Increasingly, the most important question investors have to ask themselves is, should man or a machine manage my money?
Online, technology-driven investment firms have won billions of dollars in client assets. Millennial investors, the recent college graduates and young employees just starting to save for retirement, quickly have adopted the so-called “robo-adviser” model, and their parents could follow.
Naturally, the rise of the robo-advisers has many investors confused — and many longtime financial advisers worried.
Robo firms do a lot of things right. Their technology platforms are first-class and easy to use, thus their attractiveness to young investors.
Automated, technology-driven investing encourages people to stop trading stocks and instead to invest their money, usually via low-cost index funds.
Importantly, the robo-advisers manage portfolios on a systematic basis rather than by attempting to time the market, that is, getting in and out based on predictions. A lot of powerful investing habits are ingrained into the software itself, reducing the risk avoidable emotional decisions.
The focus among robo-adviser firms on index funds is likely to help investors avoid the greed common among small investors prone to chasing hot stocks. That’s a wonderful improvement.
But take a step back. What prevents a first-time investor (or even a seasoned one) from panicking during a bear market, those unpredictable periods when stocks don’t measure up to expectations? That’s the heart of human investing.
A live, human adviser can act as an emotional circuit breaker during a bear market, protecting the investor from bad choices made in the heat of the moment.
Over time, your behavior at market extremes is what determines your return on any investment. Handling emotional times in the markets is best managed by an objective third party, a person with historical perspective who has a vested interest in your success.
In other words, a financial adviser is still a good way to achieve your long-term goals.
The reason people earn poor investment returns and therefore fail to achieve their goals is because of mistakes caused by emotions at market extremes. That hasn’t changed in a hundred years, nor is it changing in the next hundred.
Investing technology is a useful, important tool. But using a robo-adviser means you have to be able to self-advise at times of doubt. For some, that might be a tall order.
MarketRiders, Inc. is a registered investment adviser. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.