Robo Advisors use virtually the same software as traditional human advisors, but they charge much less for the service. Back in the old days, you’ll need to consult an expensive financial advisor just to get your hands on portfolio management tools.
Not anymore. With Robo Advisors, you get direct access to your investment portfolios and you can choose either an automated or hands-on type of service. The best part is that most Robo Advisors charge very low fees compared to a human advisor.
All of these attributes have made Robo Advisors a popular choice among a younger set of investors, or what we like to call online-savvy investors. They are also gaining popularity on Wall Street, as more and more big name investors are using Robo Advisors to manage their investment accounts. Robo Advisors may be a great choice for you, too.
Best Robo Advisors for 2020
There is no one perfect robo advisor for everyone, so we’ve broken down this list here to let you know what the best robo advisors are for your situation:
Best free personal finance dashboard: Personal Capital
Best free robo advisor: M1 Finance
Best for new and beginner investors: Wealthfront
Best for those with under $10,000 to invest: Wealthsimple
Best for those with over $100,000 to invest: Titan Invest
Best for socially-responsible investing: M1 Finance
Best for Canadians: Wealthsimple
Best for paying off credit card debt: Tally Advisor
Best for optimizing your 401(k): Blooom
The 3 Characteristics of the Best Robo Advisors
As we said before, there is no single best Robo Advisor for every investor. Each individual investor has different needs, and not all can invest a large sum of cash. This means that each investor will require something different depending on their given circumstances. That’s the reason you need to understand the 3 fundamental characteristics of the best Robo Advisors:
- Fees and minimum deposits
- Account types and services
We dug deep into each of the top Robo Advisors in the market today, so we can give you an idea on which one will work best for your investment strategy. Here we’ll break down the different criteria we used to evaluate the best robo advisors for your needs:
Fees and Minimum Deposits
In general, Robo Advisor fees are between a third and a quarter of what a typical human advisor would charge for the same service. However, the fees will differ from one service to the next, and it is also important to understand the differences.
Most services charge annual management fees which are expressed as a percentage of the total account balance. Those fees differ greatly according to the best Robo Advisor in question, and often operate on a sliding scale, with the percentage decreasing as account balance increases. In some cases, balances up to a certain amount have no fee charged on them, with fees coming into action at perhaps $5,000 or $10,000 and higher.
The minimum deposit amount of Robo Advisors will also differ from one service to the next, and could be a big factor in deciding which is the best Robo Advisor for you. These account minimums can range anywhere from $0 to $50,000, and those differences obviously make some Robo Advisors more suitable for investors with larger amounts to invest, while some are better for those that need a lower minimum deposit.
In terms of flexibility, the best Robo Advisors can be split into three main categories. But which among them is best for you? The answer will depend entirely on what you want in a Robo Advisor. Let’s dig a little deeper:
The first category can be described as a fully-automated Robo Advisor. This is the simplest form of Robo Investing, and is the one feature that endeared new investors to try the service. After transferring the deposit, the rest is entirely handled by the Robo Advisor.
That would include automated rebalancing, dividend reinvestment and other features such as tax loss harvesting. This type of service is typically chosen by investors looking for an easy way to invest, or those who don’t want to make too many decisions about their portfolio.
The second category are Robo Advisors that provide a greater deal of control to investors. They do this by working with existing brokerage accounts, rather than requiring a complete transfer of funds. This service will manage the allocation, dividend reinvestment and the major elements of automated investing within the existing account, and allow the investor to leave their funds with a broker that they trust.
The third category takes the flexibility of Robo Advisors a step further. There are also a handful of Robo advisors that allow you to take a more hands-on approach. They offer certain tools that enable you to choose to invest in individual stocks. After which, you can also choose to leave it alone and allow full automation to handle your portfolio.
Examples include: Motif Investing
The final category of robo advisors we’re going to talk about here are a relatively new batch. As robo-investing has become more popular over the years, a few services have come about to challenge the bigger services by providing specialized services meant to complete one specific goal exceptionally, instead of a wider variety of investing goals. Here are a couple examples:
- Tally Advisor – This service takes your credit card debt and gives you the best possible way to pay it off as quickly and with as few fees as possible. They even offer low-interest loans to pay off your high-interest debt.
- Blooom – Very few existing robo advisors handle your 401(k) and other defined contribution plans. Blooom changes that by focusing only on those plans for one low, flat annual fee.
As more automated investing tools come onto the market, more specialized robo advisors will come about, giving you very specific, tailored plans to achieve your financial goals.
Account Types and Services
In assessing the best Robo Advisors, you need to know the types of accounts they offer, and how you can benefit from each account or service. For instance, some Robo Advisors only offer taxable accounts. Others have that same option along with Individual Retirement Account (IRA) options, and will also include Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Arrangement (SEP IRA) options, which both cater to different tax brackets and the specific financial circumstances of the investors involved.
The range of account services will differ significantly. The vast majority of Robo Advisors will offer general portfolio management advice, asset allocation and rebalancing services, but other tools may not be offered. Dividend reinvestment and tax loss harvesting are two good examples of features which are sometimes offered as standard, but sometimes only offered as costly extras (or sometimes, not offered at all).
When deciding which Robo Advisor to choose, finding out what tools and services they provide is just as crucial as researching the fees and the flexibility that they can give to each individual investor.
For a more detailed report on each service, check out our 2020 Robo Advisor reviews.
You can also read our 2020 Robo Advisor comparisons so you can get a more comprehensive look into the fees, deposit limits, flexibility, and account types and services of the best Robo Advisors online.