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- No minimum balance needed to get started
- Some users commented that the interface simplicity is one of the factors they like about the platform
- Signing up is a breeze
- Flat fees, no fluctuation based on mitigating factors
- Modern portfolio theory-based investment practices
- Accessible beginner tools for starting investors
- Goal-based savings plans that are easy to understand
- Simple, straightforward retirement planning with RetireGuide
- No direct indexing of investments
- Investments require automatic deposits up to $10,000
- Unlike conventional stock advice, safety net goals advise you to take a 40/60 split of stocks to bonds
- Not useful if you want to deposit large funds and make in-person transfers
|🤖 Automated investing||Betterment uses technology to automate the investing process, which was identified as one of the factors – simplicity, that users liked about the platform, regardless of their knowledge or experience level.|
|💰 Low fees||Betterment has low fees, making it accessible to a wide range of investors. Betterment charges 0.25% for Betterment Digital and 0.40% for Betterment Premium, which are lower than many other robo-advisors|
|📈 Diversified portfolios||Betterment uses modern portfolio theory to create diversified portfolios that are designed to help minimize risk while maximizing returns. Betterment offers a variety of portfolio options, including core, socially responsible, smart beta, income and cryptocurrency portfolios|
|🌐 Goal-based investing||Betterment allows investors to set specific financial goals, such as saving for retirement or buying a home, and creates a personalized investment plan to help them reach those goals. Betterment also provides advice and guidance on how much to save, how to allocate your assets and how to adjust your plan over time|
|💸 Tax-efficient investing||Betterment uses tax-loss harvesting and other strategies to help reduce the tax impact of investments, potentially increasing after-tax returns for investors. Betterment also offers tax-coordinated portfolios that optimize asset location across multiple accounts|
|💼 Expert advice||Betterment offers access to a team of certified financial experts who can provide personalized advice and support to help investors make informed decisions. Betterment Digital customers can pay $199-$299 for a one-time consultation with a financial planner, while Betterment Premium customers get unlimited access to financial planners for a higher fee|
Popular and Few Minimum Requirements
One of the least appealing aspects of investment trading is having to deal with all the minimum requirements — minimum balances, paying fees, and so on. If you’re looking for something that gets you started trading without a lot of fuss, Betterment may well be the option for you.
What are Betterment’s Main Features?
Founded in 2010 by Jon Stein and Eli Broverman, Betterment has spent the last six years building up a customer base of more than 175,000 people, totaling over $5 billion in revenue. They have built up quite the reputation for themselves as a quality private investment services company.
According to NerdWallet, Betterment has more customers than any of their competitors, which speaks to their level of success. Most of this is likely due to the fact they have a $0 account minimum — there’s literally no required buy-in for investment other than what you want to throw in.
Betterment’s other main feature is its goal-based approach to investment. They have a number of tools at their disposal to help customers determine what they are saving for and how long/how much it will take to accomplish those goals.
One thing many Betterment has that many other robo advisors lack is automated tax loss harvesting, or selling securities that have suffered a loss. By harvesting that loss, Betterment users can offset taxes on both their gains and on their incomes. The best part? The company claims that its robo-advisor can support even such complex processes as tax loss harvesting if requested to do so.
Another thing that sets Betterment above the rest is their reasonable management fees. They only pay .15% of assets managed for accounts over $100,000, and clients do not have to pay any commissions or transaction fees.
The methodology behind Betterment is also worthy of note: The company invests funds according to the Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), meaning they place investments in a large pool of diversified assets. This creates a much lower risk pool and, over a long enough period of time, creates stable returns for customers.
The Betterment digital interface is slick and easy to use, and can be used on any smartphone or computer. Not only that, they let you easily sync your other investment accounts outside of Betterment so you can see what your net worth is. Even when you don’t invest with them, their tools are really useful for planning your retirement or other investment/savings goals.
Overall, a Betterment account provides a bevy of options and services for you to invest in. Among their goals are financial planning, retirement planning, mitigating risk with index ETFs, IRAs, trusts and tax loss harvesting, giving you a number of ways to direct your money towards the proper goals.
Update: Betterment’s New Service Plans
At the end of January 2017, Betterment announced three new service plan options.
First, there is Betterment Digital, designed to provide baseline services for traders who are comfortable interfacing with the digital platform alone (i.e. they don’t need to get a broker on the phone). There is no minimum balance, and Betterment charges 0.25% of your balance per year.
Next, there is Betterment Plus, an upgrade that lets you speak one-on-one with a member of the Betterment team once per year when a specific question comes up. This requires a $100,000 minimum balance and costs 0.40% of your balance per year.
