|Tools For Money's Information Page|
|Real World Personal Finance Software 1301 Colgate Circle Ann Arbor, MI 48103-3024 (800) 658-1824 Send E-mail|
(is listed below. The financial planning software modules are on the right-side column)
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Our mission is to offer the most functional, flexible, powerful, accurate, and affordable financial planning software, that anyone can use just by reading directions; in hopes to someday be the industry-leader in helping people better control their financial future.
Our mission is also to offer affordable turnkey-systems for investors to get good results managing their own money, and for professional advisers to do a better job managing investments for their clients.
Our mission is also to be the most "White Hat" source of information for consumers to learn the truth about issues critical to their financial lives, in a overcrowded, noisy, parasitic, and predatory "Black Hat" world.
We also strive to make it so support is not needed. But when it is, to have the best customer service, and try to implement everything people want their financial software to do.
Do-it-yourself consumers that want to develop their own financial plans and DIY investors that want better alternatives to life insurance company products, stock market TV (AKA financial porn), and American Funds when it comes to investing their own money.
Financial planners and investment managers that have already graduated to the fee-only or fee-based way of doing business (whether being independent or not).
Financial planners and investment managers that want to give up being tied to a Broker Dealer and FINRA, and graduate to the RIA fee-only or fee-based way of doing business (whether being independent or not).
Independent financial planners and investment managers doing business in a variety of ways and servicing many different markets.
Financial planners and investment managers with a Broker Dealer that lets their Reps do business in ways that are best for clients.
Life insurance agents and brokers that are out to do the best things for their clients.
FYI: Picking on Broker Dealers is needed to get traffic. Taking all of that anti-BD and life insurance company text off the site was tried, and search engine traffic went down by a third, so it was put back up, and things went back to the way they were.
About Customers / Clients
On average, about two people per day buy something, so there's ~8,000 customers and ~200 Model / Mutual Fund subscribers. About 65% are professional advisors and 35% are individual consumers / investors. A typical advisor has ~100 clients with average account size of ~$300k. Do the math, and you'll see there's over a billion dollars invested in our money management strategies.
The Main Themes of the Site and the Software Are:
There used to big a long-winded blurb here, but it was just repeating what's already on our financial software vendor comparison page.
We're an information provider and sort of a for-profit consumer advocate, because we strive to get the facts and truth out about how the industry really works, and how to avoid common traps, abuses, conflicts of interest, and the self-enrichment schemes of the major players.
We come down hard on the state of the investment and financial planning industry, the competition, and the status quo. This isn't because we're trying to make more money (that makes us less money), but because we're trying to get the information out there in order to be a positive influence to help change things for the better.
MS Works, Macs, PDAs, and Handheld PCs: If you have a Mac, and you can open a demo Word document or Excel spreadsheet, then all of the financial plan software on this site will work on your Mac.
There are problems loading workbooks onto PDAs because of some Microsoft bug when uploading spreadsheets that have protected sheets. If you can download a free financial calculator and it works, then you can use these financial planning calculators on that device when you buy them.
If you tried to download a demo, and it complains about anything (like passwords), then you probably don't have MS Excel installed on your computer. If all you have is MS Works, then it won't work.
If you need to print something on a password protected sheet, and you need to tinker with column and row sizes, and you bought support, and it's in Excel 2007 format, then you can get a version sent to you that does that.
More information about using these Excel-based financial tools is here.
Security When Ordering Online: Secure means whatever information you type into the secure web page cannot be transferred to anyone else. This is because it's encrypted.
In general, you'll know when a web page is secure when the URL shows https:// and not just http:// The "s " stands for secure page. Also, when the page is secure, a little padlock icon will display usually at the bottom of your browser. This is sort of "the law" and there's no way to fake it or get around it.
This site is as secure as it gets for doing credit cards and PayPal orders online. The bank wouldn't process orders until security met their standards. The bank doesn't even give out your credit card number or information to us.
In general, as long as the form you fill out is secure, you can trust using your credit card and PayPal to buy things from websites. If people complain to MasterCard and Visa about improper use of their card, they'll just yank the merchant out of the system. They're very serious about it, so if an online-merchant takes credit cards online, then it's the same as buying something with your card over the phone, or in a store. It's even more secure because you're telling someone your information over the phone, and/or swiping a card into a machine at a store.
Single-Computer vs. Multiple-Computer Versions: This was abandoned after much experimentation. All spreadsheets are Multiple-Computer now.
Multiple-computer versions are still only for you and people in your office / firm. You're still doing a copyright violation if you give / sell programs for use to anyone outside of your office / firm / family. Each planner in a branch office or BD will have to buy their own copies, or we can give a new price if you want to distribute between others that are not directly involved in your own practice.
About the copyrights: The copyrights on the software and Word docx are to prevent others from reselling them. As an advisor working with clients, you have our permission to delete all of that when printing so they will see the name of the site. Yes you are allowed to use the software, and do whatever you want with the printed presentations, as that's the whole point of selling them. You can even tell your clients that you invented it, we don't care. We only care if you try to sell anything to others, or tell the public at large you made things.
The information submitted enables us to respond to user's inquiries and obtain a measure of user's needs, interests, and ideas for future development. Tools For Money respects the privacy of users and visitors and does not share any personally identifiable information with any third parties, does not send unsolicited e-mails nor any direct marketing materials.
This site and its investing calculators are 100% clean - meaning they won't put web shortcut icons all over your desktop/browser, alter your computer / favorites / browser, bog down your browser with banner ads / pop-ups, leave cookies / applets on your computer, run any Java / Flash / asp / Active-X / cgi scripts, drive you to Internet marking sites, or put you on spam lists.
It's all just simple MS FrontPage html files, and does not collect information about you in any way. We don't even put your phone number or address in our database (just your e-mail address, name, what you bought and when). The bank also doesn't even give us access to your credit card number if you order by yourself using the secure forms.
The only time e-mail is sent is if it has something to do with your order (you'll get an e-mail receipt from the bank and then some fulfilling your order). Once every five years or so, when there's a new product, we may send an e-mail letting existing customers know about being able to try the beta version for a greatly discounted price. This is the only time we'll send e-mails out to customers that are not expecting programs to be delivered.
