Should a Twentysomething Use an Online Financial Adviser?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —Could your financial adviser be erased along with your debt?

Not so long ago, not only was a financial adviser a highly respected and sought-after job but also those who had their own financial adviser were considered to be of a certain monetary ranking. How times have changed, and due to an accumulation of financial insecurity, high levels of unemployment and advancements in money management technology, it could be argued that brick-and-mortar financial advisers are slowly sliding into obsolescence.

And that can surely save you five grand at the ritzy 5th Avenue financial advisory—no matter the appealing prestige.

Still it is a sad but true fact that many people in their 20s and 30s are struggling with unemployment, low incomes and debt. Recent figures announced by the U.S. Department of Labor reveal unemployment remains at 22.8% for 20- to 24-years-olds and at 8.1% for 25- to 34-year-olds. Despite this high unemployment, the generation of American young professionals is becoming more financially prudent or at least trying to get a grip on their personal finance management. For instance, according to survey from Strategic Business Insight’s MacroMonitor, young people are cutting back on credit card debt with the number of Americans under the age of 35 owning a credit card falling from 63% in 2002 to 45% in 2010.

So what exactly is contributing to the snippet of optimism surfacing from a harsh economic climate? Advancements in technology means that with just a few clicks of a mouse and swipes of a touch screen an interactive world of information is at our fingertips.

The concept of the “virtual wealth manager” has certainly entered mainstream consciousness, and it seems that people in their 20s and 30s are lapping up this new culture of wealth management autonomy.

The Pocket Financial Planner app, for example, provides users with personal banking capabilities, information on trading stocks, and the latest currency exchange rates, turning their smartphone into an instant mobile financial adviser. With such multifaceted financial advice in our pockets, who is going to willingly hand over his hard-earned pennies to the old-school way of gaining financial advice?

Beyond a faceless app, other platforms like NestWise allow users to be matched with one of 17 real-life advisers for a fee of $250.

Young professionals are most likely to use these online resources to handle their finances. In 2012, Global Research wrote there is a crisis of student debt in America, with college students taking on massive debt just to further their education. Within this bleak debt-ridden climate, apps and money management tools provide some relief. ReadyForZero, for example, helps students create a debt-repayment plan and has, according to its website, helped users pay off more than $32 million in outstanding debt.

The Mobile Innovations Debt Free app provides a similar service.

Statistics reveal that it is younger people who are more receptive to this new culture of technological money management. A survey compiled by Alite Group, a financial services research and advisory company, revealed that only 16% of people in their 50s and 60s take advantage of such mobile money management tools, compared to 44% of people in their 20s and 30s.

Dealing with money at large has taken an increasingly wired trajectory: internet security firm Webroot reported that by 2013, the combined market for mobile payment technology is expected to reach $600 billion globally.

 

Goodbye 5th Avenue?

So is it poof-begone to traditional financial advisers? Tom Stewart,a financial adviser in Michigan, believes that this technology is helping young people manage their finances more proficiently but warns that people should not rely on technology alone for financial advice.

“Although I advise my clients to take advantage of such technology, properly trained advisers are essential as too many people are making their own decisions, albeit with the help of free apps, to save costs," he said. "Alas, these decisions are often based on incomplete information and knowledge.”

Ozmen Safa, company director of a property development in London, begs to differ. The 40-year-old once visited financial advisers but now uses money management apps for the daily management of his finances.

“Technology has replaced the financial adviser in so much as the individual has enough access to information to compare products and make an informed decision,” he said.

As the shift in the way people interact with technology is undoubtedly altering the investment and money management platform, the savvy financial advisers it seems are adapting and, as a consequence, are ‘weathering the storm.’

While the baby boomers may not be big ‘Minters,’ it certainly seems the younger generations are lapping up the likes of Mint.com and as result, are shoring up their finances and cutting back on debt. The savvy financial advisers recognize the radical shift in consumer demand and are adapting. Whether the new technology will obliterate the need for ‘brick and mortar’ financial advisers entirely seems unlikely.

As 34-year-old Jane Simmons who recently saved thousands when buying a property through the advice of her financial adviser said, “There is some information you’d never be able to get from an app.”

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