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SigFig is a robo-advisor that wears many hats. It is an advisor, a portfolio manager and a provider of diversified income. It can take existing accounts under management, simply provide analysis, or open a new investment account.
SigFig has registered Assets Under Management(AUM) of $120 million over 2,610 accounts, with an average account size of about $46,000. Its core offering is management over existing accounts. It will take over strategy and management of your taxable accounts, IRA/Roth IRAs, and trusts for a fee, or simply provide a unified dashboard for all of your existing investment accounts for free.
Fees and investing
Portfolio Tracker is free with SigFig. All you do is sign up and add your 401(k), IRA, and brokerage accounts and SigFig aggregates them into one dashboard. There is no financial commitment, nor are your accounts affected. It’s only tracking and guidance, and you manage your own accounts as you did before signing up, just with more knowledge.
If you don’t want to manage your own various investments, you can turn over management to SigFig. A managed account requires $2,000, and is free up to $10,000. Beyond that, it costs 0.25% annually. A managed account will provide all of the analysis, insight, comparison tools and news of the Portfolio Tracker, but will take care of all the management actions instead of just suggesting them.
The third option is a Diversified Income Portfolio. If you’re collecting interest on a bunch of money sitting around in CDs, Treasury bonds, or savings accounts this may be an option. For a minimum investment of $100,000 and an annual fee of 0.5%, SigFig will design a portfolio that is meant to be low-risk and produce dependable dividends.
For a free Portfolio Tracker account, you just need to create an account and link your existing brokerage accounts. Once you’re logged in, the account dashboard is the same as for a managed account. At any time, you can navigate to the “Managed” tab and open a managed account if you want to start incorporating SigFig’s suggestions.
For a Managed Account, you’ll be asked your age and the timeline of your investing, as well as basic income information. You’ll be presented a portfolio from a range of about 20 different options based on risk. You can adjust your risk tolerance to change the mix of asset classes. You can also select the tax-advantaged account option, which will present you with an entirely new mix of 20 portfolios, ranging from low- to high-risk. The next step requires you to fund your account to continue, so be ready with your bank details or the login details of any brokerage account you want to use.
For a Diversified Income Account, there is a short list of questions to decide whether that type of account is right for you. After that you’re presented with a portfolio made up of bonds, US Treasury securities, and equity. Other than the portfolio makeup, it’s very similar to the managed account.
Every type of account has the same account dashboard setup. There is a single login, and you can navigate between different tabs to look at an overview, account guidance and performance charts. To create an account, you must be 18 years old and a U.S. citizen.
What you get
Portfolio Tracker allows you to follow your investments and market news, provides a weekly performance summary, and provides tools to compare your portfolio to peers and market indexes. SigFig will also analyze your portfolio to evaluate your risk, make any fees you’re paying transparent, and alert you if you’re overexposed to a single stock or industry.
With a Managed Account, you get a portfolio made up of 5-7 ETFs from nine different asset classes. ETFs are a broad holding of stocks or bonds, traded on a market. Like most ETFs, the ETFs offered are based on well-known, passive indexes. These ETFs are meant to track with the market so your holdings grow (and shrink) along with the market, instead of trying to “beat” the market like more actively managed funds. Many robo-advisors invest in passive ETFs because of the low expense ratios. You can change your allocation at any time by adjusting your risk tolerance. Tax-loss harvesting and automatic rebalancing are included.
When you put money into a Diversified Income Portfolio, SigFig will invest that money for you into 8-12 dividend-producing ETFs, which are automatically rebalanced. Diversified Income Portfolios are designed to achieve a target income, 4% of your investment.
With every account, you get access to market tracking, news and account guidance. There is chat and phone support always available (for free?) if you have questions, as well as a blog full of articles and advice. There are no commissions or other fees charged by SigFig other than the listed management fees.