There's no spam, lists, your data is not sold to others, etc. Everything you do here is totally confidential. Nobody else has access to the database, so nobody is going to call, spam, or send you postal junk mail either. People offer us money to do these things occasionally, and we always say no.
Refund policy: There are no refunds on anything for any reason, sorry.
Because this is all clearly stated, credit card companies will not honor your request for a refund once delivery of the software has been made either via e-mail or once it's in the postal mail. So it's best to study the product pages, demos, and instruction pages, then ask questions, before buying.
This is the usual deal with any software vendor. Buy anything from Microsoft, install it, then say you want a refund and see what they say. This is because it's not a tangible product you can just "return." People can say they deleted it off of their computers, and just be lying.
This is also because our prices are too low.
Next, the programs are mostly modular. This means people would be able to use just the one module they're interested in, then in minutes get the answers they wanted. Then with hardly any time or work, they'd be all set, and wouldn't need to buy.
This is in contrast to comprehensive and integrated financial plan software. The difference is that complex software takes ten times more time to learn how to use it, then you'd have to input ALL of the data to do a comprehensive and integrated financial plan. This could take days just to get a ballpark answer on retirement planning. So this huge investment in time is a barrier for people to hurdle across just to get a simple free answer.
Programs that offer free trials also make you jump through hoops, like making you give them your contact information, so they can have a salesperson "follow up" and spam you. Then there's usually a dangerous installation procedure that probably overwrites Windows system files to take over your computer. Then it will do things like add shortcuts to your favorites list and several other things to drive you to their website. Then because it's not modular, it could take days to learn how to get going. Then someone is going to be calling or e-mailing you about buying it (for a lot more money than ours). When you add up all of that time, then multiply it by what your time is worth, you're going to end up spending more than what our programs cost.
This is assuming that you "qualify" for their free demo. Just because they say on their website that you can get a free demo that will be functional during a trial period, doesn't mean that you will qualify to get one. Contact them and ask for theirs with a 30-day fully functional trial period, and see what they say.
So there's a trade-off. Nothing is really free. There's currently an experiment going on with Trial periods (but only for professional advisors, not consumers).
Between the product pages, the directions, and the demos, everything you need to make a decision beforehand is on the site. Then you can always call and ask as many questions as you want, and you'll never ever be told the program can perform a function that it cannot.
If there's text on the product page that says a program will perform a certain function, then we guarantee that it will perform that function. Between the directions and the demo, you can verify most all functions listed on the product page yourself before you buy. If you want more details on how to perform a certain function, just ask and you'll get a more detailed answer.
Another copy will be e-mailed if something went wrong with the software you bought during delivery.
We've been at this so long that we've seen every kind of crazy bad apple, so there's no refunds for any reason, no exceptions, period full stop, sorry.
Warranty and Limitation of Liability: Toolsformoney.coms sole obligation under any of the warranties set forth shall be to repair or replace any defective operations of the program. In no event will Toolsformoney.com be liable to such customer for any representations or warranties made by other than those stated within. Other than as expressly stated herein, Toolsformoney.com makes no other warranties, including, but not limited to, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular use. The foregoing shall be the extent of Toolsformoney.coms liability under this Agreement, regardless of the form in which any legal or equitable action may be brought against Toolsformoney.com and the foregoing shall constitute Licensees sole remedies. The foregoing constitutes the entire liability of Toolsformoney.com and sole remedy of licensee with respect to any claim or action based in whole or in part upon patent or copyright infringement.
Disclaimer: This financial plan software is designed to allow financial planners, investment managers, other financial services professionals, and investors, to demonstrate and evaluate various financial strategies in order to help achieve their clients', or their own financial goals. There are no guarantees that any of the software will perform this function.
The investment choices and services on this site are provided as general information only, and are not intended to provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, or other advice.
This site is for information purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, or insurance contract, which may be referred herein.
Mutual fund recommendations made are suggestions only, and customers should evaluate the suitability of each fund for their own holdings on their own or seek professional advice.
Consult with your financial, legal, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation. Toolsformoney.com is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice.
In no event shall Toolsformoney.com be liable to customers for any damages whatsoever, including lost profits or savings, missed gains, or other incidental or consequential damages arising out of the use, or inability to use, any of the software or information obtained from this website.
Financial estimates are generated by using many assumptions made by the program, clients, and the user. No person or software program can predict the future with any degree of certainty.
No warranty as to correctness is given and no liability is accepted for any error, or omission, or any loss which may arise from relying upon data generated from reports produced by the programs.
In no event shall Toolsformoney.com be liable to you or any other party, for any special, consequential or incidental damages suffered by you or such other party as a result of any problems that may arise because of the installation or improper use of this software or presentation of reports produced by this software. All reports generated by this investor software are only rough estimates of many possible future scenarios.
Before investing in an ETF or mutual fund, carefully consider the investing objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For a prospectus containing this and other important information, contact the mutual fund / ETF and read the prospectus carefully before investing.
