The right software reduces work while making documents look better.

    Some practitioners might argue that the financial planning process is anything but efficient. This perception may be due, in part, to the way in which financial advisors choose to assemble financial plans. That perception leads to the question, "Is there a better way?" The answer may lie in how you want your financial plan to look once it's assembled.
    In conversations with financial practitioners across the country, many have described an assembly process that uses a number of diverse elements. Many seem to feel that no one software program is capable of containing all the elements needed to produce the plan they want to present to their clients. Therefore, advisors often use a number of different programs to fill in the gaps or strengthen the overall presentation.
    Use of unrelated programs that do not necessarily share data poses its own set of challenges, though. Often, information has to be typed into different programs over and over again. And, the eventual output from various sources may have the wrong pagination, contain different fonts and type sizes and may even look different owing to page design differences (headers, footers, auto spacing, etc.)
    The result is often a mishmash of software outputs jammed together in a three-ring binder and declared a financial plan. Though some might suggest that a financial plan doesn't have to be pretty, experts suggest that a document that is produced in a consistent look, such as typeface, headers, footers, colors, spacing, consecutive pagination, etc., is more likely to be completely read and understood by the reader than is a document that is not consistent in style and appearance. And the fact remains that assembling a document can be a time-consuming task when working with diverse, unrelated software outputs.
    Software manufacturers have not lost sight of this. Many now offer comprehensive solutions to financial planning production, and are beginning to recognize the need to be able to share data from outside software products. And, with the trend toward Web-based financial planning software solutions, the flexibility and ease of use can only get better over time. A couple of popular choices in this category are MoneyGuidePro (MGP) ( and Naviplan Central (
    MoneyGuidePro offers unique collaboration features with its latest version (6.0), which allows the planner to share whatever level of detail or access needed with either a co-worker or the client. The output design has been enhanced and shifted to use the landscape printing format, to be more visually appealing. MGP prints to an Adobe .pdf format. In describing MGP's ability to import information from a variety of sources, CEO Robert Curtis, mentions that "the emphasis is on getting asset-level data." To that end, they have forged data-integration deals that integrate on a platform level. Their partnership with Investigo ( is an example of this platform-level thinking, with an end result of being able to share data across a platform that integrates client relationship management, portfolio management and financial planning.
    Naviplan Central offers a variety of levels of planning, based on the amount of specificity of details you might wish to share with the client. Each level is capable of building on the other, meaning that if you chose to produce a level one plan now and upgraded the client to a level two later, you could seamlessly integrate the data from the level one plan without the necessity of re-entering all the information. Their new financial assessment tool offers the opportunity to produce a quick look at such goals as retirement, education, major purchase and life insurance for clients in about ten minutes or so. Naviplan Central also offers collaboration features similar to MoneyGuidePro, and provides workflow reports to simplify supervision of employees or collaboration partners. Naviplan Central's document output can be directed to an Adobe Acrobat .pdf format or to a Microsoft Word document.
    Other, similar products include Advice America's Advisor Vision (, and Optima Technologies Interactive Advisory Solutions (IAS) (, though both offer features such as client relationship management and/or portfolio management components similar to the Investigo platform.
    But what if you are not using one of the above-mentioned software products and would still like to find ways to integrate outside sources into a consistent document? Well, depending on your chosen financial planning software, it still may be possible to create the desired end result. To begin, you will need a common assembly point. This could be Adobe Acrobat ( or Microsoft Word (, depending on the structure of your software and how it chooses to print documents. Most programs allow you to print to a specific printer and offer the ability to choose that printer. This gives you the opportunity to select a .pdf print driver as your chosen printer.
    Once selected, the document actually 'prints' to a file with the .pdf extension. It is recommended that you own Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional for this purpose. Or, owing to copyright expirations, you can now choose a less expensive alternative such as pdf995 ( With Adobe Acrobat 7.0 or the Suite version of pdf995, you can assemble a document from a variety of different outputs, creating a common look and feel. Combining different pdf files into a common document is a snap inside Adobe Acrobat 7.0. With the professional edition, you can even move pictures, graphs and text or edit directly in the document(s). Using Microsoft Word as your document assembler is equally easy, using familiar cut and paste routines. And, Microsoft Word allows you to choose to paste into the document using destination formatting, which eliminates a step in formatting text.
    However, there may be times when you only need to incorporate a single element, such as a graph or table from a program, into your plan. Or, you may have encountered an information source that does not permit you to print to a pdf driver. If that is the case, there is a nifty little tool out there just for you, and the good news is it's free. It is called Screen Hunter ( and it is a screen capture utility. (The paid version contains editing features not found in the free version) With this little tool, you can snatch a small part of anything displayed on your screen and paste it into your assembled document. The quality of the captured image is remarkably good.
    With a little practice, these document-assembly techniques can greatly speed up and enhance the overall process of producing a financial plan document. Advanced techniques could include writing macro commands to automate the most common assembly tasks, to increase the speed and efficiency of the overall financial plan production process.  

David Lawrence is a practice efficiency consultant and is president of David Lawrence and Associates, a practice consulting firm based in Lutz, Fla. ( David Lawrence and Associates is an approved sponsor of CFP Board of Standards continuing education credits and offers CE programs on a variety of topics, including the financial planning process.