Top-level Primer Tutorial About Understanding Financial Planning Software
|About the Differences Between Cash Flow-based Financial Planning Software and Goalware||Articles About the Differences Between Cash Flow-Based Financial Plan Software and Goalware (and About Bogus Numbers in Financial Plans)|
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Regardless of your level of expertise, this is where to start if you want to get a grip on financial planning software.
Here's a summary of what's detailed on this page:
• What are the four major overall types of financial planning software?
• What are the reasons, purposes, and functions, of each?
• For DIY investors, which do I use?
• For professional advisers, which do I use and when?
• How do the new Department of Labor's 2017 Fiduciary Rules affect all this?
• What's the difference between online and offline financial planning software?
The Four Types of Financial Planning Software
About Modular Financial Planning Software
A module is just the name for a program that only performs a limited set of functions in one area of financial planning. Compared to integrated planning software, it's a part of the whole.
All of the money software products on this site, which are listed on the top section of the right-hand column, except for the cash flow-based integrated financial planning software, which is called the IFP, are modules (AKA modular).
For example, if all you wanted to do is calculate life insurance needs, then all you'd need is the Comprehensive Life Insurance Calculator. If all you need to do is forecast a college funding scenario, then use the Comprehensive College Calculators. Etc. and so forth.
Modules are "easy to use" because they only deal with one thing at a time. When based in Excel, then can be manually integrated with other spreadsheets to share data. The point is that with modules, you don't have to "waste time" on other things to get the job done. You can stay focused just on one thing that has easy and intuitive inputs and easy to understand presentation reports.
Modules can perform all of the functions of the two main types of financial planning software, but they can't be actual cash flow-based financial planning software. So they can be goals-orientated, post-retirement, or perform another function, but cannot perform more than one function at the same time. They also cannot perform functions of cash flow-based software, because by definition, that requires more than one module.
Then no money software can be both goals-orientated and cash flow-based at the same time. It can be one or the other, but not both. Then to confuse you even more, by default, cash flow-based software accounts for all goals automatically, just like goal-whatever software, but goals-whatever software cannot be cash flow-based.
Modules can exist both online in cyberspace (on someone else's computer), or offline, or both.
There's not much more to type, nor whine about, with modules because they (usually) perform their functions as advertised, and not much else. So there is little-to-no marketing lies, deceptions, hyperbole, debates nor controversy. They are what they are, they do what they do, and everyone just deals with it, and moves on.
Just about the only thing left to comment on, is to do your homework to ensure what you're buying is worth the money and performs the functions advertised. Most do, so there's not much to whine about other than this vendor has a better product that performs more functions more accurately that's easier to use and makes more sense for less money, compared to another vendor.
About Actual Cash Flow Based Financial Planning Software
Cash flow-based financial planning software is for creating accurate comprehensive financial plans, that contain most all modules, and model both pre-retirement and post-retirement modes as closely as possible. What ties the two modes together are annual budget deficits and/or surpluses. This way one can rely on the numbers to forecast the future with accuracy as great as possible - considering everything to do with forecasting money is just a guesstimate anyway.
The only way to perform this function is to properly account for annual cash flow budget surpluses and deficits, replacement costs, and then have all of the other modules automatically integrate with each other via "hard-wiring."
Creating an actual financial plan is hard, a lot of work, and takes skill, practice, time, attention span, education, knowledge, wisdom, and expertise in the area of financial planning. So it's "real." Doing real work with money is hard, because of the complexity, details, and integration. If you do most anything with money, and it's "easy," then you're just "not doing it right."
In the last century, doing real work of value was all the rage, because it's what the customer demanded, and there was no goalware available to fake it.
Not so much these days, as you can read below and here. Things have "broken" so badly these days that the CFP program doesn't even test the candidate on their ability to create an actual financial plan anymore. All they're required to do nowadays is create a simple fake financial plan using goalware to pass the bar. That's because everyone's brains and wallets have shrunk down to the point that if they required the candidate to be proficient in using financial planning software (by making them create an actual financial plan to pass the bar), they would have to either spend $400 on our IFP, or $2,300 for NaviPlan. Then they would fail because it's just too hard. So hard, that users have to spend big money attending an in-person NaviPlan training class. Then there would be no way to have a newbie create an actual financial plan in a testing environment, unless you made everyone come back the next day. So the CFP Board just capitulated to the absurd, and said, "Screw it, nobody is whining, so we'll let the students pass without having a clue how to perform their primary functions."
