Financial GPS is a financial planning software program that shows investors how long their money will last in various situations. The software program is set up in a tabbed format and is easy to use.
The program includes budgeting tools that allow you to create and track a budget, post transactions, reconcile the budget target with your actual spending, and print reports on your budget progress. While these features are useful, Financial GPS sets itself apart from similar programs with its Gap Analysis and Big Picture tools.
The Gap Analysis feature compares your spending and saving habits to help you find and close any financial gaps. You must input your anticipated retirement age, average interest rate, inflation, desired annual income during retirement, number of years after retirement you will need income and your current investment values. The program then calculates the difference between what you need and what you currently have saved for retirement. It also tells you the amount you need to save annually to close the gap.
The Big Picture simulation tool allows you to test various scenarios for saving and retirement income. You need to input cash values, expected return on investments, inflation rates, expenses and yearly income. You can enter yearly withdrawals set for a specific number of years and that take into account yearly increases in the income stream. The data is displayed in a table, which makes it easy to adjust and see when and where your income might fall short.
If you register your program with the Web site, you can view video tutorials. Overall, the Big Picture analysis offers a way to plan for retirement and to see how minor changes in saving will impact your future retirement income.
$39.99, on-line download; $49.99, CD ROM; free seven-day trial for AAII members using this link: www.ameriprepsolutions.com/aaii
Windows 2000, 2003, XP and Vista; 128MB RAM; 450MB hard disk space
Alerts4All was created by a group of Wall Street technology veterans to bring formerly restricted investment banking and hedge fund technology to individual investors.
Alerts4All allows you to monitor stock prices in real time. Alerts can be delivered immediately via E-mail, or sent to your RSS reader or cell phone. A free trial version uses data that is delayed 20 minutes; a subscription to the site is required to access real-time data.
Once you have created a username and password, you simply enter a ticker symbol or company name to begin. Next you can choose from a number of alerts including price and volume, technical indicators and chart formations. Sample price alerts include: price falls or rises by a certain percentage, price gaps up or down by a certain percentage, or price reaches a percentage of its 52-week high. Technical indicator alerts compare the current price to a number of moving averages. Chart formation alerts deal with flag and double-top formation breakouts. A handful of predefined alerts are set up for each stock as well.
After alerts have been created, you choose the method of delivery. At the Web site, each stock has its own window that shows the alerts and a small price and volume chart (this page is also customizable).
While many on-line brokerage firms and financial Web sites offer price and volume alerts for free, Alerts4All’s technical indicators and chart formation alerts are fairly unique.
$9 per month; free 30-day trial
Discount broker Charles Schwab has improved its StreetSmart trading platform for active traders. New features include customizable trading alerts and advanced charting tools. A demo of the platform is available on the site for free. Three software platforms are offered, ranging from a simple and free Web-based application to a powerful software program with fees based on account size and trading volume.
TradeStation Securities provides trading software for active traders. Its TradeStation 8.4 trading platform now includes TradeStation Scanner, which scans, sorts and ranks stocks by over 500 fundamental data indicators. You can also create customized indicators. After you have scanned the database, you can drag and drop stocks into a real-time market monitoring tool called RadarScreen. You can also schedule automatic scans. A free 30-day trial is available.
Forex Pros, a forex data site, has launched a new Live Economic Events Calendar, which keeps track of economic events and indicators that drive the forex market. The calendar offers descriptions of the events and rates their relative importance in affecting the market. For each data point, you can see current values, previous figures and a forecasted value.
Briefing.com provides traders with market data, news and commentaries for free and more advanced services for a fee. New additions to the site include additional research services and customized search filters and E-mail alerts. Briefing.com also repackaged its services to offer varying subscriptions for active investors, asset managers and individual investors.
Traders can access eSignal’s market data and news from various Java-enabled mobile devices using QuoTrek. The latest version’s enhancements include the ability to view five portfolios with up to 15 symbols each, access to real-time pricing on a scrollable screen, and added news covering Dow Jones energy and commodities stocks. A free 30-day trial is available; subscriptions cost $59.95 per month.
E*Trade’s Power E*Trade Pro platform now includes a strategy scanner that offers over 25 predefined, customizable trading strategies to constantly scan the U.S. market. Additionally, you can view real-time technical and fundamental data on various industries and sectors. Finally, a new Excel plug-in feature enables additional customization and the ability to create spreadsheets with conditional order algorithms using various cost basis methodologies. The Power E*Trade Pro platform is free for active traders (those who make more than 30 trades per quarter).