Future shock: Online app answers big what-if's


It can't predict what you'll be when you finally grow up, or whether that tall dark handsome someone is on your horizon, or whether the baby you're expecting will be a boy or a girl, but Voyant claims it can help forecast the financial impact of going back to school, getting married or having a baby.

The new Java application, available for free download and use, is designed to evaluate personal finance in the context of "life stages," like child-rearing, retirement and marriage. Wizards help users set up timelines that can can be revised to reflect the vagaries of fate and desire.

Consider my husband's 40th birthday, when we learned I was unexpectedly pregnant with our third child. Voyant could have quickly run the new scenario against our pre-existing financial data and thrown up a visual snapshot of the feasibility of him retiring before 65. If the application's claim of "game-like usability" extended to animated graphics, it might show snowballs, melting quickly in hell.

Perhaps some knowledge is best left to sink in slowly.

But for those who can handle a glimpse of the future, Voyant promises to make the implications of key life decisions more concrete.

The application also marries social-networking with number crunching, permitting users to engage with others over the platform. Other features include individualized recommendations and referrals to financial planners in specific areas. Voyant supports both Windows and Mac OS.