Ellevest is investing for women, created by women. With no minimums to start investing, no advisory fees, and low monthly membership fees, Ellevest has made it simple and easy for women to take control of their finances. While the platform is geared mainly toward women, taking into account the gender-specific issues of salary gaps, career breaks, and longer life expectancy, all investors are welcome on this platform.

Key Takeaways

  • Ellevest offers investing strategies specifically for women, taking into account factors such as salary gaps, career breaks, and longer life expectancy.
  • Monthly membership plan levels offer flexibility to investors regarding the range of services desired.
  • Low fees and no minimum investment requirement offer entry into the financial planning realm for all investors at a very basic/beginner level.
Pros
  • No minimums to start investing

  • Goal-focused investing approach

  • Low monthly membership fee

  • Portfolio selection to meet the investment needs of women

Cons
  • Minimal account customization

  • Retirement accounts available to Plus and Executive members only

  • No tax-loss harvesting

Account Minimum None
Fees Essential Membership - $1/month
Plus Membership - $5/month
Executive Membership - $9/month
Goal Setting Essential Membership - Basic Investing 
Plus Membership - Basic Investing + Retirement Planning
Executive Membership - Basic Investing + Retirement Planning + Multi-Goal Investing
Available Assets ETFs and Mutual Funds
Interest Paid on Cash Balances 0.01% 
Customizable Portfolio No, limited ability to add ESG investment ETF as an option, and change risk tolerance
View Portfolio before Funding Yes
Customer Service Contact via social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
Financial Advisor Available Yes, one-on-one sessions with financial planners are available for additional fees
Cash Management FDIC cash holding account
Tax-Loss Harvesting No
External Account Sync/Consolidation No
Mobile App Android, iOS

Account Setup

Setting up an account with Ellevest is done completely online. After setting up an account by entering your email and choosing a password, you will be asked to answer some questions about yourself and to select a membership plan that fits your investing goals. Based on your goals and preferences, portfolio selections will then be made for you. At this point, you will be able to make tweaks to your account, such as adding environmental, social, and governance investments (ESG) or changing the risk tolerance level.

Membership levels determine what type of investing you will be able to access: 

  • Essential Membership - basic investing account. 
  • Plus Membership - basic investing and retirement planning. Investors at this level can have a regular investing account plus an individual retirement account (IRA)
  • Executive Membership - basic investing, retirement planning, and multi-goal investing, which allows the investor to have separate accounts for each goal.

Ellevest used a management fee-based approach prior to 2020 and may still have clients accessing the platform this way, but all new clients gain access to Ellevest through membership levels now.

Goal Planning

Planning for your financial future is a primary focus of all levels of an Ellevest membership. The level of goal planning, though, is directly tied to your selected level of membership. An Essential membership account will give you access to a basic investing account. If you are looking to plan for retirement by rolling over a 401(k) plan or 403(b) plan or opening an IRA, this option is available starting at the Plus membership level. Multi-goal investing, such as retirement, college, vacation, or saving up to buy a home, can be accessed at an Executive membership account level. 

Ellevest’s membership approach is very different from many competing robo-advisors, making it hard to directly compare costs and offerings. At the Executive membership level, you are able to view a forecast amount for each goal and then manipulate the scenarios to discover how changes to any one goal will impact the achievement of all of the goals in your plan. At the basic level, you have the same tools, but aren’t able to invest in multiple goals.

Account Services

Investors are able to set up automatic deposits from a payroll provider to fund their Ellevest banking or investment account from each paycheck. If you do not have a payroll provider or just want to transfer money into your account on your own, you are able to do so manually from a linked external bank account.

While investors are not able to borrow on margin from this account, Ellevest has very convenient banking options that include:

  • Earn an average 5% cash back when you shop select brands locally and nationally, when using your Ellevest debit card
  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements (for withdrawals made in the US)
  • No minimum balance 
  • No overdraft fees
  • Touch-free tap to spend 

Additionally, if you lose your debit card, you can easily lock it and reset your PIN in the Ellevest app.

Cash Management

Investors can earn interest on their cash balances by putting it into an FDIC-insured Ellevest Save account. These savings accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000. Currently, the interest rate paid on cash balances in these accounts is 0.01%.