So that's how "broken" things are nowadays - Certified Financial Planners cannot even create a financial plan anymore. That's like letting an attorney pass the bar without even knowing the process of filing a case in court, or a medical doctor that can't even set a broken arm.
There's no more text here about this subject, because the long-winded dissertations are already on other pages here:
There's only two public financial planning software programs that anyone can buy with numbers past the first year with any accuracy at all. That's our IFP and NaviPlan. There's more, but most are proprietary, or cost over $10,000 a year.
About Goals-Whatever Financial Planning Software
The important things to know about this entirely different type of financial software are as follows. Be prepared to learn new things, because this information only exists in one place - and that's on this page (and similar linked pages on this site). It's pretty much hidden everywhere else, for the mundane reason that "Wall Street" makes way more money when it's minions are out by the dozens of thousands peddling commission-based products using goalware.
"Doing it right" is just "too much work" these days, so that is not as profitable as faking it. So all resources go to keeping the truth about how money software actually works one of their top secrets. If one could wave a magic wand and get everyone to get a grip on how things actually work, then few advisers would use goals-whatever software, and few clients would accept it, which would result in many Wall Street firms that are "too big to fail" to fail spectacularly in no time. So that's who, why, when, where, and how things got to be the way there are now. It's just as simple as that to understand.
One of the main points is that this is the way it has always been, it's the way it is now, and it's the way it will be forever. So if you disagree, don't believe, don't want to believe, don't like it because you may have to start doing real work for a change, etc. and so forth - that's just too bad. This is the reality you need to deal with if you want to understand financial planning software. Please keep in mind that this site is just the messenger reporting on the true condition of things - so please don't get mad at us for being the only place that provides this information!
The paragraph above is there because the older you are, and the younger you are, the more you are going to resist all of this.
Why? Because it's not the "good 'ol days anymore." In the past, you could not "fake it" with goals-whatever software, because it didn't exist. It only exists because professional money advisers demanded something simple, easy, and deceptive in order to sell as much commission-based product as possible.
This is because doing real work for real money is too hard nowadays. Advisers want to make as much money as possible, while doing the least amount of work as possible. So this whole type of money software was invented in the early 2000's (when life started to get noticeably harder and harder every day).
Basically if you're "old," then you are incapable of "learning new tricks." These folks don't want to learn how to do things right, by creating actual financial plans. They also correctly think faking it with goals-whatever software on a phablet is just to stupid to contemplate. So they use mostly modules, and still Fact Find using yellow pads.
Then young people are becoming set in their ways, because they were "trained" (by their sales managers of their Wall Street overlords) that this is how things are done, and the "old ways" don't work anymore. So the younger you are, the more you've been brainwashed to ignore reality.
So if you're in the middle - not too old to be "set in your ways," and not too young to "know just enough to be dangerous" then you're probably open to learning how the world actually works. Basically, if you're "young," then you think if something can't be done on a phone or table (AKA a phablet), then it's "not good." So you can be "cool" by using the newest cloud-based money app, or you can be good and actually earn your compensation, by using real software tools but you cannot be both at the same time.
So capitulate - if you're too old or young to be in this business, then your days are numbered for the simple reason that your brain is broken, too small, and just not capable of performing actual work in exchange for actual compensation. So you'll be out of the biz one way or another in a couple of years. Just the new DoL Fiduciary Rules will take care of that all by itself.
The main thing to note is that this whole type of software is improperly labeled to deceive you into thinking it's actual cash flow-based, and therefore produces accurate forecasts that can be relied upon. Goalware is not financial planning software and thus cannot be relied upon to make future financial forecasts.
So right off the bat, you're dealing with all of the usual "Wall Street shenanigans" designed to transfer money from your wallet into theirs - while providing little-to-nothing of actual value.
