Web-Based Tools


Online Retirement Income and Benefit Calculators

Retirement Income

  • Choose to Save – Ballpark E$timate– This is among the best on-line free calculators you can use for determining if you are saving enough to remain financially independent during retirement. A modified version is available for federal employees.
  • We also recommend the Choose to Save website as an all-round great source of information pertaining to many aspects of financial education.

Social Security Benefits

We recommend that you review the annual benefits statement from the Social Security Administration. Be sure that the work history looks correct since this history will be the basis for your actual Social Security Benefits.

  • This calculator will provide an estimate of your monthly Social Security Benefits.
  • Choosing when to claim your Social Security Benefits will be among the most important financial decisions you ever make. The Social Security Administration has as much detail and information as you should need.

Medicare Benefits

  • Nearly everything you should need to know about your Medicare benefits can be foundat this site.

Online Retirement Income and
Benefit Calculators for Federal Employees

Retirement Income

  • This calculator enables federal employees to estimate the tax free portion of their FERS annuity.
  • This calculator can provide insight about your retirement income.
  • This website will help active duty military personnel and their dependents understand their benefits. Within the Retirement Tab you will find calculators to help you estimate what you military pension is likely to be.

Thrift Savings Plan

  • This calculator can help you to see how to take advantage of the investment and borrowing provisions in your Thrift Savings Plan.

Federal Employee Life Insurance

  • This site will enable you to find premiums for different levels of insurance.

Federal Employees Long-Term Care Insurance

  • This site will enable you to calculate premiums for varying amounts of long-term care insurance available to federal employees.

Financing College

  • Nearly every college in the country will require that you file the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA form. Visit their main website for more.
  • The College Board has a nice website for parents and their children to learn more about the college application process. There are sections on financial aid, loans, and scholarship programs. There is also calculator that will help you to understand what many colleges might expect you to be able to afford to pay.
  • This site enables you to compare state sponsored 529 plans, but also has articles about financing college. Although free, this website is owned and operated by Bankrate.com, which is a publicly traded financial publishing firm.
  • Maryland tax payers who contribute to the 529 plan established by the State of Maryland can deduct part of those contributions from their Maryland State Income Taxes. What makes this tax incentive even more attractive is the fact that our State 529 plan is usually highly rated. Visit this site to learn more about the plans and the options as well as to open an account.

Investing

  • Would you like to know the cost of your mutual funds or Exchange Traded Funds? This site allows you to look up your funds and find out how much they have been costing.
  • Nearly all publically trades securities and mutual funds must file detailed reports to the government. This is a key site for looking up those filings.
  • This site provides unbiased information about investing. This site is sponsored by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority or FINRA.
  • This is an investor focused website to help individual investors invest wisely and avoid fraud, which is sponsored by the Securities and Exchange Commission, provides unbiased information and links to useful tools about investing.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission is where you want to go to learn more about the laws governing investing and those who wish to help you with your investing or sell you a investment product.

Federal Withholding and Tax Questions

  • Did you over or under withhold federal income taxes? You can use this calculator to help you avoid that. Of course, you can also stop by the main page of the IRS to find out more than you will ever want to know about income taxes.

Credit and interest Rates

  • Have you reviewed your credit reports lately? By law you are entitled to review your credit report from each of the three largest credit bureaus, once a year, for free. You can ask for your reports from all three credit bureaus at once to compare at a point in time. Alternatively you can request one credit bureau report at a time, every 4 months, as a way of monitoring the information in your reports over the course of the year. This is the only website established to administer this. All other websites are intended to sell you a credit report alert system.
  • Bankrate.com is a good place to start when search for interest rates – either to earn when saving or pay when borrowing. Bankrate.com is a publicly-traded publishing company that has long specialized in banking issues. While there is no charge to look, there could be better rates available at institutions that have decided not to pay to advertise here. Nevertheless there are good articles, calculators, closing cost information, and other consumer tools available. Bankrate.com operates nearly a dozen other websites with different names but with similar information.

Our Bookshelf


NudgeNudge, written by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, is an entertaining book about a very serious topic: how we make decisions.  This is a compelling and easy to read summary of some of the practical implications of behavioral economics research.   Many of the initial behavioral economics experiments have been useful in understanding investment and savings behavior.  Most of us use rules of thumb” or heuristics to make difficult decisions, but often these heuristics are biased and perhaps  not the best way to make decisions.


How-We-DecideWritten by Jonah Lehrer, How We Decide is written by a neurologist willing to explain the neurological side of  behavioral economics to someone is not a neurologist.  As we all know, it is not only easy to decide between Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry; financial decisions are much harder.  Moreover, the cost of making the wrong decision about ice cream is a lot less consequential.   We lack experience — many financial decisions are made once or perhaps twice in a life time.  And unlike ice cream the feedback from our financial decisions is not immediate. When it comes to ice cream, I always prefer chocolate.


Everyone knows they should save for retirement, but what do you do once you get there?  Retirement-Income-Redesigned can help guide you. This is a collection of articles written by a variety of experts on the different aspects and issues associated with what we call financing retirement or what many may call the “distribution” phase of life. Harold Evensky and Deena Katz edited and contribute to the book, and culled the experts who contribute to this well written volume. Jim Otar, one of the contributors, is a financial planner that has built a great retirement calculator that we use to help us estimate sustainable spending.


The-NumberIf you take this book at face value you maybe disappointed. It is not so much about how you compute The Number but rather an odyssey into the meaning of money. If you are a serious student about the meaning of money, this would not be my first choice, but if you want to a lighter perspective on this very serious topic, this is an excellent choice. Written by Lee Eisenberg, the book speaks to real issues of financial planning, but raises even more profound questions directed at forcing us to reconcile what it is that we want once we get there.


Investors-and-MarketsInvestors and Markets is a series of lectures by William Sharpe.  Professor Sharpe  is a noble prize winning economist and one of the nicest economists I have ever met. I had to read some of his work in graduate school, and many of us use his Sharpe Ratio to gain a better understanding of the relative cost (relative to risk) of investments. His textbook Portfolio Theory and Capital Markets is a classic that continues to be used in many graduate programs. Most of his writings are not for the timid, (he is a genius) but this book may be one that a non-economist could read. In part this is because it is a compilation of a series of lectures he gave to finance students at Princeton University. The fact that it was a finance class and not an economics class may have helped to limit the degree to which he depends on mathematics to convey his points.   But this is not a light read; we happen to think that for the serious investor this is a must read.  His focus here is on helping the individual investor which, of course, means all of us.


Investing-Dummies1Investing in an Uncertain Economy for Dummies, edited by Sheryl Garrett, was written by a large team of volunteers in the Garrett Planning Network. While this book is on my shelf, unlike all the others listed here, I did not purchase it.  It is on my shelf because I was one of the contributors. Fortunately it has a 4 star rating on Amazon.com. Unfortunately, the title suggests that it was written for the economic downturn. In fact, it was not. It was intended to be a practical advice book on investing, it just so happened that economy decided to take advantage of the title. (Note: I do not receive royalties from the sale of this book, but I was paid with a box of copies, which I will gladly hand out until I run out  to every new client who asks for a copy.)


51QdHtKDKkL._SS500_-300x300The Investor’s Manifesto, by William Bernstein, is a very easy read about markets and the ways in which the the financial industry obfuscates the process to make it harder for the average investor.  More importantly, it is a book about first principals and the key lessons that enable the individual investor to become a master of their financial universe.  We recommend this book to the novice investor.