, Debt, Home, Life Expectancy, Mortgage, Retirement, Savings and Student Loans.

Auto Calculators

If you’re in the market for a new car, here are a few calculators that can guide you in the right direction.

Auto Affordability Calculator

When calculating the affordability of a vehicle, the overall sales price, fuel costs, maintenance, repair and auto insurance expenses need to be examined prior to making a purchase.

A general rule of thumb is that total auto loans for one household should not exceed 20% of the net monthly income.

So, if the net monthly income is $3,000 per month for the household, the total monthly car note payments should be $600 or less, whether this amount is allotted to one car or three cars.

Edmunds.com has a helpful calculator that can help you make a good decision.  For more information, visit:

  1. edmunds.com/calculators/affordability.html

Vehicle Insurance Ratings Tool

When calculating how much vehicle you can afford, also include the potential annual insurance costs. State Farm has a useful website that compiles extensive claims data and generates annual insurance ratings for specific makes and models of vehicles.

Through their website consumers can see how much a specific make, model and style of car will affect costs.  The ratings range from A – E.  “A” equals the most savings while “E” means you’ll likely pay a higher premium for this vehicle.  For further details, visit:

  1. https://learningcenter.statefarm.com/auto/vehicle-rating.html

Car Repair Estimator

To estimate how much a potential car repair will cost in your zip code, please visit Consumer Reports Car Repair Estimator:

  1. consumerreports.org/cars/repair/

 Auto Loan vs. Lease Calculator

To determine if it’s better to finance or lease your next vehicle, please visit:

  1. cars.com/car-lease-calculator/

College Savings Calculator

A recent report from The Wall Street Journal, using U.S. Labor Department’s statistics, shows U.S. college tuition is growing at the slowest pace in years, rising 1.9% in the year through June, generally in line with inflation.

This is in stark contrast to the sky high tuition cost increases we’ve seen since 1990.  The cost slowdown is a reflection of supply and demand.

Over 4,700 new colleges were established since 1990 but since 2010 college enrollment declined 4%, mostly due to prospective students finding jobs in an improving economy and foregoing college education for the time being.

Despite this recent enrollment decline, if you or a loved plan to start saving or are currently saving toward a college tuition goal, the following calculator from The College Board provides informative parameters to help you meet that financial objective:

  1. collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/paying-your-share/college-savings-calculator#results

Debt Payoff Calculator

If your goal is to be debt free, CNN Money offers a handy tool that allows users to enter each debt, the amount owed, the interest rate and monthly payment for the debt.  The tool estimates what year and month you’ll be debt free and how much interest you’ll pay over that time frame.

  1. cnn.com/calculator/pf/debt-free/

Home Renovations Calculator

Homewyse.com, a vendor neutral online reference site for the home, aims to offer a home project cost estimator that allows users to see fair prices for popular home improvement projects by zip code.

If you’re considering a future home renovation, consider visiting:

  1. homewyse.com/project_costs/index.html

Life Expectancy Estimator

The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) data shows that on average a man reaching age 65 today can expect to live until age 84.3 while a woman turning 65 today can expect to live until 86.6 years of age.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau states that the average length of retirement is 18 years.

Saving toward retirement encompasses several factors, one of them being if you’re saving enough to cover your expected years of retirement.

Here are two life expectancy calculators that aim to give you an idea of how many years for which to plan.

This calculator from SSA will show you the average number of additional years a person can expect to live, based only on the gender and date of birth you enter:

  1. ssa.gov/OACT/population/longevity.html

While this life expectancy calculator from Bankrate gives users a general idea of life expectancy based on age, gender and various lifestyle choices:

  1. bankrate.com/calculators/retirement/life-age-expectancy-calculator.aspx

House Affordability Calculator

If you’re in the market for a new home and need to know how much house you can afford before starting your search, consider trying Zillow’s House Affordability Calculator.

This calculator gives users an idea of house prices that will fit comfortably in their budget:

10. zillow.com/mortgage-calculator/house-affordability/

Mortgage Amortization Calculator

If you’re already a homeowner and would like to know what steps you can take to pay off your mortgage sooner, this mortgage amortization calculator from Bankrate gives you a good idea what financial steps and contributions are needed to meet that goal:

11. bankrate.com/calculators/mortgages/amortization-calculator.aspx

Mortgage Refinance Calculator

Realtor.com offers a handy tool to calculate how much a refinance may save you monthly and over the lifetime of a new loan.  For more information, please visit:

12. realtor.com/mortgage/tools/refinance-calculator/

Retirement Calculator

If you’d like to see if you’re saving enough for retirement, AARP created a helpful calculator that gives you guidance.

By answering a few questions, this calculator provides you with a customize look of your possible financial future:

13. aarp.org/work/retirement-planning/retirement_calculator.html

Savings Calculator

MarketWatch recently reported that “your savings rate is more important than your investments’ returns.”  So, if you’re looking to build wealth over the long-term look no further than the amount you’re able to save from your personal disposable income each year.

But, let’s face it, saving can be difficult.

The below U.S. Personal Savings Rate chart shows just how difficult it can be.  This personal savings rate includes both retirement savings and emergency savings.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current U.S. personal savings rate stands at 5.5% as of May 2017.  This rate is an increase over the last several months, but there’s still room for improvement.

The savings rate peaked in May 1975 at 17% in the midst of a deep recession.  A recent peak of 11% occurred in December 2012, another perilous post-recession time for the nation.

In all, there’s a delicate balance and strong correlation between the U.S. personal savings rate and the U.S. economy.

U.S. consumer spending contributes two-thirds to the U.S. economy.  The more people save the less they spend which in turn can slow economic growth.

But, no matter the circumstances, whether the economy is robust or teetering toward recession we all need to save for a rainy day.  The ideal savings rate is about 10% percent per year.

So, if you’re saving toward a monetary goal, Dinkytown.net offers a compound savings calculator that aims to show users how contributing small amounts to a bank savings account adds up over time.  Please visit this website to get started:

14. dinkytown.net/java/CompoundSavings.html

Student Loans Repayment Calculator

Lastly, this calculator from The New York Times, offers insight to the student loan borrowing costs at various institutions and what it entails to repay the loans:

15. nytimes.com/interactive/2016/your-money/student-loan-repayment-calculator.html?mcubz=2&_r=0

Wishing you the very best with all of your personal financial decisions.

Best wishes,

Amber

Ms. Dakar is the author of The Busy Person’s Guide to Personal Finance, a primer to help consumers manage their finances so they can build a substantial nest-egg. She also conducts personal finance seminars where she provides concepts to attain overall financial health.

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