ESPlanner versus MaxiFi

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Just now seeing that there is a new software produce called MaxiFi. Will MaxiFi eventually replace ESPlanner? Or is it designed to compliment ESPlanner?

I see that MaxiFi does some things that ESPlanner does not do (e.g, maximized Social Security strategy and maximized retirement account withdrawal strategy). But ESPlanner does some things that MaxiFi does not (e.g., vacation homes and real estate, 529 plans, and Monte Carlo analysis). Are there plans to add all ESPlanner features to MaxiFi?

Can data be imported from ESPlanner into MaxiFi?

Can multiple "what if" scenarios be created in MaxiFi (like you can do in ESPlanner) by copying profiles?

Are there work-arounds in MaxiFi to handle vacation homes and real estate?

Does MaxiFi allow for multiple changes in rates of return (by year and between retirement accounts and regular assets) so the user can test the impact of different return strategies?

Thanks. Just trying to better understand each product.

Rick

Comments

dan royer's picture

Hi Rick,

Well, you know, who knows what the future holds! but, yes, the idea would be that MaxiFi Planner would essentially replace ESPlanner. Of course we'd have to first get all the features in place and I believe the additional feature plan is to roll out over the next 8 quarters. So it will be several years before there's serious talk about replacement. The platform that ESPlanner uses for the user interface, Visual Basic, is no longer supported by Microsoft, so we are not wanting to remain too dependent on that.

We expect some ESPlanner users do not use or need all the features and may migrate over to MaxiFi Planner simply because they like the user interface or the cloud/web platform. Others will hold tight for now.

The feature comparison chart can be viewed here:

http://economicsecurityplanning.com/esplanner-maxifi-comparison

A few "optimization" features are going into MaxiFi Planner. It will run some basic optimization routines and look at SS benefit collection strategy, start dates on retirement assets, annuitization and see if it can raise the discretionary spending. It typically finds things to try, but often, as you might imagine, also can create some liquidity constraint in the process.

It does not import data from ESPlanner . . . yet. I think the engineer, Ed, might have some ideas about that though.

Right now you cannot create multiple what if scenarios. You just have the one family and of course you can download a PDF of an existing case, but not create multiple cases at this point.

The only workarounds as you might imagine would involve using special expenditures and special receipts, which work the same as in ESPlanner.

MaxiFi does not yet allow you to introduce changes in the rates of return.

Thanks for your interest. I know you've been a long time ESPlanner user.

Thanks Dan. So, would you recommend maybe using MaxiFi to do a first run analysis to gain some insight into maximized Social Security and retirement account withdrawal strategies? And then use ESPlanner to do more in-depth "what if" modeling if needed? I'll probably subscribe to both so I can see how the two programs can work together.

I already subscribe to the Pro version of Maximize My Social Security. Is it possible that MaxiFi could recommend a different Social Security claiming strategy than Maximize My Social Security given that MaxiFi is looking at all financial variables and Maximize My Social Security is only looking at maximum lifetime benefits? Just curious if anyone has tested this.

dan royer's picture

No, I don't believe that MaxiFi will give you anything different from MMSS in terms of strategy. Well, I don't think it will. The question, really, is how does the strategy with the highest present value fit into the larger plan. It's hard for me to imagine a non-optimal strategy (measured in terms of present value) causing a higher living standard, but perhaps it is possible because of tax consequences. So I'm not positive. It is the same underlying algorithm, but it's throwing into a new context. I think what can happen though is that the optimized strategy (measured as greatest present value in a plan) can create a plan that liquidity constrained and then you are not longer dealing with apples and apples in the comparison really since one plan that has higher value may have less utility or practical value to you.

So, sure these program overlap, but they do slightly different things. MaxiFi and ESPlanner are of course very similar. That optimization feature could trigger some ideas for you though.

Dan, maybe you can answer a question I have about MaxiFi. I have submitted this question to MaxiFi customer support but have not received a reply.

ESPlanner allows the entry of a seemingly unlimited number of special expenditures. It also allows the cost of those expenditures to increase at a rate different from inflation. Does MaxiFi have the same capability? I used that capability a lot in ESPLanner.

I was a long-time user of ESPlanner - I think going back to 1998. Unfortunately I no longer have access to a PC and no Mac version was ever created. I am hoping that MaxiFi will meet my needs, but frankly the web site is quite lacking in detail. It would help if a trial were available, or a manual to peruse, or SOMETHING to get a better idea of its capabilities. $99 is a lot to spend when you don't really know what you are getting.

dan royer's picture

Hi Jim,

I don't see that question in your support ticket list over in MaxiFi. Doesn't matter now I guess.

But, yes, MaxiFi allows you to enter up to 100 special expenditures. That limit is arbitrary but set so that some crazy looping doesn't happen or something. If it needed to be a larger number, it could be. And, yes, the expenses can be entered with a percent increase allowing you to, for example, outpace inflation by 1% each year or something.

I can always give you a refund Jim within 30 days. I still run both, but honestly for most of my purposes MaxiFi does fine and the equivalent features will all be added quarterly over the next 18 months.

