Make us your home page
Instagram

Financial advice for people who aren't rich

New York Times

New York Times

For years now, entrepreneurs have been racing to solve the same problem: the financial services industry's persistent inability to provide personalized advice and appropriate investments at a reasonable price to customers who are not rich.

They are confronting a problem with a basic business model that has plagued the financial advice industry for decades. Helping people sort through their investments, budgets, employee benefits, taxes, estate planning and insurance takes time. No two clients are exactly alike.

If advisers earn their compensation through commissions from investment or insurance companies, then they're likely to favor those funds and policies. This often isn't in the best interest of the customers, most of whom ought to be in low-cost index funds. And the better index funds and similar investments tend to come from companies that don't pay commissions.

Customers can pay advisers directly, and many do pay them 1 percent each year of the money under management. But a large number of the best advisers won't get out of bed for less than $5,000 or $10,000 annually (drawn from a $500,000 or $1,000,000 portfolio), given the amount of time and resources it takes to do right by a client. Some others charge by the hour and still agree to work in a client's best interest, but plenty of customers dislike being on the clock.

It was easy at first for established players to dismiss companies like Betterment, Wealthfront and LearnVest as robo-advisers, niche services or certain failures. But recent developments suggest that those new players may be on to something.

Betterment, which builds and manages investment portfolios of index and exchange-traded funds, realized that 20 percent of its assets were from customers over the age of 50. They were asking for advice on withdrawing their retirement money, and the company is now introducing a service to assist them.

The index fund giant Vanguard is now piloting an offering of its own that nearly matches the new players on price while offering unlimited financial planning along with investment management. That's something that most of the new "we'll run your money for you" companies don't offer.

Vanguard's full-service offering, called Personal Advisor Services, costs 0.3 percent annually of the assets it's managing. For now, customers need $100,000 in accounts there to join, but the company plans to drop the minimum to $50,000 at some point soon.



Financial advice for people who aren't rich 04/19/14 [Last modified: Sunday, April 20, 2014 6:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Macy's chairman replaces ex-HSN head Grossman on National Retail Federation board

    Retail

    Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's Inc., will replace Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman as chair of the National Retail Federation, the organization announced Wednesday. Grossman stepped down from her position following her move from leading St. Petersburg-based HSN to Weight Watchers.

    Weight Watchers CEO and former HSN chief Mindy Grossman is being replaced as chair of the National Retail Federation. [HSN Inc.]
  2. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares nearly 25 percent

    Business

    CLEARWATER — Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  3. CapTrust moving headquarters to downtown Park Tower

    Corporate

    TAMPA — CAPTRUST Advisors, a Raleigh, N.C.-based investment consulting firm, is moving its Tampa offices into Park Tower. CapTrust's new space will be 10,500 square feet — the entirety of the 18th floor of the downtown building, which is scheduled to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation by 2018.

    CAPTRUST Advisors' Tampa location is moving into Park Tower. Pictured is the current CapTrust location at 102 W. Whiting St. | [Times file photo]
  4. Good news: Tampa Bay no longer a major foreclosure capital of the country

    Real Estate

    Once in the top five nationally for foreclosure filings, the Tampa Bay area no longer makes even the top 25.

    A few short years ago, Tampa Bay was a national hub for foreclosures. Not any more. [Getty Images/iStockphoto]
  5. Tampa-based start-up takes on Airbnb by promoting inclusion, diversity

    Tourism

    NEW TAMPA — Last May, Rohan Gilkes attempted to book a property in Idaho on the home-sharing platform Airbnb. After two failed attempts, the African-American entrepreneur asked a white friend to try, and she was "instantly" approved for the same property and dates.

    Rohan Gilkes poses for a portrait at his home and business headquarters in Tampa. 

Innclusive, a Tampa-based start-up, is a home-sharing platform that focuses on providing a positive traveling experience for minorities. Rohan Gilkes, the founder, said he created the organization after several negative experiences with Airbnb.
[CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]