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The Best Investment Apps of 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.

Investing in the market used to require a dedicated workstation with reports and research piled high, from where you would call in your stock picks like a general ordering an air strike. Today the ubiquity of smartphones has made investing only a little more complicated than ordering a pizza, a level of convenience that makes it easier than ever for Americans to start putting their money to work in the market.

But with investment apps sprouting like mushrooms in the iOS and Android app stores, each claiming to offer the lowest fees and tons of cutting-edge market research, it’s not easy to choose which one is right for you. Finding an investment app you’ll be happy with requires matching your investment strategy and habits with the app that fits best. We’ve done some of the leg work for you by evaluating the most highly-regarded investing apps out there.

Best investment apps for active investors

Whether or not you’re an active investor has less to do with the volume of trading in which you engage — although that’s a factor — and more with how willing you are to dive into the nitty-gritty of picking specific investments. If you love to make individual stock picks and spend hours poring over news and rumors about where the market may move next, you’re likely an active investor.

AppsFee per tradeAccount Minimum
J.P. Morgan$2.95$0
Robinhood$0$0
Fidelity$0.00$0
Stockpile$0$0
Charles Schwab$0.00$0

J.P. Morgan You Invest

JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A You’re probably familiar with the name J.P. Morgan, given J.P. Morgan Chase is one of the biggest players in the financial industry. But you shouldn’t feel intimidated by their You Invest app, which provides users with reams of research in order to help you make educated calls when it comes to investing. You Invest also provides 100 free trades for one year, which can be a nice incentive to start the process for new users.

  • Fee per trade: $2.95 per trade ($0 if you’re a client of Chase Private Client, Chase Sapphire Banking, J.P. Morgan Private Bank or J.P. Morgan Securities).
  • Account fees: There’s a $75 full account transfer fee and a $75 partial account transfer fee, but no annual maintenance fee or inactive account fee.
  • Securities traded: Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and bonds.

This app is good for: Investors who like the idea of directing trades themselves but still feel they need more education and data should take a look at J.P. Morgan You Invest, as it offers some of the best educational tools out there.

This app is bad for: Investors planning on being extremely active with their trading. Although $2.95 per trade is fairly cheap, there are certain discount brokers that offer lower pricing on high-volume trading.

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Robinhood

Robinhood Markets Inc While lacking the storied history of J.P. Morgan, Robinhood has achieved a great deal of fame in a short amount of time, thanks in part to its zero-fee trades. However, don’t expect this app to hold your hand with research materials and educational tools, as Robinhood is focused on the basics, which means there’s not much to do on the app besides trade.

  • Fees per trade: $0.
  • Account fees: There’s a $75 full account transfer fee, but other than that, no fees are associated with the account.
  • Securities traded: Stocks, ETFs, options and cryptocurrencies.

This app is good for: The biggest selling point of Robinhood is the lack of a fee per trade, meaning it should appeal to either beginning investors looking to get their feet wet or experienced stock traders wanting a handy way to move a large volume of trades on the go.

This app is bad for: Investors hoping for a lot of depth in the securities they can trade or types of accounts available will be disappointed by Robinhood — currently you can only invest in basic securities and taxable accounts (meaning no IRAs). Also if you need any sort of guidance about which stocks to invest in, you won’t receive it from Robinhood.

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Fidelity

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC A broker with more than 70 years of experience, Fidelity offers a mobile app that’s the equivalent of keeping a miniaturized broker in your jeans’ pocket. The app gives account holders access to the day’s news regarding the market, a snapshot of how your investments are performing, the ability to trade at the push of a button and even an option to call a real broker if you need a consultation.

  • Fees per trade: $0.00.
  • Account fees: None.
  • Securities traded: Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, options, futures and commodities, foreign currencies, cryptocurrencies.

This app is good for: Investors looking for a full-service broker offering a wide variety of securities to trade should take a hard look at Fidelity‘s mobile app. Given the lack of account fees and the reasonable $0.00 per trade, this app will likely hit the sweet spot for investors wanting the full investment experience while on the go.

This app is bad for: Those looking for an ultra cheap fee per trade may be disappointed with Fidelity‘s $0.00 fee.

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Stockpile

StockpileStockpile‘s unique offering is the ability to buy gift cards of stock for individual companies, allowing you to pass along the cards to a lucky recipient. It’s a clever way for parents to get their children started investing at the next birthday party, but Stockpile also has a mobile app that allows customers to trade stocks and ETFs. Stockpile allows you to invest in fractional shares, but the variety of securities is limited compared to what you can get with other brokers.

