Gone are the days when professional financial planning was limited to inside the walls of a CFP’s office or over a 1:1 phone call. Schwab’s latest digital service, the Schwab Plan, offers self-guided, personalized financial planning, complimentary to its clients across all retail divisions. Plus, there’s no minimum asset requirement.
As a recent college grad just entering the world of Roth IRAs and investing, I decided to try out the Schwab Plan to see for myself how useful it was for managing personal finances. I was impressed with how interactive it was: for instance, I was able to experiment with the age at which I might begin to take Social Security benefits to see how much more I could accrue by holding off for a few years. I could also manually adjust numbers in the “Play Zone,” allowing me to experiment with how changes to target retirement age, asset allocation and income would impact my plan. And, as promised, it didn’t take longer than 15 minutes to input my information.
While I found the Schwab Plan to be a helpful tool, particularly for younger generations, it’s not a substitute for the personalized communication and advice that you might get with an RIA or CFP. Individuals looking to receive a tailored financial plan online without sacrificing the personal relationship that traditionally comes with financial planning might consider program’s like Wealthspire Pathways, a digital advisor platform that combines tailored planning with ongoing contact with a CFP. With advice coming from a dedicated advisor and virtual meetings, Wealthspire’s platform is not the same as a robo-advisor.
Robo-advisors and fully digital platforms have traditionally been of particular interest to younger generations with fewer assets to manage. The first robo-advisor, Betterment, was launched in 2008 at the height of the housing crisis. It’s no surprise that the Schwab Plan was released in late summer 2020 amidst the COVID pandemic and economic downfall, a time when clients were particularly conscious of not overspending and didn’t want to visit a physical financial planning office.
At The Lowe Group, we’ve noticed that many of our clients are paying close attention to personal finance trends among millennials, and increasingly, GenZ as well. According to the venture capital database CB Insights, “brick and mortar is out; digital and mobile-first are in” for millennial banking. Millennials also tend to be values-driven, have fewer assets with which to invest and in many cases are still paying off student debt.
Enter Gen Z, individuals born between 1996 and 2015, the oldest of whom are graduating college and beginning their careers amidst a pandemic, high rates of unemployment and an economic recession. Compared to older generations, Gen Z is the least likely group to have visited a physical banking location for personal banking activities, making a fully digital platform an attractive option. Though many use some sort of technology to manage their finances, most Gen Zers still find human advisors more trustworthy than a robo-advisor, according to Morningstar research.
Financial advisors need not worry that robo-advisors or platforms like the Schwab Plan are rendering their services obsolete. Millennial and GenZ trends demonstrate that while there’s a demand for fully digital financial planning, the demand for the human side of financial planning has not disappeared. Offering some combination of the two, then, may be a good bet for advisors navigating an increasingly virtual landscape.