A trend is developing in the financial planning community, an idea that less might be more. Specifically, advisors have begun to think they should shorten and simplify the financial planning reports they share with clients. This is not to say they are letting the quality of the planning erode—just that they are making what they deliver to clients easier to understand. According to advisors who have embraced the concept, it better serves the clients to not overload them with an 80-to-100-page document they probably won’t read.

Shorter reports also decrease the workload. After the data entry and analysis are done, it’s likely to take much more time to prepare and explain a huge document.

Advisors are also facing the emergence of online “robo advisors” that charge much less in fees, and a simpler approach to report planning allows professionals to focus on their personal touch—something robo advisors don’t have.

Software providers are now stepping up to the plate with new ways for advisors to approach document production. Such companies as MoneyGuidePro (www.moneyguidepro.com) and Advicent, creator of NaviPlan (www.advicentsolutions.com/) have created tools in their software that allow advisors to present plans in fun and interactive ways, plans that are clear but don’t overwhelm the client with details and minutiae.

MoneyGuidePro has incorporated four key features for this. The first is the “Financial Snapshot,” a visual way to show clients their progress toward long-term goals, not just investment or portfolio returns. The second feature is called “SuperSolve,” a visual way for a client to see his or her probability of success in reaching a particular goal, using a speedometer graphic. The third feature is called the “Play Zone,” a set of sliders that permit the advisor and client to adjust the time needed for a certain goal and the amounts necessary in an easy-to-understand format. The fourth feature is the “Social Security Max” tool, which allows the advisor to create up to six different ways to approach the maximization of a client’s Social Security income. All these tools can be used in front of the clients.

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