This group of robo-advisor services provides the greatest assistance for setting goals, and for tracking progress towards those goals. Most of them have reminders built in to put you back on track should you slide off.
To select the top five robo-advisors for goal setting and tracking, we re-weighted our scoring rubric to emphasize the tools available to help clients choose their financial goals and assess whether those goals are reachable. Their sites and services have tools such as college cost estimates, retirement spending budgets, and more.
Best for Goal Setting
Our list of the top five robo-advisors for goal setting:
- Personal Capital
- Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
- SoFi Invest
- Account Minimum: $500
- Fees: 0.25% for most accounts, no trading commission or fees for withdrawals, minimums, or transfers. 0.42%–0.46% for 529 plans. Underlying portfolios of ETFs average 0.07%–0.16% management fee
Wealthfront earns the top spot on this list, as well as our overall ranking, with its winning combination of goal-setting assistance, ease of use, transparency when building a portfolio, and account services. Even without having a Wealthfront account, you can use their financial planning tool, which is called Path, giving you a picture of your financial situation and whether you are on track towards retiring comfortably.
Goal setting and tracking are where Wealthfront shines. Your dashboard shows all of your assets and liabilities, giving you a quick visual check-in on the likelihood of attaining your goals. If a home purchase is in your plans, Wealthfront connects to Redfin to help you estimate how much a house in a particular geographic location will cost. Similarly, college savings scenarios have cost estimates for numerous U.S.-based universities. College expense projections include not just tuition, but room and board as well as other expenses. Wealthfront’s use of third-party data makes it incredibly useful for all sorts of planning and you may find yourself running scenarios far beyond your current investment needs. You can even figure out how long you can take a sabbatical from work and travel, while still making your other goals work.
Terrific financial planning tools
Goal-setting assistance goes in-depth for large goals
If you have multiple goals, Path shows you the trade-offs you’ll face
Account services include tax-loss harvesting and a portfolio line of credit
No online chat for customers or prospective customers
Wealthfront carries no insurance beyond SIPC coverage
Portfolios under $100,000 are not customizable beyond risk settings
Larger accounts may contain more expensive mutual funds
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: 0.25% (annual) for digital plan, 0.40% (annual) for the premium plan
There are several ways to use Betterment: you can sync all of your financial accounts to get an overall picture of your assets without investing, or you can use Betterment to invest in either one of their portfolios, or build your own.
There are a lot of planning tools and advice offered along the way. Betterment has very easy-to-follow steps for setting a goal, and each one can be monitored separately. The asset allocation is displayed in a ring with equities in shades of green and fixed income in shades of blue.
The goal monitoring tool is visually pleasing and makes your progress easy to track. If you’re falling behind on meeting a goal you’ve set, Betterment will encourage you to put more aside. This can be a helpful prompt, particularly for young investors who may not yet feel the urgency to save for some of their longer-term goals.
Add a new goal at any time and track your progress
Quick and easy account setup
Sync external accounts to individual goals
Portfolios are fully transparent prior to funding
Easily change portfolio risk or switch to a different type of portfolio
Reminders to fund an account if you're using just the planning tool
Socially responsible portfolios are invested in ETFs, not individual stocks
Standard plan clients pay $199-$299 to talk to a financial planner
No margin lending, secured loans or borrowing options against your portfolio
- Account Minimum: $100,000
- Fees: 0.89% to 0.49% for accounts over $1 million
There are two ways to interact with Personal Capital. The first is a free planning tool that collects data from all of your financial accounts and makes some recommendations to improve returns. It’s well worth checking out, no matter where you bank or invest. The second way to interact with Personal Capital is an asset management service with a minimum account size of $100,000 to start. Clearly, this is not a service for the newcomer to saving and investing.
