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ESPlanner Paid PC Software Cost
Old 05-14-2013, 08:37 PM   #1
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ESPlanner Paid PC Software Cost

I went to the web site for this software thnking I'd just get the downloadable full version, but was scared away by the $50 renewal. Software vendors seem to be less than forthcoming when it comes to explaining how they compel customers to renew, so I figured I'd just ask here. I see that several active members own (lease?) the software.
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Old 05-14-2013, 08:55 PM   #2
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If I understand correctly, you may believe that $50 is too expensive. What do you think a renewal should cost, and why?
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Old 05-14-2013, 09:20 PM   #3
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If I understand correctly, you may believe that $50 is too expensive. What do you think a renewal should cost, and why?
When I buy a book, I expect to be able to pick it up and read it next year without having to pay a fee. If the software is updated, then paying again might make sense. But I don't like 'subscription model' stuff because my use pattern might make that an unwise investment.
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Old 05-14-2013, 09:49 PM   #4
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I stopped renewing ESPlanner, but can still use the version I have on my computer.

I found it worth the money while planning for ER and for the first couple of years.
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Old 05-14-2013, 11:08 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by sengsational View Post
When I buy a book, I expect to be able to pick it up and read it next year without having to pay a fee. If the software is updated, then paying again might make sense. But I don't like 'subscription model' stuff because my use pattern might make that an unwise investment.
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I stopped renewing ESPlanner, but can still use the version I have on my computer.

I found it worth the money while planning for ER and for the first couple of years.
There you go. Buy your "book" and read it as long as you want to . . .but if you change your operating system, or the content of the material becomes outdated, do not expect some professional computer person to update the program for free.

Software is intangible, and some people expect it to be free forever. Somebody has to write the software, and test the software for bugs, and field calls from users about the software, and update the software as needed, and fix bugs in the software, and write documentation to describe how the software works and how users are to use the software. ... for whatever platform it may run on (and that can be quite a few) and deal with whatever else has changed. It is not quite as easy as it may seem.
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Old 05-14-2013, 11:09 PM   #6
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I bought it a few years ago, renewed it I think once but haven't renewed since then. I have thought about going and renewing it again. I don't think I would keep up a renewal each year though.
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Old 05-15-2013, 06:39 AM   #7
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If I bought a book I would expect to be able to continue to read it indefinitely. However, if it became outdated and I wanted the most current version, I would expect to have to buy the new version. With a book each updated version that I buy I would need to pay the full price unless the seller offered a discount to previous purchasers. Software is no different.

While I don't use ESPlanner (I am thinking of using it), I think of it similar to Quicken. I buy the update every 2 or 3 years when I want the updated features.
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Old 05-15-2013, 06:47 AM   #8
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I think the software is updated 2-3 times a year, and you can download the updated version for free any time up to a year after your last purchase. Beyond that point, they want another payment. Doesn't seem that unreasonable to me, but I also agree that once you've used it, you probably have the idea and aren't likely to really need a newer version for quite some time, if ever.
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Old 05-15-2013, 07:56 AM   #9
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As most people have stated you are buying a software update and changes in tax laws, SS etc. do effect the outcome of your plan. Also software fixes and enhancements are only downloadable with an upgrade. I purchased ESP back in September of last year then downloaded a free upgrade in March (within one year) and found changes and enhancements to the user interface on the SS tab which made it easier to input dates.
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:47 AM   #10
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I think the OP's point was that are they charging me to use this software after a year. The answer is no, you own what you bought but if you want/need an upgrade then you pay a discount price. I was confused on this point myself and gave the tool a pass. They use the term renewal vs. upgrade. It made me presume (yes I know, my bad) that it would quit working in a year if I did not pay the annual renewal.

If in fact I own what I own, then yes $50 for an upgrade I can decide to purchase or not seems reasonable. Many here use Quicken, I buy the upgrade when they force the issue, certainly not every time Intuit needs a payday.
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Old 05-15-2013, 11:20 AM   #11
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Just a few points...

There are some companies that lease you the use of their software.... they might have a large charge at the beginning, with an annual fee after that... the annual fee should include any calls to them to fix any problems.. if you go this way, then expect the software to stop working once you stop paying...


