I was waiting at an airport recently with my family, and a 40-minute delay led all four of us to instinctively reach for a device — laptop, smart phone, tablet. Within minutes, we researched our connecting flight to ensure we would make it; pinged a note to my mother letting her know we will be late; picked up an online conversation with friends about summer travel plans; and wired money to Canada because we had been meaning to do that anyway.
After all this, my husband still went to the airline counter to confirm with the agent that we would make the connection because he likes to work with an expert, a human being who knows what they are talking about.
These days, managing money has become very similar to planning a trip as people use the same strategy of combining personal service with technology. In fact, during a recent three-month period, more people used the Internet for a financial activity (87 percent), such as banking or investing, than booked travel (56 percent), according to the 2015 BlackRock Global Investor Pulse Survey. Yet, investors of all ages said they still appreciate personal advice, whether it’s from friends, family or a financial professional.
With so many online tools and information resources at your fingertips, I find that combining technology with trusted sources of good advice, such as a financial advisor, can really empower you to make financial decisions that send you off on the right direction.
Are you a cyber investor?
The digital age has certainly made investing easier, and it’s more than just being able to buy and sell stocks with a click of a mouse, which 29 percent of people said they do.
People turn to the Internet more than any other source for information about making long-term savings and investment decisions. Whether you use a desktop computer, phone or tablet, it’s easy to increase your knowledge of investment terms and products, as well as keep on top of market events, on your own time schedule.
More than 40 percent of the people we interviewed go online to research or review investments. The most popular sources of information, our survey found, are search engine financial websites such as Google Finance or Yahoo Finance. Mainstream investors turn to their banks next, while those with more wealth prefer news media and fund managers’ websites.
One techie tool that I’ve found to be really useful is online aggregation software. Some traditional wealth managers, brokerage firms, and digital advice websites (often called “robo-advisors”) offer them for free.
With the rise of 401(k)s and self-directed investing, most people have multiple accounts, typically with three different investment firms, according to Cerulli Associates. These aggregation programs help you to view your assets under one umbrella, so you can tell if you’re headed in the right direction. In as little as five minutes, you can link your accounts and see all of your investments in one place. The technology can help you decipher whether your portfolio is properly diversified and tilted toward the level of risk that you’re comfortable with taking.
Blending both worlds
But with the plethora of information online, the amount of investment choices and market noise can be overwhelming. When markets get volatile, like they have been lately, it becomes even more difficult to make decisions on your own. The more complicated investing gets, the more professional advice can help.
Our research shows that 69 percent of Americans still see value in professional advice, even if they don’t always hire an advisor. Even millennials, who are greater consumers of online information and use all the latest gadgets to find it, want personal guidance as much as their grandparents. Just as many people age 25 to 34 (34 percent) currently use a professional advisor as those age 65 to 74, our survey found.
The majority of Americans view an advisor as a partner. Once you’ve assembled your investments in one place and can see exactly what you own with an aggregator, you’ll have more productive discussions with your advisor to make sure you’re moving toward your financial goals. Your advisor may also have other online tools and resources to help you feel more confident about making investing decisions.
If you’re not ready to hire a personal advisor now, a robo-advisor may be an option to help you design a diversified investment plan. These digital advice firms are gaining in popularity, as four in 10 Americans said they are interested in using them, mainly because of their convenience, simplicity and low cost.
In short, the new tools offered by technology have woven into the fabric of our modern lives, and they now offer support and insight for our money management as well.
So whether you’ve amassed a good amount of assets or are just getting started setting aside savings, you’ll find there are many ways you can blend technology with professional advice to help you get where you want to go financially.
Heather Pelant is Head of BlackRock Personal Investing for BlackRock. She is a regular contributor to The Blog.
Investing involves risks, including possible loss of principal.
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