Advantages, disadvantages and who should create an account

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Minimum account

$0 ($100,000 bounty plan)

Costs

digital plan at 0.25%; 0.40% bonus

Minimum account

$0 ($100,000 bounty plan)

Costs

digital plan at 0.25%; 0.40% bonus

Advantages

  • No minimum for a standard investment account
  • Goal-oriented planning, tax loss collection, charitable donations and socially responsible investing available
  • Access to Certified Financial Planners
  • Mobile app with external account sync options

The inconvenients

  • You will have to pay to see a human advisor unless you have the premium plan
  • Limited investment selection

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More information

  • Promotion: None at this time.
  • App Store Rating: 4.7 iOS / 4.5 Android
  • Consider it if: You want access to robo-advice with multiple levels of service.

Global mark

Is Betterment for you?

Betterment is an automated investment platform that offers robo-advice and personalized, self-managed investment portfolios. It is best suited for hands-off investors who want to use individual or joint accounts, IRAs, trust accounts, and cash reserves or checking accounts.

The platform further offers a wide range of portfolio options while only using ETFs in its portfolio allocations. The Betterment mobile app is available on iOS and Android devices.

Improvement against Wealthfront

Betterment and Wealthfront are two of the oldest platforms in the robo-advisor space. Both offer automated portfolio management, with access to benefits such as cash accounts, tax loss harvesting, socially responsible investing, and more.

Betterment offers advice to financial advisers, but Wealthfront does not (although it does allow its users to contact specialists with questions). Betterment also has a lower minimum account requirement than Wealthfront. You don’t need anything to get started with the Betterment digital plan. Wealthfront, however, has a $500 minimum.

Wealthfront is a better option for users who want access to a wider range of investment choices. Plus, it’s ideal for those who want to automate custodial accounts like 529 plans.

Improvement vs. Vanguard

Both Betterment and Vanguard have automated investing, but Vanguard is the best choice for all types of investors. With Vanguard, you have access to both self-managed and automated accounts. But you’ll be limited to automated investing at Betterment, so it’s not a great choice for those who want to trade on their own account.

When it comes to robo-advice, however, you’d pay less with Vanguard’s basic automated account, Vanguard Digital Advisor, than you would at Betterment. The Betterment digital plan has a 0.25% fee, but Vanguard Digital Advisor only charges 0.20%.

Ways to invest with Betterment

Automated portfolio management

Betterment uses computer algorithms to create and manage personalized portfolios. The platform also offers an FDIC-insured checking account, a cash reserve account (this one has an APY of 1.60%), IRAs, and a 401(k). Plus, its pricing plans are simple to follow. It offers two options:

  • digital enhancement: This plan has no minimum account requirements, but it does have an annual fee of 0.25%. It includes features such as tax loss harvesting, asset tracking, portfolio rebalancing, and dividend reinvestment. Plus, to maintain a healthy level of risk, Betterment automatically adjusts your portfolio allocation as you get closer to your goals. This level also offers a range of portfolio options, but it does not include free access to advisors.
  • Improvement bonus: You will need at least $100,000 for the premium account, but you will have access to all the features offered by the digital plan in addition to unlimited individual CFP advice. Its CFPs also offer advice on other investments you hold outside of Betterment.

You can also invest in specific goals at Betterment. It currently offers six: retirement (savings), retirement (income), safety net, major purchase, general investment, and cash flow goals.

Wallet Types

Betterment offers several wallet options. The first, its Core Portfolio, focuses on long-term investing by allocating your money across a global selection of stock and bond ETFs. Its portfolio of innovative technologies targets companies with high growth potential. These include semiconductors, blockchain companies, clean energy companies, and more.

Its three socially responsible portfolios — Broad Impact, Climate Impact and Social Impact — are ideal for those who want to make a positive difference with their investments. Finally, its Goldman Sachs Smart Beta portfolio targets companies that will outperform the market, and its BlackRock Target Income portfolio aims to protect your assets against losses by investing primarily in bond ETFs.

Types of investment

As for Betterment’s investment types, it mainly offers stock ETFs and bond ETFs. Many automated platforms offer ETFs, so its investment selection lines up with most competitors. However, some automated platforms offer alternatives. For example, Wealthfront has ETFs, index funds, and crypto-trusts. Fidelity’s automated accounts—Fidelity Go and Fidelity Personalized Planning and Advice—both offer Fidelity Flex mutual funds (these funds don’t have expense ratios),

Improvement: is it reliable?

The Better Business Bureau gives Betterment a B rating. Ratings range from A+ to F and reflect the bureau’s opinion of the quality of a company’s interaction with its customers. The BBB says Betterment’s rating also stems from the fact that it has received 98 complaints against it.

Additionally, bureau ratings do not guarantee that a company will be reliable or successful. But they consider a number of other factors, including type of business, length of time in business, history of customer complaints, government licensing and actions, and advertising issues.

The company has closed 41 complaints in the past 12 months and has no unresolved complaints at this time, according to its BBB profile.

Improvement — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How much do you need to open a Betterment account?

Betterment’s most basic account, the digital plan, has a $0 account minimum, but you’ll need at least $100,000 to get started with its premium account. One of the things the premium account offers that the digital plan doesn’t is unlimited individual CFP advice.

Is the upgrade worth the cost?

Many robo-advisors – like Wealthfront and SigFig – also have a 0.25% fee option, but you can also find other automated platforms that don’t have an advisory fee (e.g. SoFi Automated Investing and Ally Invest Managed Portfolios).

The answer to this question largely depends on what you are looking for in an investment platform. If you’re looking for access to low fees, human advisors, goal-oriented strategies, and features like tax loss harvesting, then Betterment may be a good choice for you.

How trustworthy is Betterment?

Betterment is a legit platform that has been in operation since 2011. Along with its B rating from the Better Business Bureau, the robo-advisor is also registered with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).

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