Are you ready to let a robot manage your money?
That's the question many investors are struggling with now that the financial services industry has fully embraced robo-advisors.
For most people, the idea of letting computer software manage their investment portfolios is a foreign concept. But since the tools were first introduced by small, independent and seemingly innovative organizations during the Great Recession, robo-advisors have grown in popularity.
Industry giants, including Charles Schwab and Vanguard, now offer robo-advisor products, and media outlets have hailed them as the future of the financial industry, a Jetsons-like convenience that makes managing your money more convenient than ever.
But before you trade the intangibles delivered by your human intermediary, take a look at some of the facts surrounding robo-advisors – and then decide for yourself whether or not you really want to automate your financial future:
FACT: Robo-advisors might not be acting in your best interest
Since robo-advisors were first introduced six years ago, they have grown to number more than 200 in the United States and brought their firms more than $100 million in client assets, according to a new report.
And the SEC has taken notice.
This year, the federal regulator added robo-advisors to its list of issues to be examined. The concern is that there is no way for regulators to properly monitor whether computer software actually acts in its clients' best interests.
After all, robo-advisors are designed to provide the advice it is programmed to provide. And if federal regulators don't have the tools to monitor the platforms, how can you?
FACT: Robo-advisors are impersonal
While it might be nice to daydream about putting your portfolio on autopilot and never have to worry about your financial future until you're ready to retire, the truth is that you're going to want to talk to a real, live person every now and then.
Even airliners need a living, breathing pilot to take off, navigate turbulence and make sure they arrive at their destination safely.
An algorithm isn't going to be able to walk you through the uncertainty of the stock market's ups and downs. A robo-advisor can't take into account your unique personal and family situations. And it's certainly not going to be able to talk to you about alternative investment opportunities.
FACT: Robo-advisors can't think outside the box
Sometimes investing in the stock market is the best options, other times you're going to want to consider alternative investment opportunities.
A robot won't be able to tell you which is best for you, your family or your future.
Generally speaking, robo-advisors are programmed to recommend traditional investments. They gather and hold onto stocks and don't have the ability to aggressively move them into emerging growth areas such as life settlements, small businesses or even real estate.
But your real, live financial advisor can.
FACT: What is monitored is managed
All of this is not to suggest that robo-advisors are bad. They are, in fact, an incredibly powerful tool that can provide you and your financial advisor with valuable information about market trends, where to put your money and even when to divest.
But they need to be monitored in order to ensure that your portfolio is properly managed.
That's why the best solution is to find a real, living and breathing financial advisor who will look out for your best interests, respond accordingly to the ups and downs of the markets, consider alternative investment opportunities – and use computer software to make smarter decisions.
Don't let an algorithm or a robot make decisions for you. Instead, use the robot to make smart decisions for yourself.