  • Fee per trade: $0.99 per trade when using Stockpile’s app to buy and sell securities. Fees for electronic and physical gift cards run higher and can be found here.
  • Account fees: None.
  • Securities traded: A limited selection of stocks and ETFs.

This app is good for: True novices who want to begin dabbling with investing or those investors interested in fractional stocks. Investors happy with the stocks and ETFs available from Stockpile and want to engage in lots of trading will also be happy with the $0.99 per trade fee, one of the lowest available.

This app is bad for: Any investor who wants a robust list of securities to choose from.

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Charles Schwab

The Charles Schwab Corporation One of the original discount brokers, Charles Schwab still offers its customers a relatively low fee per trade while still providing plenty of bells and whistles expected of a larger broker. The Schwab Mobile app gives users a live news feed from CNBC, allows the trading of stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and options, and lets you transfer funds between Schwab brokerage accounts.

  • Fee per trade: $0.00.
  • Account fees: None.
  • Securities traded: Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and options.

This app is good for: Investors looking to trade with one of the most reputable discount brokers around and who need lots of research and education to help guide their trades.

This app is bad for: People who want to trade more exotic securities over a mobile app, such as foreign currencies.

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Best investment apps for hands-off investors

Many investors aren’t looking to micromanage their investments and prefer a more passive approach. The apps offered by the brokers and robo-advisors below will allow you to select a portfolio or investment strategy for your money, which is managed automatically to help you achieve your goals.

Robo-AdvisorsManagement FeeAccount Minimum
Wealthfront0.25%$500
Personal Capital0.89%$100,000
M1 Finance0.00%$100
Acorns$1 per month$0
Betterment0.25%$0

Wealthfront

Wealthfront Advisers LLCWealthfront provides a wide variety of account types, from IRAs to 529 college plans, which means that there is likely something for everyone. The relatively low fees associated with this robo-advisor, plus its ease of use and ability to show you all of your investment accounts (not just the ones you have at Wealthfront) at a glance makes it one of the world’s top robo-advisors.

  • Management fee: Annual fee of 0.25% of your account balance.
  • Account fees: None.
  • Account minimum: $500.

This app is good for: Investors who don’t mind paying $500 to open an account and want to invest in funds with low expense ratios — Wealthfront promises none of their funds have expense ratios exceeding 0.16%.

This app is bad for: Individuals who do not want to commit to the account minimum. The $500 account minimum isn’t very expensive, but many of Wealthfront‘s competitors in the robo-advisor space have no account minimums. Those looking to get started in investing with the spare change in their pocket should look elsewhere.

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Personal Capital

Personal Capital Corporation The Personal Capital investment app takes the features of an investment advisor and the tracking and monitoring capabilities of a budgeting app, like Mint, to give you a holistic view of your net worth. Investing with Personal Capital means an actual human being will manage your portfolio, but that comes with higher fees than you would get with a robo-advisor.

  • Management fee: Annual fee of 0.89% on account balances up to $1 million. When you invest more than $1 million, Personal Capital adjusts its annual fee based on a tiered fee structure.
  • Account fees: None
  • Account minimum: $100,000

This app is good for: Wealthy individuals looking for an app that provides the type of personal care and attention they would expect with the considerable size of the investment they are making.

This app is bad for: Obviously anyone who doesn’t have at least $100,000 to invest. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other great options for investors lacking a six-figure savings account.

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M1 Finance

M1 FinanceOne of the most alluring features of the M1 Finance robo-advisor is its fee structure — it has virtually no fees. That means you won’t pay an annual management fee or a fee per trade. Coupled with the low $100 minimum needed to start investing with the account, this price structure makes M1 Finance a good choice for those who want to start investing without having a lot of extra money lying around. With M1 Finance, you can either build a custom portfolio of stocks and ETFs, or choose from more than 80 expert portfolios managed by the app. In addition, you can invest in fractional shares.

  • Management fee: $0.00.
  • Account fees: There’s a $20 inactivity fee for accounts with $20 or less for a period of 90 days or more. There’s also a $100 transfer fee if you’re taking money from your M1 account to another broker.
  • Account minimum: $100 — while you can technically open an account with less than $100, you won’t begin investing until you reach this threshold.

This app is good for: Those looking for low fees will be happy with M1 Finance’s pricing, especially those who just want to invest in basic securities such as stocks and ETFs.

