Making Cents of Online Investment Services – Which is Best?

The question of the day is all about using online investment services. In other words; Should You or Shouldn’t You? Naturally, as you might well expect with this sort of question, there is no one size fits all answer here. You see, for some people, using an online investment service is a no-brainer, whereas for other people not so much.

Working Definition

Let’s begin with a good clear definition of what we are talking about here so that everyone is on the same page. For the purposes of this article, we will define an online investment service as any sort of investment service where you don’t have the dedicated attention of a specific financial adviser. In most cases, this is done as a sort of lowering the bar if you will so that those with fewer dollars to invest can still benefit from professional advice.

Robo-Advisers?

Although you may have encountered the term robo-advisers in and around your Google Searches for investment advice, this phrase is something of a disservice to the industry.

Uh, hmm; not so much. Actually this is considered to be somewhat of a derogatory term by those in the business. Although you may have encountered the term robo-advisers in and around your Google Searches for investment advice, this phrase is something of a disservice to the industry. For example, the term “robo” implies more of a commoditized, mass produced product. Yet as you already know, each financial situation is unique. Consequently it would not make sense to try and use one size fits all approach to your personal finances.

What’s Available?

It turns out that there is a wide range of online investment services out there. Depending on which firm you are looking at, you can receive access to services such portfolio management, asset management, investment advising, financial planning, portfolio analysis, online brokerage services, asset allocation advice and more. The point is that depending on your own personal financial situation, chances are you can locate an online investment advisory service that fits your needs.

How Do They Do It?

Understand that even the best online investment service can only work with what you give them. Most of these firms start the process with an online questionnaire for you to fill out. For example, should you happen to interested in how best to allocate your assets among the various investment choices available to you, the online questionnaire will have specific questions about your time horizon. Using this information, the adviser will then suggest a model portfolio for you to model based on that timeline.

Using an online investment adviser means you have to take the time out to carefully think through the initial part of the setup.

At the same time, there are some online investment advisory services that offer to select which portfolios that best fit your time horizon, your risk tolerance, that sort of thing. The point to get here is that using an online investment adviser means you have to take the time out to carefully think through the initial part of the setup. Otherwise, the advice you receive, the portfolio models and such will have little to no real meaning.

Real World Examples

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Here is what this looks like in the real world. Take a look at how it works at the online investment company named Betterment. Betterment begins their process with an online interview process that is specifically focused on your time horizon for specific goals. During this process, you have a wide range of different investment goals to choose from such as wealth building, retirement savings amount, retirement income targets, safety net funding amounts, IRA and more.

Going a step further is another online investment adviser firm named Hedgeable. Hedgeable takes this process one step further. Instead of merely offering you up model portfolios and the like, Hedgeable will actually manage your money for you to meet the goals you have identified. This means Hedgeable will buy and sell securities for you account.

One more step up the online investment service can be found at Personal Capital. Like Hedgeable, Personal Capital will also manage your money for you. Yet Personal Capital takes it one step furhter. Personal Capital provides wealth management services.


Now What?

The above list is but a small sampling of what is available out there in terms of online investment services. Bottom line is this: if you are the type who doesn’t mind taking care of your personal finances online, then online investment advisers are the next logical step for you. On the other hand, should you be more comfortable dealing with your financial adviser face to face, well that option is still available also.

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One comment

  1. Jennifer Wilson

    My favorite is MoneyStrands – it’s a solid general purpose platform with an excellent budgeting tool. I particularly like its seamless integration with mobile devices.

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