Portfolio Tracker is a useful tool and a great way to get a feel for SigFig without dedicating any funds. The 0.25% management fee is low for a robo-advisor, as is 0% fee on accounts under $10,000, as long as you can meet the $2,000 minimum. While there isn’t a large amount of customization available, it’s typical of robo-advisors to offer a few portfolio allocation options based on risk. With around 20 options available for taxable accounts, and another 20 for tax-advantaged, that’s a good selection of options. Many robo-advisors that use Modern Portfolio Theory and divide up portfolios based on risk tolerance offer fewer options.
While there isn’t extensive goal planning or personalization, SigFig offers up quite a bit of convenience with its free unified dashboard to track all of your investments. When you include those services with a variety of risk-based portfolios made of low-cost ETFs, and fee-free management under $10,000, you get a competitive offering when it comes to robo-advisors.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is the robo-advisor product offered by brokerage giant Charles Schwab. It offers taxable accounts, IRAs, Roth IRAs, and trusts. Unlike many other robo-advisors, this is a supplementary offering to an existing brokerage business.
There is an upside to this setup when it comes to security and institutional knowledge, but the downside is that it’s a little harder to pick out the robo-advisor data from the larger corporate SEC filings. For instance, data for the wrap fee program sponsor for Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, Schwab Wealth Investment Advisory, Inc., shows $5.4 billion and 55,500 accounts, for an average account size of about $97,300. However, the total investment pool for the company that manages the portfolios, Charles Schwab Investment Advisory Inc., is much larger than $5.4 billion.
Fees and investing
While Schwab Intelligent Portfolios has a high minimum of $5,000, they do have something only a couple of robo-advisors offer: no account management or advisory fees. So where does Schwab make money? Two words: expense ratios. When you invest in a mutual fund or an exchange traded fund (ETF), there is a cost associated with the management of the fund. This cost is on top of any advisor fee. Whether you’re paying a human advisor 1.5%, or a robo-advisor 0.5% to invest in funds on your behalf, there is an expense ratio on the funds on top of that. With Schwab, you’re only paying the expense ratio on the fund.
Another source of income for Schwab is derived from cash reserves. Investment plans often call for a portion of your assets to be held in cash. At Schwab, the cash is held in a deposit account, where it earns interest while Schwab puts your money to work as any traditional bank would, by lending or investing it. While cash provides liquidity to a portfolio, it can be a drag on overall earnings due to low returns.
The first thing you do is select a goal for your account from options including retirement, major expenses, building wealth, generating income, a one-time expense, or an emergency fund. What follows is a short set of questions about your knowledge of and experience with investing, and your reactions to certain situations involving risk and investing confidence.
There’s an allocation chart that you can see change as you answer questions during signup. After you complete the questionnaire, you can change the suggested allocation by adjusting up or down one notch on the risk scale. If you want to make larger changes, you can restart the questions. You can also exclude up to three ETFs from the portfolio after you complete sign-up.
To complete sign-up you’ll have to provide detailed contact, employment, and income information as well as verify that you are a U.S. citizen by providing a Social Security number.
What you get
You get a mix of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) across 21 asset classes, and a cash allocation. ETFs are a broad holding of stocks or bonds, traded on a market. Robo-advisors mostly offer ETFs due to their low expense ratios, and their ability to passively track the market, instead of trying to “beat” the market with investments like more actively managed funds. Many robo-advisors invest in passive ETFs because of the low expense ratios. Unlike mutual funds, ETFs trade just like a common stock on an exchange does.
Schwab selects from 53 different ETFs to make up your portfolio. The ETFs selected can change over time as the market shifts, but will always come from this selection of 53. The cash allocation runs a bit high compared to other robo-advisors, and is a source of criticism in reviews about the service. Schwab defends the use of a sizable cash allocation for its liquidity and stability, and to lower risk.
Accounts are monitored daily and are automatically rebalanced to keep on goal. Tax loss harvesting is offered on accounts over $50,000. They offer phone and live chat support at any time.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios offers a large range of investments, with 53 ETFs and 21 asset classes. It has a large cash allocation which is justified as downside protection, but which some investors may see as unrealized investment potential. The $5,000 minimum may present a high barrier to entry for new investors, but the attraction of a zero percent account management fee might be worth the investment.