This app is bad for: Investors wanting to branch out beyond stocks and ETFs will be disappointed, as those are the only securities supported by M1 Finance’s platform. M1 Finance also lacks tax-loss harvesting, a money-saving feature commonly found with other robo-advisors.

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Acorns

Acorns Advisers, LLC The Acorns robo-advisor may be the ultimate “set it and forget it” app, with the idea being that the spare change from your everyday purchases ends up invested in your portfolio instead of gathering dust on your bedside table. Users who sign up for the app sync Acorns with their checking account and credit cards, and their purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar – the “spare change” going into a portfolio that you’ve already selected. If you want to start building retirement savings, Acorns Later is an IRA account that works in sync with the basic account functionality.

  • Management fee: $1 per month for Acorns Core investing account. Additional pricing: $2 per month for Acorns Core + Acorns Later, the company’s IRA account product; $3 per month for Acorns Core + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend, the company’s cash management account.
  • Account fees: None.
  • Account minimum: None.

This app is good for: People who want to start investing but don’t really want to put any effort into it. Once you set it up, Acorns automatically takes care of investing your spare change so there’s no chance that you’ll forget to put your money to work.

This app is bad for: Those looking for either the cheapest pricing structure or the most control over their investments may not be happy with Acorns. $1 a month for the basic investment account doesn’t sound like a lot (and it’s not), but when represented as a percentage those 12 dollars a year can far exceed the 0.25% annual fee charged by Wealthfront, for example, depending on how much you invest.

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Betterment

Betterment Holdings Inc.Betterment has recently branched out into savings and checking accounts, but still remains focused on robo-advising for interested investors. Investing this way is completely passive — you’re not picking the ETFs in your portfolio, but trusting Betterment and its algorithm to make the right call based on the goals and preferences you share with the company. Investing $100,000 or more gets you access to Betterment’s premium account, which includes in-depth advice on investments outside of Betterment, plus consultations with an investment professional to build a plan for managing 401(k)s, real estate and individual stocks.

  • Management fee: 0.25% annual fee for basic investing account; 0.40% annual fee for a premium account that gives you more access to broker advice and other features.
  • Account fees: None.
  • Account minimum: None for the basic account; $100,000 for the premium account.

This app is good for: Passive investors who may also be interested in the savings and checking accounts Betterment is rolling out.

This app is bad for: Someone looking to fine-tune their investments beyond the options presented by Betterment.

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Investing app FAQs

The investing apps for hands-on investors reviewed above give you control over your investments anytime, anywhere. You can trade and sell investments with just a few taps on your phone screen.

Apps for hands-off investors offer low fees and manage your investments for you, removing some of the guesswork and confusion that plague beginning investors. These apps can choose investments that fit your goals, without requiring you to do tons of homework or research.

Micro-investing apps like Acorns and Stockpile lower the barrier to entry. Instead of needing hundreds or thousands of dollars to start investing, you can invest with very small amounts, in fractional shares. You can make small recurring deposits with your spare change, so you can invest without having to remember to set aside money each month.

Some investment accounts have limited account options, offering just stock or even pre-baked ETF portfolios, so you may not always be able to open a tax-deferred account like an IRA. And because you’re investing relatively small amounts, it’s possible you won’t be setting aside enough money for your future. As your financial situation improves, it’s important to re-evaluate your investment strategies and goals and contribute enough money to reach those milestones.

Robo-advisors are based on algorithms that build and manage investment portfolios for online brokers and investment apps. Robo-advisor accounts may have lower account minimums and low fees, making them a low-cost choice for new investors. These accounts automatically rebalance your investments as needed to take advantage of market changes, helping you build wealth without demanding that you pay attention to markets.

As you decide which investment app to use, keep these factors in mind:

  • Fees: Many investment apps charge trading fees, which can eat away at your returns. Look for an app that offers low fees — some even offer $0 trades.
  • Promotions: To attract your business, some investment apps offer promotional offers, such as 500 commission-free trades with a qualifying deposit, which can help you save money on your investments.
  • Account minimums: While some investment apps allow you to get started with as little as $0, others require much larger deposits, which may make it difficult to get started.
  • Range of assets: Look for an investment app that has a range of assets to choose from, such as mutual funds, stocks, bonds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Each app has its own unique range of assets you can buy and sell. Some allow you to invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs, while others may offer only one class of assets. Before you invest your money, make sure you understand what investment options are available and choose the ones that make the most sense for your individual situation.

