M1 Finance provides an intriguing blend of automated investing paired with expansive portfolio customization to go alongside borrowing and spending features. You can select from more than 60 pre-built portfolios called “pies” (a reference to portfolio pie charts) or build your own strategy. This customizable portfolio platform is geared towards experienced investors looking to automate their strategy while aligning to personal preferences, risk appetite, and diversification goals. M1 also scores well for the platform’s overall low cost, charging no fees on investment management or trading which puts more dollars to work for you. We’ll take a deeper look at M1 Finance’s robo-advisory to help you decide whether it is the right fit for your portfolio needs. 

Key Takeaways

  • M1 Finance is a great fit for experienced investors who prefer a low-cost customizable portfolio solution.
  • Customizations are primarily done by screening and selecting between 60 different pre-built portfolios or creating your own.
  • Investors looking for additional product offerings in a platform may find M1 Finance’s borrow and spend options attractive. 
  • While offering customizations beyond most robo-advisors, M1 Finance's goal tracking lacks the ability to consolidate outside accounts.
Pros
  • Extensive portfolio management customization options

  • Margin loans accessible at low interest rates with $5K invested

  • No fees for trading or account management

  • Spending and borrowing options complement portfolio management

Cons
  • No tax loss harvesting available

  • Advisors and financial planning not offered

  • Limited financial calculators, tools, and goal planning

  • No aggregating of external accounts for investment allocation purposes

Company Overview

Account Minimum $100 ($500 for retirement accounts)
Fees $0 (misc fees may apply) 
Goal Planning Retirement
Available Assets Individual Stocks, ETFs, REITs
Interest Paid on Cash Balances 1% (M1 Plus members only)
Customizable Portfolio Yes
View Portfolio before Funding Yes
Customer Service Email, Chat, Call
Financial Advisor Available No
Cash Management Interest, bill pay, atm fee reimbursement (M1 Plus members only)
Tax-Loss Harvesting No
External Account Sync/Consolidation Inbound Transfers, no aggregation
Mobile App Android, iOS

Account Setup

Getting started with M1 Finance is a straightforward process. After creating a username and password, you’ll be prompted to begin M1’s onboarding flow where you’ll learn how the platform works and answer some general questions regarding your investment experience. The portfolio construction part of the process allows you to select one of the pre-built pies or customize the portfolio to your own specifications.

You’ll be asked to select an account to get started. M1 supports brokerage, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, custodial (M1 Plus only), and trust accounts. Keep in mind that the minimum to open an account is $100 ($500 for IRAs). Once your portfolio has been finalized, your account selected, and banking information added, you’re ready to start investing.

Goal Planning

Since M1 focuses on automating portfolio management for experienced investors, goal planning, and financial calculators are intentionally omitted. For the same reason, there is no access to human consultants since the platform is not an advisory offering. There is, however, an extensive article catalogue on M1’s blog which covers some general financial education and investing topics at a high level. 

The lack of hand holding may be discomforting for investors seeking goal planning tools or those who value human guidance. For seasoned investors, the focus on portfolio management creates a more streamlined investing experience centered around growing your money. It's important to remember that M1 isn’t trying to be a robo-advisor that takes basic goal and risk information in order to spit out a portfolio conforming to Modern Portfolio Theory and your time horizon. Instead, M1 is looking for investors who are seeking to reduce the management burden without sacrificing portfolio flexibility, investment options, and automation capabilities.

Account Services

M1 Finance offers a variety of account services that give you more flexibility with your money. Cash movement out of and into the platform is seamless, including an option to schedule auto deposits into your portfolio on a monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly basis. You can also place individual trade orders, which allows for more flexibility. Transfers from external brokerage or retirement accounts into M1 allow you to consolidate your holdings in a single broker. In addition to these options, investors can use margin accounts to borrow up to 35% of the account value once the balance exceeds $10,000. 

Some features differ based on whether you’re a M1 Basic or M1 Plus member ($125 annual fee). For margin loans, M1 Basic members have an interest rate of 3.75% while M1 Plus members have a lower interest rate at 2.25%. Both tiers offer a checking account, but if you’re an M1 Plus member you’ll have more cash back options, additional ATM reimbursements, and a variety of payment methods. The credit card product is available only at the M1 Plus tier. The credit card offers intriguing cash back options and waives the annual fee.

Cash Management

To complement the portfolio management product, M1 Finance offers digital banking, a credit card option, and a cash flow allocation feature that rounds out the platform:

  • M1 Spend seamlessly integrates a checking account with your investments. You can transfer money, set up direct deposit, and spend with a debit card. There’s no minimum balance and all deposits are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000. M1 Plus members also get 1% cash back, 1% interest rate, and check sending capability.
  • The Owners Rewards Card is a unique credit card offering available to M1 Plus members. With no annual fee, members can earn up to 10% cash back for spending tied to companies invested in through the platform. 
  • M1’s Smart Transfers are available to Plus customers and allow you to set a rules-based strategy to allocate your excess cash towards spending, maxing out annual IRA contributions, or investing through any of your brokerage accounts. Rules can be layered so that cash management is done automatically in a way that matches your needs.

