Our research made us want to find a better way.

So, we turned our attention to the financial services provider landscape to see where we could plug in.  One key realization we had was that the kind of help that the average person needs is provided by fee-based financial planners who provide holistic advice to help people plan and build for the future. Fee-based planners receive no commissions from the recommendations they make. Instead, they get paid a flat fee for their advice, so they are able to be unbiased and independent.

Why don’t more people get help from financial planners?

Our research suggested several reasons:

  • It is a relatively small part of the industry. Some people know about investment advisers who charge commissions (movie portrayals of financial advisers often seem to be of this type), but most people have never even heard of financial planners.
  • Planners charge between $2,500 to $4,000 per year. Only people with significant assets are likely to consider this investment worthwhile.
  • Planners meet with you several times to pull together your financial “picture” and to work through your needs and goals. This can be a time-consuming process. The benefits are worthwhile, but you won’t see them overnight.
  • Finally, most people don’t really want to speak to an adviser, particularly about something that they feel fearful and anxious about. They don’t want to be told “how bad things are.” They don’t want to be scolded, talked down to, or judged.

After our co-founder and major investor, Stephen Reily, wrote about on our findings in his MediaPost blog, a firm called Plan&Act contacted us. We learned that Plan&Act had built a system to capture the advice of fee-based financial planners and deliver it digitally to individuals. Together, we quickly determined that a partnership that combined their system with our market knowledge would allow us make financial planning available to all.

From the beginning, however, we knew that simply automating the financial planning advisory process would not be enough to engage the clients we wanted to serve. We would need to do it differently. So, we decided that SUM180 would be different in two key ways: 1) we would only provide three next steps at a time (more on this later); and 2) we would have an online community where users could talk and support one another in their journeys.

From there, we have been guided by the conviction – by the purpose, if you will –  that when it comes to money, everybody deserves a simple game plan with just a few doable steps designed to get them where they want to be. A plan allows them to feel confident, to live better, and to achieve financial security in the long run.

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