If the company is part of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) — nearly all major investment firms are — your investments are protected up to $500,000 if the company goes out of business. Keep in mind, though, that insurance does not cover you if the market falls. There are no guarantees when it comes to investing – you could end up losing money as the market changes.

The great thing about some of these investment apps is that you don’t need a lot of money to get started. In fact, apps like Acorns, Stash, and Robinhood allow you to get started with just a few dollars; after that, you simply invest your spare change. Over time, those small amounts will grow, helping you build your savings.

A perk of using investment apps is that they make investing simple. You don’t have to understand market fluctuations or have an in-depth knowledge of past stock performance to get started. Investment apps usually have robo-advisors and carefully picked investments that do all the hard work for you. Just set up your initial investment and recurring deposits, and you can be a mostly hands-off investor without stressing about managing the account yourself.

About our ranking

Please see below for the full list of apps considered for this review. The investment apps were evaluated based on the rating they received from the iOS and Android stores, the fees associated with each app and investment account, and the range and quality of the investment experience.

All apps considered:

Acorns
Ally Forex
Ally Invest
Ally Invest Managed Portfolios
Betterment
Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
E-Trade
E-Trade Core Portfolios
Power E-Trade-Advanced Trading
eOption
eToro
Fidelity
Fidelity Go
Firstrade
Fundrise
Interactive Brokers
J.P. Morgan You Invest
J2TX – Invest ETH
Just2Trade
Just2Trade 0 vs. 2.50
Just2Trade Pro
M1 Finance
Merrill Edge
Merrill Guided Investing
My Merrill
MoneyLion
Motif
Nadex
Personal Capital
Robinhood
SigFig
SoFi Invest
SogoTrade
Stash
Stockpile
TastyWorks
TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade Essential Portfolios
TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader
TD Ameritrade Thinkorswim
TradeStation
TradeStation Futures Plus
USAA Investments
Vanguard
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
Wealthfront
Wealthsimple
Axos Invest
Zacks Trade

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.

James Ellis
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James Ellis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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Investing

Review of Boston Private Wealth LLC

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.

Boston Private Wealth is a fee-only advisory firm serving individuals, high net worth individuals, pension and profit-sharing plans, charitable organizations and other businesses. The firm specializes in working with professionals in law, accounting and medicine, as well as executives and business owners. With headquarters in Boston, the firm has more than 70 investment advisors around the country overseeing the firm’s more than $12.8 billion in assets under management (AUM).

All information included in this profile is accurate as of December 9th, 2019. For more information, please consult Boston Private Wealth’s website.

Assets under management: $12,827,947,779
Minimum investment: $1 million
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, ranging from 0.70% to 1.25%, depending on account size; fixed fees; hourly fees
Headquarters:One Federal Street
30th Floor
Boston, MA 02110
(617) 223-0200
bostonprivate.com

Overview of Boston Private Wealth

Founded in 1986, Boston Private Wealth is headquartered in Boston, with a number of additional offices throughout Florida, California and New York. Boston Private Wealth entered the Northern California market in 2001, the Southern California market in 2004 and the Florida market in 2014. In fall of 2019, the company announced the integration of KLS Professional Advisors Group in New York City.

The firm is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boston Private Financial Holdings, Inc., a public reporting company, and it is affiliated with Boston Private Bank & Trust Company, a full-service private banking company. Boston Private Wealth has more than 130 employees on staff, including 72 performing investment advisory functions. Fourteen employees are licensed agents of an insurance company, though the company is clear that it earns no commissions for product recommendations. The firm currently manages more than $12.8 billion.

What types of clients does Boston Private Wealth serve?

Boston Private Wealth serves a broad variety of clients, with its largest client group being high net worth individuals. The SEC defines a high net worth individual as someone with at least $750,000 managed by a firm or whose net worth exceeds $1.5 million.

The full range of clients the firm serves includes:

  • Individuals
  • High net worth individuals
  • Trusts, estates and charitable organizations
  • Family offices
  • Corporations or other business entities
  • Banking and trust companies
  • Not-for-profit entities, including foundations
  • Retirement and profit sharing plans, including IRAs and 401(k) accounts
  • State or municipal government entities
  • Other investment advisors

We reached out to Boston Private Wealth and the firm confirmed that its minimum account requirement is $1 million. However, the firm also notes that because it views clients’ financial pictures holistically, it works with some clients who may have less than the $1 million but who are building wealth. In addition, the filing also states that of the firm’s individual clients, about six out of 10 are high net worth, although that leaves about 40% who aren’t.