Then, last and least, "whatever" is in the label we use, because vendors that have branded their goals software with names, are protective of that, so they make everyone use different names. So don't fall for this deception either - it's all the same thing, regardless of the words that go after the word goal or goals, which are: Goals-only, -focused, -orientated, -based, etc. and so forth.
These are just the words used to let you know that the program is not modular, not cash flow-based, and not post-retirement planning software. Goalware is its own special and unique category of financial software that deals with just one thing, and that's financial goals.
About Post-retirement Planning Software
This is the elephant in the room that even the most experienced financial planning software users are ignoring, have yet to figure out, and are still wasting tons of time, money, and work trying to get a grip on.
Using full-blown comprehensive and integrated cash flow-based financial planning software is not needed when one is either already retired, and/or is a few years away from retirement (and doing well).
This is because if someone is two years away from retirement, and has plenty of money, then there's little-to-no reason to make a time-consuming fuss about accounting for their annual cash flow surpluses - which is one of the main reasons to use cash flow-based software (instead of just a post-retirement planner). If they're fine and you know it, then you're probably just doing a lot of extra work for nothing.
However, the less one if "fine," the more one needs to use cash flow-based software to account for every dollar. So even if one is only two years away from retirement, if there's not tons of money to retire on, then there's still enough value there to warrant the work.
If one is already retired, then accounting for annual cash flow surpluses and/or deficits is mostly moot. This is because in years when net income exceeds expenses, which would normally result in a surplus that needs to be put to productive uses; when retired this (usually) means less money needs to be withdrawn from investment assets. In years when expenses exceeds income, which would normally result in a deficit that needs to be funded by either borrowing money or tapping savings; when already retired, this usually results in having to withdraw more money from investments.
The point is that both of these things are handled completely differently when earned income stops. When earned income stops and investment / retirement / pension / Social Security income starts, then the need to use cash flow-based software significantly declines because the need to account for and deal with surplus and deficits significantly declines. Not only does it decline - it goes away completely, because surpluses and/or deficits are words used to account for the end result of all earned income - which by definition, stops at retirement.
So a bottom line in this context, is there are two distinct modes of number crunching when it comes to financial planning and retirement planning: Pre-retirement (AKA the accumulation phase) and post-retirement (AKA the distribution phase). These two modes are different in so many ways, when it comes to calculating numbers, that one needs to put money software into its proper category before being able to use it.
So that answers the question of why all actual cash flow-based financial planning software stops dealing with annual cash flow surpluses and deficits when retirement begins. It does this because that's just how life works in the Real World.
Then it needs to be pointed out that goalware only has its limited value before retirement. This is because its main value is telling you how much needs to be invested to reach a future goal. That's why the word goal is in every name from every vendor.
So after someone is retired, and have met all of their major life goals, goalware has little-to-no value. There is not one thing of value a fake portfolio optimizer married to a fake Monte Carlo simulator can do to maximize the chances of constructing an investment portfolio to both help it to maximize income needed to pay ever-increasing bills, and make it last until age 100. That's not what it's programmed to do, so it just cannot do that.
When retirement begins, goalware like MGP stops being in goal-focused fantasyland mode, and goes into a mode similar to the way our RWR's work. So other than their numbers being inaccurate everywhere, most all goalware isn't blatantly fake after retirement begins.
The point here is that when retirement begins, then our simple Real World Retirement planners provide much more value, for only $100 to $250. In addition to the most accurate numbers in the industry, there's a very long list of reasons, features, and functionality that makes MGP's after-retirement programming look like a total joke, compared to our RWRs.
So after retirement begins, then just get Dual RWR to get the best there is in this mode.
So the bottom line here is to use the right tool for the job. If you need to deal with just goals, then use goalware. If one is more than a few years away from retirement, and is not "rich," then use real cash flow-based software. If one is either already retired, and/or is close enough and rich enough, then just use the retirement module (and not goals nor cash flow-based software).
So as you can now see, using just modules will get the jobs done better than both cash flow-based and goals-based planners in most cases. Taking the time to first decide on using the right tool for the job is usually a prudent first step that will be more than worth the time spent on it in the long-run. It's just as simple as that.
