I guess this explains why Warren Buffett hasn't retired


Microsoft provides to its employees a retirement calculator that is more detailed than the kinds you can find on the Internet. After gathering all sorts of information, including your savings and spending patterns, it draws some nice bar charts and tells you how many years you should continue working before you can retire.

Even if I tell the calculator that I have a billion dollars in savings, it still tells me, "You should work one more year."

Clarifying note: I don't actually have a billion dollars in savings.

Comments (20)
  1. Damien says:

    So, we've established that Raymond doesn't have a billion dollars in savings. Next, we have to work out if he has *more* or *less* than that exact amount...

  2. Antonio 'Grijan' says:

    Well, technically, if you only have $999,999,999.99, then you don't have a billion. On the other hand, these are my two cents, and if Raymond (as the owner of the blog) takes them...

  3. Mark says:

    I'm really curious what kind of bug would produce such output.  Assuming a simplified model where you know exactly when you die and your expenses each year are fixed and your income is fixed before retirement and zero afterwards, something like this formula should work:

    years_left_to_work = (years_left_to_live * expenses_per_year - total_savings) / income_per_year

    If you put in a large total savings in this formula, it should give a negative number: you should have retired decades ago!  This number is crazy simplified, but surely _something_ like this is in that calculator?  I can't imagine what sorts of calculation should give 1 year in the limit of infinite cash.  Maybe it's getting very small numbers like 0.001 years, and then rounding up to the next year?  But why should it be getting positive numbers at all?

    I also wonder if anyone's retirement has been delayed for a year or two because of this bug.  (In theory, it would delay it forever, but after 5 years most people would say "you said 1 more year 1 year ago!")

    Is the calculator developed in-house?  I'm guessing not, because this seems like the thing someone would have fixed by now if it were.

  4. Baltar says:

    I guess that's one way to keep employees around. I can actually see that being a factor of vesting cycles/pensions too.. say if you do have a billion dollars and you're enjoying what you're doing.. and you've worked for 14 years.. and on 15th year you're getting vested to get even more money. Then, eh, why not keep saving more and not spend the billions? Then again, I'm not in the tres commas club and probably would absolutely not think like that.

  5. Mary says:

    If you have a billion dollars, you must be BillG and you shouldn't retire because who would do the BillG reviews then!

  6. JM says:

    Investing in your retirement fund must be like playing Civilization Just... one... more... year...

  7. ex-DonH says:

    A clever ploy by Microsoft HR to keep you working there.

    You clearly need to find someone who got a bad score on their last performance review and see if the calculator tells them to retire immediately.

  8. jas88 says:

    I tried my current bank's automated advisor system a few years ago; feeding in a six figure value for current savings resulted in it trying to sell me a loan. It's almost as if they stood to make lots of money if I took one...

    In the Microsoft one's case, presumably stock options vesting could be a factor - even with a huge amount in savings, why quit now and lose that money rather than stick around a bit longer to collect it?

  9. Ken in NH says:

    Why would a robot with a withered hand need a billion dollars or to retire?

  10. cheong00 says:

    @Ken in NH: To pay the upkeep cost of a thermonuclear device, of course. :P

  11. AlexShalimov says:

    @Mark: Probably it was years_left_to_work = max((years_left_to_live * expenses_per_year - total_savings) / income_per_year, 0). Then someone scratched his/her head, said "Nah, it can't be zero!" and changed 0 to 1.

  12. Neil says:

    @Antonio: Then he still wouldn't have $1b; he'd have $1.00000000001b.

  13. Mr Cranky says:

    I didn't know Warren Buffet works at Microsoft.

  14. Nick says:

    @Nitpickers: in colloquial speech, to "have $X in savings" is to have at least X. Going above X is still considered having X in savings.

  15. Antonio 'Grijan' says:

    @Nick: but do programmers ever do colloquial speech? I think we haven't forgotten our mathematician roots, in which $1,000,000,000.01 is absolutely different form "a billion of Dollars". And, if we did, how fun would be reading comments to Raymond's posts if it weren't for the occasional nitpicker? :-P

  16. Brian says:

    Just to let everyone know, Microsoft hasn't had an employee stock option plan for a *long* time (and any options that were outstanding have expired).  As far as I know, there's never been a pension plan.

  17. Sean Liming says:

    Sounds like the calculator is designed to keep employees, thus no one ever retires.

  18. John says:

    Raymond you can't retire! Not before I get my chance to meet the legend in person!

  19. ErikF says:

    If you have a billion dollars saved in the bank, I think you probably have realized that you're not there for the money (or at least I hope so.) That's not a bad thing; if you like working, why retire?

  20. Womble says:

    I think it's obvious - they know who's running the calculator, and they aren't prepared for Raymond to retire...

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