"Hi Rob," a 29-year-old's recent e-mail said. "Long time reader of your column."
A 29-year-old who has been reading the Globe for a long time. Love it.
What I love more is the smart question he asked me on behalf of his close-to-retirement parents, who have decided to sell their home in the Greater Toronto Area and rent for a couple of years.
The son himself is using a robo-adviser to invest and he wonders if the same option makes sense for the money his parents will reap from selling their house. "Would you consider a robo-adviser for such a large amount of money? Or recommend using a financial advisor? Something else?"
I think a robo-adviser could be a good choice for your parents, but I suspect that they would do well to first visit a fee-only financial planner. Robos work well for people who have a block of money to invest. Fee-only planners – they charge hourly or flat fees and don't sell products – will back up a few steps to help you consider the financial goals that will guide your investing.
Selling the family home and renting is a huge life change. A planner could help this son's parents keep their options open to possibly buy a home if renting doesn't work out. A planner could also ensure the couple's retirement savings are in order, that debt is eliminated or heading that way. It's quite possible that this couple might temporarily choose to keep their money safe in the short term using high interest savings accounts. If they give renting two years and it doesn't work out, their money is ready to go toward purchasing a home.
A robo-adviser makes sense for money the parents want to use to generate income or grow their money over a period longer than five years. Again, a planner can help with this kind of strategizing. In terms of picking a robo-adviser, why not audition a few of them? Contact them by phone, mention the significant amount of money involved and ask to speak to a portfolio manager and see what they suggest. Look for a portfolio that is clearly in touch with the parents' investing goals. If the parents want income, where will it come from in the portfolio, how much will there be and what will the tax implications be?
Finding a fee-only planner may prove a bigger challenge than finding a robo-adviser. Try googling "fee only planner Toronto" and see what you come up with. Deal only with people who have either the certified financial planner (CFP) or registered financial planner (RFP) designation.