Not all retirement income planning software is alike, cautions a paper presented at the Pension Research Counsel Spring Symposium in Philadelphia.
Some programs are satisfactory for households with relatively simple finances, while others are able to handle fairly complex financial situations, the paper says.
In particular, professional software used by financial planners allows for analysis of complex financial situations encountered by wealthy individuals, the authors contend.
But financial planning software available free over the internet should be “viewed as educational tools to help users address major issues in financial planning rather than for making detailed projections,” they say.
The paper was presented by Anna Rappaport, founder and principal of Rappaport Actuarial Consulting, Chicago, and John Turner, director of the Pension Policy Center, Washington. It draws on industry research from Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Ill.; LIMRA International, Windsor, Conn.; InFRE, Lubbock, Texas; The Actuarial Foundation, Schaumburg, Ill.; and NAVA, Inc., Reston, Va. (now the Insured Retirement Institute, Washington, D.C.).
Increasingly, when planning for retirement, people turn to computer-based programs for assistance, the authors note.
But the programs vary in several ways, they continue. For instance, some programs provide advice on investments and portfolios, or how much to save for retirement, or how to manage retirement resources and risks, while others provide combinations of these types of advice. In addition, the programs differ in addressing household income levels and complexity of household finances.
The financial crisis of 2008-2009 exposed weaknesses in retirement planning and software used to support planning, maintain Rappaport and Turner.
For example, they say it is not clear whether the stochastic modeling that the programs use is helpful in focusing people on “tail events” or how to deal with these events. “Deterministic approaches tend to focus people on single answers unless they do multiple scenarios,” the authors explain.
Further, although the crisis has focused many people on the importance of working longer and changing the age at which they will retire, not all of this software is able to evaluate this or do it properly, they contend.