Among those clients are a large number of business owners who frequently have limited liquidity as they grow their businesses. The company also focuses on professionals in private practice, such as law firms, accounting firms and medical, dental or veterinary practices, as well as executives. It offers these clients help with business financing and the management of personal income.

Although the vast majority of the firm’s assets under management ($11.2 billion of $12.8 billion) are from high net worth individuals, Boston Private Wealth also serves corporations, charitable organizations and pension and profit-sharing plans.

Services offered by Boston Private Wealth

Boston Private Wealth provides a host of services to its clients, from wealth management to trust and estate services. The firm also recently added family office services designed to handle the needs of ultrahigh net worth investors, including helping with personal accounting and net worth reporting, tax and accounting services, bill pay and mail management, and budgeting and cash flow planning.

The firm’s full list of services includes:

  • Wealth and financial planning
    • Vision statement that may include a client’s financial, philanthropic, tax and wealth transfer objectives
    • Income and retirement planning
    • Protection planning
    • Investment management planning
    • Legacy planning
    • Philanthropic planning
    • Business succession planning
    • Executive planning
    • Education analysis
    • Estate plan analysis and review
    • Insurance and risk management review
    • Cash flow and debt management
    • Compensation and benefits
    • Donor advised fund
  • Portfolio management for individuals and/or small businesses
  • Portfolio management for businesses (other than small businesses) or institutional clients
  • Pension consulting
  • Selection of other advisors (including private fund managers)
  • Publication of periodicals or newsletters
  • Educational seminars/workshops
  • Planned giving
  • Family office services
    • Personal accounting and net worth reporting
    • Tax and accounting services
    • Budgeting and cash flow planning
    • Bill pay and mail management
  • Concentrated holdings services
  • Proprietary separate account strategies
  • Investment consulting
    • Diagnostic review
    • Investment policy and governance design
    • Asset allocation services
    • Portfolio construction and implementation
    • Performance measurement, reporting and analysis
    • Custom investment solutions
  • Retirement plan advisory services
  • Wrap-free programs
  • Trust services

How Boston Private Wealth invests your money

Boston Private Wealth engages in active portfolio management, using a client’s goals, time horizon and risk tolerance to create a customized, diversified portfolio. The company prefers to use active strategies because it believes, over time, that it can outperform the market on a risk-adjusted basis.

Typical client portfolios include 40 to 60 carefully selected individual stocks, alongside a customized bond portfolio with investment-grade taxable or municipal bonds. The firm also offers access to as many as seven additional asset classes, from international large cap stocks to alternatives.

The firm uses both internally managed strategies as well as external money managers to complete clients’ financial plans.

Fees Boston Private Wealth charges for its services

For wealth management services, Boston Private Wealth charges clients a percentage of assets under management based on a tiered fee schedule, which starts at 1.25% for the first $1 million, 1.15% for the next $1.5 million and so on. For fixed-income portfolios — meaning individual fixed income securities, including investment-grade and municipal bonds — Boston Private Wealth negotiates a fee schedule not to exceed 0.75%.

For consulting services, the firm charges a flat rate per engagement, or a fee of $300 per hour, depending on the arrangement with the client, and those services include portfolio review, financial planning, asset allocation and performance reporting, monitoring and analysis. For investment advisory services to retirement plans, the firm charges a maximum fee of 0.50%, with a minimum annual fee of $5,000.

There may be additional fees and expenses beyond the firm’s set fees, including:

  • External separate account manager fees (if Boston Private Wealth uses an external separate account manager as a sub-advisor to manage a client’s assets)
  • Mutual fund and ETF management fees
  • Mutual fund transaction fees
  • Donor advised fund fees
  • Brokerage fees

Boston Private Wealth doesn’t use a wrap fee program, which is when a firm offers a bundle of services for a flat fee, but it does participate in wrap fee accounts when it place investments with other investment managers. It charges a management fee of 0.15% to 0.50% for wrap accounts.

Boston Private Wealth notes that for accounts with a portfolio value of less than $1,000,000, the effective fee may be more than 1.25%.