Disclaimer: This financial plan software is designed to allow financial planners, investment managers, other financial services professionals, and investors, to demonstrate and evaluate various financial strategies in order to help achieve their clients', or their own financial goals. Investment strategies, results and any other information presented on the website are for education and research purpose only. There are no guarantees that any of the software will perform this function. The investment choices and services on this site are provided as general information only, and are not intended to provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, or other advice. This site is for information purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, which may be referred herein. Mutual fund recommendations made are suggestions only, and customers should evaluate the suitability of each fund for their own holdings on their own or seek professional advice. They are generic in nature and do not take into account your detailed and complete personal financial facts and needs. You alone are responsible for evaluating the information provided and to decide which securities and strategies are suitable for your own financial risk profile and expectations. Consult with your financial, legal, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation. Toolsformoney.com is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice. In no event shall Toolsformoney.com be liable to customers for any damages whatsoever, including lost profits or savings, missed gains, or other incidental or consequential damages arising out of the use, or inability to use, any of the software or information obtained from this website. Financial estimates are generated by using many assumptions made by the program, clients, advisors, and the user. No person or software program can predict the future with any degree of certainty. No warranty as to correctness is given and no liability is accepted for any error, or omission, or any loss which may arise from relying upon data generated from reports produced by these programs. Toolsformoney.com makes no warranty of any kind regarding our site and/or any contents, strategies, portfolios, materials, information, products and services provided on our site, all of which are provided on an as is basis. We disclaim any representation and warranty that our site and its contents, strategies, portfolios, materials, information, products and services are error-free, secure or uninterrupted. We further disclaim any warranty to the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of any content, information and services provided by our site. In no event shall Toolsformoney.com be liable to you or any other party, for any special, consequential or incidental damages suffered by you or such other party as a result of any problems that may arise because of the installation or improper use of this software or presentation of reports produced by this software. All reports generated by this financial planning software are only rough estimates of many possible future scenarios (none of which will occur in the Real World). Furthermore, in no event shall Toolsformoney.com be liable for any damages or injury caused by any failure of performance, error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, computer virus, communication line failure, theft or destruction or unauthorized access to, alteration of, or use of record, whether for breach of contract, tortuous behavior, negligence, or under any other cause of action. Before investing in an ETF or mutual fund, carefully consider the investing objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For a prospectus containing this and other important information, contact the mutual fund / ETF and read the prospectus carefully before investing. The website is not operated by a broker, a dealer, a registered financial planner or a registered investment adviser. Information provided by the website could be time-sensitive and out of date. There is no guarantee for accuracy and completeness for the contents on the website. Contents are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee for future results in your investment and any other actions based on the information provided on the website including but not limited strategies, portfolios, articles, performance data and results of any tools.
Password Protected Sheets: Most of these Excel spreadsheets have input sheets (the middle group of sheets), calculation sheets (far right group of sheets), and presentations sheets (far left group of sheets, which financial planners print and give to clients).
On most financial plan calculators, only the presentation sheets are unprotected. Input sheets and calculation sheets are protected to both prevent reverse engineering, and to prevent users from inadvertently overwriting formulas in cells and destroying the program. These will not be unprotected and the passwords will not be given out to anyone for any reason. If you tell us why you want a sheet protected, we'll try to accommodate you if it's a valid request about something a user would want to do.
If you want the copyrights removed so they won't show up when printing, then the first thing to do is just delete them from the footer. If you really need to remove it from non-presentation pages, then we'll accommodate that, but only up to a point (it varies per program).
You can delete the copyrights on everything when you use programs for clients. That's only really on there to help stop people from trying to sell or resell them on the Internet. The whole purpose of selling programs is so you can use them for making reports for clients.
If you need to print something on a password protected sheet, and you need to tinker with column and row sizes, and you bought support, and it's in Excel 2007 format, then you can get a version sent to you that does that.
Licensing / Renewal Updates: Most of these tools are updated constantly as they are used every day in the Real World.
Spreadsheet licenses are for one year. After that, it expires, then updates are available for 25% of the original price. Click the link to the update page in the text above to read the details.
There are no demos for these because the valuable content is too easy to copy and steal for free.
The demos are non-functional because people would use the programs for an hour to get the answers to their questions, then wouldn't need to buy anything.
Support: To allow people the most flexibility and choice, there are three prices for most financial planning software.
For people that feel they can figure everything out themselves with the directions, the unsupported price will save money.
For people that want to be able to call someone for help, there's the full phone and e-mail support.
There's also a price for a middle of the road option, which is paying a little more for being able to send questions via e-mail.
Please note that support basically means help trying to figure things out that are not already in the directions, or is confusing, or doesn't make sense.
Everyone at any level of support is encouraged to report things they feel are not working right with any financial planning software program. If you think something is "broken" then you can get free support even if you didn't buy it.
You can tack on more support for the listed price difference. What you can't do is cancel a higher level of support (and get that part refunded).
Click the link to the support page in the text above to read the details.
Delivery Times: It takes four to seven working days to get money tools shipped by regular postal mail. Orders are checked and financial plan software e-mailed out usually the same day, but it could take a couple of days to get products via e-mail.
About the (Key)Word Mixing: If you see something like this on the IPS page, "Investment Policy Statements" and then below it "Statement of Investment Policy," it's to have text that search engines can read, so the site will come up when people type in keywords. It's all the same program if it's on the same product page. Sorry but this is just life in the new world, and it can't be helped.
Rewards for finding mistakes on this site : If you find any mistakes (dead links, misspelled words, typos, things that are not right, don't make sense, etc.) then you can get credits for purchases or we'll send products of your choice for free, depending on the find.
Consulting Services: Financial planners and investing consumers can get financial plans made with this software, or custom work, done.
The Financial Plan Software Industry: How We Got Here
Website, Software, and Developer History
Mike Fulford has been doing most everything you see here since March 1988.
The site was first published in February '98 as a curiosity experiment. Other people I knew started selling stuff online in '96, so going with the crowd seemed like the thing to do during the new Internet frenzy. I've always had a knack for being first in line, first to sound the alarm bell when the first chicken comes home to roost, and first to make correct economic and market predictions.
The only software product at the time ('98) was the RP retirement Planner, which was created in '96. People bought it, so more products that already existed, like the Fact Finders and Asset Allocation Software, were added. People bought them too; so more products were developed and added. RP evolved into RWR in '99, then into Dual RWR in '03, then into the fully-Integrated Financial Planner in '08.
In high school, I wanted to be a nuclear physicist, to learn how to control gravity via magnetism, until I realized that requires a little thing called "college," which my family could in no way afford, so big no to that.
So in 1978, I enlisted into the Air Force right out of high school and did four years as a B-52 / RF-4C avionics computer technician (ECM). I graduated from tech school with honors and got the useless ribbon for that (just from acing all the tests and not screwing up, no biggy). I would have received the honors ribbon in basic training, but I very much flunked "dorm guard." Those who know what this is are now laughing big time.
