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Internet

A calculator for the future

Web surfers can calculate their financial needs for retirement or college savings using the InsWeb Financial Needs Estimator.

Web surfers can estimate their financial needs for retirement or college savings using the InsWeb Financial Needs Estimator.

The financial calculator is one of a bevy of new products introduced today by InsWeb, which still faces competition for consumer business from personal finance software marketer Intuit's Insuremarket site.

InsWeb unveiled a program called Matrix Benefits to let self-employed individuals and small businesses set up plans that let employees pay for medical expenses on a pretax basis, meaning that they are paid before deductions for income and social security taxes. Also introduced was a way to get online quotes for life, disability, long-term care, and other forms of insurance, as well as a chance to enroll in discount dental, vision, and hearing plans.

The services provided new indications that the Internet could become a low-cost distribution channel for insurance sellers because it can automate the sales process, reducing sales and marketing costs, and possibly eliminating commissions.

InsWeb is investing heavily to use its site as a resource both for consumers and the insurance industry, including sales of insurance policies. The company has positioned itself as an ally of the industry by providing information and working through insurance agents, brokers, and carriers.

Among InsWeb's new services for insurance agents are the For Brokers Only publication and online resources to help agents run their businesses better.

The financial needs estimator, after calculating an individual's insurance needs, includes a way to get a quote, based on information already entered. Zurich Kemper Life is sponsoring the InsWeb calculator but will be available for other insurers as well, through InsWeb.