Boston Private Wealth Fees
Wealth Management
  • 1.25% on the first $1,000,000
  • 1.15% on the next $1,500,000
  • 0.90% on the next $7,500,000
  • 0.70% on higher balances
Fixed Income-Only PortfoliosNegotiated fee schedule not to exceed 0.75%
Consulting ServicesNegotiated flat rate per engagement or $300 per hour
Investment Advisory Services to Retirement PlansNegotiated fee schedule not to exceed 0.50% (Minimum annual fee: $5,000)

Boston Private Wealth’s highlights

  • Services for high net worth individuals. The recent addition of KLS, which is a wealth management firm specializing in law firms, attorneys and other high net worth clients, makes this combined operation one of the more sizable firms focusing on the high net worth set. The firm now manages more than $11 billion in assets from high net worth individuals, and it recently opened a family office arm devoted to ultrahigh net worth families.
  • Diverse leadership. In an industry that’s still fairly male-centric, half of Boston Private Wealth’s leadership team is female, as is 45% of its board members.
  • Locally revered. In 2013, readers of the Boston Business Journal chose Boston Private Wealth as the Most Admired Financial Institution.

Boston Private Wealth’s downsides

  • Fees are higher than average. For the non-high net worth investor, Boston Private Wealth’s rate of 1.25% on the first $1 million in assets is slightly higher than the RIA industry average of 1.17%. Asset-based fees do decrease as the amount of assets under management increases, but Boston Private Wealth notes that for accounts with a portfolio value of less than $1 million the effective fee may be more than 1.25%.
  • Potential conflicts of interest. Boston Private Wealth receives client referrals and other benefits from the Fidelity Wealth Advisor Solutions Program, TD Ameritrade’s AdvisorDirect program and the Schwab Advisor Network. These relationships raise potential conflicts of interest, as Boston Private Wealth may be more likely to suggest client strategies that benefit those companies.

Boston Private Wealth disciplinary disclosures

The firm has only one disclosure listed in its Form ADV, paperwork that firms file with the SEC. The disclosure is in relation to an advisory affiliate who was involved in a rules violation. In 2017, FINRA suspended the individual, who was with Merrill Lynch at the time, for one year for false expense reports. Boston Private Wealth itself has never been the subject of any disciplinary action.

Boston Private Wealth onboarding process

To start a relationship with Boston Private Wealth clients must complete an online form with their contact information, the services they’re interested in and the amount they currently have invested. Prospective clients can also call advisors directly to learn more about working with Boston Private Wealth.

The bottom line: Is Boston Private Wealth right for you?

Boston Private Wealth could be a good match for you whether you’re a high net worth individual. The firm’s recent moves — the acquisition of KLS and the opening of a family office group — suggest that they’re doing some gunning for the high net worth space. Additionally, the firm’s tiered fees drop below average RIA rates for assets over $1 million, making it a more attractive option for investors with seven figures to invest. Boston Private Wealth also works specifically with professionals in the areas of law, accounting or medical work, and executives in general, potentially making this firm worthwhile for anyone in these fields.

If your investable nest egg is smaller, however, you’d likely be better served looking elsewhere since the firm has a $1 million minimum. Plus, you can find advisory services for less than the 1.25% — or more — that Boston Private Wealth is charging for portfolios of less than $1 million. That said, if you’re a business owner with a larger net worth but less liquidity, it might be worth a look.

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.

Kate Ashford
Kate Ashford |

Kate Ashford is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kate here

Advertiser Disclosure

Investing

Review of Aspiriant

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.

Aspiriant, LLC is an independently-owned firm with headquarters in Los Angeles and 10 additional offices nationwide. The firm primarily caters to wealthy individuals and families, as well as a smattering of institutional investors, like charities. Aspiriant provides what it calls total wealth management, which includes portfolio management as well as a broad range of specific financial planning services. The firm has 155 employees, 86 of whom perform research or serve as investment advisors to the firm’s more than 1,700 clients.

All information included in this profile is accurate as of December 9th, 2019. For more information, please consult Aspiriant’s website.

Assets under management: $11,669,979,000
Minimum investment: No absolute minimum, but clients typically invest at least $1.5 million
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, ranging from 0.2% to 1%, depending on account size (Minimum annual fee: $14,000)
Headquarters:11100 Santa Monica Blvd.
Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90025
aspiriant.com
310-806-4000

Overview of Aspiriant

Aspiriant is independently owned, with roughly 65 of its current employees owning shares in the holding companies that own the firm. Aspiriant is the product of a 2008 roll-up of the Los Angeles-based wealth management firm Quintile, and the San Francisco-based firm Kochis Fitz. Today, the combined entity, which also absorbed Deloitte’s national investment practice in 2010, manages over $11 billion in client assets and has spread its geographic footprint, with five offices in California as well as locations in Austin, Boston, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and New York.

