I was reading the New York Times (online edition of course) like any good nerd would do, and I came across this very interesting article about retirement savings. It warns people that most retirement calculators call for your investments to double in the last ten years of retirement.

Well, duh.

These calculators work on the premise that your investments double about once every 8-10 years, not just in the last 10.

It is true, though, that a smart person will probably invest in less risky assets as he or she gets closer to needing that money as a source of income. I don’t know if a sprint to the finish the is best way to plan for retirement, but I think a quick jog is reasonable.

A 100% return in 10 years requires about a 7.2% annual return. That’s a very plausible return when you are investing aggressively, but maybe a tad bit high if you’re in the old, boring, conservative boat. I think a very safe profile of bonds and dividend stocks should be able to return at least 6%, but to be honest I don’t know much about it because right now because I’m 25 and risky.

A stupid safe investmentDespite my aggressive investment behavior today, I fully intend to de-leverage my risk level and get into some safer investment vehicles when I get closer to retirement. If only there were a retirement calculator that could account for risky investments at the beginning of your career (higher rate of return), and safer investments at the end (lower rate of return).

Oh wait.  It just so happens that I have a Retirement Calculator available for download, absolutely free, right here on my site. And what’s this? [download id=”5″] (download link) has an option to decrease your risk and return when you get older? What a great idea!

If you haven’t downloaded this spreadsheet yet, it’s (in my opinion) the best retirement calculator on the web. I made it because I couldn’t find anything that would model my future retirement and allow me to change so many different variables. you can change anything on this spreadsheet, so go crazy!

As I mentioned before, one of the really nice things The RC offers is the ability to change your return rate at a certain age, so you don’t have to model your whole life at the same investment risk level. Pick one return rate for when you are young, and then pick a more conservative one for when you are older.

I feel like the spreadsheet is pretty straight-forward, but if you are a bit confused with what’s going on, I made this helpful video that explains what all the inputs mean and how to use it.

I haven’t gotten much feedback on this spreadsheet yet, so I’d really like to hear your comments. Does this help you plan your financial future? If it could be improved, what would you like to see? I made this for you guys, so help me make it better for you!

Here’s one more download link for [download id=”5″]