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Ellevest Review

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Ellevest

With its tagline, “Invest Like a Woman,” Ellevest brings something new to the robo-advisor community: a focus on female investors. This robo-advisor is dedicated to helping women invest by considering gender-specific financial differences. It recognizes that career breaks and the gender pay gap affect how women earn and invest. It also takes into account that women are more interested in reaching a particular goal, say, saving for a down payment on a house, than generally maximizing returns.

So is Ellevest's female focus real or just marketing with lots of photos of women? The advisory is co-founded by Wall Street vet Sallie Krawcheck. Since her days of being CEO of Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, she has emerged as a leading advocate for female financial empowerment. Ellevest is her brainchild, and she seems to have made the female factor an actual denominator at the robo-advisor. The techical differences in its algorithm are explained in unusually clear language in a white paper available on its site. 

Best for

Women who have never invested before; customers who want a goal-based investing focus; investors who want flexibility in goals and timelines

Drawbacks

This robo-advisor does not offer tax-loss harvesting; while its fee rate for its digital program is in line with competitor's fees, its premium option is more expensive

Pricing: How Much Does Ellevest Cost?

Option Name Management Fee Minimum Balance Features
Ellevest 0.25% - 0.50% $0 - $50,000 Comes with a goal-based investment plan, free emergency fund, automatic portfolio rebalancing

Ellevest

Management Fee
0.25% - 0.50%
Minimum Balance
$0 - $50,000
Features
Comes with a goal-based investment plan, free emergency fund, automatic portfolio rebalancing

Ellevest offers three different programs, each of which carries a different annual fee and minimum balance requirement. The company's Digital program requires a zero minimum balance and bears an annual fee of 0.25%. Ellevest's Premium option calls for a minimum balance of $50,000 and a 0.50% fee. The Private Wealth Management program requires a minimum balance of $1 million, and fees vary, depending on the amount of assets under management. 

The annual management fees for these programs do not include the underlying fees of the exchanged-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds that the robo-advisor invests in. These underlying fees or expense ratios range from 0.60% to 0.16% a year. Ellevest management fees are taken from your investment account. If there isn’t enough cash in the account, Ellevest sells securities to make up the difference.

There are no transfer or withdrawal fees. The company also offers free management of an emergency fund. This account isn’t invested in the market, but it does earn a very low interest rate.

The only other fee to be aware of is if you decide to transfer an IRA to another custodian. In this case, you will be initially charged a $100 transfer-out fee by FOLIOfn Investments, Inc. (Folio), which is the custodian and broker-dealer for Ellevest. However, Ellevest will reimburse that fee.  

Ellevest's Investing Strategy

Ellevest prides itself on offering personalized and diversified investment portfolios. As noted earlier, its algorithm is geared toward maximizing the likelihood of reaching a specific goal, rather than maximizing returns. What this means is that it solves for timeframes of varying length and vets for low-cost and more liquid ETFs, its primary investment vehicle.

The goal options are: buying a home, starting a business, saving to have a child, retirement, a major splurge and building wealth. For each goal, Ellevest customizes the target amount to the client. For example, if you want to buy a home, it will use the average price of a home in your zip code and calculate a 20% down payment. It then builds your portfolio based on your timeline.

Additionally, Ellevest offers impact portfolios, which give clients the option to invest up to half of their porfolios in companies that are making positive social impacts by putting women in leadership positions or upholding high standards for sustainability practices.

Ellevest Homepage

The company diversifies portfolios using 21 different asset classes. These include various stocks, bonds and real estate. Diversification means investing in different assets that react differently to events, which minimizes your losses if one specific asset class does poorly.

Your portfolio automatically rebalances if it drifts too far away from your ideal portfolio. The value of your investments may change over time and rebalancing helps you stay on track. Once you are close to accomplishing a goal, Ellevest automatically rebalances the portfolio to invest in low-risk assets. This helps reach your goal.

Supported Accounts

  • 401(k) Rollover
  • Taxable Brokerage Account
  • IRA
  • Roth IRA

Unsupported Accounts

  • Trust
  • 529
  • 403(b)

Key Features

When compared to other robo-advisors, this one has a larger selection of ETFs. This helps it prioritize its goal of making diverse investment portfolios that are most helpful for you. These asset classes were chosen for their low costs and market projections.

Ellevest Dashboard

The company's portfolios aim to increase the money going into your pocket and minimize the investment risk. It suggests portfolios that help reach your goals 70% of the time. This is a higher bar than what other robo-advisors and traditional firms use. 

It determines this by looking at the market projections of different investments and build your portfolio based off them. This ensures that each asset class behaves differently in various market conditions – this prevents your entire portfolio from tanking if the market behaves a certain way.

In addition to these investing features, Ellevest also offers unlimited access to its concierge team, which can answer questions over the phone or by text or email. If users upgrade to Ellevest Premium, they can get one-on-one guidance from certified finacial planners (CFPs). Another feature offered to Ellevest Premium clients is executive coaching with the Ellevest career team, which includes help with negotiating a raise, switching industries and acing an interview.

Who Ellevest Is For

Although anyone can use this robo-advisor, it’s specifically targeted to women. When giving advice, the company considers the financial issues that specifically affect women: career breaks, the gender pay gap and a longer lifespan. Investment plans take these aspects into account. They're also goal-oriented.

