Frequently Asked Questions

Many so-called “planning tools” are simply aggregators. They pull together your account balances each time you sign in and show you your current balance year-to-date. That’s handy, especially when you have accounts spread around at different brokerage companies where you can’t see them all at once.

But that’s not financial planning. It’s simply telling you something you already more or less know (or could create in a spreadsheet) and it’s a convenience feature, not a life-cycle planning feature.

So what is the fundamental difference between conventional planning and MaxiFi Planning (what we call economic planning)?

Conventional planning builds its model around user-entered spending amounts. The user of conventional planning software is sooner or later asked some form of the following question: “How much do you need to live on in retirement?” If that question sounds familiar, you are using conventional planning software. Sometimes users know how much they need, sometimes they use a rule of thumb like 80% of pre-retirement income, sometimes they just guess. At any rate, the variable comes from outside the model itself and thus becomes a premise of the model not an outcome of the model. MaxiFi’s economic planning works a different way: it takes your inputs and discovers your allowable annual spending level. Instead of asking you to tell the program how much you need to live on, MaxiFi discovers and reveals to you how much is available. This annual spending allowance is new information. It’s not something you could ever discover on your own without complex programming. Every item in MaxiFi's planning model impacts every other item, and they all work together to reveal in MaxiFi the household’s annual spending level.

Why does this difference matter?

  1. A calculated spending level becomes a reliable benchmark to use when comparing models
  2. A calculated spending level is new information, not simply repackaging (or creating a chart of) known information
  3. A calculated spending level is a mathematical outcome, a fact about a household’s economy, not a wish, goal, hunch, or rule of thumb.
  4. A calculated spending level is including future receipts like Social Security, pensions, taxes, Medicare B, retirement withdraws, mortgages, and on and on. When one item, even the most trivial item changes, the calculated spending level is refreshed.
  5. A calculated spending level focuses on smooth, sustainable spending, not savings targets.
  6. A calculated spending level provides a practical, meaningful answer to financial planning question (compared to the abstraction of a simple Monte Carlo conclusion).

MaxiFi does all this with a level of detail and precision not typically found in other planning software.

Maxifi

  • Calculates state and federal taxes based on income for each year
  • Calculates actual Social Security benefits and finds optimal benefit collection strategies
  • Does not build its model around user-specified premise such as how much one needs to live on in retirement
  • Dynamically incorporates every future receipt and expense in a way that displays the meaningful difference it makes in annual spending starting in the current year rather than a Monte Carlo abstraction like “87% chance of success.”
  • MaxiFi’s sophisticated Monte Carlo allows you to run a risk analysis on your model showing the upside potential and downside risk to your annual spending level, not simply to an isolated pool of retirement assets.

MaxiFi gives you all this without any compromise. Our company doesn’t sell your data, we don’t manage your assets and make money from fees. We’re simply in the business of writing software to help people make smarter financial decisions.

MaxiFi Planner has been updated to incorporate the provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Learn more about these changes and how you can use MaxiFi to see their impact on your lifetime finances.

Are you a current customer experiencing a problem with MaxiFi? Create a support ticket

Our standard technical and product support is through email-based support tickets. We are very responsive to customer support requests and most customers find our software easy to use and our email-based support can usually answer any questions.

Read more about customer support

View the MaxiFi Planner User Manual

Yes, MaxiFi software is not just for planning retirement, it’s a tool that helps you make smarter financial decisions at any stage of life. By trying out different scenarios and comparing your living standard under each, you can see the consequences of many decisions such as:

  • Taking a new job
  • Having a child
  • Buying a home
  • Moving to a different state
  • Paying off student loans
  • How much to spend each year
  • How much to save each year
  • How much life insurance to buy

The major difference is that MaxiFi Planner is web based and ESPlanner is a download that runs on Windows. However, there are some features in MaxiFi that are not in ESPlanner and vice versa. See this comparison chart for details.

Yes, MaxiFi software can help retirees make all kinds of decisions. By trying out different scenarios and comparing your living standard under each, you can see the consequences of many decisions such as:

  • Downsizing your home
  • Purchasing long-term care insurance
  • Postponing Social Security
  • Continuing to buy life insurance
  • Paying off your mortgage
  • Different investment and spending strategies
  • Different ages of initiating retirement account withdrawals
  • How much to spend each year
  • How much to help with a child or grandchild's education or other needs
  • Changing the order of withdrawal from retirement accounts (Roth vs. Regular IRA)
  • Moving to a different state
  • Annuitizing all or part of your 401(k)

MaxiFi is a long-range planning tool that helps you to build life-cycle models (i.e., models that reflect various periods of saving and dissaving; children in the house, children left home; working, retirement, etc.). It is not primarily an asset allocation tool or an investment analyzer that shows historical yield, standard deviation, or any other kind of data you might explore about funds or asset classes. This kind of analysis is typically free at your brokerage or investment company like Fidelity or Vanguard. A free tool like portfolio visualizer is very powerful in this regard.

