How to choose the right software for retirement planning

Questions about retirement often keep clients up at night: Can I afford to retire within the next 10 years? What will happen if I retire at age 60 instead of 65? What if I have a health care crisis? What if the market tanks after I retire?

Often, the first person they go to with these questions is their CPA.

Today’s clients expect retirement advice from their CPA, and they are looking to their CPA to guide them through confusion and uncertainty. However, without the right tools, it’s difficult to give clients the best and most useful guidance. Financial planning software can be a powerful way to open retirement planning conversations with clients; craft retirement plans that take into account their needs, hopes, and dreams; and show them the results of different retirement scenarios. If you do any kind of retirement planning with clients, it’s something to consider investing in.

If you’re already thinking about buying new financial planning software or updating the software you have, though, you’re facing a complex decision. There are myriad types of software to choose from, each with its pros and cons, and a variety of features to consider. This article takes a look at how financial planning software can enhance your practice, followed by a high-level overview of features to consider when selecting a package.

WILL EXCEL SUFFICE?

Some CPAs use spreadsheets to make retirement projections, but that method is usually not ideal. Spreadsheets have to be customized for every retirement scenario, said Michael Goodman, CPA/PFS, president and principal at Wealthstream Advisors Inc. What’s more, he noted, they can create quality-control issues. For instance, if you use a spreadsheet only sporadically throughout a client engagement, you may not remember what you set up within it from one meeting to the next. If multiple employees work on the same spreadsheet, maintaining consistency may also be a problem.

A more robust option for helping clients with retirement planning is to use specialized financial planning software. In a nutshell, you (and in some cases, your client) input data and variables, and the software provides you with a retirement plan that you can then fine-tune. Most types of financial planning software can integrate investments, taxes, cash flow, insurance, and estate planning into a cohesive analysis to guide your clients in making informed decisions and avoid operating in a silo or vacuum.

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