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How Much Should I Save for Retirement?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Saving enough for retirement is an extremely important goal everyone should be working toward but many tend to put off. However, neglecting your retirement savings can leave you in a terrible bind as you get closer to retirement. So how do you figure out how much to save for retirement? Here’s what you need to know about prioritizing your retirement savings at any age.

Why should I save for retirement?

There are plenty of reasons you’re not saving for retirement:

  • You have bills to pay
  • You assume Social Security will cover your living expenses through retirement
  • You still have decades to go before retirement

Although these excuses for delaying — or even flat-out avoiding — your retirement savings may sound convincing, they don’t tell the whole story.

To start, paying your bills while you’re employed is much easier than trying to pay bills on a fixed income in retirement. And your bills are not necessarily getting smaller as you age. According to an annual Fidelity report on the cost of healthcare in retirement, a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2018 will need an average of $280,000 for their healthcare needs for the rest of their lives. You would hate to face illness in retirement (or even just the changes that accompany aging) without having an emergency cushion in place.

As for Social Security, the retirement benefit only replaces a part of your income, and as of 2018, the average monthly benefit is only $1,413. It would be very difficult to live solely on this amount of money, even in a low cost-of-living area.

Finally, assuming that you have years (or decades) before you need to worry about retirement means you miss out on years of compounding interest. The longer you wait to start saving, the more money you have to put away to ensure a comfortable retirement. You will be in a much better position if you start as soon as you can.

Calculating how much to save for retirement

Knowing that you need to set money aside for your retirement is only the beginning. Next, you have to decide exactly how much to save — and that means thinking ahead to the end of your career and becoming familiar with any contribution limits.

Any calculation of retirement savings needs to start with your intended retirement date. If you’re in your 20s, 30s, or 40s, it’s pretty safe to start with the assumption that you’ll work until you are 65, unless you specifically hope to retire earlier. If you are in your 50s, you might want to be more specific as to your anticipated retirement date.

The 25x rule

Once you have a target date for your retirement, you need to figure out how much you will need. In a perfect world, there would be a universally-agreed upon amount that would guarantee you an ideal retirement. Although there are plenty rules of thumb you could follow — like aiming for a $1 million nest egg — the amount you need may be more or less than that, depending on how much you make, where you live and what you plan to do in retirement.

The best way to figure out how much you need to save is by calculating your annual retirement expenses. This will be a rather large and detailed list, including any mortgages, vehicle costs, medications and healthcare, childcare, disability insurance. (Note: Don’t forget to include the cost of inflation in your calculations. It only takes 24 years of 3% inflation for the buying power of your money to lose half its value.)

When you have a rough idea of what you will be spending per year in retirement, multiply that number by 25 to get your savings goal. The idea is that you’ll need 25 times your annual expenses in order to retire — known as the 25x rule.

The 4% strategy

The 25x rule is based on the theory behind the 4% withdrawal strategy. Ideally, you should be able to withdraw 4% of your assets in the first year of retirement, and then increase the withdrawal amount to match inflation rate in subsequent years. You should also factor in dividends and capital-gains distributions that are paid in cash when calculating the total withdrawal amount for each year. Hypothetically, this will allow your savings to last at least 30 years.

The 4% strategy assumes your investments will continue to receive a rate of return that is at least 4% or higher per year. This is a relatively safe assumption since the historical rate of return on stocks tends to hover around 10% annually.

Unfortunately, this strategy may not serve retirees well in bad economic times. During years with sub-4% growth in the market, retirees have to either dip into the principal or drastically cut back on their spending.

Even though the 4% strategy can potentially be risky during market downturns, the 25x rule for retirement savings is still a helpful metric for determining your savings goal. It gives you a specific, measurable and achievable goal that you can adjust as necessary over time.

Retirement saving milestones by age

While there are a few forward-thinking go-getters who are doing these kinds of calculations just after landing their first job, most of us don’t think about retirement until we’ve been in the workforce for quite a few years. So how do you determine how much to save to reach your 25x expenses goal?

This is where some rules of thumb can really come in handy. You should take time to calculate the exact amount you’ll need, which you should do every few years to make sure you’re on track.

According to Fidelity’s widely accepted savings guidelines, you should aim for the following by each decade:

  • 1x your annual salary saved by age 30
  • 3x your annual salary saved by age 40
  • 6x your annual salary by age 50
  • 8x your annual salary by age 60

Adjust retirement plan as needed

While these guidelines and your 25x calculation can give you a decent target to shoot for, it’s important to remember your retirement goals should not be static. As your life changes, make sure you adjust your retirement strategy accordingly.

