Why Financial Planning Software is Best When It's Excel-based
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|Personal Finance Software being Based on MS Excel Solves Many Important Problems
(along with greatly lowering price and cost)
This page is mostly for financial advisors using financial plan software to run reports for their clients, although it's for anyone shopping intelligently for financial software.
Excel never "gets in the way" with our money software. All of the directions are very good, so being an Excel expert is not needed. Every time someone mentions something that's not in the directions, it's added. So how to do most everything is already in the directions in great detail.
The only time you'd have to stop and figure out how to do something in Excel, is when it's a feature not found in other programs - like how to print exactly what you want using ranges, performing an audit to see where numbers are coming from, or using Goal Seek for What-ifs scenarios.
Other than that, then using Excel-based financial software is no harder than using code-driven software, because you're just inputting the same data. It just gets inputted into cells rather than code fields.
Next, our prices are also much lower because Excel makes it easy to program. Then everything "stays put," thus eliminating the need to employ expensive software programmers.
The more experienced you are, and the more you know what you're doing and why, then the more you'll like this financial planning software. Because it's based in Excel, you'll get the best of everything that's important. The more you learn, the more you'll know that you CAN in Excel, and you usually CANNOT without it.
Here's the list:
Just this free problem-solving function alone gives these money calculators more flexibility, functionality, and power than any other financial planning software ever created.
Goal Seek in Excel '07 or later is under the Data ribbon under What-If Scenarios.
• You have total control over customization of presentation reports, and then printing the finished reports. You can also make all the fancy tables and charts any other financial planning software vendor has.
So if you want to see something for yourself, or show something to clients that you're used to seeing in other financial software (e.g., explanatory text or images of smiling people mixed in with the numbers), then you can just paste it in, and make it even better than what you had before.
Most vendors won't let you modify any of the pages you'd print and present to clients. All you can do is click print, and you're stuck with whatever the programmers hard-wired it to print out.
• Most everything is transparent, so you can trace mysteries back to your input. Have you ever tried figuring out how other money software comes up with their numbers? You can't because everything is hidden in the code. Then when you call for support, they either don't know, or won't or can't tell you.
Most all of our calculation sheets show the flow of calculations going from left to right, in a logical, easy-to-follow manner, so you can see exactly what's going on.
So if you really want to see how things work in detail, then you can just use another sheet (or a pocket calculator) and trace where every dollar came from. Just this unique feature alone has kept large clients from slipping away from advisers numerous times.
• You have control over most every dollar in every year using the manual overrides. This valuable and unique function is not available with most other financial planners, because manual overrides don't work well with code programming.
This allows the money software to work as things actually do in the Real World - by being able to account for "random and/or unequal cash flows."
This is how you get financial plans to track with the Real World as closely as possible, many years into the future. The devil is in the details, so the only way to beat him is to account for as many as possible.
Most money planners won't let you account for any, because all you can usually do is input something starting one-year, grow it by an inflation rate, and then maybe stop it in a later year. Most financial spreadsheet vendors don't even think accounting for something as basic as unequal cash flows is even needed.
Trying to do this level of financial work using "code-programming" would be much too complex for the kind of the programmers common financial plan vendors can afford to hire and keep. Excel just does it all automatically.
Then most programmers are just following the directions of their financial bosses, and while competent to program, are basically clueless on what they're doing and why they're doing it.
This is because their degrees are not in anything financial, so they don't know much about financial planning or investment management.
They also have probably never met a real client, and so they have no idea what YOU need and want, nor WHY. All they know is what their bosses told them to do. Then their bosses sometimes don't even know. We know.
• "Code-programmers" have to spend too much time on making things stay put. It's a constant battle keeping up with Windows operating system updates, compiler changes and updates (most programming languages become obsolete every few years), and maintaining "millions of lines of complex code." So with code-programming, you can't just make something, seal it up, forget about it, and then expect it to work week after week. It just always has to be something with code. Remember the big MS Office format change in '07 where the files went from xls to xlsx? Huge change, right? Changes of that magnitude occur every few years when you're dealing with code compilers.