One notable option investors have is a “roundup” option. When Ellevest members choose this option, they are able to round up every transaction to the next dollar. By doing this, the additional change above and beyond the transaction amount will go directly into their Ellevest Save account. The money can stay in the savings account or be transferred to an investment account.

Portfolio Construction

The portfolio investment offerings with an Ellevest robo-advisor are relatively restrictive, with only 22 ETFs and 3 ESG funds to choose from. Portfolios are composed of either passive ETFs or the Ellevest Impact Portfolios (ESG). Investment options for the ETFs or ESG funds are invested in the following asset classes:

  • US Large Cap Growth 
  • US Large Cap Value
  • US Mid Cap Growth
  • US Mid Cap Value
  • US Small Cap Growth 
  • US Small Cap Value 
  • Developed International Stocks 
  • Emerging Market Stocks
  • REITs
  • US bonds (taxable and municipal) 
  • Non-US Bonds
  • Emerging Market Bonds

Available Assets

Individual Stocks No
Mutual Funds Yes
Fixed Income No
REITs No
Socially Responsible or ESG Options Yes
ETFs Yes
Non-Proprietary ETFs Yes
Mutual Funds Yes
Private Equity No
Crypto, Forex  No

According to a company representative, Ellevest’s Impact Portfolios (ESG options) offer funds created for constructive social impact by advancing women in three areas: 

  • Women In Leadership - funds investing in companies with more women leaders and policies that advance women 
  • Sustainable, Accountable Companies - funds investing in companies working to meet higher standards for sustainability and ethical practices 
  • Thriving Communities - funds providing loans to support women-owned businesses and companies that provide community services — children’s education, performing arts, housing, and care for seniors and individuals in need.

It is noteworthy that ESG options will contain investments that are not solely ESG focused. Per the Ellevest website, there are not sufficient impact investments that meet their fiduciary criteria for all of the asset classes.

Portfolio Customization

Portfolio customization for investors is limited to adding ESG funds and/or altering your risk tolerance level. The robo-advisor will make selections based on your goals and the way in which you answered the questions during account setup. 

Portfolio Management

While Ellevest does not offer tax-loss harvesting in its robo-advisor accounts, the company does utilize a tax minimization strategy. With this type of strategy, positions with the highest cost basis are sold to minimize realized capital gains for the investor. The tax minimization strategies at Ellevest work in two ways:

  1. Securities are included that might cost you less in taxes, such as tax-efficient municipal bonds, in the accounts that are taxable right now, or
  2. Ellevest includes securities that might cause you to incur more taxes, like corporate and government bonds, in tax-deferred retirement accounts. 

Investors’ portfolios are automatically rebalanced periodically. However, the time frame or specific details of when such rebalancing occurs are not available via the website. When asked for specific details of this subject, a company representative provided the following response:

“At Ellevest, we monitor your portfolio and we rebalance only when your portfolio has drifted meaningfully from your target portfolio, due to market fluctuations, or to invest cash flows such as your monthly deposits and/or dividend distributions. We may also rebalance your portfolio as our recommended asset allocations change over time.”

Key Portfolio Management Features

Automatic Rebalancing Only occurs when the investor’s portfolio has “drifted meaningfully from the target”
Reporting Features
Tax Loss Harvesting No - tax minimization strategies are used
External Account Syncing/Consolidation No

User Experience

Desktop Experience

Ellevest is currently available on Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari web browsers. All account functionality currently available via desktop is also available to mobile users. Account balances, goal projections, and progress toward set goals are easy to find through a menu-based platform.  

Mobile Experience

Ellevest has an app available for iOS and Android smartphone users. The app currently supports iOS 11 and above, which means you must have an iPhone 6 or newer. The Ellevest app requires Android 8.0 and newer. While the Ellevest website says they do not have an iPad app, a company representative told Investopedia that investors can download the app to an iPad where they would have the option to scale the size to optimize for an iPad screen.

Customer Service

Contacting Ellevest can be done primarily through social media, via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Per their contact information on the Ellevest website, an investor can simply “click on the widget” to get in contact with customer support for each of the three aforementioned social media networks. However, no direct links to customer service are provided. The Facebook widget leads to the company’s Facebook page where you can send a private message. Widgets for both Twitter and LinkedIn do not lead to the company account, rather, they offer a pop-up link to tweet or share the contact page that you are currently on.

