Tips for Getting Started

Scan the pages of this manual to get a sense of the scope and capabilities of the software. However, you don’t have to study every page of this manual to get started. Begin by creating a new family and then work through the input folders, entering your data as best you have it available. You may have to request a work history from the Social Security Administration in order to fill in the amounts you’ve paid into Social Security since the age of 16. (They used to mail this document to you each year, but now you simply create an account there and copy and import your history into ESPlanner). Add your income and work through the other folders as best you can. As you have questions, return to this help manual for more information. You’ll think of details to add as you use the software and become more familiar with its features. This document should help to answer questions as you use the software, but it will also suggest ideas for you to try out; you should move back and forth from the software to the manual and back again.

ESPlanner is a complex calculator. Although you can plug in basic data rather quickly and begin to generate reports, most users add more complex data over time and explore the calculator’s input features such as contingencies and survival reports later.

A family’s life economy is very complex. Children are born and eventually move away; we save for college, buy and sell homes, use company pension plans, 401(k), Roth, and IRA retirement accounts, each with different tax consequences. Tax burdens change throughout our lifetime; inflation and compounding interest change everything. Many of the “best” solutions to this giant economic puzzle involve personal judgments and decisions. ESPlanner is solving these puzzles to create the highest, yet smoothest, standard of living possible. But as a user, you must also approach the puzzle with some creativity: try using Roth IRAs instead of the 401(k); push Social Security back to age 70; tap the pension early or later. Most of these variables involve some kind of trade off that different people might evaluate differently. As you try different things, you’ll find new combinations of ways to optimize your family’s life economy.