September 2003

Website of the Month:
By Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA, St. Bonaventure University

Don’t be fooled by the name: (IHFP) is a fun, resource-packed website that provides effective financial planning information and tools. The website is designed for nonexperts, but practitioners will find many of its tools to be useful in providing financial planning services. The materials can help advisors communicate more effectively with their clients, and CPAs and CFPs could use many of the forms to help clients prepare for planning meetings.

Site access is free, although first-time users must register and repeat users must log in. IHFP is owned by ING North American Insurance Corp., which offers its products and services in pertinent resource materials throughout the website. “About IHFP” in the homepage’s header index provides links to company and site information.


Homepage access is achieved through consistently placed links: the footer’s “Home” text, and the IHFP logo in the top left corner. Forms and links do not provide a consistent, direct way to return to the homepage; the browser’s “Back” button must be used.

The website’s resources can be accessed in many ways. For nonprofessionals, the best method is to follow the website’s design, which posts four questions in the center of the homepage. “Why Am I Here?” provides a drop-down topic menu that walks the user through easy-to-read discussions with both internal and external links. “How Am I Doing?” connects to a 10-step financial planning process. “Am I Doing Anything Right?” and “What Do I Do Next?” identify the user’s starting point and link to the “Take Action Wheel” and an interactive “What Next” checklist.

Experienced users will find this format time-consuming and can locate the resources in other ways. Drop-down menus from the top horizontal index, which include “Topics,” “Take Action,” “Calculators,” and “Jargon,” go directly to their resources, as do links on the left-side vertical index. This index’s contents change with the page being viewed. Many users will find the well-organized site map (text link in the footer) to be an efficient way to locate and access resources.


IHFP offers a wealth of useful materials. Advisors new to the financial planning field might want to explore the comprehensive “Guide to Financial Jargon.” Users who like to mix fun with their financial planning might enjoy the “Fun & Games” pages.

Helpful forms are most easily accessed via the left-side vertical index on pages that have them, and cover a fairly inclusive range. Forms are offered in both .html and .pdf. The former can be filled in and saved online; the latter can be printed or saved.

Calculators are accessed from the header index or from links in related discussion areas. There is a wide variety of these online tools, from paying off credit card debt to retirement saving. Other, basic calculators encourage users to take interest and responsibility in these areas. The calculators are not downloadable, but links can be e-mailed; recipients following the link must log in or create an account.

“Topics” is a veritable site digest, offering more than 30 discussion areas. The index can be accessed via the header menu or the drop-down index under the homepage’s “Why Am I Here?” section. Topics offers easy-to-read discussions, with links to related forms, calculators, checklists, websites, and other topics. These pages can be printed or e-mailed; printable pages open in a new window without the top and left menu panes. Scripting must be enabled to use many features; the website functions inefficiently without it.

A must-read topic is “Financial Planning in 10 Steps,” offering a comprehensive financial planning overview and links to many resources. Professional advisors should pay particular interest to step 9: “Pro vs. do it yourself,” which includes a list of questions that individuals should ask their potential financial planner.

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