Schwab is a large, established brokerage with plenty of financial experience. Intelligent Portfolios offers a broad selection of investments with plenty of customization options. It’s a big name, low-cost option for investors looking for a robo-advisor.
Hedgeable isn’t a run-of-the-mill online investment advisor. It is a tech startup. Employees are referred to as “ninjas”, culture is very important, and suit wearing is forbidden. It is mission-driven and idealistic with a focus on innovation and social responsibility. Hedgeable eschews the prevailing industry standard, Modern Portfolio Theory, for something more dynamic and personalized when it comes to portfolio construction. The founders at Hedgeable believe that the most wealthy have the best access to wealth management, and are able to protect themselves against loss by “hedging” their bets.
Hedgeable has registered Assets Under Management (AUM) of $70 million. Spread over 1,650 accounts, that yields an average account size of over $42,500. It offers an array of account types for a robo-advisor, including taxable accounts, IRAs, Roth IRAs, Sep IRAs, Trusts and 401(k)s. The 401(k) plans are for businesses, while it also offers rollover IRAs to transfer existing 401(k) accounts to Hedgeable.
Fees and investing
While every account receives the same service, there is a fee schedule based on account size. Up to $50,000 will cost 0.75%, and anything larger drops the fee in 0.05% increments, until you hit 0.3% at $1 million. This is a “wrap fee,” so it includes everything. There are no additional account opening fees, commissions, or trading fees.
There is no minimum account balance required. If you decide to open more than one account to pursue different goals or to have different account types for tax reasons, the total of your investments is used to calculate your fee, so you won’t be paying any more than if your balance were in a single account.
You start by creating an account with your basic info: name, email, phone, country of residence (you must be a U.S. resident). Then come 10 questions to help customize your portfolio. Be prepared to answer what type of account you want, how much you’re investing, risk tolerance, income and tax filing status.
At this point you’ll be asked to either submit an application or schedule an appointment with a Hedgeable representative to answer any questions you have about the service. The application process is short, and requires contact details, your Social Security number and account funding information.
What you get
Portfolios are made up of mutual funds, ETFs and individual stocks across 16 different asset classes. Portfolios are automatically rebalanced and tax-loss harvested. They are constructed and monitored to provide downside protection in the event of a market crash. There is a high degree of personalization, including socially conscious investing, a bitcoin option, and individual stocks. For higher net-worth individuals there are also opportunities for venture capital investing.
Hedgeable uses a “core-satellite” approach to portfolio construction. Portfolios consist of a “core” made up of passively managed index funds, and actively managed “satellites,” made up of any number of investment types. This structure provides the low cost, low tax and low volatility offered by index funds and ETFs, while providing the investment manager room to outperform benchmarks with actively managed assets.
Hedgeable also offers a rewards scheme. You get points for referring people, sharing on social media, and funding your account for the first time. The list of point-earning activities does not include passive point earning for invested accounts.
Hedgeable offers an innovative approach to the field of robo-advising. The most common approach is to set up a few buckets, usually ETF portfolios based on risk, and let people pour their money into one. Hedgeable has combined progressive portfolio theory with a mission-driven approach to offer a variety of investment options beyond just ETFs such as venture capital opportunities, Bitcoin and social-impact investing.
Compared to some robo-adviosrs, there is a lack of goal-based account options with Hedgeable. But what Hedgeable does offer is an innovative, tech-happy, socially conscious investment opportunity.
Fidelity Go is the robo-advisor product for investment giant Fidelity. Unlike many other robo-advisors, this is a supplementary offering to an existing investment advisor. As such, its reporting to the SEC is wrapped up in other investment activity, and it’s difficult to ascertain specifics about the service.
AUM and account numbers aren’t available for Fidelity Go, and neither is average account size. FG only offers taxable accounts and IRA/Roth IRAs for robo-advising, while a wider arrange of accounts is available through Fidelity’s other services.
