Ellevest is the world’s first robo-advisor designed specifically for women investors. Ellevest points out that 86% of investment advisors are men who are typically over 50. Consequently, the investment industry has a gendered bias towards men’s salaries, career paths, preferences and lifespans. Ellevest argues, “that’s not good enough. So, we’re changing the game.” By noting the structural differences in womens’ versus mens’ income trajectories, Ellevest accounts for the gender pay gap as well as life-cycle events such as childbirth and raising a family. They also calculate portfolio expected returns understanding that on average women will live longer than men and so need a longer period of draw-down in retirement.
While Ellevest is primarily geared toward women, they also have male clients. In order to cater to their needs, they use a more traditional robo-advisory algorithm that doesn't take into account things such as pay gap and maternity leave. In cases where couples or families are investing together, this is especially important.
Aside from those gender-specific differences, Ellevest is a full-service robo-advisor that constructs personalized passive, index portfolios following the principles of modern portfolio theory (MPT). Ellevest Digital, the most basic plan, charges 0.25% per year of assets under management for balances $1 - $50,000. Once you have $50,000 or more in your account you have the option to jump to Ellevest Premium at a rate of 0.50% per year. Premium accounts also get access to CFP® financial planners for personalized guidance on finances and money growth strategies as well as to executive coaches for guidance on salary negotiations & career events. For clients with more than $1 million, there is Ellevest Private Wealth.
Unlike most competitors, Ellevest does not offer tax-loss harvesting - they use a tax minimum methodology for all digital and premium clients as it believes it merely defers tax liabilities instead of canceling them outright – although they do employ other tax minimization strategies such as rebalancing based on favorable tax lots and the use of municipal bonds in taxable accounts.
Easy to open accounts
Access to CFPs for those with $50,000 or more invested
Socially responsible impact investing
No web-based portfolio analysis or planning tools
Mobile app available for iOS only
No tax-loss harvesting
Ellevest has taken a number of steps to keep your account secure and your personal information private. The site uses use the most advanced browser encryption available. In addition, there are several fraud mitigation layers involved such as personal ID verification and 2-step linking for fund withdrawals and transfers. Ellevest pledges to never sell or share your personal information with a third party that would market or advertise their products to you. Additionally, assets are held by Folio, an SEC-registered broker/dealer and custodian. Folio is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which carries with it up to $500,000 worth of insurance for each account.
Not only is Ellevest designed with women clients in mind, it also offers what it calls an “impact investing” option with the tag line “investing by women, investing in women.” For the socially-conscious investor, Ellevest Impact Portfolios allows clients to invest a portion of their portfolio in companies that power positive social change by advancing women in particular.
Ellevest also offers clients different levels of access to human financial advisors. All accounts can speak with a concierge who can help give practical advice on basic issues such as help getting organized when it comes to consolidating your IRAs and old 401(k)s as well as customizing your Ellevest goals and accounts.
Accounts with $50,000 or more get 1-on-1 access to certified financial planners who provide broader and more nuanced financial advice. These clients also have access to Executive Coaching services with the Ellevest Career Team to help negotiate a pay raise and compensation package, hit the ground running at a new job, or return to work after a career break.
Ellevest didn't score well in our features category because choices are very limited relative to other robo-advisors. But for clients who want a personal touch more than a range of options, Ellevest may be appealing.
News and Research
Ellevest does not offer any economic or financial securities research apart from the advice given by its human advisors. The company’s blog, Ellevest Magazine, offers investor education, market insights, and economic news in a fun and easy to understand format that focuses on women, which can be sorted by broad topics such as investing, money and life, and career-focused articles.
Ellevest offers only individual taxable accounts and traditional, Roth, or SEP IRAs. There is no support for joint or trust accounts or other types of retirement accounts such as 401(k) accounts or 529 college accounts.
According to Ellevest’s investment methodology, model portfolios are constructed by the company’s proprietary algorithms. Ellevest’s portfolios are slightly tilted to have a higher weighting to value-oriented equities versus growth equities and a higher weighting to U.S. stocks relative to the global market capitalization.
In addition to traditional passive strategies, Ellevest offers what it calls “impact investing” that invests a portion of a client portfolio in ETFs or mutual funds that in some way promote or empower women.
Ellevest digital has no minimum balance to open an account and carries a competitive 0.25% wrap fee per year based on assets under management. If your account balance is $50,000 or more, you have the option to choose their premium service at a rate of 0.50% per year and also get access to financial planners and executive coaching. This is unique in the robo-advisor space in that usually the wrap fee goes down as you invest more money with them.
Ellevest does not charge any additional fees for withdrawals or transfers. Furthermore, they will not charge any fee on the cash allocation of your portfolio, which they call your “emergency fund”. The only other indirect fee to consider is the ETF and mutual fund management fees, charged by fund providers for the work they do to maintain the funds in your portfolio. It isn't charged by Ellevest and won't be deducted directly from your account, but it will be an adjustment to the prices of your ETFs. The investment committee works to select only low-cost ETFs.
Ellevest has phone support, but this is available only during market hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, and callers may experience a wait. There is also a dedicated support email address that you can try. Ellevest does offer a live chat option available for both existing clients as well prospective users. Clients can also reach out through Facebook messenger for their inquiries and use Ellevest's fairly thorough FAQ section for answers to frequently asked questions, along with a glossary of basic investing & markets terms.
What You Need to Know
With its focus on women’s unique financial circumstances and socially responsible investing that particularly empowers women, Ellevest is most ideal for women investors who are looking to automate and optimize their portfolios with a robo-advisor. It’s competitive introductory fees and $0 minimums mean that it’s easy to get started even if you are just beginning your career. Higher net-worth clients may also appreciate the access to financial planners and executive coaches. This does not mean that men can’t use Ellevest, but since it is optimized for a woman’s career path and expected income trajectory, it might not be ideal for the opposite sex.
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