If you're worried about your financial future and are interested in low-fee investment management help, there's likely a robo-advisor or computerized financial advisor that’s right for you.
Here's a minimized list of available robo-providers—a manageable few that you can sort through based on what type of service you're looking for—as well as what you need to do before selecting one. (For further reading, see: The 5 Best Robo-Advisors for Investors in 2016 and Pros and Cons of Using a Robo-Advisor.)
Jot Down What You're Looking For
Before deciding upon the right robo-advisor, consider your answers to these questions:
- How much money do you have to invest? Each robo-advisor has its own minimum investment amounts. A few have low entry thresholds of $100 or less. Others require much greater amounts of investable assets. The answer to this question will automatically winnow down your choices.
- Are there certain asset classes you want included in your investment portfolio? The number of available investment choices varies by robo-advisor. If investing in a real estate investment trust (REIT) or a diverse number of bond ETFs is crucial for you, then certain robos will meet your needs better than others. Although most have a fixed number of ETFs or mutual funds, there are other robos with access to groups of stocks.
- Do you want access to a human financial advisor as well? If it’s important for you to talk to a real person on occasion, then you may want a robo-advisor with access to a financial professional.
Although the robo-advisors in general tend to get lumped together as a whole, there are many differences with each one. Here are some more guidelines to help you find the right service. (For more, see: Can You Really Trust a Robo-Advisor?)
If You’re Short on Cash
For investors who are just getting started, you may want to consider WiseBanyan, which requires only $10 to start. It's basic service is also free; you get a bare-bones robo-advisory plus access to a diversified investment portfolio for zero annual management fee. If you desire some of its add-on services such as tax-loss harvesting, then there are additional charges.
Wealthfront and Betterment are two other robo-advisors with low entrance fees. Betterment adds a $100 auto deposit and Wealthfront requires a $500 minimum. Both of these well-regarded robo-advisors offer a suite of diversified ETFs in line with your risk tolerance.
You Want Someone to Talk To
Personal Capital has a unique model. Its financial dashboard is free to all users. For those with greater assets, Personal Capital offers access to licensed financial advisors and several stock-based investment services. Its recently lowered investment minimum of $25,000 is good for investors looking for a human touch and a stock/sector-based automated investing approach.
Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services targets the baby boomer demographic and begins each client’s onboarding with a human advisor. This service is best for the higher-net worth investor as it requires $500,000 of investable assets to start. (For more, see: What's Next for the Robo-Advisor Space and The Future of Robo-Advisors.)
You Want Even More
Most robo-advisors will give you a diversified portfolio of stock, bonds and international ETFs. If you’re looking for more, then you may want to check out these:
- Betterment delves into large, mid and small-cap value stocks as well as international bonds—assets classes not represented by all robo-advisors.
- Wealthfront gives investors a chance to tap the municipal bond and natural resources markets.
- Motif combines a do-it-yourself approach along with an opportunity to invest in "motifs," or collections of related stocks for a low commission. For example, if you want believe clean energy is the way to go, then you can invest in its cleantech, green energy, climate change or other related motifs. If you’re a contrarian investor, you might want to invest in its Dogs of the Dow or any of the nine or more contrarian motifs created by the community. For those seeking bond investments and commodity investing opportunities, Motif has something for you as well.
The Bottom Line
The right robo-advisor for you is the one that fits your wallet and your investment philosophy. In most cases there’s more than just one service that will likely work for you. (For further reading, see: Robo-Advisors and a Human Touch: Better Together?)