Forecasting the Future Value of Your 401(k)

If you’ve got Microsoft Excel (or just about any other popular spreadsheet program) running on your computer, you can use its FV function to forecast the future value of your 401(k) account.

The FV function calculates the future value of an investment given its interest rate,
the number of payments, the payment, the present value of the investment, and,
optionally, the type-of-annuity switch. (More about the type-of-annuity switch a little later.)

The function uses the following syntax:


This little pretty complicated, I grant you. But suppose you want to calculate the future value of a 401(k) account that’s already got $10,000 in it and to which you’re contributing $200-a-month. Further suppose that you want to know the account balance—its future value—in 25 years and that you expect to earn 10% annual interest.

To calculate the future value of the 401(k) account in this case using the FV function, you enter the following into a worksheet cell:


The function returns the value 385936.13—roughly $386,000 dollars.

A handful of things to note: To convert the 10% annual interest to a monthly interest rate, the formula divides the annual interest rate by 12. Similarly, to convert the 25-year term to a term in months, the formula multiplies 25 by 12.

Also, notice that the monthly payment and initial present values show as negative amounts because they represent cash outflows. And the function returns the future value amount as a positive value because it reflects a cash inflow the investor ultimately receives.

That 0 at the end of the function is the type-of-annuity switch. If you set the type-of-annuity switch to 1, Excel assumes payments occur at the beginning of the period (month in this case), following the annuity due convention. If you set the annuity switch to 0 or you omit the argument, Excel assumes payments occur at the end of the period following the ordinary annuity convention.

Five Steps to a Comfy Retirement

You’ve probably heard about the Nebraska meatpackers who won the largest lottery jackpot in the United States last week. One winner replied “I’ve been retired for about four days now” when asked what he would do with his winnings. His response did not surprise me; I’m sure my reaction would be similar!

What does surprise me is that many Americans believe that they cannot retire comfortably unless they win the lottery. A survey by the Consumer Federation of America shows that 27% of Americans believe that their best chance to gain $500,000 in their lifetime is to win a sweepstakes or lottery.

Fortunately, building a comfortable retirement nest egg is easier than you think. Here are five steps to help you build a comfortable retirement:

1. Start early! If you started saving $100 a month beginning at age 18, you would have over $500,000 by age 65. The power of compounding is great, and the earlier you start saving, the greater the benefit.

2. Have a plan. The best way to ensure that you will have a comfortable retirement is to plan how much you will need to retire. You can’t reach your destination if you don’t know where you’re going.

3. Participate in company sponsored retirement plans. Many companies offer matching contributions to your 401K or other retirement plan contributions. This is free money – take it!

4. Invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds, that fits your goals and risk tolerance. Studies show that your investment return is determined primarily by the allocation of your assets, not the individual investment selections you make.

5. Keep your costs down. Invest in no-load, low cost mutual funds (or other investments). Lowering the expenses in your portfolio by just 1% can equate to 20% more money in your portfolio after 20 years.

Although winning a large lottery certainly can’t hurt, following the steps above should send you well on your way to a comfortable retirement.