SoFi was launched 12 years ago in San Francisco by four Stanford business school alumni to help young adults get their money right. SoFi Automated Investing is currently the only fee-free robo-advisor that also offers free Certified Financial Planner advisor access for all members. The portfolios span five risk levels and include diversified low fee ETFs. The well diversified portfolios contain low fee and fee free ETFs, but SoFi Automated Investing lacks some of the customization options offered by its competitors. 

SoFi Automated Investing users are called members by the broker, and are given opportunities to participate in social activities, enjoy exclusive discounts, and receive free career counseling. SoFi recently settled with the SEC for transferring client funds from third party ETFs into their own proprietary ETFs, causing unnecessary tax consequences for clients. We’ll take a deeper look at SoFi Automated Investing to see whether it is the right fit for your portfolio needs. 

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • SoFi Automated Investing provides fee-free account management that includes Certified Financial Planner access. 
  • Customer service is live by phone on weekdays and includes evening hours to provide ready assistance to SoFi Automated Investing members. 
  • SoFi Relay enables users to sync outside accounts for deeper financial insights and recommendations.
  • The SoFi Automated Investing platform is easy to navigate and prospective users can view portfolio recommendations before signing up.
Pros
  • Access to Certified Financial Planners for all clients

  • No investment management fee

  • $1 to open an account, $5 to begin investing

  • Access to expansive SoFi  lending, cash management, and self-directed investing

  • Can view portfolio before providing personal information

Cons
  • No tax loss harvesting

  • No socially responsible portfolios

  • No portfolio customization

Company Overiew
Account Minimum $1 to open an account $5 to begin investing
Fees No investment management fee ETF expense ratios range from 0.02% to 0.08%
Goal Planning Categories include retirement, general investing, and large purchase
Available Assets ETFs
Interest Paid on Cash Balances No cash assets within portfolios
Customizable Portfolio Not with Automated Investing - SoFi offers Active Investing  for stocks, ETFs, crypto, and ETFs
View Portfolio before Funding Yes - can view asset allocation and specific ETFs 
Customer Service Chat, email, and phone
Financial Advisor Available Yes - available to all customers for free
Cash Management Yes-SoFi Checking and Savings offers interest-bearing cash management, debit card, and more features
Tax-Loss Harvesting No
External Account Sync/Consolidation Yes - In SoFi Relay
Mobile App Yes - Android and iOS

Account Setup

SoFi Automated Investing makes setting up an account a breeze. You create an account with your email and password and then take the four-question financial goals and risk quiz. Based upon your responses, you’re presented with an initial portfolio, created in accordance with modern portfolio theory (MPT), that reflects one of five-risk levels ranging from conservative through aggressive. Each option includes between four and nine ETFs from up to nine diversified asset classes.

One key point in SoFi Automated Investing’s favor is that you can view your recommended portfolio, along with any of the 10 portfolio options before completing the account setup process. This sets SoFi Automated Investing apart from many competitors, which require complete account set up, including your Social Security number, prior to allowing you to see the model portfolios. The Automated Investing portfolios encompass five risk levels with taxable and retirement account portfolio choices for each. During weekdays you can phone for guidance or chat online 24/7 with the AI-powered virtual chat bot.

For those ready to invest, the straightforward account set up comes next. You choose an account type from choices including individual taxable, joint taxable, traditional individual investment accounts (IRAs), Roth IRAs, simplified employee pension (SEP), and rollover IRAs. The account setup includes the expected personal information including Social Security number, net worth, and investment experience. You’ll need to look elsewhere if you’re looking for trust or custodial accounts because SoFi Automated Investing doesn’t support those specific types. 

After the account setup, you simply link your bank account and transfer your funds. The account will be invested once your account reaches a $5 balance. As with most platforms, you can schedule automatic regular deposits to help grow your portfolio. Sofi Automated Investing customers can also schedule 30-minute meetings with a financial consultant for any investment-related questions they may have.

Goal Planning

SoFi Automated Investing offers three goal choices in the initial questionnaire: retirement, general investing, and large purchase. The large purchase choice offers examples like house, education, wedding, and vacation. 

Your response is aggregated with your other answers to the questionnaire and helps guide the asset allocation recommendation. As mentioned, you can also discuss your goals and other financial planning issues during a 30-minute scheduled meeting with a financial advisor. Specific goals can be tracked in the SoFi Checking and Savings Vault, but not directly in the Automated Investing section.

There is also a SoFi Relay feature that enables you to link all of your financial accounts, even those outside of SoFi, and receive a 3600 view of your entire financial picture including saving, spending, and investments. Relay also adds financial recommendations based upon your financial picture. That said, your SoFi Automated Portfolio allocation doesn’t take synced account data into consideration when making portfolio recommendations.

