Not Everybody’s a Spreadsheet Wizard

spreadsheet wizard 500x372

Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve played the gridded sheet. From Lotus down to Excel, I know all embedded cheats. But I ain’t seen nothing like him, in any corporate suite… That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure types a mean spreadsheet! *

Many RBD readers have an obsession with spreadsheets, often creating ridiculous ones at the office in the guise of actual work. The infatuation with Excel or Google Sheets can get out of hand.

Especially when we build elaborate spreadsheets for tasks that can be handled by free software.

I’m guilty of this in a few ways. For the DRIPs I used to own, I kept a detailed worksheets tracking cost basis. Transfer agents are now required to track cost basis, so this activity is redundant.

For my checking accounts, I update a spreadsheet that balances my checkbook almost every day. Unnecessary. But it helps me to track my spending

Another is my now-retired net worth spreadsheet. I tracked my net worth on an intricate spreadsheet every month for 13 years. To update it, I logged into every account I owned, copied the balance, and pasted it into my workbook.

It was an onerous process.

Now I use Personal Capital. It’s free, and it tracks my net worth every day with no effort on my part (saves me about two hours a month). It’ kind of like Mint if you’re familiar with that, but way more powerful for investors and nerds.

I still build all kinds of spreadsheets. Some are one-offs. Others I maintain year after year.

But not everyone is a spreadsheet wizard. For those people, I’ve added a new feature to Retire Before Dad that I think you’re going to like.

10 Financial Calculators

He sits like a statue, becomes part of the machine. Feeling all the functions, always typing clean. He builds by intuition, his formulas so sweet… That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure types a mean spreadsheet! **

To help make this website more useful, Retire Before Dad has partnered with SmartAsset to provide access to a suite of calculators to help you achieve your financial goals. SmartAsset is a leading provider of slick and user-friendly interactive online calculators.

The startup offers a few dozen calculators on their website. I’ve tinkered around with all of them to determined which ones I believe are the ten most useful to my readers. Then I added them right to my website to make them easily accessible.

You can access the calculators from the tab on the main menu.

spreadsheet wizard menu

Simply choose the calculator you’re interested in, then plug in your numbers.

Each calculator is simplified. But you can always click the “methodology” link to learn more detail about each calculator. There’s also usually a link to a more detailed step by step calculator to walk you through it.

Here’s a quick rundown of the ten calculators. Use these to play around with your numbers and see how they can help you. They’re totally free to use. The software also throws in some selected vendors that may help you achieve your financial goals.

These work great on a desktop computer or your mobile phone.

1. Cost of Living Calculator

The first calculator can be used to estimate the cost of living from one local to another. For example, I live in the Washington D.C. metro region. It’s expensive here. But what if we moved to Detroit? How much would our cost of living decrease? Could moving help us achieve financial independence earlier?

You can input your household income and family status to get a more accurate estimate.

Click here to check out the Cost of Living Calculator.

2. Home Affordability Calculator

The Home Affordability calculator estimates how much money you can reasonably spend on a home. The calculator takes into account your location, household income, the amount you have saved for a down payment, and your monthly debts. From those numbers, it can determine how much house you can afford by estimating your monthly payment and other associated costs, as well as down payment and closing costs.

This a good starting point for aspiring home buyers.

Click here to play around with the Home Affordability calculator.

3. Income Tax Calculator

This next calculator estimates how much you should expect to pay in taxes and breaks it down over Federal, State, Local, and FICA. Make sure to select the advanced options where you can add in 401k, IRA contributions, and itemized deductions and exemptions.

As a tax nerd, I mostly approve of this one. However, it only covers two filing statuses and has no option for dependents which would alter your taxable income. This is another good starting point, but taxes are often much more complicated.

Click here to look at your tax liability with the Income Tax calculator.

4. Investment Calculator

The Investment calculator is a simple compounding formula that estimates the future value of an investment given five variables. Spreadsheets wizards and Finance majors will recognize this calculator as the FV (future value) formula in Excel. So it’s not as dynamic as some of the others, but the graphics give you a quick summary of the power of compounding. For that, it’s worth a look.

Click here to try a few numbers in the Investment calculator.

5. Life Insurance Calculator

Parents of children should always have life insurance as part of a comprehensive estate plan. Even married couples can find comfort in a term life policy if both are reliant on each other’s income.

But shopping for life insurance can be daunting. When Mrs. RBD and I were expecting our first child, we found a provider through a third party site and bought it directly from the provider. However, our estimate for determining how much insurance we needed was off the cuff.

The Life Insurance calculator from SmartAsset gives a ballpark estimate of how much life insurance you would need. What I found experimenting with this calculator, is it seems to over-estimate the amount you’ll need. It does look at existing savings but doesn’t break out tax advantaged savings or home equity.

After you learn about how much life insurance you need, scroll down to get a price estimate on how much a policy would cost. There’s also a Life Insurance Cost estimator that I found helpful to get ballpark figures. Compare these numbers to a third party provider to see how they add up.

Click here to check out the Life Insurance calculator and the Life Insurance Cost Estimator.

6. Personal Loan Calculator

Personal loan options have expanded in recent years thanks to innovated technology in finance. For example, through Lending Club, individuals can attain a loan of up to $40,000 over a three or five-year term. Rates are more competitive than banks because the rates are determined by supply and demand. Lending Club pairs borrowers in need and investors willing to loan the cash to fund the notes. It’s a marketplace for lending.