The very powerful and free tools that do statistical analysis, backtest analysis, asset correlations, factor analysis, portfolio optimization are useful in context but in no way capable of doing what our software does which is to reveal an endogenous lifetime spending amount, accounting for you changing federal and state taxes, your future receipts like Social Security, pensions, declining mortgage, inflation . . . pretty much any sort of expense or receipt with whatever tax consequence you can imagine and account for that in its calculation of smooth annual discretionary spending over a lifetime. This spending amount can serve as a mathematical benchmark against which you can measure the impact of any financial event: How does spending an annual sum of $36 or $36,000 15 years from now change my spending this year and every year thereafter? How much is this lifetime annual spending changed if I postpone SS til I'm 70? If I assume an average nominal return on my retirement assets of 6% instead of 5.75%, how much would my annual discretionary spending change? The list of such "what if's" is up to the imagination.

We strive at all times to provide our software and services in a manner that preserves customer privacy and data security. We follow best practices in the financial software industry to keep your data safe and secure, including industry-standard levels of encryption of data in transit and at rest.

Read more about our security practices

Most other financial planning software companies have other ways of making money, usually by managing and investing your assets or selling you financial products such as life insurance. Our sole focus is developing personal financial planning software to provide you with a solid, detailed financial plan you can trust.

Learn more about our company

The free tools also use simplistic, outdated "rules of thumb" and lack precision when it comes to crucial aspects of your plan, such as Social Security benefits and state taxes. Because our focus is on planning, we constantly work to improve the power and accuracy of our software.

Learn more about what makes our software different, and better

Yes, MaxiFi software works on most common tablets and phones and data entry is very easy on any device. However, because MaxiFi software presents detailed financial information, you may find that you have a better experience reviewing reports by using a tablet or larger device rather than a phone.

MaxiFi software is web based and works on any modern version of Windows, Mac OS, or Linux using any modern web browser, such as Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

You might begin thinking about this by reviewing the comparison chart linked below. Note that not all of the features in ESPlanner are yet included in MaxiFi Planner, but we have a quarterly schedule set to roll in features and enhancements and will prioritize these based on some technical considerations but also customer feedback where possible.

ESPlanner and MaxiFi Planner Feature Comparison

The case for switching to MaxiFi:

One obvious difference in the programs is the platform and user interface. If having your plan in the secure cloud, accessible from any computer is a big plus then +1 for MaxiFi. Another big plus is that we do the updates to the program for you--no more downloading and installing the update for features or bug fixes.

We expect many or most users to prefer the web-based interface we have designed. Though it is different from ESPlanner and may take a short time to get used to, we think it's handier and easier to use and it certainly is much more pleasant to look at.

MaxiFi has some built in optimization features. You can run a Maximized Plan that will evaluate all the different Social Security benefit collection strategies and show you the one with the highest present value (this is very similar to what our Maximize My Social Security does for you, but it does its work in the context of your full financial plan). It also looks at different start dates for beginning your retirement withdrawals, annuitizing your retirement assets, and beginning withdrawals from Roth accounts first or last. It also allows you to look at any optimization that might result from changing your qualified retirement account contributions. These are all things you can experiment with manually in ESPlanner, but in MaxiFi Planner there's a one-button push to run your plan against these optimization features.

If these differences seem like an advantage to you and you don't need the real estate, estate planning, vacation home or other not-yet supported features then you will probably want to move over to MaxiFi Planner.

The case against switching to MaxiFi:

If you need the features in ESPlanner that are not yet supported in MaxiFi Planner and the case made above does not outweigh the benefits of the feature set in ESPlanner, you may want to stick with ESPlanner. You might also feel that ESPlanner is working fine for you now and wish to think about this later. We plan to maintain ESPlanner for a few more years at least, perhaps longer, though we do not plan to add any new features.

The Maximized Plan in MaxiFi Planner includes the exact same accurate and comprehensive Social Security optimization we have in our Maximize My Social Security (MMSS) tool.

MaxiFi Planner offers the additional context of a full, lifetime financial plan so you can see, and adjust, the real impact on your lifetime living standard. For example, if postponing Social Security to maximize benefits means you will be short on income until Social Security kicks in at age 70, you can use MaxiFi Planner to create a comprehensive financial plan that will help "smooth" this living standard through the shortfall.

Both programs allow you to see the total lifetime maximized benefits compared to the "what-if" lifetime benefits of Social Security filing dates you specify. However, because MMSS is a more focused program, it provides a lengthier, more detailed comparison report showing all the Social Security benefit details side-by-side, whereas in MaxiFi Planner the Social Security report is one of many reports but still clearly shows the best SS benefit collection strategy. The detailed MMSS report also provides several pages of additional explanation about different Social Security benefits and the ins-and-outs of filing strategies.

The Professional version of MMSS provides two reports that are not found in MaxiFi Planner: a Longevity report allowing side-by-side comparison of different maximum ages and an Alternate Plans report that allows you to compare three different what-if scenarios side-by-side.

In short, if you don't want a comprehensive financial plan but just want to know your optimized Social Security filing strategy, MMSS may be all you need. If you want a comprehensive financial plan with Social Security (and other) optimizations, then MaxiFi Planner may be all you need. If you (or your clients) want the comprehensive financial plan and also detailed, focused reports comparing the Social Security benefits and strategies, you may want both tools.

Details and policies regarding about customer support can be found on this page

The MaxiFi Planner User Manual provides general instructions on how to use the program.

Any other questions? Contact Us