Thank you for the quick reply! I can't imagine why there was nothing in the support ticket list but it explains why I never got a reply to my original asking of the question way back when MaxiFi was released. Someone ought to check that out.

100 special expenditures is probably enough. I need them mostly for out-of-pocket medical expenditures, since I expect them to outpace inflation, and a few other things like a new roof, re-paving a driveway, etc. So I probably will be signing up. I have been waiting a long time for either a Mac or web version, and I guess it's finally here.

Jim

Totally makes sense that ESPlanner would evolve to something like MaxiFi. But I have to say, given all the years and hours of fine-tuning I've done with ESPlanner Plus (and MMSS), I'm a little heart-broken at the prospect of ESPlanner retiring, and a little daunted by the work of having to set up all my data again.
And, thirdly, I would think it would make sense for long-time supporters of ESPlanner to get some kind benefit for switching to MaxiFi, whether voluntarily or by virtue of ESPlanner becoming defunct.

dan royer's picture

Well, ESPlanner is not going anywhere in the short term. I don't make these decisions, but I imagine we'll have it for several years or more. Certainly it will not go away until MaxiFI planner has all of the capabilities of ESPlannerPLUS and more. This week they added multiple profiles, and real estate module is very close to production. A few weeks ago we did send a notice via Constant Contact to all of the ESPlanner users with a coupon code for $20 off the MaxiFi program. That coupon is good for a year.

I had the same concerns you have about switching over to MaxiFi. My case is not super complicated, but it's not bare bones either. It took me 30 minutes to create. The new interface in MaxiFi is much easier to work with than ESPlanner.

I hope it's not a struggle for people.

Dan

I will repeat the concern I've seen several others post on this forum, with the switch to having my data stored in the cloud versus on my personal computer, how can I be assured that my data is secure? What security reviews or audits have you had done?

dan royer's picture

Maybe this document will help?

https://maxifiplanner.com/security

I'd have to ask our engineers what audits they've done.

Dan

Hi Dan,

You may recall I am one of those concerned about cloud security and privacy. I'm glad to see you addressed this in the Maxifi FAQ. A question: user data is stored in protected data centers. Are the servers that run Maxifi in the same physical location? Thank you.

Mark

Is there any parallel testing between Maxifi and ESPlanner? I would think for similar reports in both products you should get the same results and this might be a way to further verify results. I would feel more inclined to switch to Maxifi if I knew both products were producing the same results.

dan royer's picture

I'm not really that sure I understand the question. Both products create reliable results. They have slightly different input options at times--for example with regard to some switches related to life insurance--but the results are similar. I think once I got two reports to be within a few dollars of each other. I have no reason to doubt the math in either program.

Dan

I am not yet familiar with the Maxifi reports, but as an example take the ESPlanner report that shows consumption or discretionary spending (Annual Suggestions). If Maxifi has the same report, then if I provide the same exact inputs in both programs, then the smoothed consumption number should match in both reports. If the number was different in Maxifi from the corresponding number in ESPLanner I would expect something is wrong in one of the programs.

So to me if any report exists in both programs, then the report should match in both programs provided the inputs were the same. Even if the logic, programming language or whatever is different between the programs, the outputs of both should match if inputs are the same.

If the input options differ, then I suppose it would not be a good way to test or cross check that both programs, particularly the newer program, are working like they should.

When I was a software engineer (I am now retired) sometimes I rewrote programs or sections of code. The old program was mature, stable, and tested over long periods. The new program was brand new. So one way I would verify its outputs was to compare them against the old code that was mature. That's another way to put it.

I hope that helps clarify the question. Thanks.

dan royer's picture

Sure, yes, the two programs use the exact same underlying computation engine.

When there are differences it's related to user inputs, and the two user interfaces may have slightly different ways of entering inputs. MaxiFi, for example, does not yet have 529 plan support. MaxiFi now has a new style of Monte Carlo that is not (yet anyway) used in ESPlanner. MaxiFi allows you to adjust term life to -100% and ESPlanner may not (can't recall for sure). So there's those kinds of differences. But the program underneath them both is the same. Just different UI.

Dan

Cool. That was what I was hoping to hear ... specifically "the two programs use the exact same underlying computation engine" and "the program underneath them both is the same. Just different UI." There had to be a ton of work (programming and testing) go into that engine and it would seem risky to rewrite the whole thing. Thanks.

dan royer's picture

Right. And as they make improvements to what the engineers call the CE, they port it over to ESPlanner. That said, the UI of course does not port over. ESPlanner uses Visual Basic as the front end, and that's old school and no longer supported well by Microsoft. And it's Windows dependent. On simple models, it's easy to see the same results, but on complex models it's extremely easy to create a minor little difference in inputs--a start year here or an end year there--and because in this kind of modeling everything is related to everything, it can make mimicing a model from ESPLanner > MaxiFi very tricky.

We just released the Premium version of MaxiFi today, so it now has Monte Carlo.

Dan

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