The digital retirement advisory firm GuidedChoice bills itself as being among the very first to use the internet to bring “new freedom and access” to retirement planning, and boasts a 20-year history in the industry.
In 2020, GuidedChoice CEO Sherrie Grabot expanded the firm and founded 3Nickels, building on the firm’s stated goal of bringing financial freedom to everyone. In 2021, the firm launched the 3Nickels app, a solution designed to offer responsive financial advisory tools and help individuals and families work toward financial independence across a broad range of personal finance goals.
The app comes in two tiers, one paid and the other unpaid. The free tier provides tools that support personal finance needs across budgeting, car buying, paying off credit card debt and establishing college savings. The paid advice tier provides a detailed and customized plan for paying off debt, buying a home and saving for retirement.
“GuidedChoice has a history of focusing primarily on the retirement space and on retirement wellness advice and managed account solutions,” Grabot tells PLANADVISER. “What we have done now, with 3Nickels, is move towards an overall democratization of wealth management, so that we can serve even those with a lower net worth.”
The 3Nickels app’s scalable and tech-based approach enables this democratization, Grabot says. Depending on the complexity of a person’s financial situation, they may not need as much face-to-face contact. This is often the case for new or young savers and investors, for example.
“If you can give them help at the young ages, when they don’t necessarily have a lot of assets and even have a lot of debt, you can get them going much farther, much faster,” Grabot says. “That is a big objective in what we are doing.”
Both versions of the app use the same back-end technology. The main difference between the two tiers is the degree of personalization when it comes to getting answers to financial questions.
“In the retirement plan space, we frequently don’t have automatic access to an individual’s whole picture,” Grabot says. “Perhaps we just have your current retirement plan information and some information about your other retirement plans. In that situation, we won’t be able to know whether, for example, you could afford to increase your savings, or if another approach is better.”
The paid advice version of the platform takes a deeper look at the person’s financial picture, Grabot says. If that user can’t afford an additional 5% in savings necessary to reach their goal, the app won’t make that recommendation. Instead, she says, it will offer trade-offs, perhaps recommending a more affordable 2% increase and a delay in the retirement age from 65 to 66.
To Grabot, “wealth management” means considering a user’s full financial picture and providing them with advice on how to manage their money. She notes that 3Nickels uses simulation technology—and a lot of math—to analyze the optimal path forward for users.
“We understand personal values are a huge component of the equation, and we are not trying to eliminate your values. What we are trying to do is give you a direction, and then you can modify the results based on your values,” Grabot says.
She says clients using the app have experienced greater levels of confidence in their personal financial lives. After using the app, many users start to realize that their financial situation isn’t as bleak as they might have thought, she notes. For example, many people have put off the task of budgeting because they mistakenly believe they can’t control their spending or that they don’t earn enough to feel more financially stable.
“One thing we are trying to accomplish is to show people that they have a lot more control than they might realize on their own,” Grabot says. “There are a lot of things you can do, in little micro steps, that will get you to where you want to go over the long term. With the advice side of the app, we are tracking it all and making sure that you are on track. If a person slips off track, that’s okay—we can re-track.”