August 20, 2020
At Charles Schwab, we believe a financial plan based on personal goals and financial situation is a fundamental first step to investing, especially for retirement.
With the launch of the firm’s new complimentary digital Schwab Plan, all investors at Schwab now have the opportunity to access some kind of personalized financial plan, regardless of their asset level, to help them prepare for retirement.
We caught up with Jonathan Craig, Senior Executive Vice President, Schwab Investor Services and Marketing, and Neesha Hathi, Executive Vice President and Schwab Chief Digital Officer, to ask them a few questions about why financial plans are critical for investors of any level or experience, Schwab’s vision for financial planning, and to learn more about Schwab’s new digital financial plan and financial planning hub.
Q: Why does someone need a financial plan for retirement? Who is Schwab Plan geared toward?
Jonathan: Think about it this way – would you run a marathon without a training plan? I like to run, but I would not do that! A financial plan is like the training plan – it helps you map where you are now to what you want to achieve in the future. And we know investors who have a financial plan often get to better financial outcomes. Planning encourages you to do a better job of budgeting, which in turn helps control spending and likely increase saving and investing. Ultimately, financial planning can help investors reach their goals. In fact, in a study of Americans over 50, those who stuck with their plans achieved an average total net worth three times higher than those who didn’t plan. That’s significant!
Q: What’s the best time to put together a financial plan, and what does it entail?
Jonathan: Today is the best day to plan for tomorrow. Back to that marathon example: if you start planning and training several months ahead of time, you’ll likely be better prepared and avoid injuries than starting a month before. At least that is the case for me! And I think this is particularly relevant in today’s turbulent world. Regardless of what is going on in the world, planning is fundamental to financial success – period. We’ve found that even the impact of COVID-19 has had some silver linings when it comes to people’s financial behaviors. And we were glad to see that more people see the benefits of a plan even in historic upheaval. According to our Charles Schwab 2020 Modern Wealth Survey, an annual analysis of perspectives on saving, spending, investing and wealth, twenty-four percent of Americans say they are now more likely than before the pandemic to have a financial plan. And, we know that ultimately planners can achieve better results.
To create an effective retirement plan, it’s important to think first about your goals and time horizon. Determine what you’re trying to achieve and how long you have to do it. The more specific your goals are, the better you’ll be able to measure your progress. For instance, if one of your goals is to “live comfortably in retirement,” define what that means to you in practical terms, such as net worth, monthly spending, or paying off your mortgage. Think through your vision of retirement to define clear, actionable goals. With the right tools, retirement planning can be an easy and straight-forward experience.
Q: Can you tell us about the new Schwab Plan?
Neesha: Schwab Plan is a digital self-guided financial plan that’s available through Schwab.com. Schwab Plan helps clients build a personalized plan that includes a range of factors, including desired retirement age, retirement goals, social security expectations, portfolio risk profile and asset allocation, and various income sources.
While the Schwab Plan experience is easy and straight-forward, the tool generates a sophisticated approach to achieving goals. Clients complete a short questionnaire, and in as little as 15 minutes they’re able to generate a retirement plan that shows retirement goals and probability of funding those goals, a comparison of current asset allocation to a recommended allocation based on plan inputs, and suggested next steps to get and stay on track. Schwab Plan can even aggregate and factor in accounts held outside of Schwab. Clients can return to their plan at any time to ensure they’re on track. Schwab Plan is available to clients at no cost, but any investments you ultimately make may incur costs such as advisory fees. All Schwab clients also have access to financial professionals 24/7 via phone, email, or chat to help with service or general questions.
How does technology make financial planning easier?
Neesha: As a fitness junkie, this is one of my favorite ways to explain the power of technology to help individuals reach their financial goals with individualized coaching. Wearables help you track your progress in real-time, and offer tips to correct your training routine to optimize it for your goals and even benchmark your progress against yourself or others (#schwelton, I see you).
We recognize that technology doesn’t replace the power of trusted human relationships and connection. At times, investors may want to consult with a financial advisor. Schwab Plan is a new addition to our suite of digital and face-to-face planning services. Investors with more complex needs and preference for working with a person can work with a financial consultant or a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) professional.
Should retirement plans be adjusted during market volatility?
Jonathan: Financial plans help us stay on track through market ups and downs. Regardless of your age or current market conditions, the basic principles of setting goals, having a diversified portfolio, rebalancing regularly, and staying disciplined remain critical. With these principles in mind, your investment strategy shouldn’t change that much as you get closer to retirement or as markets shift. A financial plan helps keep you grounded when markets get erratic.
Do men and women differ in their approach to financial planning?
Neesha: In many cases, we’ve found that women are sometimes hesitant to engage directly with their finances. Whatever the reason for why this is, I think that technology can especially help women to be more confident and actively engaged in financial planning for retirement.
Technology can level the financial playing field so that all investors can participate. A recent Schwab study found that women with a written financial plan were significantly more confident than women without a plan. Our goal with Schwab Plan is to provide investors with a planning tool that is similar to what professionals use, but streamlined to make the experience easier and more accessible for people who want to get started planning on their own.
What if you’re not a Schwab client and want to get started on a financial plan?
Jonathan: At Schwab, we believe everyone should have access to tools that help them take control of their financial future. In addition to the launch of Schwab Plan, we’ve also created an online Financial Planning Hub – available to both Schwab clients and non-clients – that features an array of goals-based calculators, tools, and educational planning content to help investors learn more about retirement, saving for college, and buying a home. Investors can get help with questions such as whether they are saving enough for retirement, determining how much they can afford to withdraw in retirement, getting an estimated monthly college savings goal, or planning…