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3 Best Robo Advisors

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Most people know that they should be investing for the future. But with so much technical jargon and thousands of investment options, saving can quickly become overwhelming, stressful and a challenging chore. A robo-advisor can help you automate your savings and invest without spending hours researching.

Today, there are more options than ever when it comes to automating your investments. But what is a robo-advisor — and is it the right choice for your unique financial situation? Today, we’ll take a look at 3 of our favorite robo-advisors and help you learn a little more about the pros and cons that come with these innovative tools. 

Best Robo Advisors

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is a unique robo-advisor that uses a “pie investing” strategy to help you visualize your progress toward retirement, homeownership or your financial goals. When you sign up with M1 Finance, you’ll answer a few questions about your finances and investing preferences. From there, you can choose from 1 of 80 expert “investing pies” made up of a selection of stock and ETF “slices.” You can also create your own pie by selecting investments yourself.

With M1 Finance, you’ll invest according to your own unique investing pie.

When you make a deposit into your M1 Finance account, it will automatically split your investment according to your investing mix. You can schedule deposits on a weekly, monthly or annual basis. There are no fees or commissions on basic M1 Finance accounts, and you can get started investing with as little as a $100 initial deposit. 

Commissions
FREE automated investing
Account Minimum
$100 for regular accounts $500 for retirement accounts
Best For
  • Don’t want to take an active role in portfolio management
  • Need a large amount of hand-holding when it comes to selecting investments
  • Want the option to invest in a socially responsible portfolio
Pros
  • Pie investing system offers a unique visual component to investing
  • Streamlined mobile app offers full functionality of the desktop platform, plus access to M1’s banking components
  • Socially responsible portfolio option is perfect for investors who want to invest only in companies that offer positive business practices

Betterment

Like M1 Finance, Betterment offers personalized investor portfolios with varying levels of risk and volatility. After you complete an intake form, Betterment will help you choose a portfolio that matches your needs. You can also adjust your asset mix according to your needs. From college investors to retirees, there’s a Betterment portfolio for all stages of life.

When most people think of investing, they typically think about saving for retirement. In addition to retirement saving, Betterment also offers goal-based investing. From building an emergency fund to putting a child through college, Betterment can use visuals to help you track your progress of your goals.

Saving for a wedding? Getting ready to put a down payment on your new home? Betterment goes beyond retirement saving with goal-based investing.

Betterment offers a tiered pricing strategy that increases as your investments compound. Most investors will pay 0.25% per year on their balance — that’s about $25 per $10,000 invested annually. There is no minimum account balance required to get started with Betterment, and the company also offers more in-depth financial advice with its higher-priced Premium plan.  

Best For
  • Intermediate investors
  • Retired investors
  • College students
Pros
  • Built in tax-saving strategies
  • Automated rebalancing
  • Personalized service

Personal Capital

If you have a more complicated financial situation, you might want to consider investing with Personal Capital. Personal Capital is a hybrid financial planner, wealth management company and robo-advisor that can help you manage your money for the future and plan toward multiple goals. The biggest draw of Personal Capital’s system is its human financial advising services. No matter your balance, you’ll receive individual investing advice from a team of financial advisors. If you have at least $200,000 in assets, you’ll receive your own personal team of 2 dedicated financial advisors.

Personal Capital offers a number of customization options based on your investing preferences.  

Access to human financial advisors isn’t all that Personal Capital offers. Personal Capital also helps you connect all of your bank, investing and credit card accounts and track your spending. This feature is perfect for investors who are used to using a budgeting software like Mint to track their spending. Personal Capital’s software even includes a fee analyzer to help you locate mutual funds in your portfolio that may be costing you more money than they’re worth. With comprehensive software and a holistic view of your financial health, Personal Capital is a true one-stop-shop for all of your investing, saving and budgeting needs.

Personal Capital has a minimum account balance of $100,000, which means that its services will be reserved for higher-value investors. You’ll pay between 0.46%–0.89% of your total asset balance depending on your total portfolio balance, with lower fees extended to those with over $10 million in assets under management. 

Best For
  • High-value investors
  • Anyone who wants to budget, plan for retirement and invest from a single platform
  • Hands-off investors who want assistance from financial professionals
Pros
  • A wide range of financial tools that are easy for anyone to use
  • Automatically-imported data that makes budgeting simple
  • Access to a team of financial advisors (if your balance is less than $200,000) or two dedicated individual advisors (if your balance is over $200,000)
  • Comprehensive 24/7 customer service that extends to weekends and holidays
  • Fees are lower than what you’d pay for individual human financial advising services

Why a Robo-Advisor?

Do you think that investing with a robo-advisor might be right for you? Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest advantages and disadvantages that come with using this type of investment platform. 

Advantages

  • Assistance choosing investments profiles: If you’ve never invested your money before, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of investment options to choose from. Robo-advising services have award-winning investment models — when you enroll in a robo advising service, you’ll take a short intake form to determine your investing goals and risk tolerance. This offers you an easy way to customize your investments without spending hours researching investments on your own.   
  • Low fees: One of the biggest advantages of robo-advisors over human financial advisors is their low fees. On average, you can expect to pay between 0.25%–0.50% of your total assets under management for your robo-advisor. If you have $50,000 worth of assets under management, this means that you can expect to pay about $125–$250 in fees for your robo advising services.

On the other hand, most human financial advising services charge about 1% of your total assets annually for services. If you have $50,000 worth of assets, this means that you’ll pay $500 per year for advising services. While this might not sound like a huge difference, it can add up over time and cut into your savings.

  • Low minimums: Most human financial advisors have high minimum investments. Because these services charge around 1% of your total assets under management, it might not be worth it for an advising firm to take on clients with less than $250,000 in assets. Some registered financial advisors have minimum account balances as high as $1 million.

Robo-advisors are a much more accessible option. You can usually begin with a robo-advisor with an initial deposit between $1–$100. If you don’t have much money to invest, a robo-advisor can offer the perfect balance between completely DIY-ing your investment portfolio and saving hundreds of thousands to begin with a human financial advisor. 

Disadvantages

  • Don’t offer 100% personalization: Though robo-advisors are advanced and most offer a host of investing choices, they aren’t 100% personalized. A robo-advisor can’t offer you advice after a significant market drop, and they may be able to provide limited advice if you have multiple financial goals. If you have a more complicated financial situation, you might need the human touch of a personal financial advisor.  
  • No face-to-face meetings: If you’ve never invested before, you might want the hand-holding that a human financial advisor can offer. When you invest with a robo-advisor, you can’t walk into an office or schedule a meeting with an advisor — you’re on your own with the tools your robo-advisor offers. 

Investing With a Robo Advisor

Though they have their flaws, investing with a robo-advisor is an easy and accessible way to begin investing for the future. Most robo-advising services offer a surprising level of personalization, and you can get started investing in as little as 10 minutes. If you’ve been wanting to learn more about investing but have been overwhelmed by brokers and asset classes in the past, a robo-advisor might be right for you.