Calculate Your Way To An Easier Life

By Kevin Hunt
Chicago Tribune.

There’s a reason “do the math” has all but disappeared from popular culture, with online calculators, who needs to do the math?

Here are a few online calculators, numbers lovingly crunched, that might make life somewhat more precise.



Crunched: A nurse making $85,000 a year in Chicago is considering a move to New Haven, Conn., to be closer to family. Want to reconsider? To maintain the same standard of living in New Haven, he would have to earn $95,288. In New Haven, health care costs 27 percent more, groceries 13 percent more and utilities 10 percent more. Only transportation costs less (4 percent).



Crunched: Once relocated to New Haven, you’re determined to send your only child, now 10, to Yale. But how much will it cost? Yale’s tuition, room and board will cost $59,800 in 2014-15, the second straight year it has increased 4 percent. Let’s assume that continues for eight years.

At that rate, the child’s freshman year will cost $81,840.43 and senior year $92,059.35 for four-year projected costs totaling $347,532.44. That does not include books, furnishings and vending-machine allowance. Fortunately, the site includes several savings-plan and loan calculators.



Crunched: A young couple must decide whether it’s smarter to rent an apartment for $1,200 a month or buy their first house for $285,000. Their rent will increase 5 percent a year. If they buy, mom and dad will contribute a $25,000 down payment (We love you!), leaving a $260,000 loan at 4.15 percent interest over 30 years with closing costs ($1,500), homeowners insurance ($700), property taxes ($3,900), tax bracket, return on savings and inflation included in the calculations. If the couple stayed in the house for 30 years, it would cost $228,570 less in today’s dollars. Even if they kept the house for only five years, it would still be less expensive than renting by almost $18,000.



Crunched: What’s the least expensive wireless phone plan for what you need? If it’s one line, unlimited minutes and messaging with 1 gigabyte of data a month on a two-year contract, the best deal is T-Mobile’s flat-rate, $50 a month. Sprint ($70), AT&T ($80) and Verizon ($80) cost more because of additional data fees.



Crunched: It’s easy to find fixed-rate mortgage quotes online, but it takes some serious mind-bending to understand them. Checking the APR, or annual percentage rate, is a better indicator of a loan’s true cost because it includes fees like points and closing costs.

My Loan Cost shows, no matter how long you might be in the house, which loan maximizes principal paid or minimizes payments, loan fees, or total interest and fees. Let’s evaluate three fixed-rate, 30-year loans recently available in Florida.

No. 1: 3.74 percent interest (3.877 APR), monthly payments of $925.10.

No. 2: 4 percent interest (4.195 APR), monthly payments of $954.83.

No. 3: 4.125 percent interest (4.170 APR) and monthly payments of $969.30.

The rate with the lowest interest rate and APR is the obvious winner for overall lowest cost, but the calculator tells you by how much. No. 1 accumulates $70,499 in total interest and fees in the first 10 years, with No. 2 at $76,776 and No. 3, despite its higher interest rate, at $75,621.

If you want to pay the lowest loan fees, No. 3’s $1,075 is the clear winner over No. 1’s $3,3318 and No. 2’s $4,628.



Crunched: Sitting 5 feet from that glorious 60-inch screen? You’re too close. According to the calculator, the THX-recommended viewing distance is 6.7 feet, the maximum 9.4 feet. And your viewing angle, whether you know it or not, is 47.1 degrees.



Crunched: This calculator, developed at the University of Pennsylvania, includes a less-than-a-minute option and a longer-form (about five minutes) useful for financial planning. This volunteer subject is expected to live to 81 (short form) or 80.45 years (long form), though the latter informs that not driving will add 0.04 years and not having a sexual partner will add 0.15 years. It’s my call.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top