The primary goal that Personal Capital helps clients plan for is the big one - your retirement. You’ll be asked a variety of questions about current income and what you expect to spend after you’re retired. Retirement planning includes Personal Capital’s proprietary Smart Withdrawal tool, designed to maximize retirement income by breaking out taxable, tax-deferred and tax-free income. In addition, Personal Capital can advise clients on investing selections in their 401(k) accounts.
You can add non-retirement goals to the platform, although there is little assistance deciding on the size of the goal. Personal Capital can also advise on charitable gifts, which is a rare offering for the digital asset management and robo-advisor services we reviewed but fits well with their target market of high net worth clients.
Excellent retirement planning features
Proprietary Smart Withdrawal tool designed to maximize retirement income
The rebalancing rubric seeks to optimize your tax burden
Educational resources focused on retirement
Investment management requires a very high minimum of $100,000
The mobile app is missing key features available on the website
Account opening process is lengthy
Management fees are high when compared to other robo-advisors
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
- Account Minimum: $50,000
- Fee: 0.30% of assets under management (excluding cash)
A single Vanguard PAS account can include multiple goals and allocations, whether for college planning, retirement, homeownership, a rainy day fund, or management of trust assets. Using a Yodlee connection, Information from external accounts can be used to see the overall financial picture. Long-term forecasts and recommendations in the account interface coach clients on how to better meet investment objectives, based on life situations and goals outlined during the lengthy onboarding process.
The website features an impressive variety of tools and calculators to help clients figure out how much money needs to be set aside to reach goals within realistic time frames. Many of these resources focus on retirement, but college planning and life assessment calculators are equally valuable in meeting long-term financial objectives.
The account opening process, however, is needlessly clumsy and can be a long, drawn-out process. The Vanguard PAS program can be tough to find because prospective clients need to drill through the massive website, locating the advice menu in the dedicated personal investor section. Of PAS applicants, 80% to 90% have other Vanguard accounts, according to a spokesman, and entry requires $50,000 across all assets.
Plenty of tools and calculators on Vanguard's website
A single account can be used to plan and track multiple goals
Clients can speak to a financial advisor at any time
A well-populated blog covers a broad swath of financial topics
The policy regarding client access to the portfolio is confusing
There’s no live chat for prospective or current clients
The Investing Education section is filled with marketing pitches for Vanguard products
Costs can add up as transaction fees for ETFs are not included in the management fee
- Account Minimum: $1
- Fee: $0
SoFi provides superb goal setting resources in line with its impressive financial credentials and multiple offerings. These include a variety of goal-focused tools, calculators, checklists, and how-to articles. Many of these are, of course, shared with or generated from SoFi’s other products and services, but that is part of the benefit of embedding a robo-advisor into a growing financial services firm.
You pick goals and funding levels at the time of account setup, with the opportunity to discuss “big picture” goals with a financial advisor. The account interface provides basic information on performance, long-term outlook, and trading activity, but there is little handholding on how to use this information. In other words, most planning and tracking will be self-directed.
The brief questionnaire and the rapid account set-up could leave you wondering why your portfolio is allocated the way it is, but this is where the initial discussion with the financial advisor comes into play. Using SoFi Automated Investing also gives you access to other member services. Here again, there is a clear focus on younger crowds with benefits like exclusive events/experiences, career counseling services and discounts on other SoFi products.
Excellent goal setting tools and resources
Access to financial advisors
Additional account services available within the broader SoFi platform
The website is mobile-ready and easy to navigate
No tax-loss harvesting available
Slow customer service
Goal setting methodology assumes lower-than-historical portfolio returns
The SoFi Invest service itself is hard to find on the cluttered website
Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of robo-advisors. Our 2019 reviews are the result of six months of evaluating all aspects of 32 robo-advisor platforms.
When considering robo-advisors that are best for goal-setting, we awarded the platforms that provide easy to use tools that help you create savings and investment goals, and monitor your progress against them. That
Our team of industry experts, led by Theresa W. Carey, conducted our reviews and developed this best-in-industry methodology for ranking robo-advisor platforms for investors at all levels. Click here to read our full methodology.