So if you get a big raise, have a child, see some major investment growth (or losses), move to a place with a higher or lower cost of living, or even decide to go back to school, you will need to adjust your retirement goals and expectations accordingly. That way you won’t be stuck following an outdated retirement goal that no longer meets your needs.

The early bird gets the compound interest

While it’s certainly possible to save for the retirement of your dreams even if you don’t start until your 40s or 50s, you will have to save more money to hit the same goal than you would if you’d started earlier.

That’s because of the power of compound interest, which you can calculate here. Here’s one example:

Let’s say that Jane (age 25), and Violet (age 45), start saving for retirement at the same time. They both hope to retire at 65. Jane starts putting away $200 per month, earning 8% interest, which is compounded annually. Violet starts putting away $400 per month at the same interest rate.

If Jane maintains her savings rate of $200 per month for the next 40 years, she will put away $96,000 total. But because of the compounding interest, her nest egg will be worth nearly $622,000.

Violet will also put aside $96,000 over 20 years if she maintains her $400 per month savings rate. However, her account will only grow to about $220,000 because the compound interest has only had half of Jane’s time to grow.

The bottom line

If you want a comfortable and well-funded retirement, the buck starts with you. Start by calculating your annual expenses in retirement and then multiply that number by 25. This will give you a reasonable goal to shoot for, although you will need to adjust your goals and expectations with the fluctuations of life.

Finally, the earlier you start saving, the easier it will be for your nest egg grow via the power of compound interest. That means that even though saving for retirement may not feel urgent, it truly is.

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.

Emily Guy Birken
Emily Guy Birken |

Emily Guy Birken is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Emily here

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What Is SIPC Insurance?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

When you deposit funds at the bank, you can rest easy knowing that the biggest threat to your money is probably your own spending habits. Thanks to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), you never have to worry about the safety of your bank deposits. But what about the money your pour into retirement accounts, like an IRA or a 401(k)?

The FDIC protects your covered bank deposits in case the institution goes under and is no longer solvent. This government corporation insures approximately $12.6 trillion dollars across 5,406 institutions in the country. When it comes to retirement accounts, the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) protects your funds, although SIPC insurance works somewhat differently than the FDIC’s guarantee.

Read on to find more on exactly how and under what circumstances the SIPC protects your investment accounts.

What does SIPC insurance protect you from?

“SIPC is an important part of the overall system of investor protection in the United States,” said Josephine Wang, CEO of the SIPC. “SIPC works to restore investors’ cash and securities when a brokerage firm fails. Without SIPC, customers at financially-troubled brokerage firms might lose their investments forever.”

In the event that the broker holding your retirement funds goes out of business, SIPC insurance covers up to a combined $500,000 worth of cash and securities, such as stocks and bonds, per account. That protection covers up to $250,000 in cash in the account.

In other words, if you have $400,000 in securities and $100,000 in cash in your brokerage account, and you see on the news that the entire company’s leadership was charged with acting as a front for drug traffickers and the brokerage fails, you can rest easy so long as it registered with the SIPC.

In the above scenario, if your brokerage account had $500,000 in securities and $50,000 in cash, you wouldn’t be fully covered because the total value in the account exceeds the SICP’s $500,000 limit.

For the purposes of the SIPC’s insurance plan, covered securities include:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Treasury securities
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Mutual funds
  • Money market mutual funds

Some notable investments that SIPC does not cover are:

  • Any investments in foreign currencies
  • Commodity futures (an agreement to buy or sell a certain commodity, such as gold or frozen orange juice, at a specific time and price in the future).

What types of losses are not covered by the SIPC?

SIPC insurance only makes you whole if your brokerage goes out of business. It does not cover losses that stem from the regular ups and downs of markets, which are part of the normal risks and rewards of investing. SIPC insurance won’t help you if your wealth manager makes terrible investment decisions, or if the account underperforms.

Unlike the FDIC, which promises to replace every last penny you lose in an insured account should the bank go under up to its $250,000 per account limit, SIPC insurance doesn’t take into account the value of investments when you purchased them. It only reimburses you for the market value of the investments when the brokerage went under — plus the full value of cash accounts up to the $250,000 cap.

