Wealth Starter. (software) (evaluation)
by Peter Plaut
If you're like most people, you want to successfully provide for your family, put your children through college without taking out hefty loans, and have plenty of retirement money when the time comes. Wealth Starter is the personal financial planning system designed to help an individual or family control spending habits and set such financial goals. In addition to its other capabilities, Wealth Starter makes financial projections using tax rates, inflation rates, and expected investment returns to help project what steps you should take to achieve your goals; it even lets you see how you compare to the rest of the country.
Wealth Starter bases its financial model on the sound premise that you should have a cash reserve of three to six months' worth of expenses. From that, Wealth Starter enables you to set up a budget designed to help you reach your financial goals. After you've defined the parameters for yourself or your family (the program comes with several predefined goals such as debt reduction, retirement, education, and so on), Wealth Starter compiles four graphs (goals, monthly budget, projected cumulative budget, and net worth) and gives you such reports as a financial report card, budget tips, projected budget, and net worth.
Wealth Starter even lets you easily see if your goals are attainable. To do this, simply change certain parameters to view how these changes could affect your goals or your budget. If you Use Quicken 3.0 or 4.0, you can import your budget data from Quicken, saving yourself double entry every month.
Here's one of the best features of the budget program: Wealth Starter will automatically reduce your liability amounts every month when you enter your payments. However, make sure you enter only the principal-and-interest part of the payment. Some monthly payments are loaded with things like taxes and credit life and health insurance. This loan balance information is valuable-use it at the end of the year to compare notes with your lending institution to prevent costly miscalculation.
There are some other nice loan-utility programs in Wealth Starter as well. The loan comparer is a good way to find the best loan when you shop for home mortgages. Wealth Starter will compare the variables from different institutions to let you know which rate is the most economical. There is also a loan calculator-a must when you're shopping for an item like a new car and are going to finance the purchase. Make sure your numbers compare to the seller's; this is a sure way to find out if any unwanted items like credit life or health insurance are added to your purchase price. There's even a loan-balance program to help you analyze hypothetical loans you may be considering.
Wealth Starter's only obvious disadvantage is its cumbersome sub-menus. They can be confusing, but with some practice you'll have no problem navigating through them. And don't forget the user's guide-it's less than I 00 pages and should be read before beginning Wealth Starter.
To get ahead financially, you should have a picture of where you're going and how you plan to get there. Wealth Starter can help provide you with the road map to your financial success. And while you're at it, you can even find out if planning a trip to Europe is in your future.
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