The Personal Loan calculator will tell you the monthly payment of a loan, the total amount paid, and total interest paid based on just three inputs. This calculator includes a graphical view of the loan balance over the term of the loan. It incorporates multiple financial calculations into one readable view.

If you have an idea of how much money you need for a personal loan, scroll down a little further and you can get a few quotes with just a couple of inputs and clicks.

Click here to check out the Personal Loan calculator and some estimates on loan rates.

7. Refinance Calculator

Refinancing your mortgage is one of the six powerful (and low-risk) financial maneuvers  that people can execute in their own financial plans to accelerate their path to wealth. I’m actually going through another refinance now. The numbers don’t lie. If it makes sense to refinance, do it. Just be sure to factor in the closing costs.

So I recently used this calculator for my own purposes. It’s a quick way to see how much savings a refinance can give you. The side-by-side comparison keeps it simple and it tells you if it makes sense to refinance.

I’ve also included a mortgage rate estimation widget to show you some ballpark mortgage and refinance rates.

Click here to compare your current mortgage to what may be possible. Doing so could save you a bundle.

8. Retirement Calculator

The Retirement calculator is one of the most popular on RBD so far. This one takes in five variables and calculates what you’ll have saved at your retirement age versus what you’ll need.

These numbers are mostly on the mark. However, it assumes you’ll need to maintain your current income level into retirement. If you save half of your income, you’re living on half your income. So you won’t need as much. So this calculator is helpful, but I think it over-estimates again how much you’ll actually need at retirement.

Click here to run your own retirement scenario through the calculator.

9. Social Security Calculator 

The Social Security calculator is probably the most accurate estimate because it’s based on the actual Social Security numbers available from the government. Just type in your annual income, birth year, and the year you plan to take Social Security. Presto! It spits out the annual income that Social Security is projected to provide.

Click here to check it out.

10. Student Loan Calculator

Lastly, I think a lot of younger readers will benefit from the Student Loan calculator. This nifty visual is useful to see exactly how long it will take to pay off loans.

I’ve never had student loans myself as I was fortunate to have parents that paid for my education (and I am planning to pay for my kids’ college). But I know student loan debt is a ball and chain for many college graduates.

This page also includes some options for finding ways to refinance your loans and lower the interest rates and payment amounts.

Click here to get on that road to paying off student debts!

Conclusion – Are You A Spreadsheet Wizard?

He’s a spreadsheet wizard, there has to be a twist. A spreadsheet wizard’s got such a supple wrist! ***

For readers who may not have that “supple wrist” on the keyboard, take a look at these calculators by SmartAsset to see if you can improve upon your current personal finance situation. We all can improve all the time.

Perhaps spreadsheets will eventually go the way of the dodo bird for a lot of people. Simple online calculators can do just as good job as a spreadsheet, albeit, without all the awesome and nerdy customization.

* Satirical quotations inspired by Pete Townshend of The Who, and the song “Pinball Wizard” from the album Tommy.
** Read the real Pinball Wizard lyrics here.
*** Music fans will love the video below of The Who performing the song in 1969.

What about you? Are you a spreadsheet wizard or do you prefer GUI calculators?

Featured Photo via Pixabay  CC0 Public Domain

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10 Responses to Not Everybody’s a Spreadsheet Wizard

  1. D4s August 3, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    Thanks for sharing your calculators. If there is a tool out there, I would definitely use it first. However, some tools you just have to write yourself.

    • Retire Before Dad August 3, 2016 at 7:28 pm #

      A lot of tools have to be written out. These are good for a quick look for people who aren’t too nerdy or into spreadsheets. I hope these can help people.

  2. DividendTIME August 3, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

    As it comes to cost of living I recommend Numbeo:

    Best regards,

    • Retire Before Dad August 3, 2016 at 7:29 pm #

      Thanks for this link. That one is really global. I didn’t look into international cities. Good graphics too.

  3. The Money Commando August 3, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    First, let me applaud you for the excellent “Pinball Wizard” references in your article.

    I’m a huge fan of Personal Capital. I’ve been using Quicken since 1998, and it’s fun to look back on my spending and investing decisions from 18 years ago. However, keeping all the accounts current can be a chore, and that’s where Personal Capital shines. It does a great job consolidating accounts and making it simple for me to check them on my phone.

    • Retire Before Dad August 3, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

      Glad you liked the Who feature in this one. I don’t get a lot of feedback so it seems like my humor falls flat most of the time. I do love Personal Capital and have been recommending for a while now. Awesome to have everything there for you in one view. Plus all the analytics.

  4. American Dividend Dream August 3, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    I am spreadsheet wizard for work and as such it carried over into personal life…

    However, I have seen the ways of Mint and other such great tools and I am slowly migrating my way to a more simpler life. One stop shops for all my info and no more hand jamming into spreadsheets.

    Nice calculators you got there!

    • Retire Before Dad August 3, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

      NICE! I was more of a spreadsheet wizard in college right after I took a pretty serious class. But now I work with this girl who writes crazy VB macros in Excel to do stuff I could only dream of. So based on her, I’m weak.

  5. Finance Solver August 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    I love playing around with the investment calculator and my retirement planning on personal capital. It’s fascinating how much my money will work for me over the long term, even more than what I put into it. Thanks for putting this list together!

  6. zeejaythorne August 15, 2016 at 9:12 pm #

    I like a very simple early retirement calculator spreadsheet. Measure your investments and how much you are adding each year with a “standard” return. Gives a good idea what you would have available based on 3.5% draw-down without being too terribly messy. I like stark sheets.

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