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Investing

Motif Review 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Part broker, part robo-advisor, Motif specializes in thematic investing, an investing practice that focuses on how long-term trends will impact growth and performance across sectors. For example, instead of individually choosing to invest in certain big box retail chains, Motif offers investors the opportunity to invest in a portfolio named Discount Nation, which includes stocks and ETFs representing 20 or 30 retail chains.

Investors may choose pre-built portfolios based on themes and trends (top performing Motif portfolios include Repeal Obamacare, a portfolio that includes Quest Diagnostics, and Software as a Service, a portfolio that includes customer relationship management company Salesforce). Custom-built portfolios are also built around IPO’s, and “impact portfolios” are created around personal values like fair labor and sustainability.

In addition to professionally built portfolios, investors also have the option of creating their own portfolios, fittingly called motifs. Once a portfolio is created, an investor can buy and sell securities within their motif for $4.95 per trade, and can modify or rebalance their portfolio for a $9.95 commission. The minimum to invest is $300, which may include fractional shares.

These custom-built motifs can then be shared with other platform users. In addition to individual investing accounts, Motif offers the opportunity to use the platform to open an IRA, Roth IRA and trust.

Motif
Visit MotifSecuredon Motif’s secure site
The Bottom Line: Motif offers a creative product for investors intrigued by how trends drive markets.

  • IPO opportunities and motifs allow for ownership of buzzworthy brands.
  • A low investment minimum allows new investors to easily trade individual stocks.
  • An ETF-like experience that also allows for complete portfolio customization.

Who should consider Motif

Motif isn’t a traditional brokerage, and may not appeal to a “traditional” investor. From the quippy names of the professionally-curated portfolios (Caffeine Fix, Too Big To Fail, Tablet Takeover) to the creative control offered in self-designing a portfolio and making it available to the community, Motif may appeal to the investor who intuitively looks past numbers or performance to focus on a company’s story.

To be clear, a creative investor can also be a serious investor. Motif may appeal to an investor who wants more control than a robo-advisor allows, an investor who wants to dip their toe into managing their own portfolio, or an investor who wants to add more buzz and movement — in terms of IPOs and name-brand companies — to their investment strategy, without investing a lot of capital.

Motif fees and features

Amount minimum to open account
  • $300
Management fees
  • 0.50% annual fee for thematic portfolio
  • 0.25% for impact portfolios ($1,000 minimum investment)
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $95 full account transfer fee from IRA accounts, $65 from non-IRA accounts
  • $0 partial account transfer fee
  • $40 inactivity fee per year, charged in quarterly installments, on accounts with less than $10,000 if the account has no commission trades, is not an Impact account holder or Motif blue subscriber
Current promotions

Get three months free access to Motif BLUE when you use a friend's referral link.

Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
  • Trust
Portfolio
  • Motif offers 7 asset classes.
Automatic rebalancing
Tax loss harvesting
Tax loss harvesting detailMotif investments contain individual stocks. Pershing LLC, Motif's clearing partner, provides investors with cost basis and proceeds documentations prior to trades. Each year, investors receive a 1099 based on any stock sales that year.
Offers fractional shares
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android
Customer supportPhone, Email

Strengths of Motif

  • Unique concept. While the concept of thematic investing isn’t new, the way Motif professionally curates portfolios based on theme makes it stand out from other brokerages.
  • Low annual fees on professionally built portfolios. Portfolios selected from the catalog can be automated by dollar-cost averaging and rebalancing. Annual fees on Motif thematic portfolios are 0.50% and annual fees on impact portfolios are 0.25%.
  • Focus on the investment community. As a Motif customer, you can build your own motif, buy a professionally selected one, or browse motifs made by other investors. You can also opt to share your personal motif through the Motif Creator Royalty Program. Every time someone buys or rebalances a motif you create, you’ll get $1 as part of the program.
  • Beginner friendly. It’s easy for new investors to get lost in a sea of jargon. By focusing on themes and impact, Motif reaches investors who may be more comfortable with words than numbers — but backs up their portfolio suggestions with data-driven analysis to drive portfolio allocation.

Drawbacks of Motif

  • Small platform with limited types of accounts. With 350,000 customers, Motif is still relatively small compared to other online brokerages and robo-advisors. Investors who want a one-stop shop for all their investing needs may feel confined by Motif. While Motif offers IRA accounts, it does not offer 529 plans or specialty investment accounts, which may turn off some investors.
  • Limited investment product options. Only Stocks and ETFs. Does not offer Bonds, Mutual funds, Futures / commodities or Options.
  • Less accessible customer service than other brokerages. Because Motif is growing, their customer service team may be more limited than larger brokerages. Right now, Motif offers 24/7 email support, with the caveat that responses may take longer outside regular business hours. During business hours, customer service reps are available via text and phone.

