After Jeeves Murphy landed a new job, he needed some help tuning up his old 401-K.
“I wasn’t putting any money towards it, so I wanted to do something with it,” he said.
Seeing a financial advisor didn't fit his schedule or budget, so Murphy turned to a new breed of money management websites for advice. He started using FutureAdvisor.
“They were able to help me move it over into an IRA,” Murphy said.
Until recently, Murphy was part of the 78% of Americans without a financial advisor, with cost being sited as a major roadblock. A growing number of websites bank on changing that by providing personalized financial and investment advice, at more affordable prices.
Jorge Padilla with the Financial Planning Association says most sites have no minimum asset requirement.
“Now it is feasible for pretty much anybody that has saved up some money or has some financial resources to reach out,” Padilla said.
Payment plans vary, but most sites offer free advice to start, followed by one flat fee or a small, monthly one. All of them are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and staffed with certified financial planners or registered investment advisors.
“They’re qualified to review all your finances and put a plan together,” said Padilla.
On sites like LearnVest, you work one-on-one with your very own certified financial planner via phone, email or screen sharing.
“You can see a picture of your net worth and your financial progress day in and day out. That helps your financial planner push you in the right direction,” said Stephany Kirkpatrick with LearnVest.
Other sites, like FutureAdvisor, use computer software to generate custom investment advice.
“FutureAdvisor’s software is monitored continuously by a team of computer scientists and mathematicians here in house for algorithm correctness,” said Bo Lu with FutureAdvisor.
Padilla says that while these online tools can be helpful, you have to be able to put your trust in a program or person you've never met.
Padilla adds, "We are humans. We get emotional and that’s where talking to a live person makes a big difference.”
The sites we spoke with say that since they don't receive commission, it simplifies the decision-making process.
“You also don’t have to get dressed up fancy, you don’t have to rush off to a meeting,” said Kirkpatrick.
Murphy feels FutureAdvisor is one of his most valuable assets.
“I think my financial portfolio has been achieving a lot of my investment goals,” he said.
The websites we spoke with tell us that they utilize bank level online security and encryption to protect your personal information. But if you have your heart set on seeing someone in person, search fpanet.org for an advisor who fits your needs or budget.