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Robo-advisors are an increasingly popular service for investors looking for a simple, approachable way to strategically manage their money. Robo-advisors use your personal financial circumstances, money goals and risk preferences to optimize and automate your investment plan and tasks, typically using algorithms. For many investors, robo-advisors are a more affordable and accessible alternative to traditional financial advisors.
MagnifyMoney compiled a list of the best robo-advisors with a focus on convenience and affordability. These selections offer lower fees than many other robo-advisors, and their minimum opening deposit requirements are generally much lower than platforms designed for high net worth individuals. Our choice for best overall robo-advisor is Betterment.
How much would you like to invest?
|Robo-advisor||Minimum opening deposit||Annual management fee||Access to human advisor|
|Betterment||$10||0.25% (0.40% for premium)||Yes, as part of premium services or for a separate cost|
|SigFig||$2,000||None up to $10,000; 0.25% for above $10,000||Yes, as part of premium services|
|Ally Invest||$100||None with cash managed portfolio, otherwise 0.30%||No|
|Schwab Intelligent Portfolios||$5,000||None||Yes, as part of premium services|
|Ellevest||$0||Three tiers of services with monthly / annual subscriptions||Yes, for a separate cost|
Minimum deposit: $0 for Digital, $100,000 for Premium
Annual management fee: 0.25% for Digital, 0.40% for Premium
Betterment is a well-established robo-advisor platform that provides two tiers of services to its customers. The Digital package has no minimum balance requirement and a lower management fee; meanwhile, the Premium package has a significant minimum balance requirement, but offers unlimited access to certified financial planners — a benefit that would otherwise come at an additional cost.
Among robo-advisors, Betterment is a strong choice for those who’d prefer to set their goals and passively manage their portfolios: Betterment automatically rebalances your portfolio, reinvests dividends and minimizes taxes with loss harvesting. There’s a solid degree of flexibility, as Betterment allows you to adjust your portfolio based on your time horizon and risk tolerance.
Account types offered:
Portfolio options: Betterment offers portfolios focused on exchange traded funds (ETFs), in addition to all-cash and all-bond options and flexible portfolios that allow you to adjust your asset allocation.
Bottom line: While Betterment’s management fee (0.25% for most customers) is about average for robo-advisors, it’s a quality option for investors looking to get started with their first robo-advisor.
Read our full Betterment review.
Minimum deposit: $500
Annual management fee: 0.25%
Setting goals is one of the most important parts of financial planning, and Wealthfront’s robo-advisor platform offers customers a considerable amount of detail in crafting their financial future. By detailing your goals around retirement planning, home ownership, college expenses or travel planning, Wealthfront will factor in plenty of data points to determine appropriate investing targets. Wealthfront also illustrates the trade-offs of certain goal-setting, saving and investment strategies.
Wealthfront automates its platform heavily, although there is the option to talk to a product specialist if you have technical questions. There are some standard features to their portfolio management, including tax-loss harvesting and the ability to customize portfolios manually. Unlike many other automated investing platforms, Wealthfront allows you to invest in cryptocurrency through unit investment trusts (UITs).
Account types offered:
Portfolio options: Wealthfront provides clients with recommended and customized portfolios based on customer preference — and it offers more types of asset classes than most other robo-advisors.
Bottom line: Even though most customers won’t use Wealthfront’s tools for high net worth individuals, it’s still a great platform for those who would like a comprehensive and complex view of their financial goals.
Read our full Wealthfront review.
Minimum deposit: $1
Annual management fee: None
SoFi is a financial institution that offers many forms of traditional banking services, including mortgages and other lending, but it’s not a bank or a credit union — it works by connecting members to those entities. Its SoFi Automated Investing platform is a free robo-advisor brokerage account.
That free management compensates for some of SoFi’s drawbacks — namely its lack of tax-loss harvesting and the relatively few recommended portfolios they offer. SoFi does offer free access to financial professionals, though. Members can also make custom trades, including early access initial public offering (IPO) purchases, through SoFi Active Investing.
Account types offered:
Portfolio options: SoFi measures risk tolerance and recommends one of five ETF-focused portfolio types accordingly.
Bottom line: Because of its low fees — the expense ratio on investments and taxes on dividends are the only costs to members — and relative simplicity, SoFi is a solid choice for newer investors.
Read our full SoFi review.
