No matter what else may happen in 2005, the markets for personal financial planning are set to explode. It's not just the Bush administration's announced plans to overhaul both Social Security and the income tax systems. Nor is it just that an economic upswing and low interest rates are pushing the stock markets back up to pre-2000 levels.There are certain fundamental changes taking place in the software industry, and in the markets for financial planning software in particular. Three trends are notable at the beginning of this year: * The software is going online. In addition to traditional application software provider eMoneyAdvisor, MoneyTree and EISI have both moved strongly into Web-based services. Other software vendors must carefully weave between the obvious advantages of an online service and the wishes of subscribers, who may not want to move so quickly onto the Internet. But the trend has an air of inevitability about it.

* Consolidation is taking place, particularly at the economy end of the business. Some software programs have been retired, others have disappeared, and some - like FPlan - have been acquired.

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