Another way is like described here.... you pay for the software and it is yours... with this example, a one year maintenance contract is included... you get any new updates and hopefully a person you can talk to that will help you fix any problem... if you go this way, the software is yours... you can use it as long as you want, but do not expect any updates and do not expect to get any support if something breaks...
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Old 05-15-2013, 06:41 PM   #12
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Thanks to those of you that confirmed this software wasn't going to hold my data hostage. That's what I wanted to confirm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rustward View Post
There you go. Buy your "book" and read it as long as you want to . . .but if you change your operating system, or the content of the material becomes outdated, do not expect some professional computer person to update the program for free.

Software is intangible, and some people expect it to be free forever. Somebody has to write the software, and test the software for bugs, and field calls from users about the software, and update the software as needed, and fix bugs in the software, and write documentation to describe how the software works and how users are to use the software. ... for whatever platform it may run on (and that can be quite a few) and deal with whatever else has changed. It is not quite as easy as it may seem.
Since I write code for a living, I have an appreciation for the effort it takes for support, etc, but I pretty much never use support because way too often the support is just plain bad. My preference is to use open source apps, but that approach has its own issues. But, yeah, no lecture required. My mode is usually to try software and see if its even worth my time to learn how to use it, and if it is, buy it. This app happens to be buy before try, and I'm ok with that, given the endorsement on this site.

There are a lot of crappy licence agreements out there, and green eye shades trying to get people invested in some app, then making it into nagware or ransomware if the user does not upgrade. This seems not to be the case here, so I think I'll purchase this app.

--Dale--
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:44 PM   #13
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If I understand correctly, you may believe that $50 is too expensive. What do you think a renewal should cost, and why?
I wouldn't mind paying their annual annuity if they updated the program for data changes like tax software, or if they come out with a new version that significantly improves features and functionality. But to pay them an annual payment for bug fixes and minor improvements is ridiculous. Look at Microsoft for example. My Windows and Office software update all the time for no charge. When they come out with a major new version with new features and capabilities, you have to pay for the new version IF YOU WANT IT. That makes sense to me.
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Old 05-17-2013, 07:37 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by sengsational View Post
Thanks to those of you that confirmed this software wasn't going to hold my data hostage. That's what I wanted to confirm.


Since I write code for a living, I have an appreciation for the effort it takes for support, etc, but I pretty much never use support because way too often the support is just plain bad. My preference is to use open source apps, but that approach has its own issues. But, yeah, no lecture required. My mode is usually to try software and see if its even worth my time to learn how to use it, and if it is, buy it. This app happens to be buy before try, and I'm ok with that, given the endorsement on this site.

There are a lot of crappy licence agreements out there, and green eye shades trying to get people invested in some app, then making it into nagware or ransomware if the user does not upgrade. This seems not to be the case here, so I think I'll purchase this app.

--Dale--
The support from Esplanner is excellent! On several occasions when I had a complex issue I got a message from Larry Kotlikoff, founder of Esplanner, and a well-known economist to give him a call. When I did he went over the issue clearly and I knew what to do. Exceptional.

I gladly pay the $50 each year for support. They update the tax tables, both federal and state, every year and have added a lot of functionality. Esplanner is not Quicken.

Anyway, I think it is the best of breed software and that includes the support.
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Old 05-17-2013, 08:07 PM   #15
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when I had a complex issue I got a message from Larry Kotlikoff, founder of Esplanner, and a well-known economist to give him a call. When I did he went over the issue clearly and I knew what to do. Exceptional.
Now he is an interesting fellow....

Laurence Kotlikoff - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hmm...this doesn't really enhance my view of the software.

I actually do own the software (haven't updated in a while). I thought the software was OK but found it very clunky to use and the interface seemed to be stuck about 20 years ago..... Not saying the software is bad just not very user friendly.
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Old 05-17-2013, 09:59 PM   #16
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Got ESPlanner in Feb and would definitely recommend it. Wouldn't have made my decision to ER without it. We'll see how the update process goes next year, but I do plan to spend the $50 at least for my first year in to ER.
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Old 05-17-2013, 10:40 PM   #17
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This thread caused me to pull out ESPlanner Plus that I bought in 2009. I updated in late 2009 and haven't updated since then.