1980: I was first stationed at Kadena AB, Okinawa, Japan (AKA "the Rock"). While on a war games TDY at Osan AB, S. Korea, I used split-second logical deduction to draw the only conclusion that N. Koreans had dug a fifty-mile-long tunnel from the DMZ, ending at the end of the main airstrip sitting with SAM-6's (shoulder-held anti-aircraft missile launchers) just waiting for the orders to shoot down planes as they took off. Because I did the usual thing of just blurting out conclusions in a pilot debriefing without any tact, political correctness, regard for other's feelings, or the usual respect for authority, I didn't realize my dream of being a Four-star General (in charge of missile defense). I was just a 20-year-old two-striper straight from the Ohio corn cob, that told Lt. Colonels they'd better send the SP's out to check it out ASAP (I basically was as low-ranking as possible and gave orders to a dozen Lt. Colonels to go do something now. So that did not go over well!).
There were indeed two N. Koreans sitting in a tunnel right in the middle of the air strip with a boat load of SAM-6's just as I said (which were immediately eradicated, of course). This got the Colonel in charge of such things almost fired by the Base Briggy, and that pretty much ended my career in the military. So instead of getting a medal (or even one thank you from anyone), I just got bleep for a year then "fired." How - I missed making Staff Sergeant by a whole three points out of 1,000 on the first try (something that only about 1% do). This was because of the bad review after making the fuss the wrong way about the tunnel. That coupled with not being allowed to cross-train into something more intellectual challenging, the injury, and being "expendable," led me to leave when my duty was up.
So let that be a lesson to all of you active-duty military people - you MUST ALWAYS respect authority and the Chain of Command or your military career will be cut short one way or another, no matter how talented, dedicated, or patriotic you are. As you probably already know, I still have yet to learn to behave myself in such matters (I just don't care). This is how this motto stays alive, "No good deed ever goes unpunished."
One of the actual SR-71 Blackbirds that buzzed my head weekly while working on the flight-line is in the SAC Museum in NB. The two stationed at Kadena were called "Habu," after one of the most poisonous snakes in the world that are on The Rock. It's even still called Habu at the museum and I think that's AWESOME!
In 1982, I used my free Air Force Honorable-discharge move, and went to Silicon Valley. I was a technician for the world's second biggest computer maker (at the time the only competition was IBM), repairing enormous mainframes all over the Stanford University campus. Smart phones today have more computing power than mainframes of that time that filled 1,000 SqFt, cost $1M, and $100k annually to cool and maintain. Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) then went out of business because they didn't see the PC revolution coming. I warned them in '86 when the 286 came out. They were too slow and late to the game, and never made a popular PC because they were behind the curve at every step. The founder and president, Ken Olson, even said in '77, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Compaq later bought them, then HP bought them, and they basically disappeared.
I was right in the middle of the beginning of the PC wars between Microsoft's Bill Gates and Apple's Steve Jobs / Wozniac for years. I drove by their office buildings daily where everything was happening, knew dozens of people that were on the front-lines of the war, listened to all of the gossip, followed the lawsuits and power struggles, repaired mainframes at Intel that were being used to create the first 8088 and 286 chips, and kept up with the daily progress of these historic battles that transformed the world more than sliced bread. There's a great movie with a summary of this fascinating history called "'Pirates of Silicon Valley." Bottom line, none of these people were the super-geniuses everyone thinks. They basically just stole most of the concepts and ideas from everyone else (e.g., Zerox), then were the first to be able to get the required capital to build and market product (just like MoneyTree basically stole my financial plan software ideas and got enough capital to become a major vendor) .
1983: Advent Professional Portfolio was introduced and was the first portfolio management software to run on mainframes, then later, PCs.
1984: I started doing the generic college thing. Started out in engineering, but economics fascinated me too much, so I switched to wanting to make economic models to predict the future. Turns out one needs a PhD for that, then there's no jobs for economists at this level other than teaching, so I said no to that. I also thought that others were already making these models adequately enough. It turned out I should have done all of that (instead of this), as everyone else's models don't work to the point of being mostly useless (they all totally missed the Great Recession from '07 to '09, and in general everything else too).
1985: Morningstar was launched. Originally it was only in hard copy and was intended for the investing public via public libraries. That failed because people / libraries weren't willing to pay for it. Then it was marketed to advisors. They started prospering when they offered monthly updates in the mail, which consisted of 10 - 20 3.5" floppy disks. It took half an hour to load it onto a 386, but it was the only tool to do the job (and unfortunately still is because of the patent on their search funnel function, which should be running out any year now), so it was worth it. I'd very much love to permanently fire them, and hire a vendor with better functioning software, but there is none.
In 1985, I left mainframe field-service and joined a GaAs IC chip lab with the same company. I was the lab tech and helped with chip layout. I was the first person to see unbelievable GaAs gate speeds with rise times under five picoseconds ('86). I've never seen anyone happier than Ron when I showed him that Polaroid picture of a scope showing how I nailed that gate down and made it go faster than anyone ever did before. I worked in the same building as Gene Amdahl's big Trilogy project: WSI - wafer-scale integration, where all of the different chips on a computer were to be put on one massive silicon wafer to make it faster by eliminating motherboards. It didn't work because the heating problems couldn't be solved. My boss, Ronald J. Melanson, is still the #4 VP at Sun Microsystems today (2013). At the time, he was the #1 guy in the world when it came to Gallium Arsenide technology. Star Trek, The Next Generation, even had an episode where a GaAs life form was being hurt by a group of scientists led by Dr. Melanson (Episode 17: Home Soil). So the people at Star Trek did their homework and saw Ron was the #1 guy in GaAs and used his last name in the episode. I still think that's awesome! I taped the episode on VCR and showed it to Ron, and he couldn't care less. That was great for a while until the whole company started to go under in the late 80's. Because of the recession and the trend toward hiring foreign degreed people over Americans with experience was just getting started, the only jobs for non-degreed electronic engineers in Silicon Valley was doing things like assembling printers for HP. If the major players, like Intel, didn't have a BSEE requirement to be a layout designer, I'd still be doing that, as it was my all-time favorite job. So all of that, coupled with being bored to tears working in what looked like a submarine with no windows or people, made it time for a major career change.
