United Capital Financial Advisers may not officially be in the marriage guidance business, but considering the private wealth firm’s latest venture, it has developed a nice sideline in couples counseling.
On Thursday, the Newport Beach, Calif.-based national partnership of private wealth counseling offices revealed that it is on a mission to help advisors talk honestly with clients about how feelings and behavior influence financial decisions with the launch of the Money Mind Analyzer, a free web-based application that looks and acts a whole lot like an online game.
“My wife and I are complete opposites when it comes to our mindset on personal finance matters,” according to Joe Duran, CEO of United Capital, who recently appeared with Dylan Ratigan on MSNBC to unveil the web game. “Learning how to approach each other when discussing big financial decisions has fundamentally changed our marriage. With the majority of marital failures in the U.S. attributed in some part to financial issues, there is a demonstrable need for this sort of tool.” (See page two of this story for video of Duran's appearance on The Dylan Ratigan Show.)
United Capital Financial Advisers says the new app, which helps participants see that the way they feel about money affects their entire lives, was developed by a group of financial advisors who were tired of watching clients make bad financial planning decisions.
- Fear Driven: these hard workers focus on protection, yet their worries make it difficult for them to be happy.
- Happiness: these pleasure seekers want to get the most out of life but can be careless about their finances.
- Commitment: these generous folks are driven by a need to give satisfaction and meaning to the people around them.
“Does talking about money with the people you love make you feel uncomfortable?” asks the game guide on the Money Mind Analyzer. ”Want to find out which money mind motivates you or someone you love? Then let’s get started. You can play for yourself or for someone else. Just be sure to fill in first names, age and gender so you can compare them later.”
One question, for example, says: “An opportunity arises to get away for two weeks. You will:
- Start packing!
- Wonder how much it’s going to cost you.
- Feel guilty leaving loved ones behind.
Victor Ricciardi, an assistant professor of financial management and behavioral finance at Goucher College in Baltimore, took the quiz on the Money Mind Analyzer and learned that he was a commitment-focused giver whose primary goal is to take care of others (which may explain his decision to go into teaching).
Yet Ricciardi was skeptical about the analyzer’s accuracy, saying he was offered only three choices per question, and for at least three of the questions, he didn’t like any of the choices.
“The value of anything like this is to increase financial literacy,” Ricciardi said in a phone interview. “I don’t know if I was an advisor that I could make a link to this and then really say to somebody, ‘here is an asset allocation strategy,’ but it is a good first learning tool. But I think for someone to get reasonable advice, especially if you’re dealing with a client’s psychological profile, it has to be a much deeper analysis.”
Ricciardi teaches two courses in behavioral finance and has designed a class in the psychology of money where his students take 25 personality quizzes during the semester and then write about what the surveys taught them about the type of decision-makers they are.
Still, Ricciardi said he would use the Money Mind Analyzer for his course as a basic learning tool.
“For instance, if I gave an assignment to my students, I would have them take this as one of several different personality quizzes,” he said. “Then I would do another one that assesses their risk tolerance and another one that assesses their money personality.”
United Capital has previously used a card game called Honest Conversations to give advisors and their clients a starting point for talking about wealth management issues such as retirement, estate planning and philanthropy. The firm offers investors an open architecture investment platform.
United Capital and its affiliates have $16 billion in assets under advisement and 35 offices across the United States. The firm has made eight registered investment advisor roll-up acquisitions in the past two years. In November 2011, United Capital brought on a top LPL Financial RIA, Peak Capital Investment Services, an advisory firm with $600 million in assets under management and 40 employees with offices in Denver and Dallas.
Watch a video of United Capital's Joe Duran speaking with AdvisorOne at Schwab Impact 2011 on AdvisorOne.