Sometimes, a starting point can really come in handy. Think back to essay prompts in school. Or the instruction manuals from Ikea...kind of. Or when it comes to figuring out how much money you’ll need to buy a home in a few years. Or launch your startup. Or retire in the best way possible.
Back in the early days of Ellevest, we spent hours upon hours talking to women like you to find out how a digital investment advisor could serve you better. One point that kept popping up in our conversations? It’s hard to know how much money you’ll need to reach a financial goal.
Makes sense. You have some time until retirement, so how are you supposed to know today how much money you’ll need to support your lifestyle years from now? Then there’s inflation. Forget to factor that into your guesstimate, and you could end up looking like Dr. Evil. (If you haven’t seen Austin Powers, Dr. Evil wakes up in 1997 after being cryogenically frozen for 30 years, wants to hold the world hostage, and thinks a $1 million ransom is huge. Cue laughter.)
We can help you take the guesswork out of the equation. Seriously. Whenever you choose a goal on Ellevest — aside from “A Once-in-a-Lifetime Splurge” where you tell us how much you want for, say, that destination milestone birthday party — we recommend a goal dollar target amount for you.
But that’s just the beginning. Customization matters a lot to us: We customize each of your investment portfolios to each of your goals, and we customize your financial plan to you. Which is why we’ve also given you the ability to customize your goal targets, your timeline for achieving them, and the rhythm with which you invest your money to get to your goals.
All About Your Goals
A goal target is only as good as the information used to calculate it. At Ellevest, we use your salary or take-home pay (depending on the goal) in our calculations, factor in inflation (when relevant), and make certain assumptions to arrive at your suggested goal target.
The assumptions we use vary by goal. With “Emergency Fund,” we assume you want three months' of take-home pay. That’s pretty standard. For “A Place to Call Home,” we estimate how much home you can afford based on salary and assume you’re making a 20% down payment, an amount that helps you get better interest rates on your mortgage.
“Kids Are Awesome” and expensive, so we assume nine months of take-home pay per child will help with summer camps, big birthdays, weddings, etc. With “Start a Business,” we go with the experts and assume you need to give yourself two years (in our case, two years of take-home pay) to see if your business has potential.
Then there’s “Retirement on My Terms.” We assume the annual income you’ll want in retirement will be equal to 90% of your salary in the year before you retire, minus taxes. We use a gender-specific salary curve from Morningstar Investment Management LLC, along with information such as your age, current salary, education level, and state of residence to calculate your pre-retirement salary. And, finally, our “Build Wealth” goal is assumption-free — instead, we factor in your other goals and goal priority to calculate this estimate.
They’re Suggestions, Not Requirements
If the best part of our planning process is having a starting point for your goals calculated for you, what’s the second best part?
Being able to tweak your goal targets. These numbers are suggestions — and while a lot of thought goes into them, we recognize that you may want and need a different amount for each of your goals. If you plan on buying a home with your partner or know that the homes in your desired neighborhood are pricey, increase our suggested goal target for “A Place to Call Home.” Pretty confident that you’re going to downsize and live more modestly in retirement? Then lower our suggestion for “Retirement on My Terms.”
You can adjust your goal targets in two places. After you pick and prioritize your goals, we show you our suggested goal targets; click on “Edit Goal” right under each goal target to make your changes.
You can also tweak your goal targets after getting a financial plan. We provide two numbers next to each goal on your dashboard; the bottom one is your goal target, which you can edit by clicking on the pencil icon. (Just so you know, you can make changes to your plan wherever you see a pencil icon on Ellevest.)
Goal targets aren’t the only aspect of your plan that you can edit on Ellevest. Same goes with your timeline. We have default timelines for each goal, and you can change your horizon for all of them, depending on when you want to buy that house, start that business, or reach any of your other financial goals.
Because we want to give you a financial plan that’s tailored to your wants and needs as much as possible, and your input helps us do that. It makes your personalized financial plan even more...personalized.
Here’s how it works if you edit your goal targets before getting a financial plan. Once you’re done adjusting, we calculate deposit recommendations based on the newly specified numbers and give you a clear view as to how your money could help you reach your goals.
If you edit your goal targets post-financial plan, your deposit recommendations will stay the same since they’re based on your original goal targets. Where you will end up seeing a difference is in how your financial plan measures up against your new goal target amounts.
At Ellevest, we measure performance in terms of progress made toward your financial goals: We consider you “on track” when you’re likely to reach your goal target or higher in 70% of markets and “off track” when that likelihood falls to 60% or lower. (By the way, being off track doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t reach your goal target, but we think the extra confidence that comes with being on track doesn’t hurt.)
Making your goal targets bigger or smaller can affect whether or not you’re on track for your goals. But with our trade-off tools, you can easily edit your timelines and deposit recommendations and see how to stay on track.
We actually show you — in real-time — how changing our recommendations a) can get you on track or off track and b) could impact all of the goals in your financial plan. Let’s say you’ve chosen both “A Place to Call Home” and “Start a Business;” if you decide you want to buy a home in three years instead of six, you might start your business later and make smaller deposits toward that goal along the way.
There’s not much that feels more “personal” than your money and financial goals. That’s why we built so many customization tools into the Ellevest platform — so that your financial plan can be truly yours.
The projections of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results.
The information provided should not be relied upon as investment advice or recommendations, does not constitute a solicitation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered specific legal, investment or tax advice.
The information provided does not take into account the specific objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific person.
Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market. There is no guarantee that any particular asset allocation or mix of funds will meet your investment objectives or provide you with a given level of income.
Investing entails risk including the possible loss of principal and there is no assurance that the investment will provide positive performance over any period of time.