best robo advisors
Investing
July 17, 2017

Best Robo Advisors for Investing 2017

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Robo advisors are an easy way for you to engage in automated investing without having to make an appointment to see a person at your bank. Not all robo financial advisors are made equal, however. Choose wisely based on your desired features and knowledge about the financial world and online investment sites. Here is a look at the best robo advisors to help you make the right decision.

Getting started with Ally Invest is quick and easy. Simply go onto the company website, fill out an online form and wait for an approval. Most new accounts are approved within a few minutes. Once you have an account opened, you need to fund your account and select your investments. If you want a managed portfolio, you will need to invest a minimum of $2,500. For self-managed investing, you can invest as much or as little as you like, and the transaction fee for stock trades is only $4.95.

Ally Invest Review

Ally Invest website

Ally Invest Review image
  • Best for: Beginners. Ally Invest makes investing easy and offers a lot of education around investing, so you can make the best decisions when it comes to your money.
  • Price: Trades are $4.95, and the options base fee is also $4.95. Options per contract are $0.65 and broker assisted orders are $20.
  • Features: Ally Invest offers all the typical investing options, including stocks, options, ETFs, IRAs, mutual funds, bonds, forex and trading on the International Stock Exchange.
  • Other highlights: Ally Invest doesn’t require a minimum balance, which is a nice feature that a lot of investing sites don’t offer. It also offers an easy-to-use platform and a mobile app, which are benefits for beginners.
  • Customer service: Ally Invest offers customer service both for technical issues and when you have questions about trading. It has brokers on hand to help with any of your investment questions.

When shopping for a robo advisor to handle your investing, most platforms don’t offer much self-management. They let you select some basic parameters, and then the platform handles the actual investments. With Ally Invest, you can do both. You can self-manage your funds and participate in a managed account. That allows you to quickly see what investment strategy is doing the best in current market conditions.

You’ll likely see a lot of positive reviews of Ally Invest, though you might not see as much about its managed account services. For many, Ally Invest is all about self-management, and it offers that service at a price that really can’t be beat. Even the managed services are priced competitively, but it is the industry leading $4.95 per trade and low caps on mutual funds that really make Ally Invest an industry price leader. Here is our own full Ally Invest review.

If you want to start working on financial freedom, planning for your retirement or building your personal wealth, Ally Invest is a great place to get started. You can build a portfolio at relatively low cost, and as you grow your investment pool, eventually switch to a managed account. With Ally Invest, you can be as hands on or off as you like, so if you want more options when it comes to investing, Ally Invest should definitely make your list as a robo financial advisor.

Personal Capital offers automated investing advice, but it works more like a traditional brokerage firm than many other robo investor platforms. A high minimum investment coupled with a comprehensive features list makes Personal Capital full service and full price. Get started by opening an account using the online tool or call customer service to walk you through your options. You can always sign up for the personal finance tools, even if you don’t start an investment account. If you want to set up the investment portion later, you can use the personal finance tools to help you set savings goals and improve your financial health prior to your first investment with Personal Capital.

Personal Capital Review

Personal Capital website

Personal Capital Review image
  • Best For: Wealthy investors. High-value investors get the comprehensive services available through Personal Capital at a reasonable price.
  • Price: Annual advisory fees range from 0.49 percent to 0.89 percent, depending on the account balance.
  • Features: Accounts with a minimum of $200,000 enjoy the hands-on service of two account managers, while all account holders can use the available personal finance tools and account teams to manage their accounts.
  • Customer Service: Available through email or via phone. Personal Capital also has members-only contact methods, avoiding the clutter of a public line.

When making a robo advisor comparison, price is often the only real difference. With Personal Capital, features are what really make this personal finance product stand out. This robo investing platform goes beyond simply handling your investments and into real financial planning. You can link all of your accounts to your robo investor and monitor your financial health. A vast library of resources, continued access to human advice when needed and plenty of account options all help make Personal Capital the best option for those that can afford to open an account.

Personal Capital is one of those companies that easily stand at the top of the field. Not only do industry experts routinely give this robo investor the thumbs up, but so do consumers. It enjoys a near 5-star rating on virtually every site where it is mentioned, and even the complaints are more like service suggestions.

If you have $25,000 ready to invest, Personal Capital is an excellent option. The holistic approach to financial health and investing lets you build a long-term plan with your robo financial advisor. That can help you find more money to invest, plan for major purchases and find ways to minimize the tax burden on your investment income. If you don’t have much experience investing or want to start out with a smaller deposit, Personal Capital is not the place to get started.

With FutureAdvisor, you receive ongoing monitoring services and automatic balancing adjustments for all of your investment accounts. The adjustments are made to match your expectations for risk tolerance and account growth.

FutureAdvisor Review

FutureAdvisor website

FutureAdvisor Review image
  • Best For: FutureAdvisor expertly serves the needs of low-key, hands-off investors at every risk tolerance level. Individuals interested in gradually boosting their account balances using long-term, diversified investments will benefit most from this company’s metered approach.
  • Price: FutureAdvisor charges just 0.125 percent of the managed account totals on a quarterly basis, which equals a total annual fee of 0.5 percent. Trading fees and account closing costs may apply. All of the fees are deducted from taxable accounts first to minimize yearly tax liabilities.
  • Features: The diversified accounts managed by FutureAdvisor may include traditional, Roth, SEP and rollover IRAs, plus taxable individual and joint accounts outside the retirement realm. The employed diversification and tax strategies help minimize risk and expenses to boost the growth of these accounts over the years.
  • Other highlights: FutureAdvisor currently offers new clients three months of free premium access to give individuals time to gauge the benefits of the company’s direct management services. Information about investment account recommendations, 401(k) management and retirement planning remain free for base level accounts.
  • Customer Service: The award-winning team at FutureAdvisor offers comprehensive support and guidance by phone, email and live chat. Team members and software programs provide 24/7 monitoring and balancing of all managed accounts.

