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Merrill Edge Guided Investing Review

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by Chris Thompson Updated
Merrill Edge Guided Investing

Merrill Edge Guided Investing is an online investment advisory program that also gives you access to a team of experienced human advisors. The service will take stock for financial goals and risk tolerance and select exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that are vetted by Merrill Lynch’s Global Wealth and Investment Management Chief Investment Office.

Best for

Investors who want access to human advisors; Those who want portfolio selection backed up by a well-respected financial institution

Drawbacks

The $5,000 minimum balance may prevent certain investors from using the service.

Pricing: How Much Does Merrill Edge Guided Investing Cost?

Option Name Management Fee Minimum Balance Features
Merrill Edge Guided Investing 0.45% annually $5,000 opening balance Automatic rebalancing, easy online access,human guidance online, over the phone or at a Bank of America branch

Merrill Edge Guided Investing

Management Fee
0.45% annually
Minimum Balance
$5,000 opening balance
Features
Automatic rebalancing, easy online access,human guidance online, over the phone or at a Bank of America branch

Robo-advisor Merrill Edge Guided Investing charges a 0.45% management fee per year. This is deducted from your account monthly according to the previous month’s account balance. For example, with a balance of $5,000, your monthly fee would be $1.87. Of course, keep in mind that as your account balance grows, so will your monthly fee.

Merrill Edge Guided Investing's Investing Strategy

Before you open a Guided Investing account, you have to answer questions about your investment goals. This ensures that from the very start, your portfolio reflects your financial aims your risk tolerance. You can update these answers at any time, too, keeping your portfolio and investments current and always optimized. 

Based on your answers, Merrill Lynch investment experts create a diversified investment portfolio of ETFs, which track a group of securities within a similar market. This allows you to invest outside of specific companies and widen your portfolio’s diversification. Your Guided Investing portfolio will hold ETFs selected and screened by Merrill Lynch’s Global Wealth and Investment Management Chief Investment Office. The investment professionals in this office analyze the market regularly to know when and how to make changes to portfolios to keep them updated for long-term growth.

Your portfolio will also be constantly rebalanced by a team of Merrill Lynch portfolio managers. This is not done on a specified monthly or quarterly basis. Instead, portfolio managers will rebalance your portfolio according to overall market opportunities, risk-taking opportunities, changes in your goals or situation and additional deposits. The ability to work with human beings and not just an automated algorithm distinguishes this platform from most robo-advisors. This mix of automation and human advisors makes for a more balanced management style. Plus, with online access to your portfolio, you can always easily check up on its performance.

Supported Accounts

  • Individual brokerage account
  • Joint brokerage account
  • Custodial brokerage account
  • Rollover 401(k)
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Rollover IRA

Unsupported Accounts

  • 529 college savings plan
  • Trust

Key Features

Merrill Edge Guided Investing set itself apart in its combination of an automated platform and available human advisors. Robo-advisors don’t typically offer clients much access to human advisors. However, most of the portfolio management is done by automated algorithms and processes. Merrill Edge Guided Investing offers both sides to its clients, providing a more balanced approach to portfolio management.

Plus, there’s a decent rate for its services. The annual fee lands at 0.45%, which isn’t the lowest robo-advisor fee but also isn’t one of the highest either. This gets you robo-advisor services and human advisor access at a reasonable rate. 

Once you have an account, you’ll have constant online access to your personalized account dashboard. There, you can check up on your portfolio performance, add money to your accounts and make changes to your goals and settings. 

Merrill Edge Guided Investing also offers something rarely seen with robo-advisors: a cash bonus of up to $600.

Who Merrill Edge Guided Investing Is For

If you’re looking to get into investing, or to have a well-known company manage your investments, you’ll want to look into Merrill Edge Guided Investing. This service provides automated and professional portfolio management, with investment selection by the Global Wealth and Investment Management Chief Investment Office. 

