The Best Robo-Advisors

Investing can be a daunting prospect for many. Not only does one wonder about where to begin, but finance can be a dry subject as well. You may have heard horror stories of people losing money when investing.

The most natural reaction would be to hire someone to guide you and manage your money for you. However, human services cost money.

Luckily, there is now a cheaper and time-efficient option available.

Thanks to advancements made in areas like computer science and artificial intelligence, you can now use technology to make successful investments. This technology not only advises you on where to invest, but also what portion of your money should go to such investments.

It builds a portfolio for you. This service is called a robo-advisory.

In order to get started with a robo-advisor-style, all you need is some cash as well as answers to a few questions about yourself and your financial goals.

There is no need to read investment books or learn how to trade in the stock market. The questions would generally revolve around your long-term financial goals, when you need the money that you are investing, and what your risk-tolerance level is.

Market conditions change every day and so does your personal life. These timely updates can be sent to the robo-advisor platform and the algorithm will optimize your portfolio by taking on board the new information.

We researched various robo-advisors based on metrics such as minimum opening balances, the number of services on offer, the fees and costs for those services, and whether human customer support is available when you really need to speak with a real person.

The following are the best options that we found:

Betterment

We begin with the older robo-advisory, Betterment. It is the largest independent robo-advisory firm and offers regular investment accounts as well as retirement accounts like IRA, Roth IRA, and SEP IRA.

Betterment’s entry-level plan is the Digital Level for account balances of up to $10,000. Fees for this starter plan are 0.35%. You can go for a higher plan if your balance is between $10,000 and $99,000. The fee for that plan is 0.25%.

If you have more than $100,000, then the premium plan includes human advisors and financial planners along with the technology feature. For those services, you pay 0.4%.

Wealthfront

This option is one of the most economical for investors with low balances. Wealthfront charges no annual fee for the first $10,000 in account balance.

So, people who are new to robo-advisories and want to experiment in a low-cost manner can consider Wealthfront. However, Wealthfront does have a $500 minimum account opening balance requirement.

Wealthfront has various investment account options as well as IRA, Roth IRA, and SEP retirement accounts.

Parents and students can also look at its 529 college savings plan. Wealthfront has a unique referral program whereby you get extra credits for signing up your family and friends with Wealthfront.

Ellevest

Ellevest is considered to be the best robo-advisory for women investors. It was founded by a woman and its algorithm takes into account research focused on women, their earning patterns, their life expectancy, and other ethnographic metrics.

Ellevest charges a 0.25% annual fee and automatically rebalances portfolios. Its algorithm also helps create an emergency fund.

There is a premium account option in which you get access to a financial planner, a career coach, and a salary coach. The fee for the premium account is 0.5%.

Ellevest recognizes the importance of human financial advisors and offers unlimited email and text access to human advisors for all account sizes.

SoFi

SoFi is not just a student loan service. It also offers investment management services.

SoFi charges no fee for its robo-investing service for the first $10,000. If you have a loan at SoFi, then the investment management service is free for you as well.

Balances over $10,000 are charged 0.25% in annual fees. The minimum opening balance requirement is $100.

SoFi also organizes various events throughout the year and provides its account holders with access to a career and salary coach.

Another big perk is free unlimited access to certified financial planners. SoFi probably has more perks than any other top robo-advisory service.

M1Finance

If you want to play some role in selecting your investments and do not want to completely leave the decision making to technology, then M1Finance is one of the only options available.

It uses a methodology called Pies and Slices in which you can set what portion of your portfolio will be selected by you and what portion will be selected by the algorithm.

One of the best parts about using M1Finance is that it is completely free. There is no fee to be paid.

Plus, its app receives rave reviews. If you follow a semi-passive style of investing and want to take advantage of technology, then M1Finance is for you.

Acorns

Acorns is a micro-investing platform. As the name suggests, micro-investing involves very small amounts. With Acorns, you can literally invest with $5 a month.

Students with a valid “.edu” email address and investors below the age of 24 do not pay any fee. Otherwise, accounts over $5,000 are charged a fee of 0.25% while those below $5,000 pay a mere $1 a month in fees.

Acorns gives you five portfolio options to choose from and you can use your credit or debit card to make the investments.

Acorns, if used correctly, can not only build you some wealth till you graduate, but it can also inculcate a good habit of saving and using spare change in a constructive manner.

Wealthsimple

If socially responsible investing matters to you, then Wealthsimple has a specific focus on just that. Its robo-advisory service gives you the option to align your portfolio to your values and beliefs.

For example, you can choose to invest only in low carbon emission businesses or businesses that support gender diversity.

There is no fee charged for the first $5,000. Balances up to $100,000 pay a fee ranging between 0.4% and 0.5%. Balances over $100,000 get the benefit of lower fees and extra features.

Free VIP airline lounge access is one such extra feature. Overall, the focus on socially responsible investing makes Wealthsimple’s offering unique.

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab is one of the biggest brands in the asset management industry. It manages over $3 trillion in assets. Its robo-advisory offering, known as Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, manages a staggering $23 billion in assets.

Charles Schwab interestingly charges no advisory or management fee for Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. A minimum of $5,000 is needed to open an account on the algorithm-driven platform.

If you want to invest with a major brokerage or if you are already a Charles Schwab user, then Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is an economical option to consider.

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