How long until retirement: an interactive tool

ice branches

how long till your financial dreams thaw out and come to life?


How many more years will you have to work before you can retire / achieve financial independence?  With it being the start of a new year, I wanted to get a handle on this question myself.

I’ve already written a few articles on this subject (pretirement, financial independence, power of a high savings rate, etc.), but all those calculations are pretty static.  For example, the pretirement calculations assume that you stop saving completely at some point in your career and just let compounding investment growth take care of the rest.

But what if you don’t want to take your foot all the way off the gas, and instead want to keep saving, but perhaps at a lower rate.  I’m thinking of McDude, a regular reader that recently decided to switch to a lower-paying but more satisfying job.

Knowing him, he probably went through some math about how much longer he would have to work in his new, more satisfying job to reach financial independence.  And that’s exactly the kind of information that this interactive tool should hopefully be able to provide to other readers as well.

new year fireworks

fireworks and hangovers aside, new years is a good time to re-align financial goals and priorities

How it works:

First off, it should be said that the tool looks a lot better when it’s not embedded on my blog, especially on mobile devices.  So use this link for a cleaner view.

There are two tabs, but I’ve only embedded the first tab below.  On the first tab, each line represents a different annual investment contribution, and on the second tab, each line represents a different level of existing savings.  I’ll focus on the first tab because I think most people will find it more useful.

As mentioned above, each line represents a specific annual contribution level.  There are also filters to the right that can help weed out irrelevant information.  The one filter I recommend selecting is existing savings.  I’ve already chosen $200k in existing savings to start out with, but feel free to adjust that toggle button.

So we’re assuming that there is $200k in the bank, and let’s assume that we’re looking for a steady, sustainable retirement income of roughly $40k per year.  So trace over to the right from $40k on the vertical axis to figure out how long it would take to meet that goal under various savings scenarios.

You’ll notice that never saving another penny means it would take roughly 40 years to meet the goal.  However, simply bumping savings up to $10k per year reduces the wait to roughly 25 years, while throwing a total of $20k in the bank each year reduces the wait even more, to 20 years.  The diminishing marginal returns of each additional dollar saved are a direct result of missed “opportunities” for compounding interest.

This works for multiple scenarios and hopefully will help shed some light on alternative financial trajectories given specific retirement income and/or financial independence goals.

The tool:

Again, use this link for better viewing (if you prefer).


I’m using my standard assumptions here, most importantly, a 4% safe withdrawal rate (somewhat aggressive perhaps) and a 4% long-term inflation-adjusted real investment growth rate (somewhat cautious perhaps). Also, taxes aren’t included because this is primarily meant to be a high-level planning exercise.

Happy modeling!

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  1. marvin mcdude says:

    Great tool, brother. Really easy to use.

    Yeah, since downshifting, my wife says I sleep better and I’m more relaxed. That’s good, because I added about 3 years to my working career! Both your model, and my prior calculations, bear this out.

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