1986: A year or so after C-SPAN was added to basic cable, I was mesmerized every day at lunch by watching Paul Volcker testify to Congress. I was amazed how these numbskulls had no idea what he was saying (something that continues to this day, but has gotten better). So when he quit smoking cigars, I wrote him a letter of congratulations. Mr. Volcker personally replied and I still have the letter with a picture of him smoking a cigar. I then became more interested in economics, and switched my college major from electronics engineering to economics. So in a way, everything got started by watching my new hero on TV. If it wasn't for the wisest financial human to ever live being able to be brought into the homes of anyone with basic cable, none of this would have happened, and I would have been just another boring electronics engineer plodding along in overpopulated Silicon Valley.
The Tax Reform Act of 1986 wiped out tax-shelters, and the financial planning market changed from selling limited partnerships to mutual funds. The world of easy high-commissions for financial planners crumbled. Mutual fund front end loads were ALL 8.5% back in the day, which was half of what planners were used to. With these lower commissions the only way to get paid, the new world of fee-based services began.
1987: I was addicted to C-SPAN 24/7, and thus called the stock market "crash" a day beforehand after watching Treasury Secretary Baker threaten the German Mark (and say various other dumb things about currencies and central banks). Baker caused the whole temporary crisis with his big mouth in less than one minute.
1987: SchwabLink by Schwab's Financial Advisor Services was born. Somewhat because of the stock market crash, individual investors started turning to professional advisors for advice. The fee-based model was now a viable alternative, because investment management fees could be deducted directly from client cash accounts for the first time.
In 1988, while still in the high-tech chip industry in Silicon Valley, I started in the financial planning business with Waddell & Reed part time - hard selling mutual funds and life insurance (with no money, support, software, help, nor financial tools of any kind).
I entered the biz based on the standard "lie," that anyone with ambition could easily make six-figures. Two Waddell & Reed sales managers, the Morales brothers, put ads in the Santa Cruz newspaper showing a picture of a smiling single-mom Rep saying, "I made $191,000 and I only work part time and six months out of the year!"
They were able to recruit several flocks of gullible young people using these techniques. Most all immediately "flunked out," either by not being able to pass the FINRA Series 6 exam, insurance license, or not being able to make a dime after "training." Some of the first flock (which I was a part of) sued the Morales brothers for false advertising, after they quit their day jobs, spent hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars getting licensed and taking exams; and then were not able to make a dime. I didn't know about the lawsuit for months after it was over, as they kept it all secret from Reps that stayed with the program (and were making money).
In one of the groups of W&R new recruits there was the first person to score 100% on the Series 7 exam. They made a big fuss, but he never sold anything, and was one of the first to wise up and quit.
1989: I called the coming real estate crash by writing an article saying "derivatives" should be made so one could short CA real estate. This went nowhere, of course.
Soon after that came the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which mostly destroyed Santa Cruz, where I was living. Then came the first Iraq war and recession. Then came the S&L driven great Californian real estate crash. So between the outrageous cost of living, EVERYONE in CA thinking that real estate was the ONLY way in the universe that can make money, having to spend most of my time making basic financial planning tools like Fact Finders, instead of making phone calls because W&R had no tools, and being more of a computer nerd than a people-person, then the city was mostly destroyed, I didn't make it in sales. So I turned around and used my computer skills to do work for those that wanted to keep trying to survive it all.
Soon after I left Waddell & Reed sales, the Morales brothers were convicted of lying, using false advertising, and other deceptive practices, to recruit reps. They had to pay reparations to the plaintiffs in the amounts totaling what they paid out of pocket to become a FINRA rep. Then FINRA banned them both from the business forever. Shortly after that, FINRA used the case to make standard regulations on banning the use of deceptive advertising practices to recruit new reps. The days of seeing ads in the papers about how easy it is to make six-figures in this biz as a loaded mutual fund and life insurance salesperson were history.
So I did financial planners' computer work so they could concentrate on what they do best - manage relationships (sell). I was very disappointed with the state of financial planning software, so I started to make my own. I got hired and fired dozens of times, mostly because of the pathetic state of financial planning software (and computers in general - you were cool if you could afford a 386 running Windows 3.1 back then). As I developed more tools for money that worked right, I got hired more and fired less.
I liked it, so in late 1989 I took the CFP course to learn financial planning.
1990: Morningstar Principia was introduced on CD (back when few people even had CD ROM drives on their PC). In case you don't how arrogant Morningstar is, Principia is what Sir Isaac Newton called the compilation of his greatest achievements. Clearly, Morningstar is not at the same level as the man that created calculus - they can't even maintain accurate, correct, nor fresh basic mutual fund data, nor fix basic bugs that have been there for decades, even today over two decades into the 21st century (four decades later, same problems, same lousy data, same bugs, same same same!
1991: The first portfolio optimizer that could run on the new 486 PCs came out - Wilson Associates' RAMCAP. I was fascinated, and spent way too much time learning and using it in the Real World.
1992: I finally got the biz experience needed to be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Read that idiot CFP people, I'm using "CFP as a noun." At the time I was saying, "I am a CFP," and now I'm saying, "I was a CFP." Bite me tards! 99.99% of everyone does this, and I think it's retarded that that people like the CFP, and CFA, make a fuss and demand that you say, "I'm a Chartered Financial Analysis Charterholder." I have yet to hear one person ever say that in the Real World. It's ALWAYS, "I'm a CFA."
1993: Fidelity entered the RIA market. The NAPFA database was created.
From the early 90's, I worked for a dozen financial planners using comprehensive and integrated financial plan software called ProPlan (same as the dog food, which should have been a tip-off). Even though it was an ancient mid-80's BASIC buggy DOS program, and would be considered primitive and unusable by today's standards, at the time it was far superior than anything else on the market when it came to forecasting people's futures (Financial Profiles was the leader in product-peddling-based software and Morningstar was just getting going and didn't even have Principia yet).
But when Ed Morrow's new Text Library and Tracking and Marketing products started selling much more than ProPlan, they decided to abandon ProPlan (instead of moving it from DOS to a Windows platform).
