Investing in stocks can be an overwhelming experience, especially for beginners. It’s a key reason why less than 30% of Millennials are investing and it’s costing those who don’t dearly. There are over 2800 stocks on NYSE and about 3,300 on NASDAQ, not to mention a wide variety of low-cost funds. The fear that beginners won’t be able to understand the market well enough and find some of the hidden gems that the market has to drive them to financial advisors, which is a costly way to invest, especially if the returns don't justify the cost.
But in 2008, the investment market was revolutionized by the introduction of the first robo-advisor. It only took a majority of retail investors about a decade to start trusting robo-advisors and opt for this low-cost alternative to the professional financial advisory. Nowadays, the best robo-advisors are so much more than rudimentary computer algorithms that reduce financial advice costs.
There is a lot of variety when it comes to robo-advisory platforms. Some robo-advisors come with the option to self-direct trades, while others with pre-made portfolios that they adjust for an individual’s investment goals and risk appetite. Before you choose a robo-advisor that's the best fit for you, here are a few crucial factors to consider:
Unifimoney is a full-service digital bank that comes with an auto-investment feature and a powerful robo-advisor. Even though this app's investment platform also allows self-directed investment, and you can control what assets go into your portfolio (including cryptocurrencies and precious metals – it's one of the few platforms that allows these alternative investments), it's highly recommended to use the AI-backed robo-advisor.
Unifimoney has partnered with Quantel AI and offers three tiers of Tenjin AI robo-advisors:
1. Tenjin AI Basic: 0.15% of AUM fee,annual rebalancing, smart ETF portfolio with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) equivalents.
2.Tenjin AI Advanced: 0.3% of AUM fee, quarterly rebalancing, uses the proprietary market crash index and ETF-based portfolios (with ESG equivalents).
3. Tenjin AI Pro: 1% of AUM fee, monthly rebalancing, uses the property market crash index, and creates a stock-based portfolio to maximize returns.
The proprietary market crash index is a major discerning feature that allows Unifimoney'srobo-advisor to liquidate part of your investment portfolio before the market crashes and buys back when it begins to stabilize (at a relatively attractive valuation). This maximizes returns compared to other robo-advisors and more than makes up for its lack of tax-harvesting feature. The following returns are a testament to the performance power of Unifimoney, as they cover a period that includes one of the worst market crashes of this decade.
Wealthfront is one of the earlybirds in the robo-advisory marketplace. It was launched in 2008 and has now included banking and lending products to the mix.It's considered one of the best robo-advisors currently available in the market by a wide range of critics, praised for its 0.25% fee (considered low compared to the broad market), goal-based investing, and tax-loss harvesting features. It also focuses on low-cost funds to keep the cost of investing to a minimum. It includes 11 different asset classes that your portfolio is built upon, including corporate and municipal bonds, real estate, and natural resources companies (ETFs). Wealthfront's past three-year average returns are 7.2% and 7.6% on taxable portfolios and tax-advantaged portfolios, respectively.
Betterment launched the first robo-advisor in 2008 and is still considered one of the giants in the industry. It's perfect for beginner investors and offers a straightforward account set up. It offers two tiers (affecting other services as well, not just investing), one at 0.25% the AUM and the other 0.4%. The portfolio it creates based on your investment goals typically comprises 12 ETFs (six stocks, six bonds). According to a source, Betterment's average returns for the past three years have been 4.5%. This is significantly lower if we compare its 2009 to 2018 returns of 214% (for an 80%-based investment portfolio). This indicates weaker returns during turbulent markets. Betterment also offers a checking and savings account.
SoFi started out as a lending platform and added a robo-advisor in 2019. Its most prominent feature is a no-fee advisor. It also offers automatic rebalancing, goal-based investing, crypto-currencies, and fractional investing. You can also direct commission-free trades yourself. SoFi also offers a wide range of products (both banking and lending) and is perfect for students and professionals that are just starting their careers.
M1 is another no-fee "robo-advisor," ideally suited for sophisticated investors with adequate know-how of the market and investment assets. The app offers over 80 pre-made investment portfolios that investors can choose from and tweak/personalize based on their investment goals. It's less of a robo-advisor (since it doesn't create a portfolio for you) and more of a portfolio management platform that allows you to self-direct investments, create and manage your portfolio. You can upgrade to M1 Plus (for $125/year), which comes with 1% APY on your checking account balance and a wealth of other discounts and features. It also offers portfolio-backed loans at a low rate.
Wealthsimple is a Canada-based robo-advisor that is costly for smaller investment portfolios, i.e., for a 0.5% fee for portfolios under $100,000. For portfolios above it, the fee is 0.4%. With that, you get dividend reinvesting, auto-rebalancing, expert financial advice, and powerful socially responsible investing. It offers five different portfolio structures, including a "Halal" one for Muslim investors, and typical portfolios are made up of eight to ten ETFs. You can also invest in crypto. Average returns for the last three years for conservative, balanced, and growth portfolios have been (net of fees) 4.5%, 4.5%, and 4.6%.
The interactive advisor is ideal for day traders that execute a significant number of trades every day. You can buy stocks, ETFs, bonds, and even options, and the system is updated regularly to add all the deals available at any given time, allowing you to execute your trades more efficiently. It has a robo-advisor that creates a portfolio for you after answering a few questions. The fees vary from 0.08% to 1.5%, so the high-end fee is significantly higher than the market norms. You also have access to a wide range of portfolios to choose from, each with its own risk score.
Ellevest is an investment platform (with banking features), and robo-advisor created specifically for women and takes into account things like a gender-specific salary-curve, pay gaps, career breaks, and even the average lifespan for women (which is higher than men). There is a flat fee, which goes against you if you have a small investment portfolio but can be beneficial with larger portfolios. It doesn't allow you to invest in alternatives and rebalances your portfolio every year. You can't self-direct investments, and its portfolios are geared more towards the surety of returns instead of the magnitude. This means its asset choice and allocation isn't bold and offers less than generous returns.
The app Acorns was created to make saving and investing as "hands-off" and easy as possible. It rounds up change and invests it in investment portfolios created with the help of a Nobel Prize-winning economist. Acorns app is more of a micro-investing app where you control your portfolio than a robo-advisor that manages and tweaks your portfolio for you in order to maximize returns. The $1, $3, or $5 a month flat-fee doesn't seem like much, but for an app that focuses on micro-investing and typically has portfolios of small sizes, it can add up to a substantial amount making it expensive by comparison.
TD Ameritrade offers a robo-advisor or low-cost automated investment solutions by the name of Essential portfolios. It requires an account minimum of $500 and charges a 0.3% fee. It offers tax-harvesting and one of the longest lists of account types available with any robo-advisor. But the range of assets is limited, and it offers ETFs created by Morningstar.
Fidelity Go is the robo-advisor offered by the third-largest investment broker. It charges no fees for accounts with less than $10,000 in investment assets, a flat fee of $3/month for portfolios between $10,000 and $49,999, and 0.35% on more extensive portfolios. The portfolio is created from a basket of mutual funds created and managed by Fidelity and costs investors little to nothing. There is a range of seven portfolios, from more conservative to more aggressive to choose from. Each has its own mix of domestic, foreign stocks, bonds, and short-term assets.
There are a number of factors that will affect your choice of a robo-advisor that's the perfect fit for you, including the power of algorithms driving the robo-advisor. Understand that with investment, the law of high-risk and high-returns rule is most prominent. So it's a good idea to understand your risk appetite and the growth potential your low-risk strategies/picks might be costing you. Even with the most powerful robo-advisor, your portfolio can only grow so far if you decide to play it too safe.
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