So, if you bought 100 shares of Pets.com at $11 a share in February 2000 but your brokerage firm went under in November 2000 when Pets.com was trading at $0.19 a share, guess what? SPIC insurance is only obligated to return 100 shares at the price the stock currently trades for.

How does SIPC insurance compare to FDIC insurance?

 

SIPC

FDIC

What does it cover?

Securities and cash related to the purchasing and trading of those securities in an account with an SIPC-registered broker

Deposit accounts of an FDIC bank or financial institutions, such as a checking account, savings account, money market account, etc.

What are the limits of coverage?

$500,000 per account (per separate capacity*), with up to $250,000 for cash

$250,000 per account (per ownership capacity/account type)

Does the insurance require customers to opt in?

No

No

*See the section below for a more detailed explanation of “separate capacity.”

What if I have multiple accounts with the same brokerage?

The issue of multiple accounts with the same broker can quickly become confusing. We can’t stress enough that you should consult directly with your brokerage firm or financial institution about how SIPC insurance covers multiple, separate accounts with the same broker.

In general, the SIPC provides you with the maximum amount of coverage for each separate account you have, as long as those accounts are classified as a different type, what is officially termed as “separate capacity.”

Here are some examples of what the SIPC considers a “separate capacity,” which you may recognize as different account types:

  • Individual accounts
  • Joint accounts
  • Corporate accounts
  • Trust accounts created under state law
  • Individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
  • Roth IRAs
  • Accounts held by executors for estates
  • Account held by guardians for a ward or minor

To help clarify this important point, here are a few scenarios where you might have multiple accounts at the same brokerage with SIPC coverage:

  • You have one individual account open in your name: No surprises here, your account is covered up to $500,000.
  • You have two individual accounts open in your name: Because an individual account is one type of “separate capacity,” your $500,000 worth of coverage is spread across both accounts.
  • You have a traditional IRA account and a Roth IRA account: Each of these accounts is treated as a separate capacity, and so each receives the full $500,000 amount of coverage.

The bottom line on SIPC insurance

Just as investing is inherently more risky than putting your money in a deposit account at the bank, the SIPC insurance doesn’t offer the same iron-clad guarantee that the FDIC provides. While SIPC insurance will make sure you get your securities back should your brokerage firm fail, it isn’t concerned with replacing the value of those securities and protecting you from the fluctuations of the stock market.

That said, it still plays an important role in protecting you from a spectacular failure on your broker’s part. Imagine if you lost your shares in Apple or Amazon before its meteoric rise, and the value of SIPC insurance becomes apparent.

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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The Best Robo-Advisors of 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

If you’re new to the world of investing in stocks and bonds, knowing where to begin can be an intimidating prospect. Robo-advisors could be the best choice to start your investing journey. They make putting money in the market simple and intuitive utilizing smartphone apps and sophisticated computer algorithms.

Robo-advisors invest your money in diversified portfolios of stocks and bonds that are customized to your needs. Since computers do the work, they are able to charge much lower fees than traditional wealth advisors.

They begin the process with a questionnaire to assess your financial goals and your risk tolerance. Based on your answers, robo-advisors purchase low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for you and adjust the portfolio — or rebalance, as they say on Wall Street — on a regular basis, with no further intervention required from you.

To match your risk tolerance, robo-advisors offer more aggressive portfolios containing a greater percentage of stock ETFs, or more conservative ones containing a greater percentage of bond ETFs. The robo-advisor will also consider your age in developing your portfolio.

How we chose the best robo-advisors

We regularly review the latest robo-advisor offerings — we’ve evaluated 19 different ones in this round — and have selected our top choices. All of the robo-advisors on this list may well be worth considering, with those at the top scoring the best in our methodology.

To determine our list of the best robo-advisors, we focused on management fees and account minimums, and also considered ease of use and customer support.

The top 7 robo-advisors of May 2019

Robo-advisorAnnual Management FeeAverage Expense Ratio (moderate risk portfolio)Account Minimum to Start
Wealthfront0.25%0.09%$500
Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios0.00%0.14%$5,000
Betterment0.25% (up to $100,000), 0.40% (over $100,000)0.11%$0
SoFi Automated Investing0.00%0.08%$1
SigFig0.00% (up to $10,000), 0.25% (over $10,000)0.15%$2,000
WiseBanyan0.00%0.12%$1
Acorns$12/yr0.03%-0.15%$5

Wealthfront — Low fees, high APR for cash account

Wealthfront
Wealthfront’s stand-out features are its low annual cost and free financial planning tools. The 0.25% management fee and 0.09% average ETF expense ratio adds up to one of the lowest annual costs on this list. In addition, Wealthfront includes a cash management account with an attractive 2.29% APY.

