Financial Fate was once a $70 program, but now vendor Financial Modeling Solutions offers it for free. When you start Financial Fate, it lists the data you'll need to enter. The program takes into account a phenomenal amount of detail, all the way from income and IRAs to child support and college to retirement and long-term care. Locating all this data and typing it in can take a considerable amount of time, but it's necessary: Every smidgen of data alters your ending net worth.
Once the data is entered, you can easily tweak the numbers to run "what-if" scenarios. With Financial Fate crunching the numbers, you get an idea of how every decision affects the amount of your estate or (in a chilling scenario) the year you go bankrupt. The software accommodates a huge number of potential decisions, such as buying a new car, opening an HSA, or retiring early. Detailed reports show you how your money situation changes through the decades.
I'm not a financial advisor of any kind--and the software itself cautions that you will need your own tax advisor--but Financial Fate made the dizzyingly complex puzzle of personal finance much clearer to me. The old saw about giving up a daily latte makes a lot more sense when you see that little indulgence costing you thousands of dollars over time.
This is a free program, and as such, it's not without its limitations. You're limited to 5 saved scenarios, and you can import files only the first time you start the program. And unless you really enjoy data entry, you're not going to have 5 saved scenarios, because there's no "save as" function. If you want to save one scenario with sending your kids to private colleges and one with sending them to state schools, you'll have to enter the whole kit and caboodle into each scenario. Reports aren't printable. Future paid versions of the program may be more generous with these features.
All in all, Financial Fate is a powerful and easy-to-use (if initially time-consuming) tool. It offers an immense number of features and details, and all without costing a dime. There's no time like the present to start planning your future.