Finally, there is Betterment Premium, the option designed for traders who need to speak with a live advisor a little more often. “The Premium plan includes unlimited access to our team of CFP® professionals and licensed financial experts,” says Alex Benke, Betterment’s VP of financial advice and planning. “They’ll help keep tabs on your accounts, even when you’re not thinking about your investments, and they’ll also be available any time you have a financial question.” Betterment Premium requires a minimum balance of $250,000, and the company charges you 0.50% of your balance per year for the service.
How Do You Open a Betterment Account, and What are the Requirements?
Because Betterment focuses largely on beginning investors, some users highlighted the fact that the registration process is straightforward. Betterment’s focus is to avoid beginner confusion and get people started on the road to proper investment.
All you have to do is go to their website, click Register, and enter your name, email and password. They then ask you to establish security questions for your account, then ask about your address, date of birth, and employment status, annual income, and net worth. While these questions may seem invasive, investors need to analyze by themselves to find whether Betterment meets their requirements.
After that, it’s easy — just pick your account type (Roth or traditional IRA, or typical investment account). If you already have IRAs set up, it’s best to just set up investments; it can be a bit of a hassle to roll your IRA over to Betterment.
- Account Type
- Roth conversion
Once that is established, you link your banking account to your Betterment investment account and begin to set your goals. You can set specific years at which you want to be at a certain amount, and then answer some SEC-required questions (nothing too big), and then you’re set up.
What Are the Rules for Trading on Betterment?
One of the things to keep in mind about Betterment is that it’s definitely for lower-net-worth investors. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) As such, there are a few caps on spending, depositing and investing that you need to keep in mind.
For one thing, the maximum amount you can deposit at one time ins $100,000. Granted, that’s usually more than enough for the average Joe, but some users highlighted the fact that if you are a frequent trader then the platform might not be the most suitable.
The company’s fee structure is fairly low for an investment platform of this size. Obviously, there are no fees for a zero balance (of which Betterment is basically the only service that even allows it), but you must pay a .35% annual fee for any balance up to $1,000. This requires you to deposit $100 into your Betterment account a month; otherwise, you get charged $3/month.
Once your account gets in the $10,000 range, fees go down to .25% annually, with no required recurring deposit. If you manage to get $100,000 in there, those go down to .15%. Worth nothing that, it is agreed in the investment community that emotional trading will not support you in your investment journey.
What Kind of Trader is Betterment Best For?
Judging from their plain-language interface and the low caps on maximum account deposits, Betterment is certainly ideal for investors who are just starting out. With the lack of a minimum account balance, and the flat fees, Betterment’s approach seems to be to make the act of investing as easy to understand as possible.
In essence, Betterment allows people who have never invested before, and maybe do not have a lot of funds to use for investing, to dip their toe in the water with relatively low risk. There are no account minimums, no commission fees, and no hassle, others compared the platform’s simplicity with the bank account opening process.
Traders who want low overhead and a hands-free approach to investment could do much worse than Betterment. All you have to do is start your account, put funds in, establish your goals, and let Betterment do the rest. If you want, you don’t have to look at it for months, maybe years.
Some investors highlighted the fact that the platform offers research tools to support them in investment decision-making. Betterment focuses on your investment goals first and foremost, and puts your funds toward those goals without burying you in overly technical details.
While Betterment does not give you as much information as many other platforms, this is done in the spirit of simplicity and straightforwardness. It is clear that their major goal is to not bog down beginners in investment jargon, which is an admirable quality for an organization hoping to make investment easier for those just getting started.
Other Good Products
If you like Betterment, but want something a little more hands on, there are a few more options for you. Scottrade has similar software and a similarly low barrier to entry, even though it does come with a higher minimum account balance. Scottrade is another platform that investors can choose from
For traders who want something even more hands-free than Betterment, and want easy access to their investments over their phone, Stash Invest is a stock trading app with only a $5 minimum balance and the ability to invest in a variety of pre-packaged diversified portfolios.
A Few Final Thoughts
In the wide world of online investment platforms, Betterment has a good reputation for being slightly newer to the scene. The lack of a minimum balance, and the flat fee structure, some of the fee structures might be suitable for one type of investor and not others, therefore each case should be analyzed individually.
One element that has not yet been mentioned is their customer service, which is maybe some of the best in the business. Part of the customer reviews mentioned the customer service quality of the platform which was commented to be handled by professional customer service representatives.
StockHax strives to provide unbiased and reliable information on cryptocurrency, finance, trading, and stocks. However, we cannot provide financial advice and urge users to do their own research and due diligence.Read More