Spending an hour with it reminded me of why I gave up on it.

Let me say that I like the idea of ESPlanner. I even read the book that Kotlikoff and Burns did.

But I find using it beyond frustrating.

The thing that is currently annoying me is that it won't seem to actually let me set my spending for what I need it to be for the next 4 years.

The concept is that you can put in "special" spending you will have over a period of time and then based upon household size it will tell you how much of your money you can spend.

I know with a high degree of certainty how much I need to spend the next 3 years since we have kids at home. We have some rather high expenditures over that period ... much higher than we could sustain long term. Which is fine.

So I put in some of the "special spending" and it tells me my consumption spending for the 3 years will be $X amount and then there is my housing expenditure and it adds my special spending. Fine.

However, when I looked at the totals, the amount of total spending is about $20k too little for the next 3 years.

SInce I couldn't directly change the general consumption spending I went in and added $20k to my special spending for the next 3 years.

I run the report again. The extra special spending is now there! Excellent!

But.... the consumption spending was similarly reduced so the total spending does not significantly change.

I get that this program wants me to spend less for the next 3 years. I would like that, too. But....it isn't going to happen.

The fact I can't seem to get the program to use my actual forecasted spending for the next 3 years is compounded by the fact that it has total spending for the rest of my life (after kids are gone) that is about $10k more per year than we actually then want to spend.

Yes, maybe it would be nice if I could spend $20k less each of the next 3 years and then got to spend more for the next 35 years or so. But....that isn't happening. Sigh.

The only thing I can think to do is to just create a huge special spending amount for the next 3 years so they can't take anything from consumption spending to offset it....

There are also things that maybe I just don't understand in the program...but it goes to the user unfriendliness:

1. The program is good in recognizing that my daughter gets SS benefits because DH is receiving benefits and she is under 18. However, the amounts projected aren't right. Further the program keeps wanting to give me benefits for 2 years and I'm not getting any.

2. The report says my consumption profile is something like conservative consumption. I can't find in ESPlanner where to set this or what it means.

3. ESPlanner wants to spend all of our taxable down to zero before we take anything out of retirement accounts. I don't want to do that. We have our reasons, but want to preserve some amount in taxable accounts even though we withdraw from retirement accounts.

There are other things ...the user interface is unfriendly with lots of little tiny boxes that are hard to use. It is sort of like using an old DOS program from the 80s....
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Old 05-17-2013, 11:20 PM   #18
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This thread caused me to pull out ESPlanner Plus that I bought in 2009. I updated in late 2009 and haven't updated since then.

Spending an hour with it reminded me of why I gave up on it.

Let me say that I like the idea of ESPlanner. I even read the book that Kotlikoff and Burns did.

But I find using it beyond frustrating.

The thing that is currently annoying me is that it won't seem to actually let me set my spending for what I need it to be for the next 4 years.
If you had paid your $50 per year for software maintenance you would have received updated versions that include an option to run like a conventional planner in which you input your budget. The current version is 2.24.

However, I think you are missing the main benefit of Esplanner, which is to tell you what your means are so that you can live below them. Using the original planning method in Esplanner, you input your financial data, SS covered earnings history, assets of various kinds, housing costs and plans to move, if any, state of residence, assumptions for investment returns and inflation, life span for planning purposes, legacy requirement, etc. Esplanner then spits back a number that tells you the maximum level of disposable income you can spend under all of those assumptions without going broke before you die.

This is the opposite of the conventional planning method (which Esplanner now supports, although I don't use it) in which you start with the budget for the life style you plan to have and then the planner tells you what your chances are of achieving that based on simulating market returns.

The problem with the conventional approach is that it assumes that the standard of living that you choose is a hard-and-fast choice. But, for most of us, our standard of living was never hard-and-fast. Throughout our working lives we set our living standard based on what our income would support, or maybe much less than that and called it, "living below your means."

It sounds like Esplanner is telling you that you are planning to live beyond your means and you want it to tell you something different.
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Old 05-18-2013, 01:00 AM   #19
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However, I think you are missing the main benefit of Esplanner, which is to tell you what your means are so that you can live below them. Using the original planning method in Esplanner, you input your financial data, SS covered earnings history, assets of various kinds, housing costs and plans to move, if any, state of residence, assumptions for investment returns and inflation, life span for planning purposes, legacy requirement, etc. Esplanner then spits back a number that tells you the maximum level of disposable income you can spend under all of those assumptions without going broke before you die.