Wealthfront continues to steal share in wealth management as customers fed up with high fees leave traditional brokerages and wealth advisors. Human interaction is intentionally minimal at Wealthfront: This could be a benefit to those who want to be left alone, or a drawback for those who would prefer personal attention or who have complicated tax situations.

Wealthfront’s key attributes:

  • Fees: Management fee of 0.25%, plus 0.09% avg ETF expense ratio
  • Minimum starting deposit: $500
  • Investing strategy: Wealthfront invests your money in one of 20 different automated portfolios. Each portfolio is a different mix of 11 low-cost ETFs, which are rated with risk scores from 0.5 (least risk) to 10.0 (most risk).
  • Average annual return over the past five years: 5.40% per year, based on Wealthfront’s mid-level 5.0 risk score.
  • Other notable features: Tax-loss harvesting (see below for a full explanation of tax-loss harvesting) comes standard, also includes an FDIC-insured cash management account yielding 2.29% APY.

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Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios — Brand-name brokerage

Charles Schwab
Intelligent Portfolios can be a smart choice, but do not be misled by the 0% management fees — investing with this robo-advisor still comes at a cost. Intelligent Portfolios requires users to hold 6% to 30% of deposited funds in cash at a 0.70% APY, which will eat into overall returns in years where the market returns above 0.7%. This is on top of an average 0.14% expense ratio for a moderate portfolio. The $5,000 minimum deposit to open an account may also be too high a bar for investors just starting out.

That said, Intelligent Portfolios has an exceptionally detailed description of their ETF selection methodology, and a major brokerage like Schwab can be a good launchpad for folks who anticipate getting deeper into investing. Intelligent Portfolios users get access to Charles Schwab’s 300 U.S. branch locations where you can talk to advisors and handle administrative tasks in person.

Key attributes of Intelligent Portfolios:

  • Fees: Zero management fee, but customers must hold 6% to 30% of their portfolio in cash at 0.7% APR, plus 0.14% avg ETF expense ratio.
  • Minimum starting deposit: $5,000
  • Investing strategy: Schwab invests your money in a custom portfolio with two main components: ETFs representing up to 20 different asset classes, including stocks and bonds; and cash, in the form of a FDIC-insured cash sweep program earning 0.7% APY. Cash must be between 6% and 30% of the portfolio.
  • Average annual return from 3/31/2015 to 12/31/2018: 3.1% per year for medium-risk portfolio
  • Other notable features: Tax loss harvesting available for accounts over $50K, includes access to in-person assistance at over 300 U.S. branch locations.

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Betterment — Low fees for balances under $100K

Betterment
Betterment offers a full suite of robo-advisor features at low cost with no minimum deposit. The annual management fee for accounts under $100,000 is 0.25%, plus an average 0.11% expense ratio. Unfortunately, accounts over $100,000 will see the annual management fee jump to 0.40%. One advantage Betterment gives to accounts above the $100,000 threshold is that they can actively manage some assets. If active management is your goal, though, you can avoid Betterment’s 0.40% fee by opening a free brokerage account — so if you are managing more than $100,000, you may want to consider a different robo-advisor.

Betterment’s key attributes:

  • Fees: If total balance is less than $100,000, the annual management fee is 0.25% of assets; for balances over $100,000, management fee rises to 0.40% of assets. The average ETF expense ratio is 0.11% (for a 70% stock and 30% bond portfolio).
  • Minimum starting deposit: $0
  • Investing strategy: Betterment invests your money in an automated portfolio comprised of stock and bond ETFs in 12 different asset classes.
  • Average annual return over five years: 6.2% per year on a 50% equity portfolio (July 2013 to July 2018).
  • Other notable features: Tax-loss harvesting comes standard; active management features for clients with $100,000+ balance; several premium portfolios available.

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SoFi Automated Investing — Low costs, great perks

SoFi
SoFi Automated Investing’s 0.00% management fee and ultra-low 0.08% average expense ratio makes it one of the most competitively-priced robo-advisors in the market. Valuable perks come with opening a SoFi account, including free access to SoFi financial advisors, free career counseling and discounts on loans.