Competition
Company Account Minimum  Fees  Key Features
SoFi Automated Investing  $1 to open an account $5 to begin investing No investment management fee ETF expense ratios range from 0.02% to 0.08% Access to CFPs. No investment management fee. $1 account minimum. Available lending, cash management, and self-directed investing. No personal info needed to view portfolio.
Betterment  $0  0.25% (annual) for digital plan, 0.40% (annual) for the premium plan Customizable portfolios. Create multiple goals. Scenario test goals. Sync outside accounts. 
M1 Finance  $100 ($500 for retirement accounts)  $0 (misc fees may apply)  Extensive portfolio management customization options. Low rate margin loans. No fees for trading or account management.

Account Services 

SoFi Automated Investing enables easy-to-implement automated deposits. Although, users will need to sign up for SoFi Checking and Savings to obtain Cash Management features.

It is also worth mentioning again that all account holders have free access to 30-minute phone meetings with financial and career consultants. This account perk is rare among robo-advisors and sets SoFi apart in terms of providing more holistic financial planning rather than simply managing an MPT-based portfolio. 

Users of SoFi Automated Investing also have access to the range of products and services available under the SoFi umbrella including:

  • Self-directed brokerage accounts for crypto, IPOs, stocks, and ETFs through SoFi Active Investing
  • Student, home, and refinancing loans
  • Banking services, credit, and debit cards

More sophisticated investors will note the absence of margin, options, or other advanced trading opportunities at SoFi. Investors seeking a one-stop-financial management firm with robo-advisors combined with comprehensive investment and financial services, then larger full-service brokerages like Schwab or Fidelity may be a better fit. If you aren’t thinking of trading options or using leverage, however, SoFi offers a streamlined version of the one-stop-financial management firm for investors with simpler tastes.

Cash Management

SoFi Money has transitioned to SoFi Checking and Savings. SoFi Money is no longer offered to new members. Existing SoFi Money members have been invited to upgrade to SoFi Checking and Savings.

All cash management options at SoFi fall under the SoFi Checking and Savings category. Since there is not a cash asset class in the automated investment portfolios, users will need to obtain banking, credit, and debit card services through SoFi Checking and Savings. 

SoFi Checking and Savings is a brokerage cash management account offered through SoFi Securities LLC, a FINRA registered broker dealer. A $500 automated monthly deposit enables users cash back on the debit card and eight times (0.25%) the national average interest on cash balances.

All SoFi Checking and Savings members receive the following features:

  • No minimums
  • No account fees
  • Debit card
  • Debit card and 55,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Goal based saving through Vaults
  • Direct deposit
  • Bill pay and check writing
  • FDIC-insured deposits up to $1.5 million with partner bank

Portfolio Construction

SoFi users complete an online questionnaire which assesses the individuals goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. Based upon their responses, SoFi assigns a recommended asset allocation from one of five asset allocations. 

As is customary among robo-advisors, the portfolios are constructed based upon modern portfolio theory and include low and no-fee ETFs from up to nine asset classes:

  • US stock
  • US growth stock
  • US small cap stock
  • Developed market international stock
  • Emerging market international stock
  • US total bond
  • US short term bond
  • US high yield bond
  • US government short term inflation bonds

The five risk-related portfolios come in varying degrees of stock and bond assets. Each risk level has two portfolios, one for taxable accounts and another for retirement accounts, which yields 10 distinct portfolios.

The conservative allocation is a 100% bond portfolio, while the aggressive choice is 100% invested in stocks. In the robo-advisory hemisphere, these portfolios tend to be extreme and lacking a cushion in either direction. In other words, the all-stock aggressive portfolio lacks any downside protection against market declines while the all-bond conservative option has little upward opportunity for growth. 

The portfolios also lack exposure to real estate or REIT funds and cash, often found in competitors’ holdings. For customization options, users will need to invest through the SoFi Active Investing vertical, not Automated Investing.

Available Assets
Individual Stocks No
Mutual Funds No
Fixed Income ETFs
REITs No
Socially Responsible or ESG Options No
ETFs Yes
Non-Proprietary ETFs Yes, some non-proprietary ETFs and a few SoFi ETFs
Mutual Funds No
Crypto, Forex  No

Portfolio Management

SoFi Automated Investing portfolios are rebalanced when the target allocation veers 5% or more from it’s designated allocation. The rebalancing could occur as frequently as daily depending on market conditions, but rebalancing can be expected to be at least quarterly. 

Although SoFi doesn’t offer tax loss harvesting, the company minimizes tax inefficient ETFs in taxable accounts. SoFi also adjusts holdings in taxable and retirement accounts to maintain a low tax exposure when possible. 

We should also note again that, although SoFi Relay considers external accounts in it’s analysis and recommendations, Automated Investing does not use data from outside accounts when analyzing asset concentrations and overall diversification for portfolio management decisions.

Key Portfolio Management Features
Automatic Rebalancing When asset allocation veers 5% from target
Reporting Features All statements can be found in the Document Center, accessed from your profile
Tax-Loss Harvesting No
External Account Syncing/Consolidation Not in Automated Investing. SoFi Relay enables account synching and financial analysis.

User Experience

Desktop Experience:

The SoFi Automated Investing website is quite easy to navigate with clear menu headers and footers along with an accessible FAQ section. Your homepage dashboard includes updates on all of your SoFi accounts, promotions, and offers. Simple actions like tracking your finances and setting up direct deposit yield member points and cash bonuses. 

