We trust financial pros for a reason, and it’s not because we enjoy handing control of our finances over to near-strangers. Realtors, bankers, and accountants exist because they’re willing to crunch the numbers and do the math that most people can’t or won’t manage themselves.
Y Combinator-backed SmartAsset is opening its platform to the public today, and the service promises to do the math so its users don’t have to. The first iteration of the product seeks to answer just one question: Should I buy a house?
Founder and CEO Michael Carvin began working on SmartAsset, trying to answer that very question.
“I had the idea for SmartAsset when I was trying to buy a home myself about 18 months ago. What I had thought would be a pretty easy decision for me. I had worked with finances for six years, [and it] was actually much more complicated than I anticipated,” he says.
“I found a lot of anecdotal articles and financial calculators. And when I went through the calculators, I found that they made some pretty basic mistakes. I built a model for myself that I would have built for companies before.”
SmartAsset has compiled all of the data to answer Carvin’s – and many others’ – questions. The service will help users determine what mortgage might be best for them, if they should rent a property or purchase it outright, what their taxes will look like if they make the switch, etc. Carvin says that it took the company six months to develop SmartAsset’s financial modeling platform.
The goal for SmartAsset is to be able to answer up to 300 questions spread across 20 different categories, allowing users to see if they have saved enough for retirement, or if they’ll be able to pay off a student loan. Right now the company is limited to calculating questions for homebuyers, but Carvin expects some questions from other categories to be answered soon.
SmartAsset reminds me of another company that I wrote about, when I first started working with PandoDaily. Built to help users make investment decisions based on their tolerance for risk, Riskalyze and SmartAsset are working toward similar goals. They operate in separate spheres in the financial industry, but the idea is the same: Learn about the user, crunch the numbers behind the scenes, and then make it easy for users to make a decision with that data.
Both companies will also face similar risks, chief among them being the average person’s skepticism towards an online service promising to take the pain out of dealing with finances. The world has long revolved around a select few making decisions for the many, and the financial sector is no different.
If users can get past that initial skepticism, however, SmartAsset (and Riskalyze) could become go-to resources for financial queries. Fortune cookie wisdom says that “knowledge is power.” SmartAsset will help users take advantage of that knowledge. As Carvin puts it, “I want to help people make important decisions across a range of life events.”