News Column

Turning Into Online Retirement Planning

Jun 2 2000 10:56AM

Internet sites now offer a profusion of investment information.

By Jennifer Riley

June 2000 - Online investors can now opt to forgo human contact altogether, thanks to a slew of Web-based analysis tools that enable retirement strategizing with a few clicks of the mouse.

In a 1999 report, Forrester Research predicted that 4.3 million U.S. households would invest online by the end of this year, most drawn by the Internet's price and convenience.

Assuming these same factors will determine where investors turn for advice, several Web sites have begun offering an extensive array of investment information. The following are among the more useful for retirement planning. – Some of the benefits of Quicken's financial software are available here for free. The site's highlight is the Quicken 401(k) Advisor, which offers fund-specific allocation recommendations, investor-specific advice (e.g., how to establish and meet projected retirement income needs), and worksheets with actual funds from more than 600 employers' 401(k) plans that have been pre-loaded onto the Web site.

A less detailed worksheet helps investors with IRAs and educates them on the differences between traditional and Roth IRAs. The Retirement Planner guides investors in charting a course for retirement savings, but in order to save their information, users must register with Quicken. (Registration is free.) - Standard & Poor's contribution to online retirement planning costs $9.95 per month for premium services, which include specific financial recommendations from S&P analysts, financial planning services, professional stock screening tools, and mutual fund and IPO picks.

For those averse to paying a monthly charge, the free services include portfolio tracking, free real-time quotes, a personal home page, limited portfolio planning advice, and access to S&P research and news. Despite the newsy, this-just-in feel to the free site, users will soon realize that membership has its privileges: roaming beyond the home page is hampered by prompts to sign in or register for premium services. – "The community for 401(k) participants," as the site bills itself, takes on a lofty air when it borrows from Thoreau to describe its raison d'κtre: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost … now build foundations under them." With commentary, tips, news, education, and tools all geared toward making 401(k) investors as informed as possible, the site gains additional legitimacy by having as a columnist Ted Benna, the consultant who created the 401(k).

The site is news-oriented (lots of articles and two free weekly newsletters users can subscribe to) and has a 401(k) calculator to help investors figure out how much their 401(k) will be worth upon retirement. – The Real Life Investing Guide's site is the virtual companion to the eponymous book, which advises Generation X on all things investment-oriented. Visitors are educated on what 20- and 30-somethings should do now to plan for the future. Tutorial subjects include whether to roll over a 401(k) and how to save if you're self-employed. With an irreverent, witty style (the retirement section features the headline "Plaid Trousers in the Sun: Investing for Retirement"), the site is a clearinghouse of news and information. – SmartMoney magazine's online contribution to fiscal responsibility is chock full of tools to help investors plan for retirement. A variety of worksheets help investors forecast the value of their 401(k) upon retirement and determine which IRA is best for them. Two elements make the site unique: the detailed section on tax rules affecting retirement savings and the section geared for those who are already retired.

The "One Asset Allocator for Retirees" enables retirees to allocate their assets to achieve desired results by entering information such as how much equity they have in their home, how many years of part-time employment they expect to have, and how much money they'd like to leave to charities and heirs. – As one of the country's biggest mutual fund companies, Vanguard presents investors with much useful information regarding retirement planning – peppered with pitches for its own products, of course. Sections on the site include Choosing an IRA, Changing Jobs, Retiring, Choosing an Annuity, and Choosing a Corporate Plan.

The information available under each section heading caters to the novice as well as the advanced investor. A noteworthy element to the site is the Vanguard University, which offers tutorials. To save the information, however, visitors must be Vanguard customers.

Source: Hispanic Business Magazine

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