Is Motif safe?

All investments carry risk, and that may be especially true for thematic investing, which taps into the intuition, values and even personal preferences of the investor. Motif tries to reduce that specific risk by relying on data science to create professionally built thematic portfolios. Motif asks for an investor’s financial goals to assess risk value before offering portfolio suggestions.

Motif is a member of the Securities Investment Protection Corporation (SIPC), which means every Motif account is insured up to $500,000. This includes a maximum of $250,000 for cash claims. On the site, encryption algorithms are used to safeguard the information and data of customers.

Final thoughts

Motif’s strong point of view stands out among other brokerages. The ability to invest in trends and values, coupled with the strong focus on the investor community among Motif customers can make investing seem exciting and relatable — and can make beginning investors feel welcome and empowered to create their own portfolios.

With the low account entry minimum, Motif thematic portfolios can help guide investors who have always wished to own individual stock, but haven’t yet had the opportunity to research history and performance. For some investors, a thematic portfolio can be a halfway step toward gaining confidence to trade stock on another platform. Motif charges $19.95 for every real-time trade, and $9.95 for a next market open trade, so an investor who’s frequently trading may be better served by a lower-cost brokerage like Robinhood, TD Ameritrade or Charles Schwab.

For now, Motif may be more of a boutique brokerage than a one size fits all option. Where it shines is offering access to thematic investing. The laser focus on this style of investing may captivate all levels of investors. Investors who may want a more traditional approach to investing, or investors who want to open multiple accounts for different goals, may be better served by a larger brokerage or robo-advisor.

Open a Motif accountSecured
on Motif’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Anna Davies
Anna Davies |

Anna Davies is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Anna here

Advertiser Disclosure

Banking

Review of Ria: An International Money Transfer Provider

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

With over 350,000 locations worldwide and a robust online presence, Ria is a convenient option for people who need a no-hassle way to send money internationally.

Launched in 1987 as a single New York City storefront, Ria has expanded exponentially in more than thirty years in operation. In 2007, Ria merged with Euronet worldwide and now provides wire transfer services to 149 countries. Money transfers are available to be sent from the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Australia.

Customer service is available by phone during business hours — including Saturdays and Sundays — and a pricing tool allows you to see exactly how much a transfer may cost, making price comparison simple.

In addition to money transfer services, Ria also offers other services like money orders, check cashing, bill payment and prepaid debit cards.

Whether you’re doing business with a client in another country or sending money to family members abroad, it’s important to find a transfer company that delivers money securely, with minimal and transparent fees. You may also look for a money transfer company that’s available both online and in person, in the United States and around the globe. Comparing rates and capabilities helps you choose the best money transfer service for your needs.

In this review, we’ll cover all you need to know about Ria and how it stacks up to competitors.

Ria highs and lows

  • Transparent pricing. Ria has a price calculator tool that allows customers to see a price quote of a potential transfer, making price comparisons between service providers simple. This is a rare feature, as many big name transfer services don’t make it quite as simple to see how much a transfer will cost before you make it.
  • Multiple payment options. In addition to allowing patrons to send payments online and via their app (available on Apple and Android devices), Ria has a partnership with PayNearMe. This program allows customers to pay a transfer with cash at a local 7-Eleven convenience store.
  • Global reach for recipients; limited reach for senders. With storefronts in 149 countries and over 350,000 locations, Ria can be an easy option for those sending money from the U.S. abroad. That said, currently money can only be sent through Ria from four countries: the United States, the U.K., Australia, and Spain. If you’re frequently making transfers and requesting money from elsewhere, Ria may not be the best option for you.
  • Limited daily and monthly transactions. While it may be possible to send more money if you work through an agent (as opposed to exclusively online), Ria only allows you to send up to $2,999.99 a day, or up to $7,999 a month.

Sending a money transfer with Ria

Options for receiving funds depend on where the recipient is located. Ria has a courier delivery service available in Vietnam, Peru, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic. Money can also be transferred for in-person pickup at a Ria agent location or deposited in a worldwide bank location.

Funds can be sent from bank accounts, credit cards, or debit cards, with additional fees that differ based on which option is chosen. Cash payments can be enabled by the company’s partnership with PayNearMe, which allows customers to use cash to start a transfer.

How long does a transfer take?

Transfer time is dictated by the transfer method chosen by the sender. Credit card and debit card transfers should take 15 minutes. Credit card transfers tend to be the fastest, and are also the most expensive due to processing fees.

Bank transfers can be the most economical option, but are also the most time-consuming, taking up to four days to reach a recipient’s account. In addition, bank accounts require you to set up your bank account through Ria’s platform, which can cause a delay as you’ll need to validate your bank account info.

Where can you send money?

