If you are a member of a household with more than $1 million in investable assets, there are plenty of highly qualified wealth managers and financial planners ready and willing to provide you with advice for a fee. If you are a member of a household with under $500,000 in investable assets, the pool of firms willing to provide quality, unbiased advice shrinks substantially.

Yes, there are firms that operate in this sector of the marketplace, but for the most part, their business models are not scalable, so they can only serve a small fraction of those who might benefit from their help. According to Rich Ellinger, the CEO of WealthMinder, there are approximately 108 million households with less than $500,000 in investable assets. Clearly, not all are good candidates for the services of a financial advisor, but many are. Ellinger says that his segment of the market represents approximately $9 trillion in assets. That sounds like a potential opportunity for some enterprising readers.

Over the last couple of years, some of the direct-to-consumer robo-advisors have targeted this segment, but their platforms, to date, have been limited to portfolio construction and maintenance. What if there was a scalable platform that empowered financial advisors to provide basic wealth management services to this segment of the population efficiently and profitably? That’s what WealthMinder is attempting to do. I recently took it for a test drive to see if the platform lived up to its lofty goals.

In order to understand the WealthMinder experience from a client’s perspective, I created a client account with the firm; as a client, you can get invites from advisors or click in through advisors’ branded websites. (You could also go directly to the retail version, but more on that later.)

Once the advisor invite comes, it includes a link to the log-in page. Then you create a user name and password and are logged in.

First, you are asked to select a goal. A number of common ones are listed on the page. I clicked “retirement.” Next, you are asked some basic information about yourself and your spouse (if applicable). This includes names, dates of birth, gender, salaries and states of residence. At this point, the software defaults to a retirement age of 65 for each spouse and asks you more about your goal. You can change the retirement age assumptions, designate how much you want to spend per year in retirement (the application suggests spending 80% of your preretirement income), and designate how important this goal is (essential, desirable or merely a dream).

Then you are asked to add goals such as college, private school, a wedding or a house. You can make up others—I added a luxury auto purchase a few years out. You are asked who the goal is for, when you’d like to fund it, whether it’s a onetime item or something recurring, what amount you need to save for it, and what is the goal’s importance (whether it’s essential, desirable or merely a dream).

You are then transported to the account aggregation page. Here, popular institutions are listed on the page. You can click to add one. If your institution is not listed, you click the search button and locate it. WealthMinder’s aggregation tool is powered by Yodlee, which has a rather extensive list of financial institutions. I selected one, then added my user name and password for it. WealthMinder then connected to the institution and gathered my account information.

When I clicked “next,” the page displayed my aggregate account balances at the top of the page and invited me to enter the amount of savings I planned to add to each account in the future, the type of account (taxable, IRA, Roth, etc.), the way I planned to use the funds (for all goals or a specific goal) and the owner of the account. After that, I was asked if I had any other assets to fund my goals, and if I had any sources of income other than Social Security to fund my retirement.

Finally, I was asked to designate my risk tolerance. There are five choices ranging from very conservative to very aggressive. For each portfolio, the application lists a maximum expected loss in dollars, an expected annual return as a percentage, and a maximum expected annual return as a percentage. Finally, you are sent an e-mail and asked to click on a link within it to confirm your account setup.

Next, I logged in as an advisor. When you do, you are taken to a page that lists all your clients (those that have visited the site and set up an account). You can sort the list by e-mail address or by when they last logged in.

When you select a client, you are transported to the overview page. To the right of the page are notifications showing you things such as when the clients signed up, when they aggregated accounts and when they submitted the information. In the middle of the page, the software displays the names of the clients, their assets, their salaries and their e-mail addresses. If you click on the arrow at the top of the screen, you can also see their goals.

Had I already created one or more plans for the clients, they would be listed here, but since they are new, I click on the “new plan” button to create one.

When I navigate the planner section, I see that the application has already performed an initial analysis for me, and it contains some recommendations. By clicking on the hyperlink, I can view the issues and recommendations that the software has identified. In my test case, there is a good chance that the client will run out of money by age 76. The application makes a few recommendations about how to improve the plan’s chance of success—if the client retires later, spends less or does both.

To my mind, the spending cuts and the retirement delays suggested are too harsh, so I scroll down to the area that allows me to make my own adjustments. There are fields displayed to change common elements of the plan, saving to an account I designated earlier, for instance. I’d like the client to save more, since there is free cash flow, but I don’t want to use that account, so I use the “adjust your plan in greater detail” button and create a 401(k) plan contribution of $18,000 and a catch-up contribution of $6,000 till retirement and I link that account to the client’s retirement goal.

I can keep adding resources and changing aspects of the plan until I come up with an acceptable plan of action.

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