If you’re a woman who is new to the investing world, Ellevest gives you the advice you need. With no minimum balance, you can invest as little as you want. You can begin to invest toward goals like a house or retirement. As you learn more about the investing world, the robo-advisor's flexibility helps you alter your goals to fit your needs.

Ellevest also offers investment management provided by human advisors. This is their Private Wealth option. But you need a minimum $1 million dollars. If you have less to invest (say, $25,000 or more) but want a human advisor, use SmartAsset's financial advisor matching tool. It'll connect you with up to three advisors in your area based on your needs. 

Available Features

Unavailable Features

  • Direct Indexing
  • Tax-Loss Harvesting

How Ellevest Works

The start process is quick and easy. In fact, Ellevest claims that you can “start investing in 15 minutes.” The mobile app is for iOS only, so many will need to go to the site. You’ll start by giving some information about yourself, like your age, education level, job and family. 

Then, you can begin setting up your goals. This includes starting a business, building personal wealth or buying a home. You can add as many or as little goals as you want. These goals are ranked from most to least important.

Ellevest Graph

After you enter your account information, Ellevest looks at savings contributions, salary projections and other variables to give advice on how to accomplish each goal. It gives an estimate of the monthly deposit and total amount needed. You can adjust your goals, timeline or goal priority based on these projections. 

Your investment portfolio lists each goal and breaks down the different ETFs invested in. There is also a projection for portfolio performance. The company projects a 70% likelihood that the goal will be reached, compared to the 50% that other services estimate. When you get closer to reaching a goal, the investments shift to be more conservative to minimize risk. Once you fund your account, you can begin investing.

Overall, the robo-advisor provides a personalized, goal-based investing experience. It offers a hands-off approach to investing, while still working toward your goals. With the market constantly fluctuating, Ellevest automatically rebalances your portfolio to make sure you’re kept on track. 

What’s the Catch?

Ellevest's most basic option, its Digital program, carries a 0.25% fee. However, its Premium option has a management fee of 0.50%, which is more expensive than many other robo-advisors.

There is also no tax-loss harvesting, which seeks to offset capital gains taxes. Ellevest, though, states that tax-loss harvesting only defers taxes rather than eliminates them, so you’ll have to pay them later regardless. In other words, it doesn't seem to think that the strategy is useful and efficient. However, some other robo-advisors do offer tax-loss harvesting, and some experts believe not having it is a drawback. 

In addition, the service tailors its strategy toward women’s goals and timelines. Though this is useful for many women, not all women share the same goals or have the same experiences. Though it's targeted toward women, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best service for all women. Specifically, if maximizing returns is your priority, you may want to go with a robo-advisor whose mission is more in line with yours.

Competition: How Ellevest Stacks Up?

Though Ellevest has a unique approach – targeting women who have never invested before – it joins the ranks of an already competitive field of robo-advisors. What sets it apart is its dedication to working in the best interests of women through personalized investment portfolios. Plus, its range of different ETFs shows that it values diversified portfolios for your specific financial situation. 

Generally, though, the company’s competitors offer similar services at similar prices. For example Wealthfront requires a minimum balance of $500 and a flat rate of 0.25%. Depending on the account type, Betterment’s fees range from 0.25% - 0.40%. The lower-fee option has no minimum balance but doesn’t offer access to a live advisor. Ellevest's lower-fee option does offer access to a human advisor in addition to having to minimum balance. Betterment Premium requires a minimum account balance of $100,000, which is twice as high as Ellevest Premium's $50,000. However, Betterment Premium's fee is lower, at 0.40%. Betterment also offers tax-loss harvesting.

When compared to other robo-advisors, Ellevest offers similar services for a comparable fee, though its Premium option is slightly more expensive. But the rate is still below that of traditional financial advisory firms. It also manages an emergency fund at no extra cost. 

Robo-Advisor Management Fee  Minimum Balance  Best For
0.25% - 0.50%  $0 
  • First-time female investors
  • Goal-based investing
 
  0.25% - 0.40%  $0 
  • First-time investors with low savings balances
  • Goal-based investors
 
0.25%   $500
  • Investors with lower sums to invest
  • Investors who don’t need a human advisor
 

Bottom Line: Should You Use Ellevest?

Ellevest is changing the way women invest by focusing on their financial needs and differences. With flexibility in goals and timelines, it’s a good option for those who have never invested before. You can start building up funds for the long term. And though the service is targeted toward women, anyone can use it. 

Ellevest also isn’t compatible with many different accounts. But if you want to invest with a woman-focused company, Ellevest is making a name for itself.

Tips to Help You Save for Retirement

  • A good place to start is with a free retirement calculator. A calculator will show you where you stand and what you need to do in order to have enough when retirement rolls around.
  • Don't go it alone. While robo-advisors generally charge lower fees than human advisors, the latter can explain things when you're starting out - and talk you through tumultuous times. In other words, if you are even a bit unsure about investing, you're probably better off with a human advisor. To find one near you, use SmartAsset's pro matching tool. We'll recommend up to three financial advisors based on your answers to our questions.
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