The points you accumulate through your Automated Investing account can be used for cash if they are a SoFi Checking and Savings member, for fractional shares of popular stocks or crypto currency, or even to make a partial payment on a SoFi Personal Loan or Student Loan Refinance.  This type of approach is a nice nudge to encourage you to grow your portfolio and take other positive financial steps.

From your homepage dashboard, it’s only one click to access:

  • SoFi products
  • Calculators and tools
  • Educational articles
  • Promotions and benefits

You’re never more than a click or two from well marked information. The SoFi Relay is a welcome add-on to Automated Investing for account syncing, spending and saving recommendations, and a holistic money view of all of your assets. 

The regular emails and SoFi Relay recommendations help users stay on top of their finances. 

Mobile Experience:

There is one SoFi app, available for android and iOS, which contains all of the products and services available at the company. As might be expected, this is a lot of information to include in one app. Some competitors offer separate apps for various services within their company to avoid in-app clutter.

Unlike the desktop version, users claim the app is less intuitive and more difficult to navigate. Overall, most of what SoFi members need is accessible on the mobile, albeit with a bit more effort.

Customer Service

  • Phone support M-F, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. ET
  • Virtual chatbot
  • Access to 30-minute appointments with Certified Financial Planners
  • Comprehensive FAQs

Users can reach the investment customer service representatives at SoFi Automated Investing on weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET. The website FAQs are comprehensive and well-organized by category. For example, Automated Investing members would seek out FAQ from the “Invest - Automated'' section. The AI virtual assistant chatbot is available 24/7, and as would be expected, answers simple questions like “how do I schedule an appointment with a financial advisor?” rather well. Responses to more complex questions seeking specific details about how SoFi Automated Investing works were unsatisfactory. 

All SoFi members can schedule a 30-minute appointment with a Certified Financial Planner via an online calendar. Simply choose the topic, select a time-slot, and input your name, email and phone number. Meetings can be conducted by phone, video chat, or email. 

Security

  • Two-factor authentication
  • Biometric login
  • SSL encryption
  • Securities Investors Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance

Accounts are insured by the SIPC for up to $500,000, which includes $250,000 cash. This is in line with industry standards, although some larger investment firms provide higher amounts of security insurance protection. This insurance doesn’t protect your investments from losses, but from firm failure or malfeasance.

The company maintains industry standard technical and physical safeguards to protect client information. SoFi offers two-factor authentication and SSL encryption, similar to most banks and financial institutions. Two-factor authentication adds a device-specific added layer of security in addition to password validation. Website users can receive a security code by SMS or can use Google Authenticator. Mobile app users can elect to use fingerprint recognition. 

Education

The Sofi Learn section is the company's educational portal where users will find a breadth of educational materials. Most of the resources are geared towards newer investors. Information is categorized by both “Financial Topics” and “Life Stages”. The search feature and menu enable access to specific types of educational content. For those seeking basic finance 101 information, the Financial Clarity section provides jargon free content on a variety of topics. 

The investing section answers questions such as:

  • What are Dividend ETFs?
  • What are Unicorn Companies?
  • How do Dividends Work?
  • What is the Long Term Stock Market?

In addition to the article library, users will find adequate tools and calculators shared across SoFi product lines. Only a few are geared towards investors, with retirement and Roth IRA contribution tools. The bulk of this section focuses on other calculators for loans, insurance, budgeting, and debt payoff. 

Commissions & Fees

SoFi Automated Investing does not charge investment management fees. The ETFs carry low expense ratios which, according to a company representative, range from 0.02% to 0.08%. 

Miscellaneous fees include:

  • Wire transfers out: $25 (No charge for ACH transfers)
  • Returned checks for insufficient funds: $15
  • ACAT transfers out: $75
  • IRA closing fee: $20
  • Paper statements: $5 per statement
Category Fee
Management fees for $5,000 account Zero
Management fees for $25,000 account Zero
Management fees for $100,000 account Zero
Termination fees $75 ACAT transfer out
Expense ratios  0.02% to 0.08%.
Mutual funds N/A

Final Verdict

SoFi Automated Investing is a natural choice for existing SoFi customers who use their lending, active investing, or money features. Beginner investors will appreciate the simplicity of the platform, easy access to their dashboard, educational offerings, and perhaps even the robust phone support. Beyond that, the availability of free Certified Financial Planner appointments is something that investors of all ages can benefit from. Most importantly, zero fee investment management is hard to beat. Just realize that the ETF fund management fee waiver is temporary. Offering a zero management fee robo-advisor makes SoFi Automated Investing stand out among more feature-rich competitors that charge (albeit modest) fees for their services. 

The main gaps at SoFi Automated Investing are a lack of tax-loss harvesting and socially responsible investments. Otherwise, the well-diversified portfolios and low costs will be enough to convert existing SoFi users looking for an automated investment solution—and may well be enough to bring new customers looking for the same thing into the SoFi financial universe.

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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