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How many more years will you have to work before you can retire / achieve financial independence? I wanted to get a handle on this question myself.

I’ve already written a few articles on this subject (pretirement, financial independencepower of a high savings rate, etc.), but all those calculations are pretty static. For example, the pretirement calculations assume that you stop saving completely at some point in your career and just let compounding investment growth take care of the rest.

But what if you don’t want to take your foot all the way off the gas, and instead want to keep saving, but perhaps at a lower rate. I’m thinking of McDude, a regular reader that recently decided to switch to a lower-paying but more satisfying job.

Knowing him, he probably went through some math about how much longer he would have to work in his new, more satisfying job to reach financial independence. And that’s exactly the kind of information that this interactive tool should hopefully be able to provide to other readers as well.

How it works:

First off, it should be said that the tool looks a lot better when it’s not embedded on a blog, especially on mobile devices. So use this link for a cleaner view.

There are two tabs, but I’ve only embedded the first tab below. On the first tab, each line represents a different annual investment contribution, and on the second tab, each line represents a different level of existing savings. I’ll focus on the first tab because I think most people will find it more useful.

As mentioned above, each line represents a specific annual contribution level. There are also filters to the right that can help weed out irrelevant information. The one filter I recommend selecting is existing savings. I’ve already chosen $200k in existing savings to start out with, but feel free to adjust that toggle button.

So we’re assuming that there is $200k in the bank, and let’s assume that we’re looking for a steady, sustainable retirement income of roughly $40k per year. So trace over to the right from $40k on the vertical axis to figure out how long it would take to meet that goal under various savings scenarios.

You’ll notice that never saving another penny means it would take roughly 40 years to meet the goal. However, simply bumping savings up to $10k per year reduces the wait to roughly 25 years, while throwing a total of $20k in the bank each year reduces the wait even more, to 20 years. The diminishing marginal returns of each additional dollar saved are a direct result of missed “opportunities” for compounding interest.

This works for multiple scenarios and hopefully will help shed some light on alternative financial trajectories given specific retirement income and/or financial independence goals.

The tool:

Again, use this link for better viewing (if you prefer).


I’m using my standard assumptions here, most importantly, a 4% safe withdrawal rate (somewhat aggressive perhaps) and a 4% long-term inflation-adjusted real investment growth rate (somewhat cautious perhaps). Also, taxes aren’t included because this is primarily meant to be a high-level planning exercise.

Happy modeling!

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About The Author

James Flannel Guy ROI's picture

Portland, Oregon-based Flannel Guy ROI is a working dude and family man that likes flannel shirts and wants to achieve financial independence a little sooner than most, particularly by making smart spending decisions and living intentionally. 

His overall idea is to look at spending decisions as investments: what decisions will return the most value to you over time? 

Each scenario is evaluated over a 10-year horizon with the following summary statistics:

Present value – what is the total value of your investment and expected returns in today’s dollars?
Return on investment (ROI) – how much of your original investment will you make back?
Payback period – how long will it take you to recoup your original investment?

Learn more at

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