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REVIEW: Financial Planning Software

With stirring signs of a fiscal recovery in the offing for 2011, it may be time for forward-looking accountants to become more aggressive in their pursuit of a financial planning practice.The practice is generally split into three differing parts:

*Financial planning, which identified the client's needs and goals and indicates priorities for wealth accumulation;
*Asset Allocation, which identifies the types of assets best used to maximize returns into order to meet those needs and goals;
*And rebalancing/re-selection tools, which keep the plan current over the number of years necessary.

In these three steps, however, lie complex layers of planning sophistication, and it is unlikely that a single planning tool will over the needs of every prospective client. This means that, in the first step of financial planning, accounting offices will either need to use planning software that is extremely scalable, or use more than one system.

Here's a brief roundup of leading products of both types.

eMoney 360/ eMoney 360Pro Version 6.0
eMoney Advisor
Conshohocken Pa.
(888) 362-4612
Price: eMoney 360 Pro, $6,000 subscription (annually); $540 (monthly) unlimited clients; eMoney 360, s$3,600 (annual); $324 (monthly) unlimited clients.

eMoney offers a suite of web-based planning toolsets, including two strong financial planning packages, each with its own approach to planning and with differing levels of sophistication.

eMoney360Pro, a financial planning and relationship-enhancing system, provides cash-flow-based planning for financial advisors. eMoney 360 offers accumulation analysis, annuity income, asset allocation, asset protection, business insurance, disability, education, long-term care, retirement, financial statement and life insurance modules.

In addition, the eMoney offers an AdvisorAssurance module, which allows organizations to manage their exposure; and an eMoney Everywhere program that integrates CRM, wireless, office and advisor tools with its Web-based applications to allow for data integration between eMoney 360 and 360 Pro with other tools. New this year is an additional module for eMoney Everywhere, which operates within Outlook to provide the planner with a panel contain client financial information, reports and ranking among clients based on net work, investible assets and assets under management. 

MasterPlan Financial Software
Vacaville, Calif.
(707) 451-8985
Price: $ 995 stand-alone version with six months of support

MasterPlan, a financial planning package aimed at the professional planner, presents everything a client owns, owes, earns, spends and pays in taxes for the current year, for every year until retirement, and to life expectancy.

MasterPlan's twelve functional areas of analysis include a retirement needs analysis; education funding analysis; real estate analysis; cash flow; tax planning; capital needs analysis; disability needs analysis; estate and trust planning; business valuation; asset allocation; budgeting and what-if scenarios. The inclusion of a what-if scenario function easily handles buying, selling and re-financing of assets. In addition, the software has strong tax planning capabilities - calculating for each year of a projection whether the tax was Table Tax or AMT. This is helpful in calculating where the unescalated AMT threshold looms, according to the plan's CPI assumptions.

New this year, though, is a new reporting service that handles preparation of reports based on input about the client, eliminating the need to manage the reports in-house. Reports available through this service include balance sheet (statement of financial condition - FDIC); business valuation analysis; capital needs (life insurance) analysis; disability needs analysis; education expense (college planning) analysis; estate planning; retirement needs analysis; personal residential property analysis; rental property analysis; and an insurance coverage report.

Modest in both price and appearance, MasterPlan is a very capable goals-based planning system with a strong service-bureau style reporting system that should appeal to busy accounting offices.

NaviPlan Select
Carlsbad, Calif.
(800) 237-6335
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Pricing: Starting at $1,395, with modules for an additional price.

NaviPlan Select
EISI has merged its flagship planning tools -- NaviPlan Standard and NaviPlan Extended - into an expanded product called NaviPlan Select. Now in version 12.01, the most recent version has added a Presentation Module -- an interactive sales tool that takes NaviPlan calculations and presents them in a slideshow format.

NaviPlan Select, a goals-based planning product. is scalable enough to handle both assessments and plans with varying degrees of complexity, depending on the needs of the client. Nine stand-alone calculators provide the client with quick answers to basic questions. Financial Assessments and Asset Allocation Assessments help to explore client goals and needs. Two Planning levels provide for basic to advanced complexities in the client plan.

A Scenario Manager is used to show how an alternative strategy would affect the client's plan, presenting side-by-side comparisons for alternate strategies and their impact. There is also a web-based format that offers enhanced client communication.

A sensibly priced planning tools with a solid reputation and high degree of flexibility, NaviPlan Select provides a welcome upgrade to the familiar NaviPlan product family.

Profiles Forecaster
Carlsbad, Calif.
(888) 692-3474
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Price: Profiles Forecast $595; $795 (web-based).

Profiles Forecaster
Profiles Forecaster offers a fast solution to provide the client with a basic plan in 25 minutes or less. It offers retirement planning, and survivor, disability and long-term-care needs, but not some of the more extensive allocation, disbursement and estate planning services available in Profiles Professional.

