Robo-advisors are gaining popularity because of their low fees and simple, hands-off approach. But as more robos come into existence, it becomes harder to figure out which one you should go with. To help you decide, SmartAsset’s financial experts created this list of the best robo-advisors as of 2020. We recommend looking through each company’s fees, minimum initial investments and other services to help you decide which is best for you.
A robo-advisor isn’t for everyone, and some people prefer to work with a traditional advisor who can provide custom portfolios and personalized financial planning services. SmartAsset’s free advisor matching tool can pair you with a financial advisor near you.
Best Robo-Advisors of 2020
Like any financial service, robo-advisors use a plethora of different fee arrangements and investment philosophies, along with offering a variation of features like automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting. As a result, some robo-advisors are better suited for certain types of investors than others. To narrow down your choices, check out the best robo-advisors of 2020 below.
|Best For||Investors with a sizable balance|
Full Review: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
The Vanguard Group is known for its low fees and popular index funds. In fact, many other robo-advisors (and traditional advisors for that matter) invest client assets in Vanguard funds. Vanguard also offers a robo-advisor of its own, called Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. With billions in assets, the robo-advisor is already an industry juggernaut.
As for particulars, its annual fee of 0.30% is about average for robo-advisors. The minimum required investment is a bit high though at $50,000. Unlike many robo-advisors, Vanguard’s service also offers access to human advisors. That means you get the advantages of a digital service and the ability to talk to a real person when you have questions.
|Fees||0.25% (0.40% for Premium plan)|
|Minimum||$0 ($100,000 for Premium plan)|
|Best For||Low maintenance, goal-based investors|
Full Review: Betterment
Betterment has gained over 270,000 customers since bursting onto the robo-advisor scene in 2008. You’ll find yourself drawn to the site’s clean, user-friendly design. You’ll also enjoy low fees and features like tax-loss harvesting. Once you sign up, you can track your progress toward retirement and other financial goals.
Annual management fees start at just 0.25% and there is no minimum balance for opening an account. Should you upgrade to Betterment’s premium plan with a minimum of $100,000, your fee will jump to 0.40%, though you’ll gain access to a number of other services. These include unlimited phone calls with a certified financial planner (CFP), advice on your 401(k) and other outside investment accounts and more. Unlike a number of other services on this list, Betterment also offers trust accounts.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
|Best For||Low-cost investors interested in ETFs|
Full Review: Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is the robo-advisor arm of Charles Schwab. This robo-advisor doesn’t charge advisory fees, commissions or account service fees. You will have to pay fees for individual funds, but that is true for any robo-advisor.
As long as you have $5,000 to invest, you can become a Schwab client and take advantage of automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting. So if you’re on the prowl for a combination of low portfolio management fees and individual funds, then you should absolutely consider Schwab.
|Fees||0.49% to 0.89%, depending on your account balance|
|Best For||High-end investors who want access to human advisors|
Full Review: Personal Capital
Personal Capital starts by aggregating all of your financial holdings and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your current investing strategy (or lack thereof). You’ll get a report outlining Personal Capital’s findings and a plan for improvement. The management fees and minimum balance are higher than average for a robo-advisor, but there is also free software available for DIY investors. Clients with $1 million or more get access to the lowest management fees and the most account features.
|Best For||Fidelity and TD Ameritrade account holders who want automated portfolio management|
Full Review: FutureAdvisor
As a FutureAdvisor client, your IRA, Roth IRA, rollover IRA or SEP-IRA will be held by either Fidelity or TD Ameritrade. The FutureAdvisor Recommendations Engine and a team of human advisors keep an eye on your investments, helping you rebalance and grow your money. If you don’t want to start investing right away, you can create an account for free. That account is enough for you to get free portfolio analysis and recommendations.
|Best For||DIY investors looking for cheap fees|
Full Review: Wealthfront
Wealthfront offers robo-advising for many account types, including IRAs, 529 college savings plans and personal and joint savings accounts. The minimum balance requirement is $500, while clients with $100,000 or more get access to the company’s tax-optimized direct indexing service. The management fee is a flat 0.25%, which is one of the lowest fees around.