  • No customer service phone number is provided on the website.
  • Online “help” box is available to type in a question.
  • The online chat is answered with prepared statements. No live chat with a representative is available, rather the investor is prompted to submit the questions through a chatbox form to receive an email response.

Security

Ellevest offers security features similar to others in the industry in order to keep investors’ account information safe:

  • Two-factor authentication to open and investment account or bank account, or making a withdrawal
  • Insurance: FDIC insured accounts up to $250,000 
  • 256-bit encryption for accounts

Education

All members have access to the tips, videos, and articles available in-app or on the website. According to a company representative, all members get access to regularly scheduled, free, and live "All About Membership" workshops led by a fully licensed investment professional. For a fee, members can sign up for digital workshops and self-paced courses. Ellevest users can also book one-on-one sessions with financial planners or career coaches at a set price. Fees for these services are discounted 20-50%, based on your membership level.

Commissions & Fees

Monthly fees are based upon the Ellevest membership level that the investor chooses, not upon the account balance. There are also no additional advisory fees. There are, however, fees associated with the ETFs, which is consistent within the robo-advisor industry. The average underlying fee for ETFs and mutual funds for Ellevest Core Portfolios is 0.05% to 0.23%, and from 0.12% to 0.26% for Ellevest Impact Portfolios.

Category Fee
Management fees for Essential account $1/month
Management fees for Plus account $5/month
Management fees for Executive account $9/month
Termination fees none
Expense ratios  Range from 0.05% to 0.26%
Mutual funds Range from 0.05% to 0.26%

With Ellevest taking a different approach on costs, the account balance you hold becomes the main factor in cost comparison. At account balances of $5,000, for example, Ellevest is cheaper than most robo-advisors out there with even its Executive offering coming in at an equivalent of a 0.18% fee deducted monthly. At an account balance of $1,000, however, Ellevest’s Executive level would represent a 0.90% management fee compared to competitors hovering at the 0.25% mark.

This is an imperfect comparison as the management fees at other robo-advisors change in response to changes in your account balance. This means they grow in real terms when the balance increases and go down in real terms if your account balance dips. Ellevest’s membership fee is paid at a consistent rate regardless of changes in account balances. If you had an account with only $500 that wasn’t growing fast enough to cover the membership, for example, an Executive account could eat up a significant portion of your portfolio over the course of a year. Put simply, investors with Ellevest get a better deal at higher account balances.

Finally, Ellevest also has a separate fee schedule for large accounts. High net worth clients with over $2 million in assets pay a management fee of 0.90%, which goes down in steps all the way to 0.25% for account balances over $100 million.

Final Verdict

The Ellevest platform provides a good entry-level investing tool for new investors or those with a low amount of initial capital. The three membership levels allow investors to decide whether they need basic investing, retirement investing, or multi-goal investing, all at low monthly fees. Basic account users will miss important goal planning features and will be left out of having a retirement account, but the Executive level has features that put Ellevest on par with major competitors. This robo-advisor also provides a unique forum for women by taking into account the unique issues they face in the areas of salary gaps, career breaks, and life expectancy. 


Specific details regarding when portfolio rebalancing occurs and the metrics used to determine when an investor’s portfolio has strayed too far from the target goal are vague, and a lack of extra benefits at the higher tiers could leave Executive members feeling a bit underwhelmed. That said, Ellevest is still a solid robo-advisor that gets more cost competitive with a higher account balance due to the fixed nature of the membership fee.

Methodology

Our mission at Investopedia is to provide investors with reviews and ratings of robo-advisors that are comprehensive and unbiased. Our team of researchers and expert writers, led by senior editor Michael Sacchitello, spent months evaluating all aspects of a robo-advisor’s platform, including the account setup process, goal planning tools, account service options, portfolio construction offerings, portfolio management, mobile and desktop user experience, educational content, fees, and security. As part of this evaluation, we extract critical data points that are weighted by our quantitative model that produces a powerful star-scoring system.

With the individual investor in mind, we’ve designed a comprehensive ranking methodology to find the best overall robo-advisors and the best robo-advisors across nine key categories. Each advisor is then scored across multiple variables to rate performance in every applicable category. The score for the overall award is a weighted average of the categories.

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