Are you uncertain about your investment strategy and need affordable investment help?

You should know about so-called “robo-advisors.” These companies use a combination of personal and computerized expertise to deliver solid investment aid, based on the client’s age, assets and goals.

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And, unlike personal financial advisors who often charge between 1% and 2% of your assets each year, robo-advisors keep their fees solidly under the 1% threshold. (There are rare exceptions that we’ll explain later.) And that saves you — the investor — a fortune over time.

Best Robo-Advisors

Dozens of these firms have sprung up in recent years, partly thanks to better technology and increasing consumer understanding about the impact of fees. However, each robo-advisory firm tends to focus on specific groups.

So while many are good, some are better than others. And the best advisor for you will depend on your circumstances, how much you have to invest, and whether you want spending advice, as well as investment help. Here are the XX best robo-advisors; what they cost; what they deliver; and who they each work best for.

Personal Capital

General: Personal Capital, aimed at people with $100,000 or more invested, is the best platform for those who are seeking a balance between a digital-only experience and a traditional personal financial advisor. The site ranks highly for automated portfolio management and diversification. Personal Capital charges a single fee based on the value of the client’s assets.

Investment minimum: $100,000

Cost: 0.89% to 0.49% for accounts over $1 million

Best features: Personal Capital offers a wide range of free investment management tools; access to advisor or advisor team (depending on account balance); good variety of portfolio strategies and investment options; and tax minimization features and tax-loss harvesting.

Shortcomings: It may be out of reach for many new investors because of the $100,000 account minimum. 

Click here to sign up with Personal Capital

Acorns

General: Acorns is one of the best investment apps for new investors. The site automatically invests your spare change and offers cash back at select retailers. Acorns also offers low-cost checking accounts that don’t charge overdraft fees. It’s an easy and well-designed way for new investors to save for future.

Investment minimum: $0 

Cost: Acorns charges $3-$5 per month, depending on the account type you choose.

Best features: The app is easy to navigate and its automatic savings features help people invest with small amounts of money.

Shortcomings: The fees are high if you look at them on a percentage basis. But they’re low in real dollars. If you want lower costs on a percentage basis, you almost always need to have thousands of dollars invested. 

Click here to sign up with Acorns

M1 Finance

General: M1 Finance is the best robo-advisor for those who want to invest in individual stocks. lThey offer extensive portfolio customization options, so they are best for sophisticated investors, who want active management at a low cost. M1 Finance allows you to build a custom portfolio by choosing the stocks and funds from more than 80 expert portfolios. M1 Finance offers various types of accounts, such as brokerage accounts (Individual and Joint), retirement accounts, trust accounts and custodial accounts.

The app enables you to buy fractional shares. You can choose from over 6,000 stocks and ETFs that are listed on NYSE and the NASDAQ exchanges. You can automate your contribution. The platform will also rebalance your portfolio for you. 

Investment minimum: $100 ($500 minimum for retirement accounts)

Cost: $0 fee for standard platform use; $125 annually for M1 Plus

Best features: M1 Finance does not charge fees for trading or account management and offers high level of portfolio control. They offer portfolio customization, borrow and spend options.

Shortcomings: M1 Finance does not offer tax-loss harvesting; has limited financial tools, calculators, and goal setting options; and does not aggregate external accounts.

Click here to sign up with M1 Finance

Wealthfront

General: Wealthfront is an all-in-one solution robo-advisor platform that automates your investments and retirement savings. Launched in 2008, Wealthfront is best for those who are looking for an automated investment program that’s focused on risk management and meeting long-term financial goals.

They have a comprehensive suite of investment management tools and products. One of the best features of Wealthfront’s platform is the account aggregator tool that lets you see your financial picture in one place. Their software automatically rebalaces your portfolio to keep you diversified, help maximize your returns and minimize your taxes.

Investment minimum: $500

Cost: 0.25% annual advisory fee

Best features: Wealthfront does not charge trading commission or fees for withdrawals, account minimums, or transfers. They offer a variety of account options including retirement and 529 plans, as well as socially responsible investing options. It is one of the few robo-advisors with certified financial advisors on staff, so you can get a more thorough financial plan, including a retirement plan and tax advice.

Shortcomings: Wealthfront does not offer fractional share trading and has limited chat and service options.

Schwab

General: Charles Schwab offers a robo-advisory platform known as Schwab Intelligence Portfolios that builds, monitors and automatically rebalances a diversified portfolio based on your financial goals. Its portfolios feature low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs). It offers a range of accounts to choose from, including brokerage, IRA, custodial, and trust accounts.

