Robo-advisors have become extremely popular in the investment management sphere. They perform many of the same services as financial advisors, albeit at a lower cost.
Why do you need it?
Here are the practical reasons for using a robo-advisory service for your investment management:
- You’re busy and you want your money professionally managed.
- You’re drawn to the promise of sophisticated investment management services for a low fee.
- You want to invest for a secure financial future and you need guidance.
Popular robo-advisory services include:
- Portfolio rebalancing
- Asset allocation
- Tax-loss harvesting
- Automated deposits
- Specialty investment tracking and reporting
- Goal-based investing
Also, robo-advisors aren’t subject to the personal biases of a financial advisor and most computerized systems are based on well-regarded investment theory. In fact, several robo-advisors, such as Personal Capital, also offer access to human advisors.
List of top robo-advisors
- Acorns makes investing easy by helping you find money (read: the spare change left over from your daily purchases). This money—no matter how little—is invested in your portfolio. In 2016, Acorns stock investments came in 2nd in a robo-advisor comparison analysis.
- AssetBuilder robo-advisor customizes your investment portfolio to your family’s circumstances, your financial goals, your investment horizon, and your risk tolerance. Their algorithm incorporates diversification, smart indexing, and smart asset allocation to fit your reality. They invest in well-regarded DFA funds (available only to financial advisors).
- Betterment is one of the legacy robo-advisors. They use a goal-based approach with the opportunity to set up multiple goals. Their retirement guide feature is a superb planning tool. Larger accounts also have access to financial advisors.
- Blooom is unique in the robo-advisory sphere. They manage your retirement 401(k), 403(b) or TSP money within the existing account. No need to transfer the funds. The firm is laser-focused on helping you build the best retirement nest egg possible by supervising the and adjusting investments within your 401(k) or other workplace retirement account.
- Ellevest is one of a handful of robo-advisors designed with women in mind. This robo-advisor invests in up to 21 asset classes and includes several unique funds such as an international real estate and a municipal bond fund. You can also view your Ellevest account through Mint.com.
- E*Trade Adaptive Portfolio is another low-fee robo-advisor offered by a major brokerage company. This makes it easy to call an investment advisor rep for help. You can opt for a typical diversified investment portfolio comprised of ETFs or one of the E*Trade specialty portfolios like a bond portfolio or managed account.
- Fidelity Go is another robo-advisor born to a discount brokerage firm. In addition to the diversified investment portfolios, Fidelity has a unique option that allows you to set up a short-term investment portfolio. The automated target tracking enables you to choose a dollar amount you’re trying to reach by a certain date.
- Financial Engines offers an add-on retirement account investment management service designed to maximize your returns. Your employer will offer the Financial Engines service, for an additional fee. They also give you access to a human financial advisor.
- Financial Guard robo-advisor manages your investments while they remain in their existing accounts. The firm helps with allocation, fund selection, and financial education. Unlike most robo-advisor competitors, they charge an annual flat fee, regardless of the value of your account.
- FutureAdvisor manages your investment accounts, where they currently reside (you don’t need to transfer them to FutureAdvisor). They offer rebalancing, tax-loss harvesting and the ability to manage multiple accounts.
- Hedgeable is a niche robo-advisor. With a low $1 entrance amount, they offer access to commodities, bitcoin and venture capital along with the usual stock and bond investments. They also offer a unique “downside protection” feature to minimize losses.
- IncomeClub is another niche robo-advisor that caters to the fixed or bond portion of your portfolio. This service buys individual bonds in your account in line with your risk comfort and time horizon. It’s designed for investors who want protection from market volatility and prefer to invest in individual bonds instead of funds.
- LearnVest is a robo-advisor that offers a financial plan, financial advisor access and tools to make financial decisions. LearnVest offers online tools, classes, and articles to make you a more knowledgeable investor.
- M1 Finance is a unique robo-advisor that combines DIY investing with robo-advisory features. You create your own investment portfolio composed of any mixture of stocks, bonds and/or funds. Or, if you prefer, you might select a pre-made M1 Finance portfolio. Then M1 Finance regularly rebalances your portfolio back to its original allocation.