|Fees||$120 annual fee ($90 per additional account)|
|Best For||Investors that own a 401(k)|
Full Review: Blooom
The focus of Blooom is on the 401(k), a retirement savings vehicle many Americans have without fully understanding how it works. Blooom charges clients a fee of $120 a year, though extra accounts each come with an additional $90 fee. True to its name, Blooom represents the health of your 401(k) with an image of a flower that will wilt if something is off.
|Fees||0.25% annual fee on balances over $10,000|
|Best For||Those in search of a simple account interface|
Full Review: SigFig
SigFig charges a 0.25% annual fee on balances over $10,000. Accounts with a balance under $10,000 do not have a management fee, though there is a $2,000 account minimum. Other fees are embedded in the exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that form the cornerstone of the SigFig investing strategy. SigFig uses a variety of funds from Fidelity, TD Ameritrade Institutional and Charles Schwab. This company complements its algorithms with the services of financial consultants who can chat with you about rebalancing and improving your existing investments.
|Fees||$1 – $3 per month|
|Best For||Those new to investing & college students|
Full Review: Acorns
Acorns takes the spare change from your everyday purchases and invests it according to your risk tolerance. It rounds up all your transactions to the nearest dollar and takes the difference, moving the money to a range of ETFs. You can connect a debit card, credit card or checking account to your Acorns account.
This service is not ideal for big retirement savings, but it is a pain-free way for people to start saving and investing. Opening an account is free, and the management fee is just $1 to $3 per month.
|Best For||New investors|
Axos Invest is a fairly new robo-advisor, and its structure is rather unique. The service is actually free, meaning there are no asset-based advisory fees charged by Axos. In fact, the only fees you’ll run into are fund fees, which are unavoidable at most robos. The expense ratios for these funds range from 0.03% to 0.90%. There’s also no minimum requirement needed to begin investing with Axos.
If you want to go beyond Axos Invest’s core robo-advisor package, the company offers a selection of premium plans. If you choose to take advantage of any of these extras, you’ll be charged an advisory fee.
Prior to October 2019, Axos Invest was known as WiseBanyan. However, the company actually bought out WiseBanyan, a once independently owned robo-advisor service, in October 2018. Axos Invest is part of a larger financial institution known as Axos Financial.
What Is a Robo-Advisor?
Traditionally, having a financial advisor meant turning up to an office for a sit-down conversation about your money and investments. However, some investors balk at the fees charged by financial advisors. And some advisors have minimum investment requirements that exclude people with a lower net worth.
Now, though, the financial advice landscape is shifting. Online-only advisory companies called robo-advisors are offering lower fees for advice based on sophisticated algorithms. Although these companies are automated, some also have financially savvy human advisors on staff as well. The difference is that these companies use fewer working hours on each account, allowing them to pass the resultant savings on to their customers.
The core of any portfolio that a robo-advisor builds is the client’s risk tolerance. A robo typically determines your risk tolerance level through a series of questions. These delve into what your goals are for the future, how much money you want to have saved by retirement and more. Based on your answers, the firm will create a portfolio that includes investments that line up with your profile.
Robo-advisors are competing to offer lower fees than their peers, and all that competition can be good for the consumer. The trend toward offering robo-advising services is a response to the preferences of younger Americans who would prefer easy, online advisory services with mobile apps to match.
But keep in mind that robo-advisors rely on your answers to questions that give them a sense of your goals, investment knowledge and risk tolerance. Make sure you answer these questions honestly, or you could end up with an investment strategy that’s more or less aggressive than what you really want. Always shop around for low fees and find the best deal you can get for your needs. And of course, if you feel you want a more hands-on approach, you can find a local financial advisor – a human one! – to help you with your finances.
Working With an Advisor
- While there are certainly financial and practical benefits to a robo-advisor, they don’t fully replace a financial advisor – especially the personalized financial planning services that many advisors offer. Fortunately, finding an advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool pairs you with up to three advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- If you’d rather not have to manage your investments directly, a robo-advisor can help you put your portfolio on autopilot. But if you would prefer to talk with a human on occasion, be sure to choose a robo that provides clients with access to real financial advisors. Just note that some services will only let you work with a human advisor if you meet a certain minimum investment.
Photo credit: iStock/sompong_tom, Vanguard.com, Betterment.com, Intelligent.Schwab.com, PersonalCapital.com, FutureAdvisor.com, Wealthfront.com, blooom.com, SigFig.com, Acorns.com, AxosInvest.com, iStock/Deagreez