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Using Excel for Retirement Budgets

August 14th, 2018 | No Comment Yet

Retirement budgets need to solve two primary problems: budgeting to save for full retirement, and budgeting to meet everyday expenses.

An Internet search will turn up ads for budget planners, retirement advisors, and other expensive services–but you don’t need to spend much money to manage your budget. Microsoft Excel is likely already on your computer, and if not, you can get it as part ofOffice 365 for $6.99/month.

While Excel is often used for advanced calculations, it’s been designed to help with everyday tasks like budgeting too.

Beginner: Excel Budget Template

The easiest way to use Excel is to work with pre-existing templates. Simply open the application, and Excel will prompt you to choose a New workbook (the name for an Excel file) or provide either a button or search box to choose a Template.

I’d suggest typing in “Budget” to start and scrolling through the options that seem to fit your needs. Searching for “Household budget” may also help to narrow down your options.

Once you find a template you like, open the file, and the rest should be fill-in-the-blank. Excel templates are designed with all the calculations done ahead of time, so you won’t need advanced software knowledge to begin.

Intermediate: Online Budget Templates

You may also use pre-made templates specializing in retirement savings. These are a little harder to come by, and you may want to search online before beginning your Excel document. Spreadsheets 123 offers pre-made items like this Retirement Budget Planner.

For online templates, follow the website instructions to download the file. Once downloaded, just double-click the .xlsx file and fill-in-the-blank on the empty fields again.

Remember, you can get many of these Excel templates for free. Just make sure you have virus checking software installed on your computer first. If a template asks for your credit card number or other sensitive information, don’t download it.

Advanced: Build Your Own Budget Planner

If you have some basic Excel skills already, you may prefer to build your own budget planner. One method is to take an existing template and change the fields that don’t apply.

Most likely you’ll be adding or cutting rows and columns to match your individual expenses.

Another method is to start from scratch, based on the most important items you would like to track. Research the important financial steps to take during retirement. Set up cells and formulas to track income, pensions, expenses, and of course time (day, week, month).

Then set up your formulas, and let Excel do the math. Some of the most popular Excel formulas you’ll need to create a budget include:

  • SUM – This is your adding machine. Use the format =SUM(A1+B2+C1) for scattered numbers. Use =SUM(A1:A6) for connected columns.
  • AUTOSUM – Same as SUM, just a shortcut. This does the above calculations by clicking AUTOSUM in your menu, then CTRL+click to select the number cells.
  • Subtraction – This works the same as SUM. You just need to place negative signs in front of deductions, and leave deposits as positive numbers.
  • Percentages – Each cell in Excel can act as its own calculator. Simply type the math calculation you need, like =B1/B2 or =70/90. The software will calculate the total; you just need to change your number display to the % setting.

Basic Excel skills can benefit retirees in many ways, and budgeting is only one place to start. Check out online tutorials to improve your Excel skills or work with a qualified trainer to start making stellar spreadsheets.

Once you’ve got the basics mastered, try going beyond budgeting to create everything from address books to garden planners. And as an added bonus, fresh software skills are a great job asset too. So what’s stopping you? Gather up those numbers and get started.


Angela is a Versitas Training Manager and also runs the Versitas Blog.  At Richland College, she is a professor and program coordinator in the School of Business. 



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