Fees and investing
It has a single fee that covers all account expenses, so you won’t be hit with any initial buy-in fees or other transaction fees. The annual advisory fee for retirement portfolios is 0.35%, with taxable accounts costing slightly more at 0.4%. It offers a variety of index funds and ETFs, as well as human oversight and live support. To open an account, you need to invest a minimum of $5,000.
Like any financial advisor, robo or otherwise, this fee covers advisor and management fees, but not fund costs. All mutual, index and exchange traded funds (ETFs) have operating costs that are expressed as an expense ratio, and are deducted from your investment daily. Fidelity Go focuses on low-cost funds that have an expense ratio below that of other funds in the same asset class.
The signup flow takes you through your age, whether it’s a single or joint account, and the goal of saving. Only two goals are offered: “retirement” or “something else”. You’ll also choose your general account type, taxable or tax advantaged. Bear in mind that the only tax-advantaged accounts currently available are IRAs and Roth IRAs.
You’ll also set your initial contribution, minimum $5,000, and planned monthly contribution. After you set your household income and risk tolerance, you’ll be suggested a strategy. The strategy consists of one of seven portfolios sorted by risk. You can take the suggested offered to you or select another risk level, and that will change the mix of stocks and bonds chosen for your account.
To finalize account setup, you verify the financial data and plan that you’ve just gone through. Then you create a Fidelity account (or sign into an existing one) which will require entering personal and contact information. Be ready with your Social Security number, and if you don’t have one, be aware that you must be a U.S. resident with a valid U.S. address to sign up.
What you get
Your portfolio will be a mix of mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs). ETFs are a type of index fund, which is a broad holding of stocks and bonds traded on a market. Index funds are meant to track with the market so your holdings grow as the market does, instead of trying to “beat” the market like actively managed funds.
There are currently seven different portfolio options with allocations based on risk. The funds are spread across four broad asset classes: domestic and foreign stocks, bond, and short-term investments. When your investment allocations stray from pre-set percentages, your investments are automatically rebalanced. No tax-loss harvesting is offered. The day-to-day portfolio management is done by a Fidelity partner, Geode Capital Management, LLC.
Fidelity itself will provide an annual review of your strategy and recommend changes based on your personal information and account performance. You can also change your approach yourself by updating the questions answered at signup, or by adjusting your risk tolerance.
Fidelity’s main site hosts news, research, guides and calculators, and has live chat representatives. The Planning and Guidance Center tool analyzes your current investment strategy and helps you create a plan to align your strategy with specific goals.
Fidelity Go is a solid offering from an existing financial services company. The 0.35% fee is competitive, and the established name is attractive, as is the institutional knowledge that comes with it. You get access to some of this knowledge through your annual reports, phone and live chats.
While planning assistance for goal-setting exists, it would be nice to see this integrated into portfolio construction, along with more portfolio personalization options. Combined with the $5,000 minimum, that raises the barrier-to-entry for Fidelity Go. However, if you have the money and can make use of the resources provided, Fidelity Go offers the peace of mind that comes with an traditional, established financial advisor.
AssetBuilder is an advisor-assisted robo-advisor. While algorithms are relied on to inform investments, trades, and rebalancing, they are executed by a team of human advisors. They offer professional guidance along with the lower fees associated with robo-advisors.
AssetBuilder has registered Assets Under Management of $732 million and 2,676 accounts. With an average account size of approximately $273,500, it is quite a bit above the average robo account. Taxable accounts, trusts, and IRA/Roth IRAs are offered.
Fees and Investing
The minimum investment is $50,000, which will put you on the high side of their fee scale at 0.45%. The low side of the scale sits at 0.2% for a $20 million investment. Other fees include trade costs, which will set you back $240-$280 at account opening, but decrease in following years.
While you can always access the team of investment advisors by phone or email, no one is specifically assigned to your account. AssetBuilder leaves planning up to individual investors. By unbundling financial planning from its offering, it reduces the cost of investing when compared to traditional investment managers.
