What’s the benefit of linking my accounts?
When you enter your data into our system, you’ll be given the option to either enter manually or link automatically. If you choose to link automatically, our system will request read-only access of your account balances and holdings. Our software will sync those values daily, in order to ensure that your balances remain up-to-date in our tool. We won’t have the access or the ability to make any changes to your third-party accounts, so you don’t have to worry about security issues.

Automatic linking will save you time in both the initial input process and on an ongoing basis. You won’t have to update your information in our tool nearly as often – like when you sell a stock or make a withdrawal from an investment account – if you allow our tool to link up directly with your other accounts. But of course, it’s ultimately up to you how you choose to use our tool.

What results can I expect?
Once you’ve entered all of the required information, our system will calculate your results and present you with your comprehensive financial plan. The presentation will come in two parts.

Part I: Current Path

Current Status snapshot from roboadvisor myFinancialAnswers

Current Path from online financial planning tool myFinancialAnswers

This section shows you how you are currently doing financially, how well you could be doing, and how well you’re managing your risk.

Part II: Action Center and Dashboard

Results from a user on the online financial planning tool myFinancialAnswers

Dashboard of results from online financial planning tool myFinancialAnswers

 

Scenario analysis by online financial planning roboadvisor tool myFinancialAnswers

Scenario Analysis by online financial planning tool myFinancialAnswers

This section tells you the recommendations that we think are prudent in order for you to reach your financial goals. It will also provide you with links to get started on some of the recommendations that we make.

Note that the links for external providers are affiliate links, which we are using for tracking to see how many people actually take action on the recommendations we make. This helps us ensure that our tool is having its desired impact.

How much does this cost?
For individual users, the cost is $99/year, charged annually.

We also offer an enhanced version of our software to employers as a stand-alone employee benefit or as an ERISA-reviewed employee education tool for use alongside employer-provided 401(k) and 403(b) plans. If you are an employer, plan sponsor, plan advisor, or benefits broker who wants to make sure that their employees do not have financial problems that affect their productivity at work, please contact us.

For the standard (public) version, we will use affiliate links to track whether or not people follow through on our recommendations, but we will not be getting paid by those vendors. We want our users to take the actions they need to take to meet their financial goals and be happy with their outcomes. We want you to tell your friends about our tool and for your friends to be happy as well. If we provide information that doesn’t provide you with the best financial plan possible, then that happiness, satisfaction, and sharing the word is not going to happen.

How long will this take?
There are two stages to the process.

The first is gathering all of your personal financial information. How long this will take is up to you – if you already have most of the information at hand, then it won’t take long at all. See our “What information do I need in order to use the tool?” FAQ to see what types of things you’ll need to gather.

The second step is inputting your data into our tool and calculating the results. It should take about 30 to 60 minutes to go through the online interview and input your information. The more detail you provide, the longer it will take, but those details will also help us to make more meaningful recommendations. It will also take longer if you choose to manually enter all of your investments, which is why we recommend using our automatic linking option, which is powered by the Intuit technology behind mint.com.

The calculation engine itself usually only takes about 30 seconds, but it could take up to a couple of minutes if our site is experiencing a lot of demand. From there, you can spend as much time as you like poring through our results and analysis. If you’d like, you can also perform a “scenario analysis”, to see how your projections would change if certain inputs could be changed.

How will this tool affect my bottom line?
There will be both costs and benefits to using our program, and we think the overall impact will be a net positive.

Costs

Program costs

There are annual enrollment costs associated with the program. They can be paid from the 401(k) plan assets or you may choose to pay them as an additional employee benefit.

Increased 401(k) match contributions

Participation in the program may cause higher 401(k) plan costs, because participants will likely end up contributing more to their plans. Since they’ll contribute more, you may need to spend more matching those contributions. Of course, for some smaller businesses, these increased contributions may actually help the 401(k) plan meet certain non-discrimination tests, so that cost could be mitigated somewhat.

Benefits

You may not see immediate bottom line benefits; however, whether you realize it or not, employee personal financial problems affect their productivity, costing as much as $5,000 per employee per year. By helping your employees solve their personal financial issues, you’re increasing productivity, which will improve your bottom line. For a deeper discussion of the benefits of workplace financial planning programs, please read our full article on the topic.

How is this different from other online calculators?
We believe that our software is much more complex than other online calculators you might find; we process more information and provide more comprehensive recommendations than any other publicly available tool.

While most calculators will take into account just a few pieces of basic information, we put together a comprehensive cash flow timeline for the entirety of your expected life, including all of your assets, expected returns, your family situation, and how you’d like to spend your money. We try to capture every piece that might affect your future decisions, in order to provide the best possible advice.

Furthermore, we’re creating a comprehensive set of recommendations. We’re not simply trying to answer one question in isolation. Instead, we’re doing the same thing with this online software that we as planners do with our clients – considering various trade-offs, identifying vulnerabilities, and telling you everything that you need to know in order to meet your goals.

How does this tool fit into my existing 401(k) program?
If you’ve sat in any 401(k) training sessions, you’re probably familiar with their content – the presenter covers basic investing principles and asset allocation topics, but never goes into specific details. Your employees won’t learn whether to invest in the index fund or the target-date fund, hearing only broad and general advice. That’s by design, since sticking to a general curriculum helps ensure that the presenter doesn’t become a fiduciary to the 401(k) plan (per the Department of Labor’s guidelines); avoiding fiduciary responsibility protects the presenter from legal obligations and potential liabilities.

However, that training probably also leaves your employees wanting. They look at their enrollment forms and ponder other questions in their financial lives. What should their budget look like? How much insurance do they need? What about those student loans or the mortgage? How will they pay for their kids’ college? Should I be contributing more to my 401(k)? Less? Nothing at all?

Ultimately, despite its many benefits, the 401(k) is a retirement plan that doesn’t answer the most basic of questions: when can I retire? That’s where myFinancialAnswers can help.

In a few minutes, employees can get a comprehensive financial plan that answers many of the questions they have about their financial lives. The self-guided training provided with myFinancialAnswers can help your employees understand why they need to make the financial decisions that our tool recommends, and how all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together. With our tool, your employees can gain confidence about their financial security, reduce uncertainty, and return to focusing on their work, not their worries.

For more information on the role of financial planning within a 401(k) program, you can read our full article on the topic.