Now in version 5.0, Profiles Forecaster offers planning modules for retirement accumulation, education goals, survivor needs, long-term care needs and disability needs, with financial statements that cover net worth and budgeting. New budgeting features in Profiles Forecaster v5.0 help advisors track clients' living expenses to identify cash surpluses or deficits and make having an in-depth cash flow discussion with clients easier and more effective.

A quick planning solution, Profiles Forecaster nonetheless delivers a good base plan that can be upgraded to Profiles Professional when the client's needs demand - for an economical price.

Profiles Professional 10.0
Carlsbad, Calif.
(888) 692-3474
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Pricing: Starting at $1,045; $1,295 (web-based).

Profiles Professional is a more robust solution that places substantial emphasis on retirement considerations such as retirement fund acquisition and disbursement, asset allocation planning, disability, long-term care and death. The focus is on enhanced scenario presentation, as well as on streamlined client data entry and management; easier navigation via the left-side navigation system; and a Retirement Asset Results Timeline to track contributions, withdrawals, growth and account balance over the life of the plan.

The most recent release includes the new Presentation Module, a new interactive client presentation tool for both NaviPlan and Profiles, and new data integration for Profiles with Redtail CRM. A new case review feature in Profiles Professional v10.0 allows advisors to generate pre-populated client review worksheets and update existing plans for annual or periodic review and analysis.

Available in both desktop and web formats, Profiles Professional 10.0 offers a modular approach to planning that provides for the full range of client planning requirements in a robust presentation style.

PFP Relief
Hauppauge, N.Y.
(888) 999-1366
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Price: $395 annually.

PFP Relief
PFP Relief is a comprehensive program for personal financial planning that includes budget/cash flow, net worth, retirement planning, IRA Roth conversion, goal funding, education funding, mortgage amortization, investment planning and asset allocation, all packaged as a web 2.0-based application.

One of the eight modules in the AccountantsWorld Power Practice platform, PFP Relief offers professionally-designed reports and graphs that give an instant snapshot of the client's financial health and progress toward goals, but also make available the detail behind the charts for step-by-step review with the client. Standard reports include net worth, budget, retirement, education, estate planning, Roth IRA conversion, investment planning, loan amortization and other goals. The report modules can be customized to include, exclude or edit any of the information in the overview, summary, details, graphs or recommendations.

PFP Relief is a strong and consistent planning system that has proven popular with accountants for its rich reporting capabilities, modular planning approach and very economical pricing structure. One of the market leaders in web-based planning, it is also one of the most economical planning systems for accountants.

ViewPlan Advanced 4.9
CCH Tax and Accounting
Riverwoods, Ill.
(800) 449-8114
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Price: starts at $1,849.

ViewPlan Advanced 4.9
ViewPlan Advanced, which has strong capabilities in estate planning and retirement planning, enables practitioners to create unlimited planning scenarios, presenting up to three planning scenarios to clients at one time. For retirement planning, it provides comprehensive scenario planning supported by impressive graphs, spreadsheets and text reports.

CCH ViewPlan Advanced includes the most popular charitable and intra-family wealth transfer techniques, including charitable remainder annuity trusts; charitable lead unitrusts; charitable remainder unitrusts; grantor retained annuity trusts; net income with makeup CRUTs; grantor retained unitrust trusts; flip to CRUTs; grantor retained income trusts; pooled income funds; qualified personal residence trusts; charitable lead annuity trusts; self-canceling installment notes; installment sale to intentionally defective grantor trusts; and installment sale private annuities.

Version 4.9 features improved federal and state law builders with state updates for Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington; an updated gift tax exclusion increased to $13,000; an updated estate tax payable in installments; and revised tools and calculations.

ViewPlan Advanced offers a strong blend of planning systems with the additional benefits of the tax planning features in the CCH ProSystem fx family of products. Recent improvements to calculations and the ability to modify federal and state tax rate assumptions continue to make ViewPlan Advanced a powerful planning system with a tax emphasis accountants need.

Dave McClure

David P. McClure is a technologist and business consultant whose career has included eight years with the NASA Space Shuttle Program and assignments in marketing, environmental services, software publishing and broadband.  He founded the US Internet Industry Association, the nation's primary trade association for Internet and broadband companies.  In 2004 he was awarded a Cornerstone Award for leadership in the broadband industry.  In the same year, he was named to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, the non-profit corporation that oversees the nation's $8 billion universal service telecommunications fund.  His areas of expertise include software management, strategic and market planning, global technology policy and technology audits.  He is the author of more than 100 white papers on business management, technology, customer service and strategic planning.

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