You’ll be matched with a portfolio by providing your initial investment amount, timeline, recurring monthly investment amount, and your appetite for risk. After adjusting the settings to your liking based on projected returns, you can settle on the portfolio that you’d like to invest in.
Then you fill out a form with basic contact information, employment information and account type. After you submit the form, you wait for a representative to contact you to approve and set up your account.
What you get
The portfolios are made up of Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) mutual funds. DFA is the brainchild of David Booth, the eponymous Booth of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. DFA offers an approach similar to indexing, but with a rigorous academic tweak, where they take into account financial science and economic theory to gain an edge over index funds.
AssetBuilder offers eight different portfolio options composed of six asset classes: Fixed Income, Real Estate, International, Emerging Markets, U.S. Large and U.S. Small. The portfolios are automatically rebalanced when asset allocations deviate from preset percentages. Tax-loss harvesting isn’t offered. According to an article by co-founder Scott Burns found on the website, tax-loss harvesting only puts off taxes to a later date in the worst cases, and isn’t worth the expense of paying for in the best cases.
In addition to the live support from the advisor team, there is a resource section called the Knowledge Center. It provides videos, white papers, articles and other resources to help investors understand and stay informed of investment strategy. The content can be accessed without an account on the AssetBuilder website.
The high minimum of AssetBuilder will keep out most investors. However, its low-cost approach to portfolio management combined with dedication to the DFA methodology is something to keep an eye on, as evidenced by the extraordinarily high average investments.
If you have the money and are a savvy enough investor, or are just looking at cutting down your financial management costs, AssetBuilder might be the place to park your wealth.
Acorns is an online investing tool that rounds up every transaction on credit and debit cards linked to your account, and invests the difference automatically. These micro-transactions are an easy way to start investing, or to add another source of passive investing to your investment strategy. It’s a painless way to invest if you’re not ready to shell out hundreds of dollars at a time.
Acorns has registered Assets Under Management (AUM) of $257 million across 1,116,000 accounts. That makes it a popular option, but with an average account size of $230, it isn’t well-invested in. It only offers taxable accounts, so don’t look to transfer your IRA or 401(k) under its management.
Fees and investing
Fees include $1 per month up to $5,000, then 0.25% thereafter. Fees are waived for current students with a valid .edu email address for up to four years., and it’s free to sign up. While Acorns likes to say that you’re investing change from your purchases, the money isn’t actually tacked on to purchases, but is deducted from the checking account you register with Acorns in $5 increments. For example, buy a coffee for $3.50 on your debit card and Acorns tallies $0.50 (by rounding up to the next dollar). After nine more coffees, Acorns’s tally hits $5, and then money moves. Acorns deducts $5 from your checking account and invests it in your portfolio. You can also set up recurring or one-time transfers.
Another source of cash is Found Money. Found Money is an affiliate program where you get cash in your account when you make purchases with one of Acorns’s partners using a linked payment method. The reward is posted to your account within 30-60 days, and the offers and partners can be seen under the Found Money link in the app or on the website.
You need to be a US resident over 18 to register for an account. You’ll be asked for your primary reason for investing. Options include long- and short-term investment, saving for a major purchase, children, and general saving. You’ll also answer questions about your income, net worth, and employment status, and investment timeline.
Based on your answers, Acorns creates a projection calculated with a suggested monthly contribution and a recommended portfolio. There are five portfolio options, divided into categories of risk. You can change your choice at any time.
You’ll then be asked to make an initial investment, which is optional, and to link a bank account, which is required for investing but not for signing up. Finally, you also need to provide your Social Security number.
What you get
The portfolios are made up of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). ETFs are a broad holding of stocks or bonds, traded on a market. Like most ETFs, the ETFs offered are based on well-known, passive indexes. These ETFs are meant to track with the market so your holdings grow (and shrink) along with the market, instead of trying to “beat” the market like more actively managed funds. Many robo-advisors invest in passive ETFs because of the low expense ratios.