Merrill Edge Guided Investing especially stands out for investors who want the automation of a robo-advisor with the added perk of access to human advisors. This is different from working with a Merrill Edge Financial Solutions Advisor™, which provides more one-on-one and personalized advice. However, Merrill Edge Guided Investing still provides some human guidance and portfolio personalization, just at a lower cost.

The platform advertises low-cost portfolio management, although its annual fee of 0.45% falls more in the average-cost range. To invest with Merrill Edge Guided Investing, you must also have at least $5,000 to start. If you want to work with Merrill Edge experts and you can handle the required minimum amounts and fees, this could be the right robo-advisor for you.

Available Features

  • Auto rebalancing
  • 24/7 account access
  • Help from human advisors

Unavailable Features

  • Tax-loss harvesting

How Merrill Edge Guided Investing Works

Opening an account is as simple as clicking one of the “Get Started” buttons on the page. You’ll need to state whether you’re already a Merrill Edge or Bank of America customer or a new client entirely. Then you’ll have to enter your birthdate before you choose between saving for retirement or just a general investing goal. This will help tailor your portfolio to you and your goals.

Depending on which option you choose, you’ll have to answer a few more questions to specify your account and savings goals. For example, if you’re investing for retirement, you’ll need to choose the type of account you want to open, whether a traditional IRA or a rollover account. 

Once you’ve chosen which account you want, you’ll get into the money amounts. Don’t forget that your minimum deposit must be at least $5,000. You also have the option of including your monthly contribution amount. If you’re investing for your retirement, you’ll input your goal retirement age and the length of time you plan to spend in retirement.

This information, along with more risk specific questions, will help configure your portfolio’s asset allocation. Before you commit to opening an account, you’ll be shown Merrill Edge’s proposed asset allocation and your potential returns with that portfolio. 

If you have any questions throughout the process, you can call 855-488-5245 to understand the process better. If opening an account online isn’t for you, you can visit a Bank of America branch that offers Merrill Edge services.

What's the Catch?

Simply put, you shouldn’t use this platform if you cannot meet its minimum requirements. For starters, you may not be able put down $5,000 to open an account and start investing if you still have debts or rent to pay. Even if you do have $5,000 to spare, you’ll have to make sure you can pay the 0.45% annual fee over the years.

Competition: How Merrill Edge Guided Investing Stacks Up?

Immediately, Merrill Edge Guided Investing stands out for its employment of human experts to create diversified and balanced investment portfolios. Most robo-advisors cut out human advisors to lower the price of their services. However, this service provides both at a decent rate. 

Another option you may want to look into is Liftoff, the robo-advisor arm of Ritholtz Wealth Management. Like with Merrill Edge, you know your investments will be in good hands with Liftoff due to its association with Ritholtz. Liftoff falls into the same fees bracket as Merrill Edge Guided Investing, with an annual fee of 0.40% and a minimum balance requirement of $5,000. Liftoff does work more like a robo-advisor, however, lacking advisor involvement in your portfolio management. You can reach a Ritholtz advisor over the phone, though, should you have more specific questions. 

You may find another alternative in AssetBuilder, which is aimed toward investors with higher amounts to invest. Its minimum balance requirement lands at $50,000. However, the annual fee for working with AssetBuilder is also 0.45%. Plus, a higher account balance will get you a lower annual fee, the lowest of which is 0.20%. So if you can meet the $50,000 minimum, you’ll still benefit from a lower annual fee.

Robo Advisor Management Fee Minimum Balance Human Advisors
  • 0.45% annually
  • $5,000
  • Yes
 
  • 0.40% annually
  • $5,000
  • No
 
  • 0.20% - 0.45%, depending on account balance
  • $50,000
  • No

Bottom Line: Should You Use Merrill Edge Guided Investing?

This service offers investors a chance to place their portfolios into the capable hands of a big name in the financial world. Plus, even as a robo-advisor, Merrill Edge Guided Investing keeps the professionalism and expertise of its human advisors. This ensures your portfolio is managed by more than algorithms and automated systems. Before you open an account, though, you’ll have to make sure you have at least $5,000 to spare to start investing and that you can responsibly handle the 0.45% annual fee.

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