Portfolio Construction

A primary differentiator of M1’s platform is portfolio construction. Investors have the ability to choose from over 60 different pre-built Expert Pies which align to a variety of strategies including passive investing, mimicking hedge funds, and socially conscious options. As an example, the passive portfolio can be constructed simply by using two ETFs—one equity, one bond—that track the global market and allow you to allocate between the two funds based on your risk preference. You can also create Custom Pies to choose your own holdings entirely or combine them with an existing Expert Pie. 

There’s a number of asset allocation options that you can leverage by using the Expert Pies. Some of these include fundamental analysis, technical analysis, value investing, buy and hold, growth investing, income investing, small-cap investing, and dividend reinvestment plans.

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

Portfolio Customization

One area where M1 Finance really stands out is the extensive ability to tailor your portfolio through Custom Pies. Using the Research section of the site, you’ll find a screening tool that lets you search for a wide variety of publicly tradable ETFs, REITs, and individual stocks. From there you’re a few clicks away from adding these selections to an existing or new portfolio for investing.

Portfolio Management

Once you have your pies set up, M1 monitors your portfolio and rebalances when new funds are deposited to ensure you don’t drift too far away from your initial target allocation. This is primarily accomplished by allocating new dollars towards the parts of your portfolio that are underweight compared to the initial strategy you’ve set up. You can also force an entire portfolio rebalance at your discretion with a click, a unique feature of the platform. 

M1 supports trading once throughout the day, but M1 Plus members with an account balance over $25,000 can place trades in two daily trading windows. You can also make individual buy and sell orders which don’t need to be related to the pie you’ve selected. The availability of fractional shares means you’ll be fully invested without needing to hold a portion of your portfolio in cash. 

Another highlight is the tax management for withdrawals, which are done in a way to minimize taxes owed. However, the lack of a true tax-loss harvesting feature may limit the tax optimization in your account. There also isn’t an aggregation feature where you can link up external investment accounts to get insight on how well you’re diversified across all portfolios. Many other robo-advisors offer this feature to give you a true picture of your net worth and progress towards goals.

Key Portfolio Management Features
Automatic Rebalancing  Auto-Deposit allocation or manually triggered
Reporting Features Statements, Tax Information
Tax-Loss Harvesting  No 
External Account Syncing/Consolidation  Allows for rollovers and transfers, does not support account syncing

User Experience

Desktop Experience

You’ll find the website to be clean and straightforward with easy sign-up instructions, clear performance metrics, and simple to navigate. This includes tabs that cover your portfolio activity and holdings, buttons to buy, sell or rebalance, and graphs that break down your allocation in detail. Many Robo Advisors are focused on improving user experiences compared to traditional financial sites and M1 Finance certainly delivers here.

Mobile Experience

Similar to the Desktop version, the M1 Finance app scores highly for its ease of use. The workflow of the website and the app are nearly identical experiences. You’ll find you’re able to do just about anything on the app as you are on the website, so it’s just a matter of which experience you prefer.                                  

Customer Service Options

  • Phone line: 312-600-2883 M-F, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. ET
  • Instant Help Chat Bot
  • Email Support with 24 hour turnaround time
  • Robust Help Center articles 
  • No access to human Financial Advisors

Security Features

  • Two-factor authentication
  • Military Grade 4096-bit encryption
  • SIPC Insurance for investments
  • FDIC Insurance for deposits

Education

There are several education resources you can leverage through M1 Finance. You’ll find the blog contains a broad range of articles centered around general investing strategies and overall best financial practices. One notable focus of this content is on empowering investors with information to improve their long-term portfolio mentality. M1’s social media accounts, videos, and “The Investors Mindset” newsletter offer additional ways to access this material. Since M1 steers away from providing financial advice and recommendations, this information is shared from a high-level perspective with the goal of improving your knowledge base. Beyond that, much of the educational content is about learning to use the platform to the fullest.  

Commissions & Fees

M1 Finance doesn’t charge any portfolio management or trading fees. This is a unique aspect of the platform that puts more dollars to work on your behalf. Rather, M1 makes money through interest, lending securities, the Plus membership, and payment for order flow. ETFs purchased through the platform have their own fee that is paid directly to the fund manager, not M1, as is standard industry practice. M1 Plus tier members pay a $125 annual subscription fee. There is also a miscellaneous fee schedule for additional account operations. Overall, the low cost of the platform is an attractive feature for investors.

There are, however, IRA termination and outgoing transfer fees of $100, in addition to a $20 fee on accounts of up to $20 where no trading activity has occurred for 90 days.

Category Fee 
Management fees for $5,000 account $0
Management fees for $25,000 account  $0 
Management fees for $100,000 account  $0 
Termination fees  $100 for outgoing transfers & IRA closures
Expense ratios  Typically between 0.06% - 0.20% 
Mutual funds  N/A

Final Verdict

M1 Finance provides a great option for experienced investors who value extensive customization options. Customization is a clear strength of the M1 platform that sets it apart in the Robo Advisor space. Choosing amongst 60 options or building your own portfolios from scratch is a fundamentally different experience if you are expecting a robo-advisor to simply match you up with an ideal allocation. Although M1 is closer to self-directed investing than most robo-advisors, it comes with the ability to automate portfolio management. This allows individual investors who feel comfortable with screeners and strategies to eliminate some of the more monotonous tasks like rebalancing. Your funds in M1 are also accessible through spending and borrowing features, and the cash management rules make it easy to automate your personal finances more widely. 

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 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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