About the New DoL Fiduciary Rules
First, it needs to be pointed out that there's no such thing as "DoL-ready / approved / friendly / compliant" financial planning software. All that is as valid as saying their software is, "Award-winning, 5-star rated, best reviewed, voted most popular, and cited by every money magazine on the planet as the solid gold platinum standard."
Black Hat money software vendors just made all of that up to fool you into thinking such things exist, so you'll give them your money.
Money software are just the tools one uses to do whatever it is they do. Just like a hammer, one (a fee-only financial planner) can use it to construct something good, honest, fair, and useful; or one (a commission-based Broker Dealer Rep) can use it bop you on the head so you'll be stunned enough to allow them to "steal your money."
The Black Hat financial software vendors are now in the process of using every lie, deception, and dirty trick in the book to get you to believe that their programs are DoL compliant, approved, friendly, fit for use, will keep you out of trouble, etc. and so forth.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The more they tout their financial plan software as being "DoL friendly," the more their deceptive goalware is exactly what the government is trying to ban. They're just making up new combinations of words to fool you.
Why? Because they know most people are exactly that stupid! These shenanigans have always worked in the past, it's working now, and it will work in the future. Like PT Barnum did not say, "There's a sucker born every minute!"
So just don't fall for their latest round of shenanigans. The best thing you can do to protect yourself, your clients, and therefore your practice, is to learn how financial planning software actually works, which is what this page is about.
Then you may be able to see for yourself that the most egregious offenders of truth, justice, and the American way (e.g., PieTech / MoneyGuidePro / Riskalyze) are just desperately trying everything they can to survive in this new anti-shenanigans world.
They're doing this to try to dupe you into believing that they have something nobody else has - and what we've been offering since day one - actual financial planning software that produces accurate numbers to the point that one can rely on it to plan their financial futures.
Regardless of how much lipstick you put on a pig, goals-whatever software is usually just slick marketing deceptions, faked numbers, and just one part of a financial plan taken out of context; all wrapped up in the usual financial services shenanigans in order to move commission-based products. It's just as simple as that.
The Differences Between Online and Offline Financial Planning Software
Stating the obvious first - if you install a financial planning software program on your computer, and it does not require an internet connection, and/or your using Excel as the platform, then this is offline money software. The main advantages here are power, speed, control over everything including printing, transparency, and security.
Everything else, especially if you have to log in to use it, is online financial planning software. There's only two advantages to the user here - and that it usually works on all devices with a browser, and it's "easy to use."
The list of advantages to cloud-based vendors are huge - which is why most all of them have migrated to a cloud-only service. The biggest advantage is that it greatly lowers their expenses.
The top three biggest problems are high costs to the user, the same high costs annually, it's slow because of internet server delays, and all vendors other than Advicent's full cash flow-based version of NaviPlan have calculation engines that are so pathetic that they can rarely perform any functions correctly. This is because financial software is so complex, that it's just not possible to code anything to run on a server with any speed. So the coding is lame, the hardware runs slow, it's full of bugs, etc. and so forth.
So because it's too hard, too expensive to maintain fast servers and good programmers, and takes too long to calculate numbers accurately (thus sucking up expensive resources to the vendor), most all numbers from all cloud-based vendors are "fake from BizarroWorld." They basically work on it until their numbers are of minimal acceptability, and then stop and move on to marketing.
The #1 thing to whine about when doing your confidential work on someone else's computer are the huge security risks. Not if, but when there's a breach from a major software vendor, which has already happened several times - the biggest is when Morningstar's database was hacked and ALL users that bought anything from them via credit card, had their card information given to Russian evil-doers. So it's just a matter of time before MoneyGuidePro is hacked, and all confidential information about all clients is put on the internet for all to see, use, and go shopping with.
Also with cloud coding, there is usually little-to-no transparency, control, flexibility, truth, accuracy, power, or control of printed reports. This is because all of that takes actual computing horsepower that cloud servers cannot yet provide (without spending a gazillion dollars for the hardware and then millions a year in maintenance).
The whole cloud thing is about reducing expenses to the bare minimums, not increasing them. So everything to do with that is about making it go faster by cutting corners, cheating, lying, omitting, erroring, and just faking it.
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