robo-adviceWe’re turning to apps for everything these days: college courses, paying for our lattes, and finding love. And now, “robo-advising” apps are new contenders in the online marketplace, offering financial assessment and advice. On the outside, the concept felt a bit like Costco for retirement planning – and while buying bulk tortellini is a good thing, it’s still undecided if there is wise financial planning for the masses. But I’m no luddite, so I wanted to take a look at these online ideas.

The site with the most buzz right now, Future Advisor, asks that you direct all your financial information to it, analyzes your portfolio, and then offers tips and advice  based on your age – all for free. You can pay for plans that give you the ability to live-chat with an advisor, or FaceTime with them (much like you would for customer service online), for a monthly premium.

But the site doesn’t know you.

It’s not that I don’t like the idea of simplifying financial matters (because that would indeed be helpful). What is worrisome is that I’m not sure financial planning is supposed to be one-click and done. Robo-advising eliminates a dialogue between you and your advisor, and instead simply dispenses advice, no questions on your part asked.

And I’m not sure I like that. You should be taking an active interest in your financial future. Ultimately, you’re responsible for making sure you’re going to be able to retire comfortably, and you should understand why you’re making the choices you make with money. It’s a little too lemming-like for my taste to just do what the masses do.

Perhaps I’m biased – after all, I make my living by talking to people and helping them shape their retirement funds – but I really do think making a connection with an advisor, understanding your options, and being engaged in making your financial decisions is a wiser long-term planning solution. A personal touch on retirement makes sense.

There’s that great Harry Potter quote that says, “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.” Pretty sure that applies here.