Upon signing up for this service, you enter in your stats, including age, yearly income, preferred retirement age and risk tolerance level, for use in the generation of an appropriate personalized management plan for your accounts. After creating your investment profile, you can add all of your current retirement and non-retirement accounts to your managed portfolio. The company expertly manages IRAs of all kinds, including Roth, traditional, rollover and SEP accounts. In addition, you can add your non-retirement individual and joint taxable accounts to the list of managed entities.

You also have the option to open new accounts with help from the team of financial advisors. You must deposit an initial balance of at least $10,000 to obtain this service. You can make additional small deposits after creating your account, but these funds will need to hit $500 to become a part of your investment portfolio.

Work with Betterment advisors to decide on a goal and create a plan to help get you there. When you first open an account with Betterment, experts work with you to help you figure out your next steps. If you’re planning to buy a home or want to save for retirement, you can plan for these major life changes. Getting started is as easy as opening an account and making that first deposit.

Betterment Review

Betterment website

Betterment Review image
  • Best For: Automated Investing. Betterment is the lazy man’s best friend and is also great for anyone just starting out in investing, since it automates trading for you. All you do is fund your account and answer questions about the types of investments you want, and Betterment will do all the heavy lifting for you.
  • Price: The benefit of Betterment is there are no complicated fees, just a percentage charged depending on how much you’ve invested. It’s 0.35 percent for under $10,000, 0.25 percent for $10,000-$99,999, and 0.15 percent for anything over $100,000.
  • Features: Since Betterment is an automated service, it doesn’t offer a lot of options when it comes to investing. Its main platform invests in both stock and bond ETFs to create your portfolio. You can also set up various forms of IRAs through Betterment, which will then tailor your investments based on your goals.
  • Other highlights: You can currently get three months of free trading if you invest more than $5,000 or six months free if you invest more than $100,000.
  • Customer Service: Since Betterment does all the heavy lifting for you, of course there are going to be questions, which Betterment is more than capable of answering. You can also get financial planning advice via Betterment.

Many robo advisors minimize the importance of human advice. After all, the entire point of a robo advisor is to automate investment account management. At Betterment, you can get a bit of both automation and human advice. With three different membership tiers available, you can choose to pay more and get more personalized service. If having access to experts and someone to walk you through the complexities of investing is important to you, Betterment is one of the best robo advisors out there.

Industry experts routinely hand out 5 stars for Betterment. Affordable, transparent pricing and a whole suite of features and customization options make Betterment a top option for finance experts, but expect to see some negative reviews from the investing public. When a fund doesn’t perform as well as expected or there is a short-term downturn, frustrated investors might write a negative review. There is no such thing as an investment that always goes up, so don’t expect to see constant jumps in your net worth. Instead, look for long-term trends in the upward direction. Here is our own in-depth Betterment review to give you more information about the service.

If you are looking for a more hands-off investment platform and have a hefty balance to invest, Betterment might be the best place to get started. When you make a large investment, you enjoy free management for up to a year. That fee waiver makes trying Betterment a risk-free proposition. That means Betterment is an option for virtually everyone. If you’re planning to eventually retire or build a nest egg to fund activities and boost your income, this platform has great, goal-based planning features that can help.

Getting started with Acorns robo investing is fairly straightforward. All you need to do is link your debit cards and checking account with your Acorns account. Once that’s done, you can set up a variety of methods to start funding your investments. With round-up services, you can have Acorns automatically transfer funds up to the next dollar amount, rounding up all of your purchases. If you don’t like the idea of automatic rounding, you can choose to manually select items for rounding, or opt out of rounding altogether.

Acorns also offers the option to set up automatic withdrawals to fund your investment account. With transfers as low as $5, you can add money weekly, biweekly or monthly.

Acorns Review

Download Acorns

Acorns Review image
  • Best For: Investing with an app. Acorns is a great choice for those new to the investment landscape. It helps find the money to invest and handles the transactions, all without the need for direct management.
  • Price: If you’re not a college student (they get it free), the cost is $1 per month until your account balance reaches $5,000. After that, you will pay a 0.25 percent annual management fee on your robo investing.
  • Features: Acorns acts a lot like an old-fashioned piggy bank. When you make a purchase, instead of throwing your change into a jar, Acorns throws it into an investment account.
  • Customer Service: The early bird might get the worm, so Acorns offers some fairly early office hours, with customer service lines opening at 6 AM. When you need to get in touch with support, you can also contact Acorns via email, if Acorns’ 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule doesn’t sync up with yours.

The round-up option is what sets Acorns apart from the competition. By automating investing, Acorns essentially automates the process of saving (and earning) money. Any savings you don’t need to think about are more likely to add up. This is part of the reason 401k plans do so well as an investment tool — the money comes out of your paycheck automatically. Acorns takes the same principle and applies it to more than just your retirement savings.

One of the most common complaints about Acorns comes down to the lack of options. Acorns automates the investment process, but it also limits the types of accounts available and only offers a few fund options to choose from when robo investing.

If you’re new to investing and just want to test the waters, Acorns can be a great way to get started. You’re only investing small change and usually buying fractions of shares. That adds up to a very small investment that can help you learn a lot. By watching the market and seeing how your Acorns account performs, you can eventually graduate to a more comprehensive investment management platform, though that doesn’t mean you should cancel your Acorns account. After all, automated transfers make it easy and relatively painless to grow your investment portfolio.

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