Right now, money can be sent to 149 countries on six continents, as well as within the U.S. It’s important to note that some countries have differing services — for example, it’s only possible to send money to Nigeria through bank transfer, and many countries don’t currently offer courier money services.

How much can you send?

If you’re sending money online, Ria caps transactions at $2,999.99 a day or $7,999.99 a month. It may be possible to send more money if you’re working directly with an agent.

Fees and fine print

Fees vary depending on country, the payment method and payout method, but it’s not uncommon for fees to be about 0.5% to 1.5% of the total amount you’re sending.

Ria’s price calculator tool provides transparency into how much you pay in fees based on how you’re sending the funds. There may be different fees based on whether you send the transfer online or work with an agent. In addition, you may be charged a retail exchange fee if you want the payout for your recipient to be in local funds, rather than dollars.

So how do Ria’s fees stack up to other money transfer services? These fees may be lower than transferring money internationally through your bank, but it really depends on all the factors we outlined above, so be sure you compare. Wire transfers from your bank may charge a one-off fee (regardless of how much you’re sending) of $20 to $35 per transaction, and may also charge a fee for the recipient who receives them.

Is Ria a good money transfer service to use?

A thirty-plus year history in international money transfers and a robust presence abroad could make Ria a good option, depending on your needs. Here, some potential things to consider:

Pros Cons
  • Robust global and online presence. A variety of agent locations as well as bank transfer options makes it seamless to transfer abroad.
  • Brick-and-mortar or online options. Having a brick-and-mortar storefront with agents may be an appealing option if you’re planning to
  • Easy cost comparison. The online calculator tool is helpful in planning the most cost-effective transfer method and can be used when pricing out potential alternatives.


  • Minimal app features. Although a mobile app is available, there are mixed online reviews with some customers complaining about a lack of features.
  • Limited origination countries. Right now, Ria can only be used to send money from the United States, the UK, Australia, and Spain. If you’re frequently sending and receiving money, using a service that allows money transfers from the countries you regularly exchange money with may make sense.
  • Limited transfer amounts per month. While you may be able to transfer higher amounts, the limits of $2999.99 per day and $7999.99 per month may be low for some customers doing extensive business abroad.





Alternative money transfer options to Ria

Western Union and TransferWise are international money transfer companies providing similar services to Ria.

Western Union

  • Where can you send money? Western Union’s very large network of 500,000 agent locations lets you send money to more than 200 countries and territories.
  • How long does a transfer take? Most Western Union transactions take place in minutes, although like many other transfer services, factors like the destination country and source of funds can slow things down.
  • How much can you send? Limits depend on where you are sending money from, the destination country, your transaction history with Western Union and the type of transfer service you choose.
  • Fee to send money: Western Union is not known as the least expensive option: exchange rate fees may be higher and there are other transfer fees. You can estimate the cost of sending money using Western Union’s online fee calculator.

Western Union stands out among competitors for its conveniently large network and speed. With more than 500,000 agent locations, finding a convenient spot to send or receive money may be easier than with other service providers.

TransferWise

  • Where can you send money? TransferWise lets you send money to more than 70 countries.
  • How long does a transfer take? Transfers take one to four business days, depending on destination, payment method, and how long it takes the recipient’s bank to process the transaction.
  • How much can you send? How much you send from the U.S. may depend on which state you live in and local laws that apply to international transfers. You can transfer up to $15,000 per order via ACH and up to $1,000,000 via other methods; this upper limit is not applicable in Nevada or Hawaii, or in the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
  • Fee to send money: TransferWise’s fees vary depending on the currency you are transferring from and the source of the funds, with extra fees for debit cards and credit cards. It offers a handy online pricing calculator to help you estimate transfer costs and fees.

TransferWise is a relative newcomer to the international money transfer market. Among its unique features is a “borderless account,” or an account where you can keep money in 40+ currencies, transferring them when needed. Like other money transfer options, TransferWise has an online pricing calculator to help you estimate transfer costs and fees.

Should you choose Ria?

Ria’s robust global presence, including a very large number of brick-and-mortar locations and variety of delivery options, make it a great choice for people who need flexibility in transferring smaller amounts to diverse recipients. However, it’s less-than-stellar app and lower monthly transfer ceilings may limit its utility for some users.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Anna Davies
Anna Davies |

Anna Davies is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Anna here

Advertiser Disclosure

Investing

What Are Money Market Mutual Funds?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

No matter what level investor you are, similar-sounding terminologies, acronyms and labels can cause confusion about what sort of product would best serve you. That may be especially true when investing products have similar names to banking products, as in the case of money market mutual funds.

What is a money market mutual fund, how does it differ from a money market account or investing in mutual funds, and what should you consider before investing? Read on to learn more.

What is a money market mutual fund?

