Managing money can be challenging for even the savviest adult. Buying a car, buying a home, saving for retirement — these are big financial moves! Because these decisions are so important, it’s critical to get them right. Fortunately, there are a lot of financial calculators out there to help you make smart choices with your money.
What kinds of financial calculators exist?
There are so many different kinds of financial calculators out there. A few of the most common (and most useful) are:
“How much house can I afford?” calculators
Mortgage loan calculators
Auto loan calculators
Retirement Savings calculators
Credit card payoff calculators
College savings calculators
I’ll break down the basics and give you recommendations for the best in each of these categories!
Calculators to determine how much house you can afford
This is probably the most important question in the home-buying process. While lots of banks may be willing to lend you the money for a large mortgage, that doesn’t mean it’s a wise financial decision.
Nerdwallet has a great calculator to help you analyze your existing financial obligations. It uses your answers to just a few simple questions to tell you how much house you can reasonably afford in your area.
Bankrate also has a decent calculator for this task, and it analyzes things a little differently than Nerdwallet’s. Bankrate also has a good explanation below its calculator. It’s a good idea to use both financial calculators to look at your cash flow from different angles.
The next step – a mortgage loan calculator!
Once you know how much house you can afford in total, you need to know how much that’s going to cost each month. Those monthly payments are determined by the mortgage loan you select.
Once you have a lender and apply for an actual mortgage, your lender will give you a detailed statement about the costs of your mortgage. As required by law, the lender’s statement will cover origination fees, points, rate, APR, etc. It will also tell you, approximately, how much you’ll owe each month.
However, being a financially responsible adult, you don’t want to wait until you’re that far along in the process to make those kinds of calculations.
Before you even apply for a mortgage loan, you should really run those numbers yourself.
As I explained in this post all about mortgage calculators, MortgageCalculator.org is my favorite all-around mortgage loan calculator. Their calculator has a space for everything you need to enter to accurately determine how much you’ll be paying each month.
Quicken provides the same information as Nerdwallet and MortgageCalculator.org. However, it presents the calculations in a circular visual that helps break down your monthly payment. There are different colored sections of the circle for principal and interest, taxes, homeowners, and HOA payments.
You’ll likely find that you have several different loan options to consider. This is true even if you’ve already decided on a lender, as each lender offers a variety of loan packages.
If you want to compare two specific loans, Better Mortgage has a decent mortgage loan calculator for that. It doesn’t factor in extras like HOA, homeowners insurance, etc. in its calculations, but those would be the same for any mortgage loan you take. Leaving them out doesn’t affect the accuracy.
(Just know that Better is in the business of making loans. Click around their site enough and they’ll try to get you to apply for a loan with them.)
What about auto loan calculators?
As far as financial calculators go, auto loan calculators are very similar to mortgage ones. Principal, interest rate, and term length are used to calculate your monthly payment. These loans are a little simpler though because there are no extras like PMI, HOA fees, etc.
You will need auto insurance, but unlike mortgage loans, that isn’t included in your loan payments. Make sure you factor that cost in when considering how much you can afford to pay for a car.
If you’re looking for a specific recommendation, Bankrate has a decent calculator for this. But honestly, auto loans are generally simpler to compare than mortgage ones, so most auto financial calculators will do the job.
Financial calculators to help you save for retirement
Saving for retirement is one of the most important financial steps you’ll ever take. This financial calculator from Charles Schwab does a great job analyzing your current retirement savings steps (if you’ve taken any) and balancing them with your future retirement expenses.
There’s a lot that goes into saving for retirement. If you want more help in this area, definitely check out this detailed post about retirement savings calculators. It’ll help break down the entire process for you, in addition to recommending even more financial calculators to help with the process.
Financial calculators to help you get out of credit card debt
Once you get too deep into credit card debt, it can be incredibly difficult to get out. Of course, getting your financial health in order is dependent on minimizing, and ideally eliminating, credit card debt.
This financial calculator from Experian is extremely simple. It will tell you exactly how long it will take to pay off your credit card debt at your current rates.
If you’re not in a position to pay off your debt yet, this credit card calculator from Bankrate can help you determine whether it’s in your best interest to transfer the debt to a different, lower-interest card.
College savings calculators to help you save for college
College costs have skyrocketed over the past twenty years. Along with those rising college costs, student loan debt in the United States is at an all-time high.
Maybe you want to pay for your child’s college in full. Maybe you just want to save enough to be able to pitch in when the time comes. Whatever your college savings goals, there are financial calculators available to help you plan accordingly.
Saving for College has a financial calculator that can narrowly tailor its results to your income, existing savings levels (if any), and the age of your child, among other things. It will tell you whether or not you’re on track to meet your college savings goals. If you’re not, this calculator will tell you the expected savings gap you’ll face, assuming you continue on your current savings track.
Charles Schwab has a great financial calculator for college savings. It is very customizable, including settings to calculate your college savings for multiple children at once. It also lets you explore different levels of potential savings and rates of returns.
The key to saving for college, just like saving for retirement, is to start early. Definitely explore these financial savings calculators right away, even if you don’t think you’re ready to start saving quite yet.
Whatever your money goals are, there’s a financial calculator to help you achieve them.
Don’t be intimidated by money. Use the free, customizable financial calculators available to grab the bull by the horns and confront your financial future head-on!