Minimum deposit: $2,000
Annual management fee: None up to $10,000; 0.25% on balances above $10,000
Unlike many other robo-advisors, SigFig actually holds its money with different brokerage firms, including TD Ameritrade, Fidelity and Charles Schwab. It’s a financial service that uses robo-advisor technology to help optimize the asset allocation strategy for your investment service, and it can aggregate information from existing accounts at those brokerages.
SigFig has no management fees for balances under $10,000, but there’s a relatively high minimum in order to get started with a new account: $2,000. Unlike many other robo-advisors, SigFig doesn’t offer a cash management account for funds that aren’t being invested.
Some other free services don’t offer access to financial advisors, but SigFig does — customers can schedule appointments to talk with one.
Account types offered:
Portfolio options: SigFig invests money in nine different asset classes and features ETFs from several brokerage firms, including those with which the money is invested.
Bottom line: If you already have money invested with TD Ameritrade, Fidelity or Charles Schwab, SigFig’s services are easy to incorporate into your investment strategy.
Minimum deposit: $100
Annual management fee: None with cash-enhanced portfolio, 0.30% with market-focused portfolio
Ally Bank has expanded into brokerage services, including a robo-advisor platform and some tools for self-directed investment. Ally incentivizes investors to hold a significant percentage of their assets (at least 30%) in a cash management account with the bank by giving them a 0.00% management fee; otherwise, the 0.30% management fee is fairly steep among robo-advisors. (It’s generally not advisable to hold that much in a cash management account long term unless you’re close to retirement.)
Portfolios are designed by human specialists, but they’re implemented automatically. Ally Invest works like most robo-advisors: Investors enter information about their goals and preferences, and the algorithms take care of the rest.
Account types offered:
Portfolio options: Ally features four types of portfolios — the core offering (with your choice of conservative to aggressive risk) and three additional portfolios specifically focused on income, taxes and socially responsible investments.
Bottom line: If you’d prefer to hold some of your assets in cash, Ally is a strong choice, offering no management fees for cash-managed portfolios.
Minimum deposit: $5,000
Annual management fee: None
Charles Schwab offers a range of financial services, including brokerage accounts, several kinds of investments and banking services. Their robo-advisor platform, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, has a high minimum deposit to open an account, but it also comes with no advisory fees or commissions on trades.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios actively manages investments and automatically rebalances them, but does not offer tax-loss harvesting on balances under $50,000.
Unless you subscribe to a premium version of this automated investing service, you won’t be able to contact one of Schwab’s financial planners. In order to join, you must have a balance of at least $25,000 and pay a one-time planning fee of $300 and a $30 monthly advisory fee.
Account types offered:
Portfolio options: There are three basic investment strategies: global, U.S. focused and income focused. Schwab Intelligent Portfolios chooses from among 51 ETFs for those portfolios.
Bottom line: Schwab’s many brokerage and investment services make their Intelligent Portfolios an appealing choice for investors who prefer a robo-advisor, but feel like they may eventually need more comprehensive services.
Minimum deposit: $0
Annual management fee: $12 for Essential (or $1 per month); $54 for Plus (or $5 per month); $97 for Executive (or $9 per month)
Ellevest is a unique financial services company: It’s marketed as being designed for women in particular, though there’s no gender restrictions to who can join. Those services are targeted to women at each stage of their financial journey.
There are three tiers of service at Ellevest, offering progressively more features to their customers. The most basic service — Ellevest Essential —- includes access to their robo-advisor services, but Ellevest Plus adds retirement planning and Ellevest Executive adds additional accounts for certain investment goals.
One-on-one sessions are offered at a fixed cost, but there are progressively higher levels of discounts for each type of membership, culminating at 50% off for Executive members. Different types of sessions come with different costs.
Account types offered:
Portfolio options: Ellevest has investment portfolio options, including Ellevest Core and Ellevest Impact, covering 21 different asset classes. In particular, Impact is geared toward socially responsible investing. Most portfolios are made up of ETFs.
Bottom line: In a space often dominated by men, Ellevest is a refreshing option as a robo-advisor geared toward women — plus, men and nonbinary people can benefit from their services as well.
MagnifyMoney reviewed several other robo-advisors that didn’t quite make our list, but still bear mention as alternatives to the automated investing platforms chosen above. Those robo-advisors are:
A robo-advisor is an entirely automated service that invests money, according to a customer’s unique financial circumstances — namely their risk tolerance and financial goals. Robo-advisors generally follow Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), which minimizes risk for expected returns; more conservative portfolios tend to have a higher percentage of bonds, while more aggressive portfolios tend to have a higher percentage of stocks.
