Five financial tips from Robo-advisor CEOs

Robo-advisors can help supply financial guidance for cheap and are changing the way investors interact with technology. These five financial tips are from CEOs of various robo-advisor firms. 

China Daily/Reuters/File
An investor smiles as he looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, December 17, 2015. These five tips from CEOs of different robo-advisors firms can help you orient your finances for success.

If one of your goals for 2016 is to get your financial house in order, you’re not alone. That type of new year’s resolution is so common it frequently shows up on top 10 lists.

You’re much more likely to meet your goals if you make them specific. Unfortunately, many people don’t know where to start. They need concrete advice about how to do better with their money.

Who better to offer that than the people who revolutionized the financial advice industry, the leaders of some of the most successful robo-advisors? Here, five tips from robo-advisor CEOs to make next year a more prosperous one:

Jon Stein, Betterment

Stein, who founded Betterment in 2008, says his advice is to make the most of what you have.

“We’re all subject to many constraints, not just economic but also time constraints, limited capabilities, relationships and, of course, capital,” he says. “What’s important is to maximize our lifetime happiness based on these constraints.”

That may mean that spending time with family and friends is more valuable to you than making more money, or that you’d rather invest in experiences or in yourself — through education — than invest more of your paycheck.

Many of Betterment’s tools have a behavioral finance tilt, so this thoughtful take from Stein isn’t a surprise.

“Education is a great way to invest in another form,” Stein says. “To me, the most important thing is to do what makes you long-term happy, what will help you build the future you want.”

Adam Nash, Wealthfront

Nash is the CEO of Wealthfront, which sets itself apart from the competition by managing the first $10,000 completely free. His advice is a simple but important reminder: Spend less than you make.

“When you get a bonus or annual raise, the best gift you can give yourself is to save that extra income; don’t spend it,” Nash says.

That’s a strategy that’s particularly applicable this time of year, when bonuses tend to be paid out. If you immediately save increases in income, you’ll avoid lifestyle inflation. And, as Nash notes, “Once you raise your spending, it can become incredibly hard to jump off the treadmill. The only reliable path to long-term financial success is to live within your means.”

Bill Harris, Personal Capital

You might know Harris from his former roles — he’s served as the CEO of both Intuit and PayPal. He founded Personal Capital, which combines robo-advisor algorithms with dedicated human financial advisors, in 2011. His tip? Diversify.

“Whether you’re just starting your financial journey or reviewing your current investments for the year ahead, maintaining a diversified portfolio may be the single most important driver of your investment success,” Harris says.

Maintaining diversification may mean giving your portfolio a much-needed rebalancing, if you haven’t already, and keeping perspective when making investment selections. Harris notes, “Stocks that may be hot right now won’t stay that way forever, so it’s important to hedge your bets and maintain a diversified portfolio that isn’t dependent on the whims of a single group or industry.”

Bo Lu, FutureAdvisor

Lu, who serves as the CEO of FutureAdvisor after co-founding the company, says his best year-end advice is to take a moment to reflect. “You can’t know how to get to where you need to be if you don’t know where you are,” he says. Take a look at how many accounts you have, where those accounts are held, and what your investments within those accounts look like.

“These days, it’s quick and easy to see all of your accounts in one place, get a holistic analysis of your current portfolio and see how much you’re on track to have at retirement,” Lu adds.

You can, of course, take that kind of stock at FutureAdvisor, which was purchased by BlackRock in August. The company analyzes your portfolio and makes recommendations for free. Looking over your financial life from the past year will help you create a road map for the future.

Rich Hagen, TradeKing Advisors

Hagen is president and co-founder of online broker TradeKing, and serves as the CEO of its robo-advisory arm, TradeKing Advisors, which launched in 2014. Hagen’s No. 1 piece of financial advice heading into 2016: Embrace healthy financial habits.

“This means paying yourself first when you sit down to pay your monthly bills, by consistently putting aside an amount of money you can deposit into a brokerage or financial advisory account,” Hagen says. He notes that investors can quickly make this a habit that sticks by setting up recurring monthly deposits.

This article first appeared at NerdWallet.

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