This created a vacuum for financial planners that needed comprehensive and integrated financial plan software to forecast people's financial futures. A group of Canadians saw the hole and created NaviPlan. A lot of venture capital resources were put into it, and early in the 21st century it was much better than Financial Profiles.
In 1994, the 30's Glass-Steigal laws were relaxed (huge mistake that led to the world almost ending in Jan '09), which opened the window for a firm that wanted to take existing financial planners and put them inside credit unions bought the firm I was working for. They thought they could make the big bucks by doing financial planning for their existing credit union members. So the firm was disbanded, and most of the planners went to the credit unions. It turned out most of the credit union members didn't have any money to invest, and just ended up wasting all of the planners' time with basic personal finance questions that had nothing to do with making money. The whole thing was so poorly mismanaged, that they ended up failing big time, and so they ended up rarely using my consulting services. All of the planners ended up either starting their own fee-based money management practices, continued peddling life insurance company products, or left the business.
So I got a job working for Successful Money Management Seminars (SMMS) as a Research Analyst. I verified numbers used in the seminars, and similar mundane things. They asked me to be the person to beta test the results of their Life Goals financial planning software. So they ran some reports and I would comment on everything that was right and wrong. My list of things that were wrong and needed to be changed was so long that they fired me as soon as they saw where it was going. If they would have listened, they would have had a successful product, and they wouldn't have needed to spin-off Life Goals, and later sell the whole company at distressed prices. Both SMMS and Life Goals soon slid into oblivion. These days, hardly anybody even remembers them.
In '95, I was accepted into the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) program so I could manage investment portfolios. I've always been great at predicting the markets and the economy, so I thought the best way to capitalize on that was to get into investment management (financial planning is boring and mundane). My asset allocation software was created in 1995, after exposure to the CFA Level I curriculum. In 2012, I finally got around to doing something with my "ability to forecast the future," and it worked way beyond my expectations. But due to primitive trading platforms, it can't be done.
In 1995, Ed Morrow found out I was looking for another job, and asked me to work for him as an unpaid intern. Yeah, right! If he would have came up with enough money to hire me for real, then the history of financial plan software would have been very different. ProPlan would have been so great that it would be the industry's dominant program, instead of today's NaviPlan, which would never have gotten off the ground.
1996: Merrill Lynch finally caved and offered fee-only relationships to clients.
In 1996, I did work for a group of financial planners using MasterPlanner software. That was the choice after looking at, and working with, everything on the market since 1988. NaviPlan and Financial Profiles were still too pathetic for this group of detail-oriented CPA planners. MasterPlan's retirement planning module was so pitiful (it couldn't even add up the two main bold retirement plan numbers on the front page right), that just making that one buying decision got me fired. I should have known because it was still a DOS program (and not even Windows-based) until 2002 (which was five years longer than anyone else). Then in 2006, people said they couldn't even get their demo to install and work.
The Asset allocation software started in 1995, and the model portfolios started limping along in 1996. It took a few years to realize that the model returns were superior to everything everyone else was doing, so the records of past trades were not maintained. In '98 it became clear that the returns were consistently beating the markets, with lower risk, so the trades began to be recorded. In '99, everything was in place to link the model portfolio's returns to correctly show historical performance (accounting for past trades, fees, and rebalancings).
In 1997 I worked for some Ibbotson Associates Portfolio Strategist software users. It barely did the job and was terrible to use (compared to Wilson's Power Optimizer). They never fixed their problems even after a decade went by, and so this industry icon sort of went under in early 2006 and was bought out by Morningstar. Because that was so hard to do anything financial planners wanted to do for their clients, I got fired again.
1998: I worked briefly for Microsoft, and was fired when I told people at MS Money that their product was semi-useless and wouldn't survive a decade (and that they should hire me to make it really something). So even in '98 I knew more about how to make this stuff work than the arrogant extremely overpaid and out of touch with reality execs at Microsoft! My prediction was only off by one year, see the June '09 history. So instead of being an insignificant cog in the MS machine, I went off on my own to make Toolsformoney. I hired the receptionist at the building I worked in at the Redmond Campus, that thought he was Mr. Cool because he could make websites, to make the first version of Toolsformoney.com in Feb '98, called Real World Personal Finance Software (which was replaced by Toolsformoney.com in 2001). Shortly after that, FrontPage '98 came out, and everybody could be cool by making their own websites at home.
1998: I predicted that all of the stupid people day trading tech / Internet stocks based on the tards on stock market TV would not only lose their shirts, but cause a huge meltdown in the markets. No matter how I explained it to the stupid people that were actual clients in person, few listened because of the never-seen-before instant profits. But the boss listened, and we were able to get many clients to "get with the program" before judgment day came. So only the ones that listened avoided getting wiped out (and the boss's practice was saved yet again. I saved him the first time by convincing him to stop being "evil" with the life insurance company products, limited partnerships, overselling of C-shares in addition to charging fees, etc. etc. etc.).
As usual, it's rare that anyone takes me seriously about ANYTHING, until it's too late. About three trillion dollars of investor wealth was lost because of stupid people "day trading" tech stocks based on the tards on stock market TV. This was so bad that the NASDAQ is still lower in 2012 than where it was in '99 - '00. Apparently few learned their lessons, as they're doing the same things with ETFs today.
Around 1998, the Model Portfolios were solidified and I became a great investment portfolio manager. Thanks to my Asset Allocation Software I developed, coupled with my unique way of screening mutual funds, what I learned in the CFA program, and a portfolio optimizer program called Wilson's Power Optimizer (which generates the Efficient Frontier). This was fascinating, and led to the refinement of the current Model Portfolios and Asset Allocation Software. After getting it all down, the use of portfolio optimizers was no longer needed (as described here). The returns on the pages linked above says it all, as they're better than the vast majority of rich and famous investment managers with annual budgets in the millions and fully staffed with armies of CFA Charterholders. This includes the "World's Greatest Investor," Warren Buffet, and his army of front-running analysts when comparing returns since 1/1/99.
So in order to keep the next job, and because all of other financial planning software was even more pitiful, I had to make tools that worked right from scratch. Things started going so well as an employee, and all of the other financial and investment software vendors remained so pathetic, that I put all of my other inventions online in '98 to see if anyone would buy them. They did, so I added programs one at a time for many more years, and still do.
