Looking for an automated way to invest for the future? Robo-advisors make it easy to invest money in the financial markets and avoid common investing mistakes.
A robo-advisor is a platform that uses algorithms instead of human to manage its clients portfolios. These platforms make it easy for beginners to build well-diversified investing portfolios, while charging less than the typical human advisor.
If you decide that using a robo-advisor is right for you, you'll quickly find that there are many companies vying for your business and it can be difficult to compare apples to apples. But we've done the homework for you. Keep reading to see our list of the best robo-advisors available today.
Our Picks Of The Best Robo-Advisors Of 2021
We've taken the time to review your best options for robo-advisors, evaluating them based on products, pricing, and features. Here are our recommendations of the best robo-advisors for fans of automated investing.
Note: The robo-advisor offers that appear on this site are from companies from which The College Investor receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The College Investor does not include all robo-advisor companies or offers available in the marketplace.
Best For Access To Human Advisors: Betterment
Wealthfront believes so much in the power of automated investing that it doesn't offer any access to financial advisors. While it's admirable that Wealthfront has full faith in its algorithms, the truth is that sometimes it's still nice to be able to talk to a human.
Betterment understands that. So while it has all the things you expect from a robo-advisor (like automated investing, rebalancing, and tax-loss harvesting), it makes our best robo-advisors list because it also offers multiple ways for clients to get human advice.
Premium plan customers get unlimited access to CFP® professionals. But this plan is, unfortunately, only available to investors with a minimum balance of at least $100,000. For everyone else, Betterment offers one-time calls with financial experts for $199. Current packages include :
- Getting Started
- Financial Checkup
- Marriage Planning
- College Planning
- Retirement Planning
Betterment's Digital Plan (no minimum balance requirement) comes with an advisory fee of 0.25% while it charges Premium plan customers 0.40% of assets under management.
Best For DIY Investors: M1 Finance
Some investors may not think of M1 Finance as a robo-advisor. But the platform allows investors to create their own trading strategy. Whether your strategy involves individual shares or low-cost ETFs or some combination of the two, M1 Finance will allow you to automate your investment strategy (including rebalancing) for free.
Typical robo-advisors don’t allow for much customization. But the M1 Finance portfolio is infinitely customizable, which is perfect for investors who want to be differently allocated than the standard robo-advising template.
The only danger with the platform is that it doesn’t have the same guardrails that most robo-advisors offer. Users could end up trading away their resources, or even borrowing money and losing money on margin. I recommend using M1 Finance for it’s automation capabilities, not as a platform to trade or borrow on margin.
Best For Socially Responsible Investing: Wealthsimple
Wealthsimple makes our best robo-advisors list because it is one of the first specialize in Environmental and Socially Responsible investments. It offers a general “Westernized” approach to socially responsible investing as well as a “Halal Investment” options (including the exclusion of businesses that derive significant income from interest on loans).
At 0.50% management fee (0.40% for portfolios over $100k), the fees are a bit higher than the other robo-advisors on this list, but it also offers benefits that others don’t. For example, all investors with over $100k in assets at Wealthsimple will get a financial planning session. Those with over $500k in assets will receive financial planning sessions on an ad-hoc basis.
If you’re excited about socially responsible investing, Wealthsimple could be the most straightforward way for you to invest.
Best For High-Net-Worth Investors: Wealthfront
Wealthfront continues to impress with an excellent user interface, ongoing innovation, and serious efforts to help investors take advantage of tax-loss harvesting opportunities. This is especially beneficial for high-net-worth investors who have a lot of money in non-retirement accounts.
In addition to the tax loss harvesting component, Wealthfront continually innovates to present investors with tested investment solutions including accounts that adjust for risk parity and algorithms that consider "Five Factor" investing models.
It’s new automated planning tools make it easy for investors to see whether common goals like early retirement, college, home buying, or traditional retirement are manageable given their savings rates. With a 0.25% annual management fee, Wealthfront is also a low-cost leader.
Best From A Full-Service Broker: Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
Charles Schwab continually impresses with its low fees and expansive offerings. Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is just one of the company’s many innovations that can help less experienced investors to get and stay invested in the long term. The account minimum for Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is $5,000.
The best part of Scwab Intelligent Portfolios is the price. Basic asset management services cost $0 annually. All trading and asset management fees are completely free. The only major criticism of the service is the amount of cash investors have to keep on hand. The portfolios recommend cash positions ranging from 6% to 30% of investments. This tends to be too much cash for most people who have long-term investment goals.
In addition to the standard service, Charles Schwab investors can opt for a premium service. This service costs $300 the first time you opt in, and then $30 per month afterwards. With the premium service, you will have unlimited access to human financial planners.
Best For 401(k) Management: Blooom
We've included Blooom on our best robo-advisors list because it's one of the few designed specifically for investors with retirement accounts. It helps you to select the right asset allocation and it helps to keep you in balance. It also combs through all the investment options to find the options that keep fees low and diversification high.
Some companies offer free 401(k) balancing options through the workplace plan. But not every person with a 401(k) will have that option. If you don’t, Blooom may provide a low-cost way to ensure your investments align with your long-term retirement goals. Blooom costs $10 per month no matter how much you have in your 401(k).
Other Robo-Advisors Worth Considering
New robo-advisory firms are constantly entering the marketplace. And many offer an amazing investment experience. While the companies below didn’t make our best robo-advisors list, they are well worth considering.
Not every investor needs a robo-advisor. But these platforms can help you get invested, stay invested, and avoid big mistakes.
While no platform is perfect, all of the tools above make better investing possible. When consider robo-advisors, be sure to compare fees, investment products and strategies before you commit to one tool.
If you don’t like the idea of a computer controlling your investments, then even the very best robo-advisors won't be for you. Instead, choose a low-cost brokerage to implement your own investment strategy.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.