Financial Engines, a Palo Alto-based provider of online investment software, has introduced the Financial Engines Investment Advisor, an Internet-based advisory service for participants in 401(K) plans.

The service was developed by William F. Sharpe, a Nobel Laureate in Economics, with a team of software and finance experts. The service helps 401(K) plan participants understand the issues of investment risk and return and offers specific fund recommendations to meet their goals.

The program takes information like the user's age, income, contribution level, total household financial assets and desired retirement age and calculates the user's chance of reaching a specified retirement goal. It then recommends a combination of mutual funds that best match the user's goal.

Participants log on to the Financial Engines web site and then download the service onto their computers. The software will be offered directly to 401(K) plan advisors at an annual cost of $30 to $50 per participant.

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