1999: The Model Portfolios were in good enough shape to start recording returns like everyone else in the biz. The returns were close enough to what actual client were getting, so this was one of the hundreds of things on my list of "inventions" that actually worked, so most all of my attention was diverted to perfecting that.
1999: I was about the only voice of reason that said that Y2K would be a total non-event (just like the whole 2012 end of the world nonsense was a non-event). I predicted some things would stop working right and would be quickly fixed, but the doom and gloomers that kept saying the world was going to end (like my boss at the time), were 100% wrong. 2000 came and went and little-to-nothing happened, just as predicted.
1999: The Glass-Steagall Act was repealed, setting the stage for the collapse of '09.
2000: The stupidity of the infantile boss (from advancing Alzheimers) became so unbearable that I moved to AZ to join a firm to service around 50 planners, instead of just one. This turned out to be a huge blunder, because just this one senile old guy in downtown Seattle was able to learn and regurgitate my marketing pitches about the models enough to pull in about five times more money than all 50 Reps at the AZ firm combined. If I would have stayed with him, I'd still be there managing a bazillion dollars and would have been way rich and famous by now (and there would have been no Tools For Money). Let this be a lesson to all of you old planners that have actual talent in your office - you need to pay them much much more than their worth or they'll eventually quit and find greener pastures!
In Jan 2000 (to '07), I called the upcoming great economic stagnation / collapse, the coming real estate crash that started in 2007, and the Great Recession in the forecast section of my Money eBook.
Things then got so bad in 2001 that the only asset classes people would invest in was bonds and real estate. Over the next few years, the great bond rally slowly unwound, making real estate the one and only asset class people felt comfortable owning (because it's "real"). So they did in record amounts. This sowed the seeds of the soon-to-come greatest real estate crash ever seen (from '07 until '13). But it did turn out that everyone was right to avoid stocks, because the stock market is still, almost fourteen years later, in the exact same place as it was in Mar '99 (flopping around 11000).
From 2000 to 2005 the number of FINRA Reps fell by 60%. From 2000 to 2011, on average ~10,000 financial advisors left the business per month. It's 2013, and there's still "negative employment" in the whole industry.
In 2001, I quit working for financial planners in person locally because all they wanted to do was whine about how the good old days of making easy money in up markets were gone. When their incomes came down, they started hard-selling life insurance company products to make up for their reduced investment-based income. They started wanting way too much work for way too little money, so I quit and concentrated on making this a totally web-based business. Instead of staying with the program, these planners started getting into anything that would make them quick easy money, like selling phone booth LPs, abusing C & B-shares, trading currencies and commodities using rigged trading software, and of course, heavily abusing life insurance company products (mostly annuities).
After the firm went under (50+ Reps was whittled down to ~5), one by one they started to get sued, lose their licenses, get fined more money than they ever come up with by FINRA, and all of that. If they had kept up with the program, they would have been fine. But instead most went under, moved to Florida to declare bankruptcy, sold their overpriced houses at a loss, divorced their wives that wouldn't quit spending money like a drunken sailor, etc. The only ones that survived are the ones that stuck with the program (fee-based money management). Their income went down, but they're still alive, out doing their thing, and don't have to worry about all their indiscretions coming back to ruin their lives.
During the "in-between-years" (1991 - 2001) I worked in person as an employee for around 100 financial planners and investment managers doing everything you can think of. I collected the data, managed the money, made the trades, ran the reports, dealt with FINRA / BD / SEC compliance, closed multi-million dollar deals, and presented financial plans in person to thousands of prospects and clients of all shapes and sizes.
Not having to waste time on mundane management, administration, marketing, selling, prospecting, and all that, gave me a unique understanding of what financial software was available, what people wanted and needed financial advisors to do for them, and what they're willing to pay up for, and not.
Working with all of these people (and going on dozens of job interviews) exposed me to just about every harebrained idea that could be concocted to make and/or manage money in this biz. I've seen hundreds of different "models," market timing strategies, stock picking and trading schemes, etc. So I've been there and done that in most every mode of doing things.
In 2003 I voluntarily relinquished being a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) because it was mostly useless to the web-based business (and being mostly a money manager and not much of a financial planner); was time consuming, expensive, they didn't approve my CE, put me on too many spam and marketing lists, etc. Amount saved so far: ~$6,000 and 800 hours of time wasted on their rudimentary Continuing Education requirements. Amount of revenue and business lost so far: $0.
I sent them numerous things saying that someone with this much expertise shouldn't have to waste time and money on rudimentary CE about the basics of retirement planning every two years, but they ignored it all. I could have been a great resource for them, and tried, but all they wanted to do is quote their rules. Someone from the CFP Board used to poke me every few years wanting free help and stuff, but I always tell them my story, then they always say, "That's not our department," then they'd go away. Someday they may get it - they can get lots of freebies to "help their cause" when they reinstate me without having to take CE. The details are in the financial planning eBook.
The bottom-line is that it's THE technical degree if you're a financial planner, but not so much if you're mostly a money manager (and it's totally useless if you're web-based and don't do people in person). It was worth taking because of the education when I was totally green, but firing them was one of the best big decisions I ever made.
In September '06, NaviPlan bought ailing Financial Profiles from Mutual Benefit Life. EISI would then "go under" again in 2011 because of the same issues.
In August '07, EISI made their users upgrade to their new version of Profiles, which cost around $1,200 annually. People that didn't want to upgrade were deliberately abandoned because the old version stopped working, rendering all of the past work of inputting client data useless (so they lost everything with no hope of recovering any data). The anti-trust regulators were again asleep at the wheel or were bought off (just like when Advent Axys bought out TechFy in '04 and then Blue Streak in '07).
All of these major changes occurred mostly because of just two decisions that just one person made - when Ed Morrow decided to abandon ProPlan in the mid-90's, then didn't want to pay me even a meager salary to help bring it back to life. If he would have put as much effort into ProPlan as he did into TLS & T&M, then today it would be the premier financial planning tool, he'd be much more rich and famous, Financial Profiles would have went under, and NaviPlan and Tools For Money would not even have started up. Thanks Ed!
