And the Award for Best Online Calculator Goes to…

Research from Corporate Insight graded do-it-yourself retirement-planning calculator tools offered by brokerage firms to assist investors.

Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and Vanguard all scored A’s.

Although calculators are sometimes criticized for oversimplifying the retirement needs of Americans, they have also become helpful tools for many investors to understand how much they need in retirement. Corporate Insight, a consultant to the retail financial services industry, said given the uncertainty of today’s economy, it is important for self-directed investors to take a hands-on approach in planning for retirement.

The firm looked at calculators and multi-step planning tools offered on the sites of brokerage firms. Corporate Insight determined the accessibility, complexity, and usability of the online calculators, according to a press release. Of the firms surveyed, 70% (or 14 firms) met the criteria by offering some form of retirement planning tool.

Fidelity earned an A+ from Corporate Insight for its comprehensive retirement planner, the release said. TD Ameritrade (A), Vanguard (A-), Charles Schwab (B+), and E*Trade Financial (B) also scored high marks for their do-it-yourself planners.

Corporate Insight found that four firms (Charles Schwab, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and Vanguard) automatically import the client’s actual account value into their retirement planning tools, allowing the client to skip over manual data entry. After clients have calculated their future finances, Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and E*Trade Financial offer solutions and suggestions for next steps on how to make retirement goals realities.

However, the majority of firms (64%) surveyed offer only basic calculators and lack the benefits of multi-step planning tools, according to the results. Thirty-six percent of firms offer a comprehensive retirement planner that: computes the client’s current retirement needs; predicts the future values of current holdings; and tailors a plan of action to the client’s goals and finances.


Corporate Insight recommends the following:

  •  Place tools in prominent, easily accessible Web site locations.
  • Allow clients to save information and continue later.