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Here’s what it’s like to use Ellevest, the hot new investing platform helmed by Sallie Krawcheck and backed by tennis superstar Venus Williams

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Business Insider

Sallie Krawcheck is encouraging women to be “risk aware” rather than risk averse.

Investing — when done right — is one of the best ways to make your money work for you, and it’s critical for retiring comfortably.

But the uncertainty and risk that comes with the markets is very often a major deterrent, especially for women, who invest at a much lower rate than men in the US.

Just 28% of women are willing to take on high risk to get a good return on their investment, compared to 45% of men, according to a 2015 report by BlackRock

Women tend to be less concerned with beating the market — the focus of much of the modern investment industry — and more interested in assuring that their money won’t disappear completely, according to Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street executive and the founder of Ellevate, a global network for professional women.

“What she really wants to see is how bad can it get,” Krawcheck previously told Business Insider. “This is what keeps her from investing.”

Mid-2016, Krawcheck devised a solution for the gender-investment gap when she launched Ellevest, a digital investing platform that puts users’ money in low-cost ETFs based on a pick-and-choose set of goals, like starting a business, buying a home, having children, and retiring comfortably.

Beyond that, Ellevest takes into account the established facts of how women’s financial experiences differ from men’s: longer lifespans, different salary arcs, and the possibility of extended time off from work. This specificity alone differentiates the platform from an emerging crop of startup robo-advisors, including Betterment and Wealthfront.

In September, Ellevest raised $9 million in its second round of funding, including tennis superstar Venus Williams, who is a champion of equal pay and opportunity for women both on and off the court.

Business Insider recently took a test drive of Ellevest’s new software. Below, check out the simple (and surprisingly fun) process of setting up an account and creating an investment plan via Ellevest’s website (the platform is currently available on mobile devices, but not yet in the app store).

(Note: Business Insider used a hypothetical situation and figures for this demonstration.)

Step one: After creating an account using an email address and password, we’re directed to the onboarding form. It’s like mad libs — you fill in the basics like age, education, job, and salary.

Step two: Choosing “goals” for yourself. This is the heart of Ellevest’s goals-based investment plans. You can choose as many or as few as you see fit.

Ellevest offers a brief explainer and some compelling statistics for each of the seven goals — personal investment, retirement, buying a home, having kids, starting a business, building an emergency fund, and splurging.

If you choose “once-in-a-lifetime splurge” you’ll be prompted to enter an amount and timeline for reaching that goal, since it’s different for everyone. For this example, we entered $10,000 and five years. Perhaps we’d like to save up for a month-long excursion through Europe.

Step three: Here, we ranked our chosen goals from most important to least important using the prioritization tool — a simple drag and drop.

Step four: This helps Ellevest to know where we stand financially by entering the status of our accounts, from 401(k) and IRA to checking and savings. Again, the example here is a hypothetical situation.

Step five: Given all the information entered, Ellevest estimates how much we’ll need to achieve our goals, taking into account our current savings contributions, inflation, taxes, salary growth projections, and other variables.

Read more about how Ellevest predicts target goals here.

Here’s our profile with Ellevest’s estimates for how much money is needed to achieve each of the goals we chose. At any time, you can place a goal “on hold” or exchange it for a different one.

For this example, we made our No. 1 goal buying a home. Ellevest offers advice to accomplish this, but edits can be made to both the cost and timeline at any point. In this scenario, we would need to deposit about $283 monthly into our Ellevest account to reach our target goal in six years.

You can toggle through each goal and take a closer look at the portfolio of investments. The “transactions” tab will populate with deposits and withdraws once accounts are linked to Ellevest.

In the graph under the “portfolio” tab, you’ll see a projection for each goal, including the Ellevest standard, which is a 70% likelihood of reaching our goal, the more typical 50% likelihood, and the 99% likelihood.

Read more on Ellevest’s 70% likelihood here.

Also under the “portfolio” tab, Ellevest provides a breakdown of what investments will be made with our money. There are 21 asset classes available. Ellevest’s investments get more conservative the closer you get to achieving a goal to reduce loss.

Ellevest says we’re on track for our goal for retirement. Since the funds for retirement are held outside the platform in a 401(k), Ellevest simply offers monthly deposit and portfolio suggestions. We could also transfer over an IRA account.

The targets for each goal are based on Ellevest’s algorithm, but rest assured they can be edited and updated at any time.

“Once-in-a-lifetime splurge” was also a chosen goal, but since it wasn’t top priority, Ellevest suggests holding off until we make more progress elsewhere.

Ellevest’s management fee is just .50% and there’s no minimum balance. Suppose we start by investing $15,000. Our annual fee would be about $75, plus the small annual fees charged by ETFs in our portfolio.

After you’ve created a plan, the final step is to fund your account. Overall, the platform is user-friendly and intuitive. While it can take as little as 15 minutes to set up an investment plan, the extensive customization options can be fun to toggle through and encourages users to make it as personal as possible.