Also if SMMS would have promoted me into the Life Goals product development team, Life Goals would now be the leading financial planning software system, and again Financial Profiles would have went under, and NaviPlan and Tools for money would not even have started up. Thanks Root family!
In March 2009, I predicted the bottom of the "Great Recession" and the stock market, to be the few weeks when the DJIA was around 6547 on 9 March. I also predicted that the difference between the DJIA at 7000 and where it will be in March '11 would be a record (the prediction is a two-year record difference). This bad call would be reversed in June '10 (see Mar '11 below).
June 2009 - Microsoft abandons their star financial services product, MS Money. In 1998, when I worked at Microsoft, I told them they were screwing up MS Money so bad that they'll probably go under in ten years, and offered to help (give me a job). They didn't, so they did. They lasted one year longer than I predicted. Not only did they not give me the job, they fired me for just making the suggestion. Thanks Microsoft! See the '98 history above.
Sept 2009: dbCAMS+ sells out to Morningstar. The developer died around '05 and his son basically was clueless and ran it into the ground. If the program actually works and is cost-effective, then this is a huge leap forward in the evolution of this biz, because you're now able to buy real portfolio management software for a decent price, and get decent support and training. Years later I have yet to hear good progress reports from actual users, other than "they're still working on it."
December 2010: The new estate tax laws pretty much wiped out the whole estate planning profession. Sure glad I didn't go there in 2000 by making a fuss building estate plan calculators! I felt bad for missing out on this business for over a decade, but now feel pretty good about it all.
March 2011: Here's the results of my market timing call made in March '09. Since the bottom on 9 March 09, the S&P 500 was up 94% on 10 March '11. But this wasnt a 24-month record. That was from Sept 53 to 55, where the S&P 500 was up ~98%. So the call was close, but no cigar. From 28 Feb 09 to 1 Mar 11 the S&P 500 did 88.3%, and from 31 Mar 09 to 1 Apr 11 it did 73.20%.
A minor call: All PIMCO mutual funds were banned in early 2011 because of the market timing shenanigans with leverage. How's that been working out since mid-2011? Not so well if you didn't bail when warned!
2012: I started my Mr. Market Timer stock market timing service on 1/1/12. I stopped the demo trading at the end of June (six months or two full quarters). It's was up 20.78% when the DJIA and S&P 500 were only up about 6%.
Fall 2012: Not much to do now that everything is mostly done, so it's on to shining the spotlight of truth onto the competition.
March 2013: The Mr. Market Timer stock market timing services started, but then failed due to primitive and non-functional trading technology.
April '13: I told all of the Model subscribers to get out of everything gold in the mid-April "newsletter" that comes with the Models, and since then (May '13) gold has crashed about 25% (the 3X inverse GLD ETF was down 68%). I also typed that China finally cracked, and will not be having double digit GDP growth anymore every year (here and there but not back to back anymore). Since then, they've been slowing down considerably, and their stock market has been down about 25% over that month.
End of the history. In summary:
I've worked in person with dozens of planners and hundreds of clients as a case writer, research / financial analyst, and investment portfolio manager. Online these numbers indirectly are in the thousands.
Since '88, I've run reports for over 1,000 planners, and over 10,000 clients and customers indirectly. I've seen and heard what people want to see in their reports and have made the changes.
I've done a little bit of just about everything in this business and have seen, analyzed, and commented on just about every harebrained idea in the biz. This is a very mature industry - so there are no new ideas worth anything anymore. Most everything in the biz is basically the same old bleep just packaged up in a new and different marketing wrapper (e.g., ETFs).
What you see here are the tools I made to do my jobs. The reasons for the creating the tools are because most everything else on the market is inadequate, too expensive, too hard to use, too many bugs, inaccurate, is too inflexible, doesn't work like things do in the Real World (not even close), too limited in printing reports, and just doesn't do the jobs right. If you want something done right, you just have to do it yourself, so I did, and everything has been fine ever since.
Since 2001, people have suggested making all kinds of tools for money. So I did. Now I pretty much have everything that people want and need.
I also put most all free online financial calculators in one place here. Now most everything that's available online for free is also integrated into the Financial Planning Tools product, so you don't have to go online anymore to use them.
So I did all of the following things that nobody else has ever done, all by myself, in record time:
Created integrated financial planning software that in too many ways to count, is better than the industry leader, which is NaviPlan (with its armies of employees and code programmers).
Invented a way of managing money using pure asset allocation that usually beats most everyone - including the markets, hedge funds, and the "World's Greatest Investor."
Invented pretty much the only way of using market timing that works.
Am the first to sound the alarm about the perils of cloud computing. Everything seems fine now, but just wait.
Am the only way to get portfolio benchmarking done for a reasonable fee.
And I'm the one and only person to use logic, facts, and math to get to the bottom of all of these financial myths - that are ALL still around today:
Am the only one that got to the bottom of the BD / FINRA software approval process.
Am the only one that figured out why all forms of 20th century "tax wrappers" are no longer effective in the 21st century. Examples of government sponsored tax wrappers are: All qualified retirement plans like IRAs and 401(k)s, 529 college plans, then all forms of life insurance company products (all annuities and whole life insurance).
Why avoiding investing in non-qualified mode because of high dividend and capital gains taxes is a myth.
Why ETFs are not as cool as advertised.
There's 15 "universal constants," not just two (death and taxes). Life makes much more sense when you can get a grip on the other thirteen.
Industry professional designations and what they mean. Do the letters after someone's name actually mean anything, or not? Most are just a myth.
What portfolio optimization is, the dangers, and what it's used for. Why you shouldn't even consider experimenting with any kind of a portfolio optimizer. The differences between "pretend portfolio optimization" and real portfolio optimization are explained.
What the real story is regarding "private money managers."
What the real story is regarding FINRA's software approval deal.
That's mostly in the Money eBook.
And all of that is just in the this biz. There's also a long list of great inventions, and other things I've done that nobody else has ever done in several other areas too. All while wearing a "White Hat" all of the time too.
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