- Starting balance
- Total amount that you currently have invested. Include any sources of investment savings such as 401(k)s, IRAs and Annuities that you wish to include in this analysis.
- Annual return
- This is the annual rate of return you expect from your investments after taxes. The actual rate of return is largely dependent on the type of investments you select. From January 1970 to December 2008, the average annual compounded rate of return for the S&P 500, including reinvestment of dividends, was approximately 9.7% (source: www.standardandpoors.com). During this period, the highest 12-month return was 61%, from June 1982 through June 1983. The lowest 12-month return was -39%, which happened twice, once from September 1973 to September 1974 and again from November 2007 to November 2008. Savings accounts at a bank may pay as little as 1% or less but carry significantly lower risk of loss of principal balances.
It is important to remember that future rates of return can't be predicted with certainty and that investments that pay higher rates of return are generally subject to higher risk and volatility. The actual rate of return on investments can vary widely over time, especially for long-term investments. This includes the potential loss of principal on your investment. It is not possible to invest directly in an index and the compounded rate of return noted above does not reflect sales charges and other fees that funds and/or investment companies may charge.
When you are taking periodic distributions from an account or investment, the return earned is often lower due to more conservative investment choices to help insure a steady flow of income.
- Expected annual inflation rate
- What you expect for the average long-term inflation rate. A common measure of inflation in the U.S. is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which has a long-term average of 3.1% annually, from 1925 through 2008. The CPI for 2008 was 4.0%, as reported by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.
- Distribution amount
- This is the amount that you expect to be withdrawing from your investments. All distributions are assumed to be taken at the beginning of each period. If you choose the calculation option "Maximum periodic distribution" this field will be calculated.
- Distributions to last
- This is the number of years that your distributions are to last. If you choose the calculation option "Years balance will last" this field will be calculated.
- Inflation adjustments
- These selections allow you to adjust your distributions for inflation. If you choose "No adjustment for inflation" your distribution will remain at a constant amount for the entire duration of your distributions. "Increase distributions annually" will increase your distribution amount at the end of each year by the rate of inflation. This begins at end of the first year of distributions. Choosing this option helps illustrate the cost of providing a current amount of purchasing power throughout your distributions.