Every time something like that happens, your old program will either stop working, or will be ridden with "bugs." Then you'll need to pay more money to get the new updated version. Then after having to stop your life, pay more money and waste more time on that, there will be more bugs. This is because all software that's new can't be perfect until users report bugs that weren't there before, so they can be fixed. Then this process just repeats itself over and over.
This doesn't happen with Excel, because once you make a spreadsheet, most everything stays the same for much longer periods of time. Microsoft does things to cause problems like this once per decade or so, whereas with code, it's more like annually.
• Excel allows the ability to program a superior Monte Carlo methodology.
• You can have and save an unlimited number of financial plan "versions" and/or client scenarios.
• You can easily send just the results to clients via e-mail. How to do that is explained here.
• Excel allows the input cells to help guide you on what to input. Most input cells change color after you input data to help organize your work. Also, most every input cell uses validation, so when you make a mistake, you'll probably get a built-in error message that tells you what you did wrong, and how to fix it.
Having directions right there in the small area you're working in makes it easier to use than most canned code programs.
• While most money calculator vendors can take years to implement simple solutions to problems, spreadsheets can usually be tweaked the same week. Find a major bug with a simple fix in code-driven financial software, or make a great suggestion, and see how many years it takes to get 'er done. Then even if you come up with a major find, they're not going to do anything to thank you. Whereas we'll give you all kinds of freebies for helping out, and will usually fix it in no time.
• Popular money software is usually very hard, cumbersome, confusing to operate, and takes a long time to learn. Some are so hard that experienced paraplanners need to be hired; which are very hard to find, move to your office, sent to expensive training classes, license, manage, are very expensive, and then quit on you all the time. They usually quit right after you send them to expensive money software training classes, because it's there they learn they don't want to spend their lives working with such terrible software.
There's none of that when it's in Excel, and this is why there's no need for us to conduct formal training classes. Just the directions are adequate (because of the transparent, logical-flowing data, and then directions on input cells).
• Excel allows changing currency signs, so for the proverbial small fee, you can get programs delivered for use in most all other countries. This is only for making changes on the protected input and calculation sheets.
All of the unprotected presentation result sheets can be modified by the user in a minute. So if you can live with inputting and seeing calculations in U.S. dollars, then all you'd need to do is change the currency on the pages you'd show people, and you're done for no extra charge.
Then because of all of the manual overrides, you can usually always account for different tax structures too. So the answer to questions like, "Will this financial software work for UK users?" is yes.
The answer with most all other financial planning software vendors, is no - it's written in code, so no it can't be changed without rewriting the whole program (and no, you can't change the dollar signs to pounds or anything else).
• Excels allows you to permanently keep your inputted client data. With code-driven software, you could lose everything when it goes away, there's a new version, or it expires, or you just don't pay more money in one way or another.
For example, in 2007, Financial Profiles just stranded all of its users when it came out with a new version that didn't talk to the old version. So years of inputting client data into the old database was permanently lost with no way to recover it (the old version completely stopped working, because it went to a cloud to check status, then it was told it was an old version, then it was completely kaput). They did this to force users to pay to upgrade because they really needed the money. Then users that did pay to upgrade found that the old version still didn't talk to the new version, so they were still permanently stranded (because they never fixed that).
That can't happen with Excel, because you'll always have all of your clientele's data in the input cells (even if the program expires).
Then there is an automatic updater program with most all of our financial plan software, so using that only takes a minute to copy all input data from an old version into the new one.
Also, with every financial software program where you can actually save individual client files (and then are able to manipulate them using Windows Explorer - the file manager - like moving, copying, backing up, etc.), there's going to be a manual "loading and unloading" process.
The only way to get around loading and unloading is to buy software where you can't do anything with the actual client files with data input into them. So you won't be able to back anything up, which means whenever anything happens (like you don't want to renew or update, or your computer breaks, or you get a new one), then you've lost EVERYTHING forever. This is because the actual client files are part of the program code (so you can't separate the two parts and back up just the client input data part).