The firm’s specialties beyond wealth management include family office services and divorce consulting. Aspiriant, which has 86 investment advisors and researchers on staff, has earned spots on recent lists of top investment advisors compiled by Barron’s as well as the Financial Times. The firm’s co-founder and CEO, Rob Francais, was inducted into Barron’s Hall of Fame in 2019 for his work in the field.

What types of clients does Aspiriant serve?

Aspiriant primarily serves high net worth individuals and families, including corporate executives, business owners, foundations and family and limited partnerships. Clients typically have investment portfolios of $1.5 million or more. However, the firm does not have an absolute minimum account size requirement, and some of its clients do have more modest levels of investable assets. For particularly complex situations, however, a portfolio larger than $1.5 million may be required.

Aspiriant also provides investment management and consulting services to some institutional investors, such as charitable organizations, trusts, pension and profit-sharing plans and corporations and other businesses.

Services offered by Aspiriant

Aspiriant can manage your investment portfolio, as well as advise on other areas of your finances, including your estate, taxes, retirement, education, compensation, cash flow and philanthropic goals. In addition, the firm has certified divorce financial analysts (CDFAs) on staff to provide divorce consulting services. For each client, Aspiriant crafts an individualized investment management program that aligns to their specific needs.

Aspiriant also has an in-house, 35-person team that provides family office services, such as filing taxes, paying bills, buying insurance and planning family legacies. This team can also educate multiple generations about living with their wealth.

In addition to its services for individuals and families, the firm offers investment management services for institutional investors.

Here is a complete list of services offered by Aspiriant:

  • Investment management for individuals and institutions (both discretionary and non-discretionary)
  • Financial planning services
    • Tax planning
    • Estate planning
    • Charitable giving
    • Retirement planning
    • Education goals planning
    • Risk management
    • Expense management
    • Compensation planning
    • Liquidity and cash flow needs
    • Private foundations and business entities
    • Divorce financial consulting
  • Family office services
    • Family legacy planning
    • Estate document preparation
    • Alternative investment coordination
    • Tax and compliance filing
    • Bill paying and reporting
    • Foundation management
    • Insurance

How Aspiriant invests your money

Aspiriant creates customized plans for each client, investing their money in a mix of global and domestic stocks, bonds, mutual funds (some of which Aspiriant may advise), ETFs, real estate, cash and other instruments. The personalized plans take into consideration the client’s individual circumstances, as well as Aspiriant advisors’ market outlook for the short and long term and which asset classes they expect to perform well.

The firm starts the process by having each client speak extensively with an advisor about their goals, risk tolerance, time horizon, cash needs and expected returns. Based on those conversations, the client and their advisor will agree on an appropriate asset allocation. Aspiriant prefers the advisor to then be in charge of choosing the specific investments to meet those goals, known as discretionary management. However, some clients have non-discretionary relationships with Aspiriant, meaning the client must approve trades.

When choosing investments, Aspiriant may recommend that clients invest in the publicly-traded mutual funds that it manages. A small percentage of clients also invest in private equity and real estate funds that Aspiriant advises. A $500,000 minimum investment is required for those private funds.

Fees Aspiriant charges for its services

To manage your portfolio, Aspiriant charges an annual fee based on a percentage of assets under management, which typically starts at 1% and ranges down to 0.20% for larger portfolios. The minimum annual fee is $14,000, though the firm discloses that all fees are negotiable. Each quarter the investment management fee is automatically debited from client accounts.

Clients also will likely pay fees to third parties, such as expense ratios and trading costs, in addition to the advisory fee.

On top of your portfolio management fee, you’ll pay for wealth planning services, which can include financial planning, estate planning, tax planning, tax return preparation, expense management and bill payment services, retirement planning, risk management and philanthropy. Retainer fees range from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the complexity of the services offered and the time involved. Clients also may pay an hourly rate for special projects and/or ongoing consulting, with rates typically ranging from $100 to $695. The firm says that these fees are also negotiable.

