A robo advisor is an automated investment manager—a software platform where a computer algorithm allocates your funds to a professionally-designed portfolio. These relatively new investment platforms tend to charge a fraction of what a traditional, human investment advisor would, and you could get a better portfolio at the same time.
Choosing which robo advisor is right for you depends on your current portfolio, what your investment goals are, if you want access to a financial advisor, and if your focus is on retirement. We considered each of these factors, as well as fees and features, to come up with our list of the best robo advisors.
|Robo Advisor||Why We Picked It||Account Fees||Account Minimum|
|SoFi||Best for No Fees||0%||$0|
|Wealthfront||Best for Multiple Accounts||0.25%||$500|
|SigFig||Best for Robo Advising in Your Existing Accounts||Free up to $100,000, then 0.25%||$2,000|
|Blooom||Best for Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans||$95 to $250 per year||$0|
|Personal Capital||Best for Hybrid Human/Robo Advising||0.49% to 0.89%||$100,000|
Best Overall: Betterment
Founded in 2010, Betterment pioneered the robo advisor industry as we know it today. The robo advisor has attracted 480,000 customers and more than $22 billion in assets to the platform. It offers taxable and tax-advantaged retirement accounts among its suite of banking and investment products. Betterment allows you to start accounts with no minimum and all accounts include automatic features like rebalancing, tax-loss harvesting, and customized portfolios.
The 0.25% management fee applies to both taxable and retirement accounts including IRA and even 401(k) plans if your employer chooses Betterment as a plan administrator. If you’re willing to pay 0.40% and have a $100,000 minimum balance, you can also get access to a human financial advisor who will help with your entire financial life, not just what you have in Betterment.
No minimum balance for the standard account
All accounts include tax-loss harvesting
Support for multiple types of investment accounts
Ability to sync external accounts to keep all an eye on all finances
0.25% fee is higher than some competitors
Charges higher fees and requires a minimum balance if you want access to human financial advisors
Charles Schwab: Runner-Up
Charles Schwab is a massive brokerage founded in 1971 that holds more than $4 trillion in client funds and more than $480 billion in its own mutual funds and ETFs. In addition to traditional brokerage accounts and investment services for virtually any financial situation, Schwab offers its own robo advising product called Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.
The core Schwab Intelligent Portfolios product is free to use with no advisory fees or commissions. The only major downside is that you need at least $5,000 to get started. If you want the robo advisor experience with the added assistance of a financial planner, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium charges $300 for setup and $30 per month for unlimited access to a certified financial planner (CFP) as long as you meet the $25,000 minimum balance threshold.
No advising fees or commissions for robo advising
Portfolios built from more than 1,800 ETFs
High minimum balance for a basic account
High fees for add-on access to a human financial planner
$50,000 minimum balance to get tax-loss harvesting
SoFi: Best for No Fees
SoFi is a financial company that offers lending, banking, and investing, among other useful financial products and tools. SoFi was founded in 2011 as a student lender and has since attracted more than 1 million customers across its product portfolio with more than $45 billion in funded loans.
SoFi’s robo advisor is called “Automated Investing.” It’s a free product and has no minimum balance required. Launched in 2019, Automated Investing is a basic robo advisor that includes features like goal planning and automatic rebalancing. You can choose between taxable and IRA accounts, too.
Free to use with no management fees
No minimum balance required to open
Features to save for multiple goals simultaneously
All SoFi customers get free financial planning appointments and career coaching
No automated tax-loss harvesting
Limited account options
Wealthfront: Best for Multiple Accounts
Wealthfront traces its roots to 2008 when it began as a mutual fund analysis company. These days, it offers banking, investment, and lending. The firm’s robo advisor offers additional features as your portfolio grows.
All accounts include tax-loss harvesting and risk management for a 0.25% fee. For balances of at least $100,000, you get access to stock-level tax-loss harvesting and risk parity. For balances of $500,000 or more, you get access to Wealthfront’s Smart Beta program designed to build you your own portfolio of stocks based on five factors to optimize how your money is invested.
All accounts include automated tax-loss harvesting
Multiple account types including taxable, retirement, and 529 college savings
Advanced features like PassivePlus require a $100,000 or $500,000 minimum balance
Minimum balance required to get started
0.25% fee is higher than some competitors
SigFig: Best for Robo Advising in Your Existing Accounts
Founded as Wikinvest in 2006, SigFig provides management of funds from TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, and Fidelity. SigFig requires a $2,000 minimum balance and is free to use with balances up to $10,000. Beyond $10,000, you’ll pay 0.25% (though the first $10,000 is still managed for free) and you’ll get access to a SigFig human investment advisor.
SigFig includes automatic rebalancing and tax-efficient investing strategies to, in theory, help your portfolio keep on growing. SigFig also offers a free tracking dashboard from which you can manage your retirement accounts, get investment alerts, and portfolio analysis.
Free up to $10,000
Free portfolio tracking software
Minimum balance required to get started
Access a human investment advisor with balances of $10,000 or more
0.25% fee is higher than some competitors
Blooom: Best for Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans
Blooom is a unique robo advisor that doesn’t work like the others. Blooom connects to your existing 401(k) or IRA, analyzes your accounts for fees, diversification, and allocation, and then makes trades on your behalf. The entire process takes up to seven business days. This is great because you don’t have to set up any new accounts.
