Huge advances are being made in technology every year, and I personally can't get enough. One of my favourite gadgets, my Roomba, is a godsend. I love telling others that my robot is vaccuming for me. It just sounds so...futuristic.
The world of financial technology can be just as exciting and futuristic. FinTech — short for Financial Technology — refers to technological innovations in the financial sector, which includes banking, investing and cryptocurrencies.
FinTech has moved well-beyond online banking. Now, people have the option to invest in the stock market with a "Robo-Advisor", and it's just as easy as moving your money from one account to another with your banking app. In the past, investing in the stock market had a massive barrier to entry. You needed tens of thousands in savings before an investment firm would team you up with a broker. It wasn't because it's difficult to invest with a small amount of money. It was because investment firms pursued big commissions, which they were less likely to come by working with middle class investors.
So, what exactly are "Robo-Advisors"? No, they're not tiny robots with adorable bow ties and desk jobs, counting money while giving each other high-fives. It's actually software that makes investment decisions based on your personal goals — and there is no minimum required to get started.
One of the biggest names in the Robo-Advisor game is Betterment . Their basic "Digital" package allows you to access their services for $0 down. They break down a customized plan for your age and income to help meet your goals with retirement, a safety net, and general investing. During an interview at the 2016 Future of Fintech conference held in New York City, Jon Stein, CEO of Betterment, described their service as "the self-driving car of financial services."
Kamilah O'Brien from focusedspender.com explains how she uses Robo-Advisors to save for the down payment on her first house. "Betterment realized that I was not going to reach my goal of $20,000-$30,000 in the next 2-3 years, based on what I was depositing...So then, I increased the deposit every time I got paid." She isn't just saving money. She is making significant gains on all of her accounts. Over the course of 18 months, she earned $2,200 in profit on her house fund, simply because she chose to invest in the stock market, rather than letting the money sit in a savings account that earned less than 1% interest.
You can set your money and forget it, and never get any phone calls or questions from a financial advisor. But just in case anything goes wrong, Robo-Advisors like Betterment, Schwab Intelligent Porfolios and WealthSimple employ well-educated and friendly customer service teams available in case you need to speak with a human.
Robo-Advisors will quite literally do the leg work for you while you're spending your time working, hanging out with friends, and — yes — sleeping.