There are three planning methods or approaches, and you may switch back and forth between them if you like. Once you begin with one, you can always run the plan with the other. Or, you can create a copy of your plan and run the copy in a different planning mode.
In Economics-Based Planning mode, the program suggests how much to spend each year on a discretionary basis to smooth your household's living standard through time. Living standard refers to your household's discretionary spending per household member with adjustments for two-can-live-more-cheaply-than-one and the relative cost of children. In this mode, you set the nominal returns you expect to receive on your investments.
If you have ESPlannerPLUS or ESPlannerPRO, you can examine the living standard risk you face from risky investing by running the program in either Upside Investing or in Monte Carlo mode.
Economics-based Planning with Monte Carlo Simulations
In Monte Carlo mode, you can build up to ten asset allocation portfolios and tell the program (via the Monte Carlo screen accessible in the menu on the left under Planning Method) when you will hold these portfolios. You also tell the program how aggressively you intend to spend over time given you are investing at risk. Unlike Upside Investing, which assumes you spend nothing out of your risky assets until they have been converted to safe assets, in Monte Carlo mode you tell the program whether you want to spend aggressively, cautiously, or conservatively, i.e., whether you intend to spend, over time, assuming you'll always earn the mean (average) real return on your assets, half the mean real return on your assets, or a zero real return on your assets. When you run the program in Monte Carlo mode, the program shows you the probabilities of different living standard outcomes you may experience given how you are planning to invest and spend.
Economics-based Planning with Upside Investing
In Upside Investing mode the program assumes you are investing in just two assets -- safe assets and risky assets, which are assumed to be invested in stocks (the S&P 500), and doesn't spend any of your risky assets until they have been converted to safe assets. The program asks how much you have in stocks, how much you will add to your stocks, and when you will begin and finish converting your stocks to safe assets. When you run the program it does two things: First, it establishes a living standard floor assuming your stocks lose all their value. Second, it shows you the probability of experiencing a higher living standard once you start converting your stocks to safe assets.