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VisualCalc has just announced the VisualCalc™ Retirement Planning Tool. The VisualCalc Retirement Planning Tool is a new, web-based customer self-service tool that retirement plan administrators, including third party administrators and plan sponsors, can offer their plan participants to help them properly prepare for their retirement. The tool can be deployed on an administrator’s website to help participants assess their current retirement health, and understand what changes they can make to better align their current financial and investment strategy with their future retirement needs. This generally involves increasing the amount of their contributions, and reallocating funds to an investment mix that best meets their retirement goals. For example, one of the early adopters of this tool has found that participants who use the tool have grown their account balances 40% more than those who do not.

Organizations, both public and private, are facing a new set of challenges as retirement planning behavior and requirements have evolved over the last decade. Unlike previous generations, who had set pensions and very little involvement in creating and managing their retirement plans, employees today are actively involved in managing their own retirement funding. Unfortunately, the general public lacks the financial knowledge necessary to navigate these waters on their own.

In response to this, retirement plan administrators now need to provide their plan participants with sufficient support, education and tools so that they can play an active role in managing their own retirement strategy and funds. While many administrators have instituted general retirement education and outreach programs, these may not be the most effective measures, since every participant’s retirement planning needs are unique. Programs tailored to each participant are ideal, but, in many cases, they are not a practical or affordable option. Web-based self-service tools can help bridge this gap, enabling the participants themselves to actively construct and manage a personalized retirement plan that is optimal for their needs.

The VisualCalc Retirement Planning Tool is an interactive, graphical, web-based tool that provides retirement plan participants with a personalized, comprehensive snapshot of their current retirement strategy (including retirement plan balances, investments, monthly savings targets, etc.), and then shows, in form of easy-to-interpret charts and graphs, whether or not the participant is on track to meet their retirement goals. And deficiencies or gaps are clearly highlighted.

The VisualCalc Retirement Planning Tool can be integrated with the administrator’s internal databases, so participant account information and the administrator’s business rules can be automatically loaded into each participant’s session. The tool also is able to bring in external data, such as social security balances and account balances at other financial institutions, so that participants are presented with the most complete, accurate and personalized picture of their current retirement plan. This holistic view of both internal and external resources also helps administrators work with participants to optimize the overall allocation of their retirement fund balances, including the consolidation of multiple accounts into a single integrated account.

The VisualCalc Retirement Planning Tool also provides the ability for participants interact with the tool to perform “what-if” analyses. An advanced embedded calculation engine that supports state-of-the-art computational algorithms and simulation techniques such as Monte Carlo methods drives the results of this analysis. Participants can manipulate a set of easy-to-use input mechanisms, such as buttons and sliders, to change a multitude of variables related to their financial strategy and retirement goals, including investment allocations, social security assumptions, projected pre- and post-retirement earnings, expected retirement age, etc. The impact of these changes, and their effect on the participant’s retirement health, are immediately shown in clear, easy-to-understand tables, graphs and charts. This helps participants determine what changes are needed to best support their retirement health.

The VisualCalc Retirement Planning Tool can also be used for interactive collaboration by an administrator’s associates and their participants, most likely via a web conferencing service, enabling them to jointly review the participant’s current retirement strategy, and explore changes that would improve the participant’s retirement health. 

 The Retirement Planning Tool is a sophisticated, highly configurable tool that can easily be customized for use by any administrator. On top of its pre-configured analysis engine, the tool can quickly and easily be configured to incorporate a given administrator’s specific needs, including account types and names, defined benefit plans, interest rates, and business rules. The tool can also be customized to incorporate the administrator’s branding and graphical standards, so that the tool has a consistent “look and feel” with the administrator’s other marketing properties and collateral.

The VisualCalc Retirement Planning Tool is available and in use by customers today. Pricing varies depending on the number of users and a company’s hosting requirements.

VisualCalc has just introduced the Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Dashboard, a new free dashboard deployed on VisualCalc’s public dashboard website www.publicdashboards.com. The AFV dashboard enables graphical, easy-to-interpret analysis of AFV adoption, alternative fuel consumption, and AFV sales by model.

The AFV Dashboard includes four graphical indicators, each of which is focused on a different aspect of the deployment and adoption of AFVs in the U.S.:

  • Year-by-year AFVs in use, broken out by fuel type.
  • Alternative fuel consumption by year.
  • Annual hybrid electric fuel vehicle sales by model.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions by fuel type.

The AFV Dashboard highlights some important trends and developments in the adoption of AFVs in the U.S., including:

  • The number of AFVs in use increased from 394,000 in 2000 to 776,000 in 2008. The primary alternative fuel type in use if 85% Ethanol (E85), which powered 58% of the AFVs in use in 2009.
  • After steady year-by-year increases up to 2004, alternative fuel consumption has remained fairly constant in the ensuing years. The mix of alternative fuels is shifting away from liquefied petroleum gas towards compressed natural gas and 85% Ethanol.
  • For the last 10 years, the Toyota Prius has been the top selling hybrid electric vehicle. Approximately 139,682 Prius’ were sold in 2009, representing 48% of the market. The hybrid Toyota Camry was second on the list, with 22,887 sold, while the hybrid Ford Fusion was third on the list, with sales of 15,554.

This new dashboard will be incorporated into VisualCalc’s public dashboard website: PublicDashboards.com. PublicDashboards.com contains a set of interactive dashboards covering a variety of topical issues, including housing, the economy, the environment, education statistics, employment trends, and health-related data.

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