The ETFs offered cover six asset classes: large and small company stocks, emerging market stocks, government and corporate bonds, and real estate stocks. Each of the five portfolio options consists of a mix of these ETFS, except for the most aggressive portfolio which forgoes government and corporate bonds for riskier options. The mix is automatically rebalanced to maintain the same level of risk that you initially choose, regardless of whether one of your ETFs outperforms another.
Acorns is very easy to set up and use. It’s eminently understandable, with well-defined terms, and a whole section of content, Grow Magazine, aimed at educating and informing new investors. It’s relatively painless, with low investment requirements and virtually no minimum.
At low investment levels, the $1 per month can be a relatively large percentage to pay on your investment, but at $12 a year, it’s not exactly highway robbery. Once you reach $5,000, your fee is 0.25%, which is on the low end for robo-advisors. If you don’t have much money to invest, or are new to investing, this is a great product to start with.
Ellevest is a robo-advisor built specifically for women. Sallie Krawcheck, the CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, has held senior positions at Citigroup, Bank of America and Sanford C. Bernstein. She has a keen interest in the role gender plays in finance, and has designed a product with those differences in mind. The gender wage gap, the average age at which women’s salaries peak, and the longer average lifespan of women are all things that Ellevest takes into consideration when designing its investment strategy and portfolios.
Ellevest has registered Assets Under management (AUM) of $25 million in 5,200 accounts. It currently offers taxable accounts, as well as IRA/Roth IRAs. Average account size is around $4,800.
Fees and investing
The annual fee is 0.50%. As with any robo-advisor, this management fee is in addition to the underlying fees charged by the ETFs in your portfolio. The ETF fees in an Ellevest portfolio range from 0.10%-0.15%.
Costs are straightforward. There is no minimum investment required, and no tiered plan structure. Every account, regardless of type, pays the same fee and receives the same services. Unlike some robo-advisors, there is currently no fee cap.
You start off by providing an email address, your name, age, gender and education level. Then you’re asked more private info, like your salary, job seniority and industry, and household information. What follows is a unique approach to portfolio devising.
You get to choose from a list of seven investment goals, but unlike other robo-advisors, you can select multiple goals. Choices include money for retirement, kids, a home, a one-time expense, starting a business, an emergency fund, or just building wealth. You prioritize your goals and confirm the target amounts and timelines to generate a custom investment plan.
What you get
For each investment goal you choose, you get a personalized portfolio of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). ETFs are a broad holding of stocks or bonds, traded on a market. Like most ETFs, the ETFs offered are based on well-known, passive indexes. These ETFs are meant to track with the market so your holdings grow (and shrink) along with the market, instead of trying to “beat” the market like more actively managed funds. Many robo-advisors invest in passive ETFs because of the low expense ratios.
Each portfolio can be adjusted to different risk levels, which will change the mix of stocks and bonds that you hold. There are hundreds of combinations available. The financial plans and portfolios are adjusted for gender considerations. Even though it’s a product marketed to women, the same service is available for men.
While you can adjust the recommended portfolio by risk tolerance, you can’t adjust which ETFs are included. Ellevest uses 21 different asset classes, which is large by robo-advisor standards. Every portfolio is automatically rebalanced to stay within your plan settings. Tax-loss harvesting is not offered. Ellevest takes the same stance that AssetBuilder does, that tax-loss harvesting doesn’t lead to increased gains, but merely pushes tax liability to a future date.
Ellevest also offers a resource center with articles and stories about goals, finances, life and career. There is a focus on closing the gender gap when it comes to investing, as well as numerous other articles focused on specific problems and money issues with advice specifically for women.
Ellevest has a unique approach to investing with gender-specific considerations. It offers an impressive breadth of portfolios and asset classes, all with personalization. Though there is a limited selection of account types, there is a good selection of goals to help guide your overall investment strategy.
The individual investment plans and wealth of information on female-specific finances is a boon for any women looking to get into investing. The 0.5% management fee is a little high, but competitive with other robo-advisors, while the zero minimum is enticing to even the most cautious investor. If you’re looking for a complete investment product without going through a traditional advisor, this is a great place to start.
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