Blooom can manage your Fidelity, Schwab, and Vanguard accounts.
Unlike most other robo advisors, you still have control of the day-to-day management of your brokerage accounts; Blooom only adjusts your account about every 95 days, if necessary.
Most robo advisors can’t help you with a 401(k) plan, as those are administered by a brokerage selected by your employer. The option to connect your account and get advice within the constraints of what’s allowed in your account can be very helpful.
Blooom charges $95 per year for an “Essentials” account (personalized portfolio), $120 per year for a “Standard” account (personalized portfolio, auto-optimization, advisor access), and $250 per year for an “Unlimited” account, which includes “Standard” features and priority access to advisors. There is no account minimum required, either.
Robo advising for your existing IRA and 401(k) accounts
Automatic investment management in accounts with several major brokerages
The “Standard” account includes financial advisor access
No account minimum required
“Standard” and “Unlimited” account fees are more than some full-featured robo advisors charge
Does not offer non-retirement investing
Personal Capital: Best for Hybrid Human/Robo
Founded in 2009, Personal Capital’s investment management service is a hybrid robo/human advisor experience where you work with an advisory team or advisors to manage your investments based on your goals. Personal Capital has more than $12 billion in assets under management with more than 24,000 paid clients. Investment services start at 0.89% for clients with up to $1 million under management and decline to 0.49% for those with $10 million or more. You need $100,000 in investable assets to get started. The firm provides three tiers of service based on your balance:
- Investment Services: $100,000 to $200,000
- Wealth Management: $200,000.01 to $1 million
- Private Client: More than $1 million
Each tier offers different levels of advisor access and asset oversight.
Even if you don’t use Personal Capital’s paid investment service, it’s worth checking out the free investment analysis tools. Anyone can connect their existing investment account to analyze portfolio allocations, fund fees, and other important financial details.
All accounts include access to a human financial advisor
Investment analysis tools are free for anyone to use
Additional features for higher-net-worth clients
High 0.49% to 0.89% management fees
High minimum asset level requirement to get started
What Is a Robo Advisor?
A robo advisor is an automated investment manager. It is a software that works with your financial information. In most cases, new users complete a short questionnaire when signing up asking about their current age, target retirement age, investment goals, and risk tolerance. Based on the results, the algorithm will assign the account to a professionally-designed portfolio made up of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Financial management software has superpowers that people don’t, including the ability to analyze investments while you sleep and enter small, frequent trades to lower your taxes and improve your portfolio. This, and low costs, are a big reason why robo advisors are quickly growing in popularity among investors.
How Do Robo Advisors Work?
While the name robo advisor might conjure up images of a robot picking stocks, in reality, robo advisors often rely on ETFs built based on modern portfolio theory and designed to follow indexes like the S&P 500.
Depending on the robo advisor you choose, you might come across any of these common features:
- Taxable or retirement accounts: Choose between taxable or retirement accounts so you can set up your accounts to meet specific investment goals.
- Automatic portfolio rebalancing: Periodic selling and buying of funds keeps your portfolio in-line with your target allocation.
- Automated tax-loss harvesting: Selling and buying similar securities quickly can capture a tax loss without significantly impacting your portfolio strategy. This can lower your capital gains taxes on taxable investment accounts.
- Financial advisor access: The investing platform gives you access to a team of advisors or individual advisors assigned to your account.
Who Are Robo Advisors Best For?
Robo advisors are best for investors who want to set and forget their investment portfolios and get active portfolio management. If you don’t know much about investing or just don’t want to spend much time on it, robo advisors are perfect for your needs.
Robo advisors are even a good idea for some experienced investors. The low-fee structure and automated features could make a robo advisor ideal for long-term goals and retirement investing accounts regardless of your investment background.
How Should I Choose a Robo Advisor?
The best robo advisor for your needs typically comes down to the cost and features. Most robo advisors use similar signup systems and relatively similar portfolio models. Cost is a huge driver of your long-term returns, so that should be the first place you look when choosing any investment advising service (robo advisor or otherwise.)
Next, you should look at what the robo advisor can do to help you reach your financial goals. While automatic rebalancing is a given with most robo advisors, features like tax-loss harvesting for all accounts can add to returns.
How We Chose the Best Robo Advisors
We compared 16 different robo advisors based on fees, investment products offered (ETFs, 401(k)s, and IRAs), access to human financial advisors, features like tax-loss harvesting and rebalancing, and account minimums. Robo advisors that didn’t make the list failed to offer enough of a well-rounded experience for the average user.
Betterment. "Our Pricing." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
Betterment. "Rethink What Your Money Can Do." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. "Automated Intelligent Investing." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
Charles Schwab. "Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
SoFi. "About Us." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
Wealthfront. "What Is PassivePlus?" Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
Wealthfront. "Fees for Investment Accounts." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
SigFig. "Pricing." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
Blooom. "Pricing." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
Personal Capital. "Personal Capital Wealth Management Comparison Chart." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
Personal Capital. "Wealth Management & Investment Advisory." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
Personal Capital. "About Us." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.