March 2015: Retirement Planning Tools

The March 2015 Advisor Monitor Report looks at retirement planners that asset management firms provide on their advisor sites. We focus on tools that aid in the general pre-retirement planning process and help evaluate retirement readiness and identify potential shortfalls. We do not review tools that are specific to a product (e.g., IRAs) or planning topic (e.g., RMD planners), or business-related retirement planning tools. Nine coverage group firms offer retirement planning tools that fall within the score of our criteria. A total of three firms earn As, three earn Bs and three are in the C range. Specifically, this report looks at the following criteria:

  • Accessibility of planner
  • Scope of inputs and depth of results
  • Value-added features

We initially begin by examining tool accessibility, noting location and ease of retrieval. Around 66% of firms place their tools in an intuitive site area. Our next and primary focus is the depth of each tool’s inputs and the quality of generated results and analysis. For tool inputs, we evaluate the range of personal and financial details that assist in creating a unique retirement profile for each client. Five firms allow advisors to include their clients’ names in the planner – ultimately appearing in a customized results report – while 55% provide inputs for client pension details. Thirty-three percent of firms provide tool inputs for real estate assets, while two firms have gender-specific inputs for clients.

Tool results are judged based on their presentation and depth. Every firm provides retirement fund surplus/deficit details in their tool results. Only one firm provides a suggested alternative portfolio in its tool results. Another firm allows advisors to save and download results. Lastly, we review value-added features that help advisors in using the actual tool and presenting results to clients. Around 55% of firms use balloon tips, which help define terms and desired inputs throughout tools. Five firms allow advisors to download results for sharing with clients or for future review. We found that tools from three firms allow advisors to input a client’s full financial profile, beyond total retirement savings. In turn, these firms’ tools stand out as leaders.

We discover the following key findings in our analysis:

  • Half of the coverage group offers retirement planners.
  • One firm considers investor risk tolerance.
  • Five firms allow spousal details to be inputted into the planner.
  • Seven firms offer help resources to guide users through tools.
  • Sixty-six percent of firms offer shortfall projections in their results.
  • Fifty-five percent of firms provide downloadable results.