Automated Investing’s main downside is that their portfolios are less customizable than its peers’, with only five different risk levels to choose from, as opposed to at least 10 available from others. SoFi does not offer tax loss harvesting yet, though this may change in the near future.

SoFi Automated Investing’s key attributes:

  • Fees: Zero management fee, plus 0.08% avg expense ratio.
  • Minimum starting deposit: $1
  • Investing strategy: All SoFi Automated Investing portfolios are actively managed. This means that real humans at SoFi decide the makeup of the five model portfolios, which they believe will add value beyond what passive investing offers. SoFi invests your money in one of five portfolios of low-cost ETFs, covering 16 different asset classes. Each of the five portfolios has two versions: one is for taxable accounts and the other for tax-deferred or tax-free accounts, like IRAs and Roth IRAs. SoFi only rebalances portfolios monthly, versus some peers which check for this opportunity daily.
  • Average annual return over five years: 6.78% per year on the moderate risk portfolio (60% stocks / 40% bonds).
  • Other notable features: Commission-free stock trades in separate Active Investing accounts. SoFi’s combined checking/savings product, SoFi Money, offers 2.25% APY on deposits. Customers must open this account separately.

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SigFig — Free access to advisors

SigFig
Free access to financial advisors by phone and 0.00% management fees on the first $10,000 deposited are SigFig’s biggest strong points. On deposits over $10,000, management fees rise to 0.25%. Expense ratios are on the high side compared to the competition, at an average of 0.15%.

One of SigFig’s peculiarities is that they do not hold your assets. If you open a new account, SigFig will open an account at TD Ameritrade for you and then manage it. Current TD Ameritrade, Fidelity and Charles Schwab customers can also use SigFig’s robo-advisor services.

The $2,000 minimum deposit may put SigFig out of reach for some, but SigFig is worth a look for investors looking to keep robo-advisor costs low.

SigFig’s key attributes:

  • Fees: Zero annual management fee for the first $10,000; management fee rises to 0.25% of assets on balances over $10,000. Average ETF expense ratio of 0.15%, depending on allocation.
  • Minimum starting deposit: $2,000
  • Investing strategy: SigFig invests your money in an automated portfolio based on how you indicate you want to invest. Each portfolio is made of ETFs from Vanguard, iShares and Schwab, comprising stocks and bonds in nine different asset classes. The specific ETFs SigFig invests in will vary based on whether your account is held at TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, or Schwab.
  • Average annual return over five years: 5.45% per year for moderate portfolio (as of 4/24/2019)
    Other notable features: SigFig has a free portfolio tracker that allows investors to track their entire portfolio’s performance across multiple brokers.

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WiseBanyan — No-frills choice for beginners

WiseBanyan
A 0.00% management fee for core robo-advisor functionality makes WiseBanyan a good choice for beginning investors who can get by with a no-frills offering. Make sure to notice that they still charge a 0.12% average ETF expense ratio, so it is not completely free.

WiseBanyan charges premiums for features that come standard with other robo-advisors, including tax loss harvesting (0.24% of assets up to $20/month max), expanded investment options ($3/month) and auto-deposit ($2/month). If you care about these other features, do the math based on your own portfolio size to compare WiseBanyan to its peers.

WiseBanyan’s key attributes:

  • Fees: Zero management fee, plus average ETF expense ratio of 0.12%. Premium features carry additional fees and higher expense ratios.
  • Minimum starting deposit: $1
  • How WiseBanyan invests your money: For basic Core Portfolio users, portfolios comprise ETFs across nine asset classes, with an average expense ratio of 0.03% to 0.69%. If you upgrade to the Portfolio Plus Package, you gain access to 31 total asset classes with exposure to ETFs tracking oil and gas, precious metals and other industries, with an average expense ratio of 0.03% to 0.75%.
  • Average annual return over five years: Not provided
  • Other notable features: Premium offerings, including tax loss harvesting (0.24% /month up to $20/month max), Fast Money auto-deposit ($2/month) and Portfolio Plus ($3/month).

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Acorns — Unique savings functionality

Acorns
By rounding up the spare change from your transactions and placing it into an investment account, Acorns provides a clever way to get started with investing. The main drawback is that, until you have more than $4,800 deposited in an Acorns Core account, the $1/month fee will actually be proportionally higher than the 0.25% management fees that most competitors charge.

