You’d like to be a confident investor, but you’re overwhelmed. And why wouldn’t you be? In a given year, you see thousands of advertisements, all promising the best way to invest. And if you go it alone, you have to choose among tens of thousands of investment funds.
I’m skeptical of studies that suggest Millennials are scared of the stock market. But I do believe it intimidates us. In robo-advisors, technology may have found the answer.
The best robo-advisors offer an affordable alternative to picking stocks or mutual funds on your own or shelling over a lot of money to a wealth manager to invest your money for you. They’re a responsible way to take hold of your financial situation without needing to understand the ins and outs of stocks, bonds, ETFs, and more.
What is a robo-advisor?
A robo-advisor is a diversified investment account that is automatically managed by a computer algorithm (as opposed to a human money manager).
To an investor, how robo-advisors work is actually quite simple:
You choose a goal and how much to invest.
An algorithm chooses the right asset allocation to get you there using a collection of low-cost mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
The computers keep your portfolio balanced automatically over time and whenever you invest more money.
For this service, the robo-advisors collect a modest fee that’s between a quarter and half of what you’d pay to an individual wealth manager.
So how do you choose the best robo-advisor account for you?
We’ve narrowed the list of investment accounts providing robo-investing to three that I feel are the best automatically managed investment accounts for young investors because of their combination of low minimum investments and low fees on small portfolios. At the end, I’ve included a few others worth watching, or that may be attractive to investors with larger amounts to invest.
The best robo-advisors for new investors compared
Here at Money Under 30, we frequently herald the benefits of starting to invest as soon as you can, even in amounts as little as $50.
Traditionally, however, investing has been a losing proposition until you’ve amassed a few thousand dollars, simply because trading and minimum balance fees would eat any potential gains on smaller amounts. And then there was the fact that many mutual funds wouldn’t even accept customers with less than $2,000 or $3,000 to invest.
Some automatically-managed investment accounts are changing that by offering low minimums and low (or even non-existent) fees on small portfolios. Here we compare seven such accounts: Wealthfront, Betterment, Acorns, Personal Capital, Ally Invest Managed Portfolios, FutureAdvisor and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services.
Wealthfront isn’t just one of the largest robo-advisors in the U.S., it also tops our list of best robo-advisors for new investors along with Betterment (reviewed next).
The reason is simple: Wealthfront doesn’t charge management fees on balances under $10,000.
Many robo-investing competitors charge fees that can be especially burdensome to new investors with small balances.
Wealthfront requires a $500 minimum investment and its fee is 0.25 percent fixed a year on portfolios over $10,000—one of the more quite competitive fees. Betterment, however, undercuts Wealthfront’s pricing for investors with balances above $100,000 at just 0.15 percent a year.
Investing doesn’t get easier than Betterment.