With ours, the input data will be there forever, even if the program expired years ago. So you'll never lose your actual client data, because you can back it up, one client at a time if desired, to another folder, CD, cloud, USB drive, etc.
So when comparing the loading and unloading process with code-driven software, the bottom line is that there's the same amount of work, time, and clicks as theirs.
So the bottom line here, if you care about not losing actual client data, is when you're shopping, ask if you can save and back up individual client data files to your hard drive. Not just one huge database full of clients, but one client at a time. If not, then this could eventually be a huge problem for you.
So the point is you want to avoid financial planning software that works like this. You want to be able to always access your precious client input data regardless of how much time goes by, what happens to the software, how insecure their cloud is, and what the vendor does in the future (like go under for good). Having everything in Excel totally solves ALL of these problems once and for all.
Remember that once you stop paying a cloud-based vendor the same full updating price you paid when you initially bought it, they go under, change ownership, make a new version, or you just can't login for whatever reason; then you've lost access to all client input data forever. Or if you just don't have Internet access at the moment, you can't do anything at all.
This never happens when money software is based on Excel.
• Excels allows you to work offline, so you don't have to hunt for Internet access, nor be vulnerable to connection malfunctions at critical times. You'll never have to go online to log into a slow flakey server to get any work done.
Everything is done on your hard drive (and then you can upload it to a server if you want to do things online).
You'll also never be "forced" to upgrade your Internet Explorer, use a different type of browser, nor your version of Windows, because some young programmer wants to implement some new cool feature that only works with the newest version of Firefox, Flash, multimedia players, or any of the JAVA or ActiveX scripting (that opens the window to viruses, malware, and spyware). There's zero shenanigans like this to endure when everything is just an Excel spreadsheet.
With Excel, you can also ensure none of your client data will ever leave your control, by simply putting a password on your PC (and/or the spreadsheets).
Who knows who's looking at your clients as marketing leads when it's all online. Even if the company swears they protect your privacy, a clever employee could be selling your data to lead-generation firms as a part-time job (without the company ever knowing - e.g., both Guglle and Facebook had rouge employees selling leads to data mining firms in mid-2010). These two firms employ the best security possible - so think about how well marketing firms like MoneyGuidePro or eMoney are safeguarding your data!
This stuff happens on a daily basis - it's probably happening right now. There are whole armies of clever programmers in Russia, India, North Korea, and China that would sell your mother to the devil for a penny in a second.
All it takes is one "security flaw" in a cloud server, and your practice could be toast in no time. In this Word docx download, you can see that just about everyone important has already been hacked into. This could have been, and will eventually be you, if you cloud compute, it's only a matter of time.
• There's nothing you or your computer can do to make our money tools not work. In financial software that's not written in Excel, the first thing that happens when you call for support is you're asked a series of questions about your computer, "What kind of computer do you have, how old is it, how much memory do you have, which version of Windows are you using, did you do this or that update yet, etc."
This is just their way of trying to blame their non-functional financial software, and crappy code, on you or your computer. This will never ever happen with ours.
There's absolutely nothing you can do to your computer that will make it not work, assuming you don't do something to break Excel. As long as your Excel works, then everything will always work. Then if you do break your Excel, you can just go to MSs' Office site, and reload it in minutes, without having to hire a local PC doctor or spend hours on phone support.
• With Excel, there's never any dangerous installation, setup, de-install, or update procedure that overwrites Windows DLL files. Several times in the 90's we used financial software that destroyed Windows so badly that we had to reformat the hard drive.
With Excel, you'll also never be told by tech support people desperately grasping for straws that you have to try a different type of browser, clear out all of your cookies, install spyware so they can see what you're doing and control your computer, or reboot your computer just to help them troubleshoot their failed code (e.g., Morningstar).
All it takes is one stupid code programming mistake on a setup install shield, and you could literally lose years of work (and maybe the dollar cost and time lost rebuilding, or even having to buy, a new computer). Then all you're going to get is, "Wow, sorry man, yeah that's a bug we've been working on," from the vendor (all of the above has actually happened to us more than once - e.g., ExecPlan in 2001).