Acorns does not offer tax loss harvesting, joint accounts, or access to financial advisors currently. Still, if you’re looking for an easy way to start investing, give Acorns a shot.

Key attributes of Acorns:

  • Fees: $1/month for Acorns Core, plus ETF expense ratios ranging from 0.03% to 0.15%
  • Minimum starting deposit: $5
  • How Acorns invests your money: Acorns invests your money in one of five automated portfolios— notably, this is a more limited number of portfolios than some other competitors. Each portfolio comprises ETFs across seven asset classes.
  • Average annual return over past five years: Not provided
  • Other notable features: Offers two add-on accounts for expanded functionality with Acorns Later retirement product ($2/month) and Acorns Spend checking account ($3/month).

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What is a robo-advisor?

A robo-advisor is a service that uses computer algorithms to invest customers’ money in portfolios customized to their needs. Since robo-advisors create these portfolios using automated algorithms, they can charge a fraction of what human advisors do and still offer advanced benefits like auto-rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting to boost overall returns. Most robo-advisors start with a questionnaire to assess your financial goals, risk tolerance and assets. Based on the answers, the robo-advisor allocates your investments accordingly.

How do I choose the right robo-advisor?

When considering which robo-advisor to choose, you should focus on management fees, minimum balances, ease of use and customer support. The lower the fees, the more money stays in your account. The top robo-advisors typically charge a flat management fee of 0.00% to 0.50% of your deposited balance. In addition, you pay an expense ratio to cover the fees charged by the companies offering the ETFs that comprise your investment portfolio. Note that some robo-advisors claim to offer zero management fees, but still charge an expense ratio.

Make sure you are comfortable leaving your deposits with a robo-advisor for the medium to long term — think five to eight years. There are a number of robo-advisors with $0 account minimums and most are under $5,000 today.

How do I open a robo-advisor account?

Most robo-advisors can have you up and running with an account in a few minutes. Typically you create a username, fill out a questionnaire to assess your financial goals and risk tolerance and connect your profile to a bank account. There may be some additional steps required for verification depending on the robo-advisor.

What other features should I consider?

Robo-advisors offer a host of additional features, including tax loss harvesting, cash management options, checking accounts and rewards programs. Cash management can provide a meaningful compliment for users who keep some of their portfolio in cash. Some robo-advisors offer an APY of more than 2.00% on cash management accounts. Tax loss harvesting can make a difference for users looking to lower tax exposure.

What is tax loss harvesting?

Tax loss harvesting is a tax strategy that some robo-advisors offer to help clients reduce their tax bill. Generally, this involves selling an asset that has lost value for a loss, using that loss to offset capital gains taxes or income taxes, then purchasing a similar but not “substantially identical” asset to maintain exposure to the asset class. The details behind each robo-advisor’s strategy can get complicated and should be looked at in detail to make sure you understand what you are getting into.

Capital losses from tax loss harvesting can be used to offset capital gains and can potentially offset up to $3,000 (or $1,500 if married and filing separately) of ordinary income.

What if my robo-advisor goes out of business?

While not a pleasant thought, it is possible that a robo-advisor could go out of business. Most robo-advisors insure clients’ assets through the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). This is different from the bank account coverage provided by the FDIC; generally, SIPC coverage includes up to $500,000 in protection per separate account type, with up to $250,000 of cash assets protected.

Keep in mind that the SIPC will take necessary steps to return securities and account holdings to impacted clients, but will not protect against any rise or fall in value of those holdings. This means that if you make a bad investment in a stock, the SIPC ensures you still own that bad stock, but do not replace losses from a poor investment. Some brokers also insure assets beyond the $500,000 in SIPC coverage through “excess of SIPC” insurance.

See the full list of SIPC members at their site, along with a detailed explanation of how SIPC coverage works.

The bottom line

Robo-advisors can be an excellent option for users who are starting their investing journeys, rolling over a 401(k) or who want to minimize the time needed to manage their investments. By creating a customized portfolio based on your financial goals and automatically rebalancing your account, a robo-advisor can help to maximize your return while taking on the right amount of risk.

Because robo-advisors run off of automated algorithms, you should be comfortable with little or no human touch for your investments. The upshot to low human interaction is that fees are generally much lower than with a registered investment advisor, which may be worth the tradeoff as part of an overall financial plan.

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.

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Joshua Rowe |

Joshua Rowe is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Joshua here

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