A bountiful summer crop of user-friendly improvements is ready for picking.

Balmy weather, school recess and vacations can sometimes conspire to create a summer lull in the financial advisory business, but it is often a busy time of year for the technology vendors who serve us. This year is no exception. In what appears to be turning into an annual event, our government has seen fit to make "revisions" to the tax code, which sent software vendors scurrying to incorporate the changes into their financial planning programs.

Even without tax changes, summer is usually a busy time, because some vendors like to time their new releases to coincide with the busy fall conference season. In this issue, we highlight the recent activities at three developers of financial planning software: Money Tree Software, PIE Technologies Inc. (MoneyGuidePro), and WealthTec LLC. In addition, you'll learn of a new utility, Attach Plus, and receive a brief update of the goings on at ProTracker Software.


WealthTec founder and President Howard L. Eisenberg, CPA/PFS, CFP, CEBS, CLU, ChFC, readily admits that his firm's programs are not right for everyone, but those who are qualified to use them currently receive an incredibly good deal. WealthTec's original program, WealthMaster, a Microsoft Excel-based product, now contains 56 modules. Many of the modules offer the user a great deal of control when modeling both intermediate and advanced planning techniques. For example, the deceptively simple looking VA (variable annuity) Investment Planner allows the advisor to select from five different life expectancy tables; there's also a life expectancy override. One can control assumptions with regard to tax law, such as whether or not to assume sunset provisions will take effect. Contribution term, variable or fixed contribution, contribution timing (monthly, annually, etc.), and withdrawal options are all highly customizable. If a modified carryover basis regime applies to the illustration, it can be modeled as well.

Other modules for tax and financial planning include a capital needs planner, education funding planner and a mortgage investment planner. Planners for qualified plans and IRAs include a CRT (charitable remainder trust) planner, a lump sum distribution planner and a Section 72 (t) planner. Estate modules include a GRAT (grantor retained annuity trust) planner and an IDGT (intentionally defective grantor trust) planner.

WealthMaster received a significant update in June to comply with the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. Other improvements to the Financial Profile module include better integration, improved usability and new asset allocation pie charts. Users of WealthTec's Counselor program can now access and print Counselor presentations from within WealthMaster.

WealthTec's Counselor, released in the second quarter of this year, consists of a series of Microsoft PowerPoint presentations covering a variety of wealth planning topics. While there is one presentation that serves as an introduction to estate planning, these slide shows are geared to a more sophisticated audience. The topics include charitable lead unitrust, flip charitable remainder trust, installment sales, private annuities and sales to defective grantor trusts. Overall, these well-written presentations do an excellent job of explaining advanced planning techniques to clients while avoiding technical jargon.

WeathTec's Foundations, now in beta testing and scheduled for release this fall, is a comprehensive planning product designed for the high-end retirement planner, estate planner or insurance expert. Since the focus of this program is estate and insurance it omits asset allocation capabilities, which means less data entry is required.

In contrast to WealthMaster's 56 modules, Foundations contains only three. FinancePro is a lifetime cash flow model for retirement and insurance planning. This is the core module where client data is saved. Much of the data entered here automatically passes to EstatePro. EstatePro is an integrated, cash-flow-driven estate planning model. DesignPro extends the EstatePro functionality by importing up to three EstatePro cases for side-by-side comparisons, and adds the estate planning flowcharts for each scenario. Monte Carlo simulations can be applied to variables in both the FinancePro and EstatePro modules.

Eisenberg says he is particularly pleased with the insurance planning capabilities of the product. The FinancePro module, which handles integrated lifetime cash flows, adds morbidity and mortality scenarios. The user selects which scenario applies to the client, spouse or both, death, disability or long-term care.

Input screens handle such items as insurance premiums, benefits, special expenditures.. MCS applies to any scenario. Eisenberg says that the user can turn on or off income and/or expense items on an item-by-item basis under any scenario; so, for example, a client's salary is turned off in the client disability or client death scenario.

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