Aspiriant’s highlights

  • Fee-only: As a fee-only firm, Aspiriant earns money solely through the fees that its clients pay for advice and portfolio management. This means that it has no financial incentive to recommend certain products to earn commissions or referral revenue, which mitigates potential conflicts of interest.
  • Awards for its track record: Aspiriant has nabbed high marks on many coveted rankings of top investment advisors. For example, it has appeared on Barron’s top RIAs list for more than 10 years, ranking 13 out of 50 firms in 2019. Aspiriant has also made the list of the top 300 RIAs from the Financial Times since the list launched six years ago.
  • Employees hold ownership stake: Aspiriant is independently owned by holding companies, which 63 of the firm’s current employees own shares in. Aspiriant believes that this helps provide continuity for clients and a clear road map for ownership succession.
  • Access to alternative investments: Aspiriant provides some clients access to private equity and real estate funds without charging an additional fee. This allows clients to further diversify their portfolio and gain exposure to investments that may not move in lockstep with the stock market.

Aspiriant’s downsides

  • Caters primarily to the wealthy: Given the typically $14,000 minimum annual fee, many investors just starting out or who don’t have seven-figure portfolios may feel Aspiriant’s services are out of reach. Most clients who work with Aspiriant have a portfolio value of at least $1.5 million. That’s not to say Aspiriant won’t work with more modest incomes, though. About 25% of its individual clients are not high net worth individuals, who are defined by the SEC as having at least $750,000 under management or a total net worth of more than $1.5 million.
  • No published fee schedule: Unlike many other registered investment advisors, Aspiriant’s does not publish a tiered fee schedule. The firm states that clients’ fees will fall in the range of 0.2% to 1%, but you can’t easily see ahead of meeting with an advisor at the firm how much you should expect to pay or how much you need to invest to nab the lowest fee rate.
  • Additional charges for ongoing financial planning: Some registered investment advisors include financial planning and other services beyond investing in their standard asset-based fee. Aspiriant charges separately for these recurring wealth planning services, either by the hour or per project. If you decide to work with Aspiriant, make sure to ask your advisor what comes as part of their wealth planning services.
  • Private funds lock up your money: Though the private equity and real estate funds offered by Aspiriant are unique investing opportunities, they may have limited liquidity for 10 to 15 years. Additionally, the strategies that these funds pursue “are not completely transparent to investors,” Aspiriant notes in its Form ADV.

Aspiriant disciplinary disclosures

All registered investment advisors are required to disclose in their Form ADV, paperwork that they file with the SEC, any legal, regulatory or criminal action that is material to a client’s evaluation of the advisory business or of the integrity of the management personnel. Aspiriant has had no such events over the last 10 years, meaning it has a clean disciplinary disclosure record.

Aspiriant onboarding process

To arrange an initial conversation with an Aspiriant, reach out to the firm’s director of marketing, Cammie Doder, by phone at 415-371-788, or by filling out the form on the Start a Dialogue page of Aspiriant’s website. If you live near one of Aspiriant’s 11 offices, you can meet an advisor in person. If not, plan on a phone call with an advisor at Aspiriant.

For ongoing communications with clients, Aspiriant advisors typically meet with their clients at least annually, though meetings may be as frequent as every quarter. The firm also communicates with clients over email or on the phone throughout the year. Clients receive quarterly reports, typically electronically, although portfolios smaller than $250,000 receive only annual updates.

Additionally, clients will need a brokerage account with a third party to hold their assets, since Aspiriant is not a broker-dealer and does not take physical custody of your assets. Aspiriant recommends that clients use Charles Schwab, Fidelity or TD Ameritrade, though clients are free to choose other providers. Clients will receive regular statements from these firms as well.

If an advisor has discretion to choose investments on a client’s behalf, the client will need to execute a limited power of attorney granting Aspiriant permission to execute trades.

The bottom line: Is Aspiriant right for you?

If you’re willing to pay at least $14,000 annually in fees and want a professional to handle all trading through discretionary management, Aspiriant may be worth a look. The firm may also be a good fit for high net worth individuals and family offices looking for comprehensive financial planning and wealth management, as well as investors who desire access to alternative investments like private equity or real estate funds.

While Aspiriant doesn’t have a firm minimum investment requirement, it does say that most of its clients have portfolios of at least $1.5 million, and many of its services do cater to the wealthy. Plus, the firm does not publish a clear fee schedule, so it may be hard to know before you talk to a representative how much you can expect to pay — especially if you also want financial planning services, which the firm charges extra for on top of investment management.

Before you make a decision on whether Aspiriant is right for you, make sure to do your research, compare your options and, perhaps most importantly, think carefully about your own financial situation.

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Amanda Gengler |

Amanda Gengler is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Amanda here