One huge hurdle to investment education that many beginning investors come across as thinking they have familiarity with a term — only to realize the term they’re thinking of is a similar sounding product with very different goals and outcomes. Such is often the case when people come across money market mutual funds and assume they operate in the same way as a money market savings account.

While a money market account is a savings vehicle that usually has higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts, a money market mutual fund is an investing product. Unlike a money market account, whose value does not lose or gain money in market fluctuations, a money market fund is a type of mutual fund that can lose or gain value.

However, money market funds are typically low volatility because the funds must follow industry-standard regulatory requirements. Investors may choose a money market mutual fund over a money market savings account because the gains in the account could potentially be higher than interest earned.

Why are money market funds useful?

While there’s always a risk of losing money in any sort of investment, many investors choose money market mutual funds because they may be less risky than other options. In addition, money market funds offer a high degree of liquidity, making it easy for investors to withdraw assets if cash is needed.

Money market mutual funds also appeal to investors because they offer diversification; the funds tend to hold many different securities, which may include short-term U.S. Treasury securities, Eurodollar deposits, CODs, and corporate commercial paper. Federal regulations of money market funds require that investments be short-term with minimal credit risks.

Money market funds are seen by some as an in-between investment option that straddles a savings account and an investment account. Some think that the liquidity of a money market fund make it a good place to keep emergency savings, tuition payments or other money that needs to stay relatively liquid, but isn’t being touched on a daily basis. While the dividends in a money market fund may be slightly higher than the interest generated by a money market account at a bank, dividends and gains may not be as high as they would be in other investment products.

As a point of comparison, it’s not uncommon for money market fund yields to be somewhere between 2 and 3%, while a money market account at a bank may have an interest rate between 1 and 2%. Also good for potential investors to consider — depending on the money market fund and the securities the fund invests in — the income made from the fund may be tax-exempt.

What kind of money market funds are there?

According to the Investment Company Institute, there were 421 money market mutual funds at the end of 2016, accounting for about 5% of the 8,066 mutual funds available to investors. While all money market funds have to meet the same federal regulations based on credit quality and length of maturity, the focus of funds differ. The best money market funds for each investor depends on the individual’s goals and investment strategies.

In 2016, responding to issues that arose during the 2008 financial crisis, the SEC made significant rule changes to money market funds. The changes included clearly delineating three fund categories; limiting the types of funds in which corporations could invest; and allowing institutional funds to have a floating net asset value (NAV), similar to other mutual funds, rather than a stable $1 asset value.

The categories of money market mutual funds include:

  • Government money market funds: These funds have several subcategories, including Treasury-only, Prime, or Municipal. In particular, some people are interested in these funds because municipal funds, sometimes called tax-exempt funds, may have federal or state tax exemptions. These funds may be purchased by individuals or investing groups.
  • Retail money market funds: These funds are limited to individual investors rather than an institution, and have a NAV of $1 a share.
  • Institutional or prime money market funds: This class of funds tends to be for institutions and corporations rather than individual people. While retail funds have a stable NAV of $1 a share, institutional money market funds have a floating NAV, which means that these funds may fluctuate more depending on the strength of the market.

How do you buy money market mutual funds?

Brokerages such as Vanguard, Fidelity and others offer the option of opening a money market mutual fund account. Accounts may have investment minimums.

Before you open your account, it’s important to know what your goals are. Are you planning for it to be emergency savings or a place to hold money for a big ticket expense, like college tuition or a tax bill? How much money do you plan to keep in this account? All of these questions can help you decide which sort of fund is right for you, as well as whether the benefits of a tax-exempt account may be something worth considering.

Usually, a brokerage will offer several fund options, and as with any investing product, it’s up to you to research past performance to decide which option is best for you. An independent financial counselor or certified financial planner may also be able to give advice as to the best option for your financial situation.

Is a money market fund right for you?

The combination of stability and liquidity offered by a money market fund, as well as relatively reliable returns compared to other investments, are all reasons investors are attracted to money market funds. In addition, if you already have an investment account at a brokerage, a money market fund can be a convenient way to manage money, including settling brokerage trade fees or having a place to “park” money after a sale.

The rate of return on a money market fund may be less than the forecasted return of other investment products, and it may make sense to explore options with a more aggressive rate of return if you’re planning for retirement or saving for college tuition. If you’re hoping to invest in a product with a higher rate of return, it may make sense to explore other mutual fund investment products.

While a money market fund can be a smart alternative or addition to a traditional savings or money market account, it’s important to remember that money market funds are still investments. Some people prefer to leave their liquid cash in an FDIC-insured account, and as online savings accounts increasingly offer competitive interest rates at or above 2%, comparing account structures, fees and performance between money market accounts and money market funds may make sense for investors who want a safe place to stash their cash.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Anna Davies
Anna Davies |

Anna Davies is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Anna here