Bottom Line?

How do I get the nuts and bolts of what I want to know (e.g., with our current rate of income, savings, expected Social Security income, etc., how much income will we have for our family at any given age?)? If I don't like the thought of living off that amount after retirement, then I could just go back and change the parameters...change savings amount, etc. The detailed info is excellent, but how to I boil it down?


There are several items here so I'll try to take them one at a time.

1. How will I know how much income we will have (given inputs and assumptions) each year? Look at the "Total Income" information in the reports (pdf or Excel). This will show the total income for each year along with main components of that income. The figures are inflation adjusted so all show in current (2015) dollars.

2. Building off #1, the more important figure to focus on is the "Annual" tab. This shows your total family "consumption" and also your "living standard per adult" (LSPA). Consumption essentially is discretionary spending above and beyond any housing expenses, tax payments, special expenditures, retirement account contributions, reserve fund contributions, insurance premiums, and regular saving. It can be okay for consumption to show big changes (e.g. before/after kids leave for college), but the LSPA should probably be fairly constant. This means you would have a fairly smooth standard of living year after year. You can change this, but the default algorithm tries to smooth your LSPA subject to your specific profile's constraints and inputs. If it cannot smooth your LSPA, you may want to make changes to adjust. Especially if they are large changes up or down. For example, some people save too little and their LSPA will drop in retirement. For others, it could rise after they retire.

3. For "saving", if it is in red color or parentheses, this means you are spending down some assets in a given year. Otherwise, you are adding assets.

4. There is a very good chance that you can improve (raise and/or smooth) your results by changing your inputs. For example, taking Social Security early or late, saving more (or less) in an IRA/Roth, taking a reverse mortgage, work 1 more year, etc. Many of these ideas are explored in case studies on this site. By sensitivity testing the impact of changing different variables, you can determine how big of an impact they have for your specific situation.

The bottom line is that everyone's situation is different and there are many ways to use ESPlanner. However, there are a lot of resources with the forum, case studies, etc. to leverage. By experimenting, you can find ways to improve your sustainable standard of living based on your specific profile and inputs. Good luck! This takes some time and effort, but should be worth it.

Also, if you really just want to talk to an ESPlanner employee about your setup, you may want to consider


I second the recommendation of considering 1-on-1 service, but wait until you've played with it and have a fair idea of what you can grasp on your own, and what you're confused or unclear about. That way your time will be more efficiently focused on the parts you need help with.

The case studies and online videos are a good place to start.

A user

Dan Royer's picture

Yes, many first-time users confuse "income" with discretionary spending. We can also spend from our savings. Those first four or five videos under Learn More on this site--particularly the one about interpreting reports may help.

Thanks for the comments! I think I may be tempted to do 1-to-1 closer to our retirement. I have lots to learn in the meantime, and then I will have very specific questions to our particular situation.

If you've already concluded that you'll do it at some point, don't want too long. You may learn things that will be of benefit soon enough that you change your plans. That said, definitely have a fair grasp on how the program works, first, unless you're absolutely lost. In that case you may need personal assistance, first, but feel free to ask questions here before things get that bad.

Dan Royer's picture

Yes, I wouldn't do 1-on-1 just to learn unless you get really impatient. If you stick with the program you'll be really good at it soon. It just takes a little patience at first.