- MarketRiders is one of the first robo-advisors and offers two services; a low fee subscription web-based investing software program and an investment management service. MarketRiders subscription model guides your investing and rebalancing activities while the management service does it for you.
- Motif offers several investment options, including DIY and robo-investing. Motif Impact is the socially conscious robo-advisor that is focused on companies committed to impact investing principles. You can emphasize companies meeting Environment, Social and/or Corporate Governance (ESG) standards when creating your Motif Impact robo-advisory portfolio.
- Merrill Edge Guided Investing rounds out the Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s many offerings with a robo-advisory service. This goal-based, moderate-fee robo-advisor promotes their ETF portfolio as designed and managed by Merrill Lynch. The robo investment experts align your investments with your needs.
- Personal Capital is a top performing robo-advisor with a must-have free portfolio management software giveaway (after a quick sign up) with an abundance of free investment planning tools (add affiliate link). Their unique sector-based asset allocation is research-based. And, for customers using the paid service, a dedicated financial advisor is included.
- QPlum robo-advisor was founded by former hedge-fund pros and uses that methodology to create automated investment portfolios. Their dynamic strategies offer higher returns and strive to protect your investments from market downturns using AI. Their five pre-determined portfolios estimate expected returns from a low of 3% for emergency funds to a high of 15% for aggressive investors.
- Rebalance IRA customizes your retirement account funds residing in Schwab and Fidelity. They construct and rebalance when necessary a diversified portfolio of passive index funds. Additionally, Rebalance IRA pairs each client with an experienced investment advisor.
- Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is the robo-advisor division of this well-known discount brokerage firm. It’s also the best performing robo-advisor of 2017. With zero fees, access to 50 exchange-traded funds and goals based investing, you can also ask basic questions at your local Schwab branch office.
- SigFig is another winner in the best performing robo-advisors race. SigFig doesn’t require you to transfer your investment assets but manages them for you while remaining in your Schwab, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade accounts. Their three distinct portfolio management levels include: 1) The free service with limited investment analysis, 2) The Managed Portfolio is the comprehensive offering with all the available robo-advisory investment services, and 3) The Diversified Income Portfolio is designed for retirees.
- Stash app is a robo-advisor for newbies. With as little as $5 you can start investing in either a traditional brokerage account or a Roth IRA retirement account. After completing your risk questions, you can choose your own investments from the 30 available ETFs. Unlike most other robo’s you choose your own investments in line with your values. “Clean and green”, “American innovators” and “Globe trotter” are several of the descriptive names for their ETFs.
- TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios is an “an automated, low-cost investing solution that uses advanced technology to help you pursue your financial goals”. This goals-based robo-advisor uses Morningstar-recommended ETFs, grouped into goal-related categories. They offer solutions for the conservative to a more aggressive investor. Their low $5,000 minimum and 0.30% fee make this a competitive automated-investing solution.
- Vanguard Personal Adviser Services uses predominantly Vanguard funds in their hybrid human/automated investing solution. Their $50,000 account minimum makes this service best for investors with some capital under their belts. The low fee of 0.30% of AUM is competitive for a digital plus human advisor investment management platform.
- Wealthfront is innovating rapidly with their new Path digital financial advisor. Unlike other online investment advisors, Path drills deeply into the type of questions a human advisor might ask – your goals, investment approach, tax status, salary and more. In addition to the typical diversified robo-advisory portfolio, Wealthfront offers a variety of other specialty services, all for a low 0.25% AUM fee.
- WiseBanyan touts itself as the “world’s first free financial advisor”. There are no investment minimums, account management or trading fees. You can get a basic investment portfolio with rebalancing for nothing. Opt-in services and extras are fees for service.
With the preponderance of digital financial advisors, a robo-advisor meant to simplify your life can turn out to complicate it, if you’re spending hours trying to choose the correct service. This list of robo-advisors shows that the field is exploding with choices and options.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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