Schwab Intelligence Portfolios Premium offers unlimited 1:1 guidance from a certified financial planner, but comes with a one-time planning fee of $300, and a $30 per month advisory fee after that. The minimum amount to get started with this plan is $25,000. You can open various types of brokerage accounts, trust accounts, and retirement accounts.

Investment minimum: $5000-$25,000

Cost: No advisory fee + no commissions for Schwab Intelligent Portfolios

One-time planning fee: $300 and monthly advisory fee of $30 after that for Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium

Best features: Schwab offers a diversified portfolio of ETFs chosen by experts; monitors your portfolio daily and automatically rebalances your investments as needed. It does not charge management fee for Schwab Intelligence Portfolios platform; and offers automatic tax-loss harvesting and a range of accounts to choose from, including brokerage, IRA, custodial, and trust accounts.

Shortcomings: Schwab requires high minimum amount to open an investment account and does not offer socially responsible portfolio option. Its tax-loss harvesting option in only available on balances of $50,000 or more.

Vanguard

General: Vanguard’s robo-advisor platform is known as Digital Advisor. It is a low-cost professional money management service that can help you save for the future or invest your retirement savings. Vanguard’s Digital Advisor invests in well-diversified ETFs to keep your investments well balanced. It charges low fees, and it will waive the advisory fees for your first 90 days.

Vanguard is one of the oldest and lowest cost investment providers. Its Digital Advisor platform can manage eligible 401(k) retirement accounts, individual or joint tenants with rights of survivorship (JTWROS) taxable accounts, traditional IRAs, ROTH IRAs, and rollover IRAs on your behalf.

Investment minimum: $3,000

Cost: You will pay no advisory fees for the first 90 days; after that you can expect to pay Up to 0.20% for every $1,000 invested. (This is among the lowest cost services available anywhere.)

Best features: Vanguard’s offers low-cost professional money management; invests in well-diversified ETFs; and waives the advisory fees for your first 90 days. 

Shortcomings: Vanguard’s Digital Advisor platform has limited investment options or customization. (However, all of the investment options are good ones.) It does not offer tax-loss harvesting for tax minimization.

Betterment

General: Betterment is user-friendly, with no account minimums. It offers practical educational content, and professional guidance for the new investors. The site’s human advisors can provide you with added guidance for an additional fee. It offers a range of account options.

Automatic features include portfolio rebalancing, dividend reinvestment, and auto-adjust options. It allows you to link external accounts to the Betterment platform so you can get a clear sense of your financial picture in one place. Betterment’s robo-advisor offers two service options: Betterment Digital investing and Betterment Premium investing.

Investment minimum: $0 for Digital investing; $100,000 account minimum for Digital Premium investing options.

Cost: 0.25% annual fee for digital investing plan; 0.40% annual fee for the premium investing plan

Best features: Betterment requires no account minimum to maintain; offers FDIC insured checking and cash reserve account; customizable portfolios; automatic tax-loss harvesting; and socially responsible investing options

Shortcomings: They charge comparatively high fees for human advice compared to other robo-advisors.

Merrill Guided Investing

General: Merrill Guided Investing provides tools, automated investing, and educational content around a variety of planning areas including general investing, retirement, and other goals. Education is provided via videos, articles, and other tools to elevate investor knowledge. The educational content can be tailored to investors of all levels of experience. 

Investment minimum: $1,000 or $20,000 with an advisor

Cost: 0.45%-0.85%

Best features: High-quality educational content for investors of all experiences; excellent planning tools; automated investment strategy and portfolio management; excellent goal setting tools and customer service

Shortcomings: It does not offer tax-loss harvesting. It has slightly higher than average annual investment fee of $0.45% – .85%.

E*TRADE

General: E*TRADE was acquired by Morgan Stanley in 2020. It offers a robo-advisor services through its Core Portfolios. Core Portfolios builds and manages investing with a diversified portfolio aimed at helping you reach your long-term goals. If your goals change, it is easy to adjust your long-term investing strategy. Investments are picked by their team of experts based on your goals and risk tolerance. The platform monitors and automatically updates your portfolio daily to keep your goals on track.

Investment minimum: $500

Cost: $1.50 or 0.30% annually

Best features: Quick, easy signup process; socially responsible investing options, top robo-advisor platform for mobile experience; and low fees and fund expense ratio.

Shortcomings: No-tax loss harvesting; no external account syncing; limited goal setting when creating your portfolio.