Unless you are one of the 30 per cent of Canadians polled recently who are counting on winning the lottery or inheriting money to provide for their retirement, you are likely going to have to take responsibility for building and protecting your wealth.
Luckily, there's an app for that. Or, more accurately, there are Web-based tools that do what you once had to pay a professional for. In most cases, they are also free.
What there doesn't seem to be, however, is one single, all encompassing online source. "There are a lot of different solutions, a lot of smaller solutions and niche players," said Daniel Shain, the founder of online guaranteed investment certificate (GIC) purchase platform Finizi.com.
Mr. Shain, who is in his 20s, sold his online GIC comparison service to a small brokerage firm a few months ago. Finizi garnered plenty of media attention for its status as the country's first GIC auction website. It allows investors to input their hoped-for term and rate of return and then sit back and let companies bid for the business.
Mr. Shain recently joined Kanetix Ltd. (Kanetix.ca), which allows consumers to compare and buy insurance for cars, homes and people.
Last month the company introduced an online service that it says is the only one that allows consumers to compare and secure mortgages from home. "It is really the first and only online platform where you can get mortgage preapprovals instantaneously without having to fill out a huge application," said Mr. Shain, who is the product manager.
"The plan is to expand beyond insurance to be a one-stop shop for financial products," he said.
Kanetix says it attracts about one million unique visitors a year. Among its competitors are RateSupermarket.ca, which allows consumers to compare rates on mortgages, life insurance, credit cards and savings accounts, and RateHub.ca, which provides mortgage rate comparisons.
Online wealth management services can be divided into three categories: those that help you identify and buy financial products at the best rates, like those described above; personal finance platforms such as Mint (mint.com/Canada) that provide budgeting tools and allow you to create a financial "dashboard" of all your savings and investment accounts on one screen; and online investment platforms.
Among the last category, online brokerages offer powerful tools such as asset allocators, model portfolios and portfolio rebalancing programs, all designed to ensure that your investments meet your long-term plans.
"You can run risk profiles, you can do full stock and security analysis, and most of the software does risk analysis, and they allow you to build virtual portfolios," said Frank Wiginton, a Toronto-based certified financial planner and author of How to Eat an Elephant – Achieving Financial Success One Bite at a Time.
"They have really, really stepped up their offering to compete to get the client who is paying seven or 10 dollars a trade," he said.
The appetite for wealth management tools is so great that the public sector is getting into the act. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada offers many of the retirement planning and budgeting tools that Mr. Wiginton created to be used with his book.
What you really can't do online is comprehensive planning, Mr. Wiginton said.
"Unless you are going to go out and buy the financial planning software and go through the hours and hours it would take to learn how to use it, you really can't do proper comprehensive financial planning, tax management, tax planning," he said.
Why not, if online platforms offer so much for so little?
"You don't know what you don't know," he added. "When I started financial planning 13 years ago, I had a lot of education but very little experience. I didn't know about certain advanced tax planning strategies or estate planning for the younger generation that I know today. That really can't be done online."