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Financial manager develops millennial-friendly process

Web-based investment product appeals to those with technological savvy.

September 4, 2015
| By Pat Evans |
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Using an engineering and portfolio management education background, Bob Sloma developed a new investing process in the mid-1990s for his 401(k).

As the Great Recession decimated many retirement plans, Sloma made a transition from the manufacturing world to financial management, using the process he developed and that had proved successful for 14 years for his own portfolio.

“I was making the same mistake every other investor makes: choosing the best-performing funds from the last five years,” Sloma said. “I knew there had to be a better way, so I developed a data-driven process using my background.”

Sloma’s background includes a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Cincinnati and an MBA in finance from the University of Toledo with a specialization in portfolio management.

Now, he’s making good use of his portfolio management specialty, and recently released a web-based investment advisor called MyRetirementPlan.

While he was getting started in his financial advisor career, Sloma knew he wanted to automate the process he had developed. He already had put parts of it into an Excel spreadsheet, but he wanted the full process automated in a web-friendly environment.

Eventually, he found the 20 metrics he needed to sort through five asset classes to provide optimal investment strategies for investors. The site asks six questions that evaluate the user based on personal risk tolerance and age in order to maximize the returns.

“The first attempt was a complete failure,” he said. “Eventually, I proved I could do it well enough for a web concept.”

In early 2014, the website and MyRetirementPlan program became a reality. Now, an algorithm that regularly beats the S&P 500 is available to investors for a fee: $60 for the first year and $120 annually after that.

The system also provides a quarterly report that helps investors rebalance their portfolios.

He said the third-party automated advisor is ideal for the average American who doesn’t feel comfortable choosing investments and who may have 30-plus options in their employer’s defined contribution retirement plan.

Sloma said most of these typical investors don’t have access to an advisor, especially one who won’t just point the investor in the direction that benefits the advisor.

“The easy route is to pick a target-date fund, but that’s not necessarily the best option,” Sloma said. “My goal was to provide an easy-to-use tool that can give independent guidance affordably.”

Aside from middle-class investors with no financial background, Sloma said he’s also targeting millennials — a generation he said is generally not confident enough to begin investing.

“They don’t trust advisors at this point in their lives,” Sloma said. “They saw what happened to their parents in ’08 and ’09. Investing is scary.”

Most millennials, however, are approaching an age when they need to start thinking about retirement, he said, especially the leading edge of that generation who are nearing and passing the big 3-0.

“They need to seriously start thinking about retirement,” he said.

Millennials are the ideal user for the site, Sloma said, because they’re often technologically savvy, look for online tools to complete tasks and have a do-it-yourself attitude.

“If they can find a tool, they’ll use it,” he said.

Besides the MyRetirementPlan site, Sloma said investors who are looking to save for retirement beyond their employer’s plan can find personal service through parent company Sigma Advantage Investments.

Despite citing data that show nearly 93 percent of millennials are averse to investing, he said it’s never too early for them to start thinking about retirement — “the sooner, the better.”

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