REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 23, 1997 — Just weeks after launching its personal finance software, Microsoft® Money 98 Financial Suite, Microsoft Corp. has announced a unique new Internet product to help consumers make smart financial decisions. The Money Insider ™ personal finance online service offers up-to-date information on key financial topics including insurance, home ownership, college planning and retirement planning. Users can access it through Money 98 Financial Suite or by logging onto (http://moneyinsider.MSN.com/) .
An Interactive Financial Guide for Today's Consumers
For consumers who have wondered how long it will be before they can access their 401(k) funds once they retire, or if they can deduct the cost of attending an investment seminar on their taxes, Money Insider can answer these questions and more. Consumers can search directories of financial advisors and online banking services, research loan and credit card information from thousands of institutions, and use calculators and checklists to help make decisions. Arlette Cox, product marketing manager for Microsoft's personal finance business unit, pointed out that "Money Insider and Money 98 Financial Suite work together to help consumers plan their financial future, answer their 'what-if' questions and provide personalized guidance."
Written by today's leading personal finance writers and journalists, the Money Insider editorial articles are organized into three topic areas: Taking Charge, Living Well and Looking Ahead. Each topic provides insight that spans issues such as debt management, insurance, college planning, retirement and other life events that have financial implications for consumers.
In addition, Money Insider features the Answer Guide, which allows consumers to ask financial questions and receive recommendations from the Answer Guide's extensive database of personal finance information. Consumers can find up-to-date rate information on credit cards, savings accounts and loans from over 2,500 banks and get a reality check by reading profiles of families, couples and individuals across America facing real-life financial issues.
Neale Godfrey, financial expert and best-selling author of "Making Change - A Woman's Guide to Designing Her Financial Future," uses Money Insider with Money 98 Financial Suite to help manage her personal finances. According to Godfrey, "Money 98 Financial Suite and Money Insider are ideal tools to help consumers find answers to personal finance questions and help them plan and track their financial goals."
Godfrey shared some of the questions she receives frequently and explained how these products not only can help answer many of the questions, but can set people on the path to getting and staying financially fit.
Frequently Asked Personal Finance Questions and Answers
Q. How much should I save for my children's education?
A. Each family situation is unique, but the key is to start planning early so that your child doesn't have to compromise on her or his choice of college. Annual college costs have been increasing at more than twice the rate of inflation and are predicted to continue in this trend over the next decade, so it's not out of line to estimate that 25 percent of your income will go toward your children's college education. With Money Insider, you can research costs and get recommendations from leading financial experts as to how much you should plan to save.
Q. If I have money left at the end of the month, should I pay down my debt or put the money in a savings account?
A. Invariably, the interest charges on a credit card are significantly more than the interest you'll get on a savings account. If you make minimum monthly payments of $41 on a credit card with a $2,000 balance and a 15 percent interest rate, it will take until March 2004 to pay off the debt. If you are able to pay down your debt, great! Ultimately, you want to be able to redirect those finance charges to go toward the other goals you have. Money 98 Financial Suite's Debt Reduction Planner can help you accomplish that goal by helping you set up a realistic debt plan that you can stick to and helping you see the value of making extra payments.
Q. Why would someone in their 20s want to start thinking about planning for retirement?
A. By starting to save early, you will ultimately need to save less later to have the lifestyle you dream of when you retire. Money Insider offers numerous tips from financial experts that can help you plan your strategies for retirement. Tying that in with Money 98 Financial Suite's Goal Planner, you will be able to see how saving early will help you accumulate the funds you need to retire and may even help you plan to retire earlier than you originally hoped!
Q. Since I can't afford to pay a financial advisor for tax tips, is there a way to learn how to minimize my tax bill each year?
A. Keeping on top of the latest tax laws and changes to know what is allowed as a deduction can be very time-consuming and confusing. Money Insider is a great way to keep up-to-date on tax law changes with articles such as "Top 10 Missed Tax Deductions" that clearly explain what to take advantage of and how. Money 98 Financial Suite has a Tax Estimator worksheet that helps you calculate your tax bill or refund, and can also help you determine how much to withhold each month to ensure that you have enough saved.
Q. Do I need insurance? What kind of insurance do I need?
A. Insurance is a great way to protect your family. For example, if your partner becomes injured or dies, you want the security of knowing that your family is financially protected. There are different types of insurance that meet different needs, and Money Insider clearly explains the options and differences that will help educate you before you buy.
Get a Head Start Today!: Microsoft Money 98 Financial Suite Challenge
To help consumers get acquainted with Money 98 Financial Suite, Microsoft has created the Money 98 Financial Suite Challenge. Consumers not only get a chance to test drive Money to see how it can benefit them, but hidden in the Money 98 Challenge file are the names of five U.S. presidents, four out of five whom have a common link. Those consumers who can identify the five presidents, which one is the odd one out - and why - can enter the Money 98 Challenge Sweepstakes for a chance to win one of three Compaq Presario 4814 personal computers, courtesy of Compaq Computer Corp. For a free trial download or to enter the Money 98 Challenge sweepstakes, visit the Money 98 Web site http://www.microsoft.com/money/ or write to: Microsoft Money Challenge, P.O. Box 5162, El Toro, CA 92630. The Money 98 Challenge Sweepstakes runs from Oct. 23, 1997, through Jan. 15, 1998.
Test Your Knowledge ... Money Insider Financial Fitness Quiz
As part of the Money Insider Financial Quiz, each Friday from Oct. 17 through Dec. 31 a personal finance question will be posted on the Money Insider Web site (http://moneyinsider.MSN.com/) . Visitors will be able to find the correct answer to the question within the Answer Guide and then send their answers to Microsoft through the Internet. In a weekly random drawing, Microsoft will select a winner from the list of people who answered that week's questions correctly to win a copy of Money 98 Financial Suite and to be eligible for the grand-prize drawing: a financial-planning session valued at $500 with a certified local financial planner.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ "MSFT" ) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.
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Neale S. Godfrey is a nationally recognized expert on children and family finance and the former president of the First Women's Bank who has appeared on "Oprah," "GMA," the "Today Show" and CNBC. Her books include "Making Change - A Woman's Guide to Designing Her Financial Future," "From Cradle to College - A Parent's Guide to Financing Your Child's Life," New York Times No. 1 best-seller "Money Doesn't Grow on Trees" and New York Times business best-seller "A Penny Saved." She is a single mother, successful author and entrepreneur who lives in Chester, N.J., with her two children.