....
The problem with the conventional approach is that it assumes that the standard of living that you choose is a hard-and-fast choice. But, for most of us, our standard of living was never hard-and-fast. Throughout our working lives we set our living standard based on what our income would support, or maybe much less than that and called it, "living below your means."

It sounds like Esplanner is telling you that you are planning to live beyond your means and you want it to tell you something different.
I think you are making a lot of unwarranted assumptions about my financial condition.

I do believe that I plan to live beyond my means (Firecalc and the Fidelity Planner say we are fine). What bothers me is that ESPlanner is telling me that I must spend $X for the next 3 years which then allows me to spend $Y for the next 30 years after that, but what I really need and want to spend is $X+ for 3 years and then spend $Y- for the next 40 years.

I have no interest in spending $X for the next 3 years just to be able to spend $Y later. $X is less than will cover my expenses the next 3 years and $Y is way more than I want to spend later. ESPlanner is forcing me into near level spending over the next 35 years (with only a small bump over the next 3 years) but my entire planning is based upon the next 3 years being a much larger bump and then spending for the next 30 years being much lower.

I do agree about being flexible on living standard. However, the next 3 years is not very flexible at all for us. We have kids at home, one in college and the other soon to start. We have fixed expenses and know our budget for these 3 years. Because of these 3 years we are aware we will be taking higher withdrawals than in future years and we expect to deplete some of our portfolio over the next 3 years. We have accounted for that in our planning.

We also know - and are totally OK with - that once the kids are gone our spending will be much less.

I am irritated by ESPlanner because it does me no good to be able to spend an extra $10,000 a year 4 years from now if it means that I can't send my kids to college over the next 3 years!

I am interested to read about the update that allows me to input a budget as that might meet my needs better.
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Old 05-18-2013, 02:58 AM   #20
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I think you are making a lot of unwarranted assumptions about my financial condition.

I do believe that I plan to live beyond my means (Firecalc and the Fidelity Planner say we are fine). What bothers me is that ESPlanner is telling me that I must spend $X for the next 3 years which then allows me to spend $Y for the next 30 years after that, but what I really need and want to spend is $X+ for 3 years and then spend $Y- for the next 40 years.

I have no interest in spending $X for the next 3 years just to be able to spend $Y later. $X is less than will cover my expenses the next 3 years and $Y is way more than I want to spend later. ESPlanner is forcing me into near level spending over the next 35 years (with only a small bump over the next 3 years) but my entire planning is based upon the next 3 years being a much larger bump and then spending for the next 30 years being much lower.

I do agree about being flexible on living standard. However, the next 3 years is not very flexible at all for us. We have kids at home, one in college and the other soon to start. We have fixed expenses and know our budget for these 3 years. Because of these 3 years we are aware we will be taking higher withdrawals than in future years and we expect to deplete some of our portfolio over the next 3 years. We have accounted for that in our planning.

We also know - and are totally OK with - that once the kids are gone our spending will be much less.

I am irritated by ESPlanner because it does me no good to be able to spend an extra $10,000 a year 4 years from now if it means that I can't send my kids to college over the next 3 years!

I am interested to read about the update that allows me to input a budget as that might meet my needs better.
There are several ways to achieve what you want.

I think you can achieve what you are describing by using the Standard of Living option. In my version it is a tab under the Economic Assumptions section. You can raise or lower your standard of living for the next 3 years instead of accepting Esplanner's default assumption that you want to maintain a current standard of living for the rest of your life. This is the feature a retiree would use if he planned to travel a lot in the early retirement years, for instance.

Or you can use the Cost of Children tab, also under Economic Assumptions, to adjust the cost of each kid as a proportion of the cost of an adult until they become independent at age 19, if you have a more accurate figure for your family. You can use the Special Expenditures feature to reflect your contribution to the cost of college for each year any of the kids is enrolled.

I would think some combination of these features would do it for you. If not, post your question on the forum at esplanner.com. The support folks or some other user will offer suggestions.
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