• Code programming causes all kinds of "bugs" where it locks up your computer, or otherwise crashes and makes you reboot, causes other programs to stop working right, puts icons / favorites / shortcuts all over your desktop and browser to drive you to their websites (that have been known to collect About you and your clients to sell to spammers and other marketing firms). None of that happens when your financial software is Excel based.
• Good financial plan software code programmers are usually young, expensive, and flaky; so they quit all the time because they always want more money, less stress, to live in a better place, and a shorter work week (which adds to the problem of bugs never being fixed).
These kinds of software people rarely fix their bugs unless most all of their customers complain, or the bug causes computers to crash. Fixing the endless list of minor bugs is usually on the bottom of their to do lists; because the bosses (salesy marketing types) are always pushing them to add cool new features that they think will make sales increase in the short-run.
There's also none of that going on when it's in Excel.
• Code-driven money software can also stop working when you go to Microsoft's free website to update any MS program (mostly Windows). This is because MS is updating new (DLL) files that the code-driven money software installation procedure should not have overwritten in the first place. Your whole world can stop when this happens. In other words, some code money software overwrites Windows files, which makes their code work, but "breaks your computer."
• So there's always an endless parade of "patches" to fix an endless array of bugs, which always come back. This means that all of these programs are filled with bugs and things that don't work right, and will never get fixed.
A great tip-off to this is just to look at their site's support page. If you see any link to a page where there's a list of "patches," then thereyago.
As you can see on ours, there's none of that. There's literally nothing on the list of things to do that has anything to do with anything not working right. This is ALL because of one thing - the decision to use Excel back in '92.
• Then even if they don't break their own code, code compliers change frequently. So once a code program is perfected, it has to be essentially ripped apart and rebuilt from scratch whenever the keepers of the code complier update their deals - which is about once every two years.
• How easy is it to input and work with? First, every financial program like this is going to have you input the same data into similar input fields. So inputting is the same, just different because you're switching between workbooks and sheet tabs in Excel to go to different inputs areas in the program.
This takes just as much time, work, and clicks as hunting and pecking to find where things are in the usual code-driven financial planning software - no more no less. So the bottom line is that it's about the same.
• Cloud-based code money software is very slow. Every time you click or do anything, it has to be updated on their server. This makes most everything very slow, compared to not needing to use the Internet at all for anything, and keeping everything on your hard drive - where things are fast.
• Then just getting the money plan software company to admit their programs have bugs in the first place is like trying to pull the horn off an angry rhino. The first thing they ALWAYS do is find some way to blame it on you, or your Internet connection when it's cloud-based, or your computer so they can get you out of their hair.
With Excel, you can just say no to all that forever.
The solution to ALL of these problems nowadays is to just use an existing software platform where billions of people-hours and billions of dollars have already been expended on perfecting the platform the software runs on - this platform is the same dozens of millions of people use daily - Microsoft Word and Excel.
Once you have lived in both worlds, you'll agree that the old-school thinking of having to buy the most expensive canned software to get good results just doesn't apply anymore.
Now that computers are so fast (and can work with multiple spreadsheets over 5Mb - which was not the case until WinXP), Excel is just too slick to use anything else for serious financial number crunching.
So if this was 2002, most of these Excel advantages listed here would not apply because of Windows limitations would make using Excel impractical.
That's all permanently over.
Even with Excel 2010, and an Intel i3 with 4Gb of memory, there's no hardware or software limitations on how complex financial software can get in Excel anymore.
The IFP could grow to be ten times bigger, and everything would still work fine, and is so fast that speed is no longer an issue (whereas the IFP barely ran at all in 2008).
About the copyright and text that has our site on it: You can just change them by going to Page Layout, click the tiny arrow box at the bottom right, then go to Header and Footer (then just delete everything using Custom Footer). Yes, for financial advisors, we say it's fine to delete all of the copyrights, and everything that says our firm when printing and/or presenting information to clients.
Excel now rules excellently, and even gets better with every new version!
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