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As more people are living longer, many worry that they will outlive their retirement savings. One way to help determine whether you have realistic retirement expectations, and whether you will have the money necessary to retire the way you want, is by using financial planning software. For non-financial planners, this often means using a Web-based resource or personal financial software such as Quicken. Another software-based solution is Financial Fate, which offers robust "what-if" analysis to help you see if you will be financially solvent in the future or on the road to bankruptcy.
When you first open the program, you can click on the "What You'll Need" on the Welcome screen to determine what financial documentation you will need. This includes mortgage terms, your most recent federal and state income tax returns, pay stub, bank and credit card statements, the latest "Your Social Security Statement" from the Social Security Administration, and pension plan information. If you don't have a current copy of your social security statement, Financial Fate provides information on how to obtain one. The first time you start the program, you create a new financial plan and then begin entering data. You can save up to five different plans with the program.
The data entry process is divided among 10 different planning topics, including personal information, life expectancy and retirement ages, income and expenses, investments, insurance coverage, social security benefits, and pension plans. All of this information must be entered manually, but the program's easy-to-use interface makes the process relatively painless. The more data you enter, the more complete a financial picture the program is able to draw for you, so don't give into the temptation of providing only the minimum amount of information.
As you enter data, your "financial fate" changes within the program. You can see whether you are solvent for life or headed for bankruptcy, along with your projected net worth at the end of your life. This projected net worth is in future dollars, but you can also see your net worth in today's dollars by hovering the mouse over the "tip" question mark next to the net worth amount.
Financial Fate dubs itself "fully verifiable" since users can see all of the underlying data that goes into the analysis of your financial plan. The program also makes the assumptions that go into the calculations fully transparent. You can click on "Assumptions" at the bottom of the program window to display the various percentages related to the specific planning topic you are working on and change them if appropriate.
Beyond providing you with a clearer picture of your financial future, Financial Fate also offers "what-if" analysis to gauge the impact of changing the underlying assumptions of your financial plan. For example, if you choose an earlier retirement age, the program automatically makes the necessary adjustments to social security and pension benefits and calculates whether it is financially viable.
The program offers several reports with year-by-year depictions of your income and expenses, taxes, assets and liabilities and, ultimately, your net worth. The only drawback is the program does not currently allow you print these reports, so you can only view them on-screen.
I was impressed with the level of detail offered by Financial Fate, especially since it is a free product. Some may find the manual data entry tedious, but the end result is well worth it. Keep in mind that while the program attempts to help you achieve your financial goals, it is important to consult with a financial planner or tax professional before making changes to your financial plan based on the program's analysis.
Financial Fate v1.0
Systems: Windows 95+, including Vista and Windows 7
Available here at the AAII Download Library.