Robo-advisors are making investing much easier than in the past, especially for people who are getting into it for the first time. Gone are the days where your only option was either to learn and research everything for yourself or to pay expensive fees to portfolio managers. Robo-advisors are cheap, and accessible to everyone.
What are robo-advisors, how much does it cost, and why should you use one?
Robo-advisors are driven by algorithms and are completely automated. Investors provide information about their investing goals and risk tolerance, and the robo-advisor will invest your assets accordingly. They make it really simple to start investing, especially for beginners who have no clue about how to get started.
The advantages of going with a robo-advisor is that the fees are much lower, around a quarter of the cost or half the cost of going with an investment advisor. The average fees for robo-advisors are 0.25% to 0.5% of your assets paid annually. You also don’t need to pay fees for buying and selling investments, or rebalancing your portfolio. It’s all included. They also require a smaller initial deposit, and make it simpler to start investing. Also, because it’s all online, it’s all accessible 24/7 and you can start immediately without having to go and meet with an actual advisement firm.
The top robo-advisors for 2020
There are a lot of different robo-advisors to choose from today. We’ve selected the top platforms looking at many different factors like management fees, investment philosophies, features, minimum deposits, and customer service.
M1 Finance is the best free robo-advisor to start with if you’re looking for no management fees, and no minimum balance to open your account. Their platform is simple to use, but provides the option to manually customize your portfolio by selecting your own individual stocks to invest in. The only downside is that because it’s completely free, you won’t get access to human financial advisors for support, which many other platforms offer.
Betterment was one of the earliest platforms available for robo-investing (since 2008), and today they’ve grown into one of the largest on the market. People love it for their ease of use, customer service (which is available 7 days per week), and premium features options. Betterment also offers automatic rebalancing, tax-loss harvesting, a personalized retirement plan, and the option to buy fractional shares.There are no account balance minimums and their fees are 0.25%. Betterment also offers high interest savings accounts and checking accounts.
Wealthfront is another great option for low fees, free financial planning tools for members, and solid reputation as one of the largest platforms available. Their management fees are just 0.25% and their account balance minimum is only $500. Like Betterment, they also offer tax-loss harvesting, and even offers an FDIC-insured cash management account with a 1.78% APY.
Wealthsimple is a newer player to the game, but they’re quickly growing into one of the most popular robo-investment platforms on the market. They have no account minimums, and management fees are 0.5%. They’re differentiated by other platforms by offering a socially responsible investment option that encourages value-based investing. For example, their Socially Responsible Investing option invests funds into ETFs that positively impact the environment. They also have more premium tiers to unlock lower fees and more features if your account balance exceeds $100K for their Wealthsimple Black option, and $500K for their Wealthsimple Generation option.
Millions of people use Personal Capital’s free financial planning and tracking tools, which integrates nicely with their robo-advisor platform. However, they’re not for everybody and only for those investing a large amount of capital. Their fees are slightly higher than the afformentioned platforms above at 0.49%-0.89%. To get to the 0.49% fee, you need an account balance of at least $3M. You’ll pay 0.89% in fees for the first $1M invested. What users get from the higher fees is more advanced tax optimization features, which could end up far outweighing the higher fees, depending on your situation.
Acorns is more of a savings app than an investment app. You link your banking or credit card and it rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and then automatically invests that money for you. For example, if you purchase a pair of pants for $49.60, they’ll round up to $50 and invest $0.40. It’s a great way to force you to get into investing, and it can add up to a significant amount over time. They’re free to use if you’re a student under 24 years of age and can prove it by providing a valid .edu email address from your school. If you’re not a student, you’ll pay $1/month if your balance is under $5000 and 0.25% per year if your account is over.
Ally Invest offers 24/7 support with a very helpful non-salesly staff, only a $100 minimum balance to start, and best of all, no fees or annual charges. They also offer a self-directed trading option where you choose where to invest, which also has no commission fees on US listed stocks and ETFs. The caveat is that they require users to hold 30% of your portfolio as interest-earning cash.
SoFi started out in 2011 as a student lending platform. Today, they’ve branched out into multiple different services alone with their robo-advisory platform. They have no management fees, and only requires $1 to get started. You’ll also get access to their career services (since they mainly target young millennials), access to financial advisers, and discounts on their other products.
As you might have guessed from its name, Ellevest is a robo-advisor designed for female investors. Even so, they do welcome all genders on their platform. They have no minimum balance requirement, and only charges 0.25% in annual fees. They do offer higher levels such as their premium level which offers career coaching, financial planning, and a 0.5% fee. If you invest $1M, you’ll get access to their private level where you’ll get your own dedicated team.
Robo-advisors are a great way to get started in investing. It’s hands-off, easy to start, and accessible to everyone. And because your portfolio is handled by computer algorithms, your fees will be much lower than if you went with traditional options.