One key appeal of robo-advisors is that customers don’t have to actively manage their investments. Instead, they’ll put in their preferences, and robo-advisors will do the rest, often adjusting portfolios by buying and selling assets to maintain the same investment strategy in a process called rebalancing. Another advantage is that robo-advisors tend to be cheaper than other types of financial planners, especially because the process is largely automated. Robo-advisors also allow investors to passively manage their investments: the platforms do most of the work for them.
Many robo-advisors charge management fees for their service, although some are free. Those fees are often charged as a percentage of assets under management. For example, Betterment has a 0.25% management fee; as such, the annual fee would be $25 for a portfolio of $10,000. For most robo-advisors, those fees are a fraction of a percentage point — Personal Capital’s management fees are on the high end at 0.89%.
When investing in an asset on the market, there’s generally an additional fee known as the expense ratio — this tracks how much of the value of the fund is tied to its administration and maintenance. Those expense ratios are passed on from a brokerage fund or a robo-advisor to the investor, and they’re also usually a fraction of a percentage point: For example, Betterment’s average expense ratio ranges from 0.07% to 0.15% depending on asset allocation.
Some robo-advisors also include minimum balance requirements in order to open an account. The $5,000 requirement from Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is the highest minimum for a robo-advisor selected as part of this list.
Most robo-advisors tend to offer roughly the same kinds of automated investing services, but it’s important to select one that fits your particular needs.
Much like choosing any financial service or investment advice, it’s important to consider several options and do your due diligence on researching them. Some common differentiators between investment advisors are management fees, whether they offer access to financial professionals and which kinds of funds and asset classes are offered on their platforms.
Robo-advisors were originally designed to help replace people who manage portfolios: Generally speaking, most investors have the same basic goals and needs, so automated services can fit all of their needs. But sometimes it helps to collaborate with a real person, and there are several types of advisors who help their clients manage their wealth.
If you’re looking for a registered financial advisor, MagnifyMoney can help you find one that can assist you in planning your financial path with more detail and nuance than most robo-advisors can provide.
You could of course decide to take matters into your own hands and choose your own investment strategies. There are numerous brokerage firms that offer accounts for buying and selling securities on the market — including newer mobile apps that allow investors to execute trades from their phones.
There’s always a degree of risk involved in market investments, but picking and choosing stocks can leave investors exposed to the vagaries of the market relative to the carefully curated asset allocation of robo-advisors. However, investors could choose to mimic the portfolios offered by robo-advisors, which generally include broad-index mutual funds, a certain percentage of various bonds and some international investments.
MagnifyMoney evaluated several robo-advisors to compile a list of the best overall robo-advisors. While we’ve noted particular strengths and weaknesses for each platform, they’re judged on the entire suite of services they offer, especially costs to investors and the minimum required deposit to start an account.
MagnifyMoney assessed annual management fees, expense ratios for moderate risk portfolios and other metrics that gauge the comparative costs of robo-advisors, choosing accounts with reasonable costs and fees. In order to provide a list of robo-advisors that are broadly accessible to most investors, MagnifyMoney considered only those with a minimum of at most $10,000 to open an account.
Robo-advisors are a cost effective approach to investing: They’re cheaper than most financial professionals and can help guide those who are new to the world of investing or have standard financial goals.
Robo-advisors generally ask you some questions about your goals as an investor and your preferred investment style, then invest accordingly. An algorithm helps determine which investing approaches should be taken and executes trades that would benefit the investor. In many cases, human advisors are also available for investors using robo-advisors.
Robo-advisor performance relative to the market depends on which stock indexes are used as a frame of reference and what kind of risk mitigation approach is chosen by the investor. Some robo-advisors publish detailed information on the returns their portfolios have had over the years.
Yes, robo-advisors can help ensure that your investments are tailored to maximizing return within your risk tolerance. While there are some costs associated with robo-advisors, they’re a valuable service when it comes to structuring your investment portfolio.
The “Find a Financial Advisor” links contained in this article will direct you to webpages devoted to MagnifyMoney Advisor (“MMA”). After completing a brief questionnaire, you will be matched with certain financial advisers who participate in MMA’s referral program, which may or may not include the investment advisers discussed.