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Find the Best Robo-Advisors

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by Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance Contributing Editor

Robo-advisors use software and algorithms to manage your finances. Our research team vetted 13 robo-advisors that have been rated by more than 839 consumers. Read our guide to choose the best robo-advisor for you by comparing account minimums, annual management fees and standout offerings.

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Our picks for top robo-advisor companies

We chose the robo-advisors below by comparing their financial advisory services, lending platforms, expense ratios, annual advisory fees and account minimums. To be considered, robo-advisors had to offer relevant services and provide transparent information about their investment programs on their websites.

All prices are correct as of the time of publishing.

Our pick for beginning investorsBetterment
  • Management fee: 0%, 0.25% or 0.4% per year
  • Minimum account balance: $0 or $100,000
  • Highlight: Offers socially responsible investment options

Betterment’s automated investment services are designed to align your investments with your goals. If you’re just starting to invest, Betterment can help you find a portfolio that’s coordinated with your financial goals. Its sign-up process is simple — just answer a few questions about your current financial profile and set up your investment goals to get started.

Betterment also offers socially responsible investment (SRI) opportunities that focus on positive environmental and social change. Once you’ve signed up for Betterment’s digital advisor services, you can access its checking and cash reserve services for free, making it a great option for consumers who want to keep track of their finances in as few places as possible.

For similar brokers, check out our best investment apps for beginners.

Our pick for no account minimumsFidelity Investments
  • Management fee: $0 for accounts under $10,000
  • Minimum account balance: None
  • Highlight: Simple online application

Fidelity Go is the robo-advisor branch of the better-known investment firm Fidelity. It’s a great option for investors that are eager to begin investing but don’t have a large amount of funds to dedicate to it. Fidelity Go primarily focuses on diversified mutual funds and lets you track your progress, update your preferences and even make deposits online.

Another reason Fidelity Go is a solid option for smaller investors is that it doesn’t charge advisory fees on accounts of less than $10,000. The management fee on accounts with between $10,000 and $49,999 is still relatively affordable at $3 per month, and accounts with $50,000 or more pay a percentage fee (0.35%).

Our pick for investors with a high net worthCharles Schwab & Co.
  • Management fee: None
  • Minimum account balance: $5,000
  • Highlight: Basic and premium versions available

Schwab Intelligent Portfolios combines robo-investing with help from actual humans. Its robo-investing service builds and maintains your investment portfolio, but the company also has 24/7 live support if you have any questions or concerns. Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium also gives you unlimited guidance from a certified financial planner (CFP).

Because it has a higher minimum account balance ($5,000), Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is a better option for more experienced investors or people with more to invest. Investment options focus on exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and there are no advisory fees or commissions unless you choose a premium account.

Charles Schwab also offers some of the top online broker services if you prefer to do your own trading.

Our pick for retirement investingWealthfront
  • Management fee: 0.25% per year
  • Minimum account balance: $500
  • Highlight: Tax-loss harvesting included

Saving for retirement can seem overwhelming, but Wealthfront’s suite of investment accounts can help. Wealthfront offers personalized portfolios that focus on low-cost index funds along with retirement accounts. It has a wide range of retirement account options, including traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs and simplified employee pension (SEP) IRAs.

Wealthfront has a 0.25% annual advisory fee and a $500 account minimum. However, it claims that its tax-loss harvesting generates savings of at least three times its advisory fee for most clients.

Our pick for low annual feesSoFi
  • Management fee: None
  • Minimum account balance: $1
  • Highlight: Rate discounts on other SoFi products
SoFi Logo Compare Offers on Personal Loan Pro

Like some of our other picks, SoFi’s automated investing process diversifies and rebalances your investments so you don’t have to. However, unlike some of our other picks, SoFi offers both lending and investing opportunities, including active and automated portfolios.

SoFi’s automated investing combines a low minimum investment ($1) with a lack of advisory fees, making it one of our most affordable picks.

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What is a robo-advisor?

A robo-advisor is an automated investing service that uses algorithms and computer software to manage your finances, recommend investments, invest your funds or manage your portfolio. Robo-advisors generally make investment decisions by combining your preferences with their own market research.

Think of robo-advisors as a cross between a do-it-yourself approach and hiring a human financial advisor. They're designed to provide you with low-fee investment management using research-supported investment strategies.

How do robo-advisors work?

Robo-advisors use computer software and algorithms to help invest your money. They can do this in a few different ways, including automatically investing and managing your portfolio on your behalf or recommending specific investments.

Robo-advisors typically start by assessing your financial goals based on the information you provide, like:

  • The goal for your funds (retirement, purchasing a home, paying for college, etc.)
  • How much you want to save
  • Your investment time frame

Robo-advisor costs vary depending on the investor you choose to work with, but they're usually more affordable than getting advice from a reputable human advisor. Like a traditional firm, robo-advisor firms usually charge a percentage-based annual advisory fee, but some may incorporate flat fees into their pricing. For more, read about how to choose the right advisor.

Robo-advisors vs. financial advisors

Robo-advisors are similar to human financial advisors: They both offer investment advice and help you manage your assets. However, working with a financial advisor may be a better option if you want a more personalized investment strategy.

Since robo-investing is rooted in algorithms and software, its capabilities can be limited, whereas working with a human advisor may offer more financial advice and opportunities.

Robo-advisor pros and cons

Robo-advisors offer investors who are less knowledgeable or less aggressive a way to passively invest their money without some of the hurdles that come with traditional financial advisors, like high costs and account minimums.

Robo-advisors typically have lower annual advisory costs than human financial advisors, and many established investment firms have even launched their own robo-advisor programs in the past ten years.

Risk is a major factor in determining what investment opportunities are right for you, and robo-advisors are designed to balance risk with profit potential and account for your personal risk tolerance. No investment is ever risk-free, though.

While robo-advisors are a great option for tech-savvy investors, they may not be the right choice if you value human interaction or want to take a hands-on approach to investing. Some robo-advisors offer a human service element, but most of them involve little to no human interaction.

Another potential disadvantage is that robo-advisor services aren’t as customizable. While many do offer personalized portfolios, they generally lack the versatility that comes with managing your own investments or hiring a human advisor.

Pros

  • Relatively affordable
  • Doesn’t require as much money
  • Diversified portfolio options

Cons

  • Requires basic tech skills
  • Not as customizable

Bottom line: Is a robo-advisor worth it?

Robo-advisors are a great option to consider if you’re looking to manage your money but you don’t have the time or experience to do it yourself. Robo-investing may be right for you if you are:

  • Short on time: Because robo-advisors handle your finances for you, they’re a great option if you don’t have time to keep up with the market and make trades on your own. This passive approach to investing appeals to many young professionals and new parents.
  • Just starting investing: Low-minimum and low-fee robo-advisors are a smart choice if you’re new to investing. They can help you set up and maintain your portfolio, and many firms let you actively manage your portfolio once you learn the ropes.
  • Planning for retirement: If you have retirement goals but aren’t sure where to start or how to meet them, robo-advising is a great way to learn more about investments and get your feet wet.

Whether a robo-advisor is right for you depends on your own goals and preferences, so consider your options and make the call for yourself.

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    by Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance Contributing Editor

    Barbara Friedberg, MBA, MS is a former investment portfolio manager with decades of financial experience. Friedberg taught Finance and Investments at several universities. Her work has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, Investopedia, Yahoo!Finance and many more publications.

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