If you’re an investor looking to simplify your life, it's worth considering researching robo-advisors. These Internet-based investment services use sophisticated algorithms to bring customers high-level investing advice with fees lower than those of a traditional (human) advisor. As an added benefit, some of the robo-advisors also offer access to human advisors.
We’ve sifted through some of the top robo-advisors to help you get started, so you can more easily see core factors like minimum investment needed. Read on for the list. (For further reading, see: The Top 5 Robo-Advisors in 2017).
Robos for Active Investors
Whether you're an investor who likes getting your hands dirty picking stocks and funds or one who leaves it to the pros, there are several services that offer varying levels of involvement.
Robo-advisor Motif deals with a grouping of like-themed stocks. Investors can choose from an abundance of pre-selected themes such as recent IPOs, the biotechnology sector, 3D printing, green investing, current events, and scores more. The starting fee is only a $9.95 commission to purchase a basket of 30 stocks. There is no account minimum, and you can start investing with as little as $300.
Robos for Newbies with No Money
Founded in 2008, Betterment, one of the veteran upstart robo-advisors, is accessible for those looking to dip their toes into the investing waters. Betterment's stable of 12 low-fee ETFs also includes some fund categories not frequently used by competitors such as international bonds and three value index funds. Fees start at 0.25% of AUM for standard packages and go up to 0.50%.
No money? WiseBanyan is ideal for the newbie investor. With its plain-Jane robo-advisor, investors need only $10.00 to open an account; there are no management fees. WiseBanyan offers low-fee ETFs diversified across a wide variety of asset classes. The company makes money with its add-on services such as tax loss harvesting. (For more, see: Robo-Advisors with the Lowest Fees.)
Top No-Fee Robos
Although it seems unlikely, there are a few robo-advisors who don't charge a management fee at all. Investors should understand, though, that even if the service doesn't charge a fee, all individual mutual and exchange-traded funds within an account levy a small unavoidable percentage expense.
Previously mentioned, WiseBanyan tops the list of best no-fee robo-advisors due to its rock-bottom minimums. The robo-advisor also offers premium packages that offer features such as tax-loss harvesting. Due to the add-on fees for additional services; you may want to compare this robo with some of the other no fee offerings as well.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios raised a stir when it launched as it's a no-fee offering. Some pundits have complained that their portfolio requires a certain percentage in cash investments, although some don't consider that to be a major pitfall. To opt into the Schwab robo-advisor, investors need a $5,000 minimum investment.
Robos with Access to Human Advice
For investors who want the human touch, several offer tech-based management along with access to a financial professional.
Vanguard's Personal Advisor Service targets Baby Boomers on the short path to retirement. With human advisors integrated into the system, the company strives to bridge the gap between do-it-yourself financial planning and the full-service financial advisor. This robo begins with a client-advisor initial meeting. The management fee is 0.30% with a $50,000 minimum investment amount.
With one of the top free tools to view all of your accounts in one place, Personal Capital shines. For access to its technology-assisted portfolio management tools and advisors, investors need a minimum of $25,000. The fee structure is based upon AUM and ranges from 0.89% for those with accounts up to $1 million; it drops down to 0.49% for the largest accounts which are those over $10 million.
Recently bought by investment management giant BlackRock, Future Advisor manages your existing Fidelity or TD Ameritrade account. For a 0.50% management fee and a $10,000 minimum account, investors receive automatic rebalancing, tax-loss harvesting, and access to financial advisors by phone, chat or email. (For more, see: Robo-Advisors and a Human Touch: Better Together?)
Best Robo-Advisors with Apps
For on-the-go investors, using a service with a really good smartphone app is a nice add-on.
- SigFig: Investors can view all investments in one place. The app also does a nice job categorizing investments, yet doesn’t offer budgeting or cash flow tools.
- Schwab: With Schwab, investors can actually manage their investments within the app. Users can also perform all the desktop tasks from within the app including trading and depositing checks.
- Personal Capital: One of the most comprehensive investment and money management apps available, Personal Capital allows you to monitor all of your finances from one dashboard with access to returns, spending, budgeting and investment data—even if you don't use their paid service. (For more, see: 5 Robo-Advisor Apps for Your Smartphone.)
Best Robos for Financial Advisors
A trend in the ballooning robo-advisor market is for firms to partner with a pool of financial advisors. Some robos "white label" their platforms for use by individual financial advisors.
One of the legacy robo-advisors, Jemstep has Advisor Pro, which has transitioned into becoming a major player in the white label field. The firm, recently acquired by Invesco Ltd., manages clients' money across all their accounts. The firm provides client portfolio management and analysis, an online client service portal and more.
For individual investors, Folio provides pre-allocated investment portfolios. The Folio institutional offering is designed to help financial advisors manage their client’s investment portfolios. Folio’s Advisor Connexion service allows advisors to connect with clients 24/7 and appeals to the more tech-savvy Millennial population.
The Bottom Line
For investors looking to turn over their investment management to a smart, digitally-based service, there’s something for almost everyone. Be aware that due to their nature, robo-advisors only offer a certain degree of customization. Also, remember that features, minimum investment amounts, and fees are frequently adjusted. (For related reading, see: Robo-Advisors' Next Frontier: 401(k) Plans.)