Sure, there's plenty of financial software out there that can help you establish a budget, save money for your kids' education and even live out your dream retirement. But can these apps help you calculate your highest sustainable living standard?
That's what MaxiFi Planner aims to do. And we checked it out to see if it lives up to the hype (and if it's worth the price tag). Let's take a look…
Pros & Cons
What is MaxiFi Planner?
MaxiFi Planner takes the role of a financial planner and wraps it up into a web-based computer program. The app has a simple, easy-to-understand interface for inputting your data and gives you detailed but still easy-to-understand reports on the other side.
The app was created by Economic Security Planning, Inc. These are the same folks who made the handy Maximize My Social Security tool (read our in-depth review here). The founder and president of Economic Security Planning is Laurence Kotlikoff. He is co-author of the New York Times bestseller, Get What's Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.
Like many personal finance apps, MaxiFi Planner looks at your full financial picture to give you the best estimate of your savings and how that will pan out in retirement, while keeping the same standard of living through all stages of your life.
However, it goes a few steps further than most of the free tools — which simply look at your money and give you an analysis of where you stand today — by building out a future projection of what you can spend and withdraw in retirement. But those extra reports come with a price tag: $109 for your first year and $89 for subsequent years.
MaxiFi operates on the principles of the Life-Cycle Hypothesis, which holds that people want to keep the same standard of living throughout their lives. This makes a lot of common sense. After all, why eat out at a fancy steakhouse every night if that means dining on a lowly can of beans every day in retirement?
How Does MaxiFi Planner Work?
MaxiFi Planner looks at your entire financial life with its powerful tools. The setup process is virtually identical to that of Maximize My Social Security, but once you set up your family details, everything else is a bit different. Rather than zeroing in on Social Security earnings and potential, MaxiFi Planner takes a more holistic look at your money.
This tool looks at your current employment, pensions, annuities, Social Security (no surprise since Maximize My Social Security offers this as a standalone tool), retirement accounts, property ownership, vacation homes and real estate investments, college and other expected expenses, and current assets to create a base financial plan.
Then you can look at a Base Plan or Maximized Plan and compare various scenarios to decide what steps you should take for your finances. These scenarios are of course based on the data you entered. The app's Progress Tracker can help keep you on target for your base plan scenario.
It will also give you suggestions as to what steps you can do to improve your financial picture — whether through career changes, housing decisions or any other choices you'll need to make at each age.
The reports and projections are very useful. The app even creates an estimate of discretionary spending abilities in retirement. This is an important quality-of-life measure for your golden years. You'll get a report you can export as either a PDF or Excel file.
MaxiFi Planner Features
As a premium tool, you get a lot of features with MaxiFi Planner. The overarching idea is to create a financial game plan for all of your life stages. But some of the most notable features it offers include:
- A neat breakdown of current and expected future earnings plus all your account balances
- A balance sheet showing lifetime projected income and lifetime projected spending
- Expected contributions to your various retirement accounts
- Pensions and social security benefits
- Annual suggestions for retirement account withdrawals
- Annual Federal, State, and FICA tax calculation help
Once MaxiFi Planner creates this “Base Plan” for you, it begins optimizing your plan with its algorithm. The goal is to help increase your annual discretionary spending limits, maximizing tax efficiencies, and improving your overall retirement life.
Again, it's just a game plan, not a guarantee for success. But MaxiFi Planner has a useful progress tracker you can use to monitor your investing, spending, and saving targets. And there's even a Monte Carlo simulation tool you can use to visualize how various investing strategies and financial habits impact your long-term finances.
How Much Does Maxifi Planner Cost?
MaxiFi Planner costs $109 for your first year and $89 upon renewal for the Standard plan. This plan unlocks most features, but you can upgrade to MaxiFi Planner Premium to use Monte Carlo simulations. The Premium plan costs $149 for your first year and $109 upon renewal.
Financial advisors can also purchase MaxiFi Planner Pro for $599 for the first year and $459 upon renewal. This software is designed to help financial advisors create comprehensive financial plans for their clients and to help them understand their retirement plans.
MaxiFi Planner's Standard plan should suit most households unless you really want to tinker with the various Monte Carlo simulations.
And while MaxiFi Planner is more expensive than budgeting apps like PocketSmith or free apps like Mint, it's more than just a budgeting tool. The goal is to help you maximize your retirement income, tax benefits, and to build a solid financial game plan for life.
If you want some alternatives, you can consider using platforms like Personal Capital. It has budgeting tools, a useful investment fee analyzer, a net worth tracker, and wealth of free tools and financial calculators.
Analyze My Divorce Settlement
I also went ahead and looked at a sister tool to MaxFi planner.
Analyze My Divorce Settlement does just what the name suggests: It helps you analyze a divorce settlement to understand if you are getting the raw end of the deal. It includes a look at children, both spouses' earnings, assets, housing and other important details to best understand the results.
Analyze My Divorce Settlement costs $99 to use. You can also purchase a premium package, which includes 10 hours of personal support, for $1,500.
Analyze My Divorce Settlement is relatively straightforward and easy to use, although, like a divorce, it requires some patience. Inputs for a divorce settlement are quite thorough and detailed. Input screens include children, earnings, assets, retirement, residence, alimony and child support, future expenses, pensions and Social Security. It even has options to tweak assumptions.
The output is a set of reports for each spouse. The reports include a mix of graphs, charts and data-heavy tables. The list of reports includes average discretionary spending, annual suggestions, regular assets, total spending, non-discretionary spending, total income, non-asset income, Social Security, taxes, housing, a reserve fund, retirement accounts, estate and net worth. Most reports show a view over time, where appropriate.
If you want a great example of truth in advertising, the names of these products tell you exactly what they do. MaxiFi Planner helps you with financial planning for your future.
This product (as well as Analyze My Divorce Settlement) is straightforward and easy to use. It offers helpful glimpses into your financial future if you take the time to thoroughly input your financial data. If you do, you’ll end up with a holistic picture of what you can expect.
It should be noted that MaxiFi Planner is not for everyone. If you want just a casual look at your finances, or if you just want a budgeting planner to help you get through the month, this is probably going to be more than what you need. In this case, apps like iMint or YNAB can probably get the job done.
However, if you really need a comprehensive software that will take on the role of a professional financial planner, this is a good solution.
The one drawback here is that MaxiFi Planner does not offer the ability to link to and automatically update from your financial accounts. But for some, that is an added layer of security that is well worth the extra work to input your data and keep it secure from your banking and investment account logins. The decision about whether or not MaxiFi Planner is worth the cost is ultimately up to you.