The best online financial advisors

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Online financial advisors are more accessible, and often cheaper, than human advisors who actively manage investment portfolios. They’re a good option for beginner investors and hands-off investors at any wealth level.

With these so-called robo-advisors, you get automated investment management, a control center to track your finances, and access to human experts or sophisticated financial planning software to help answer questions and reach your goals.

For this list, we didn’t consider companies that match clients and advisors for comprehensive financial planning services, such as Zoe Financial or Facet Wealth. Instead we focused on tech-driven firms where you can manage an investment portfolio and consult a professional for advice when you need it. 

Online financial advisors emphasize passive investing, so none of our winners allow you to buy or sell individual stocks in your account. Most of these platforms help you build a portfolio of stock and bond ETFs and alternative assets, such as crypto or real estate trusts. 

AdvisorStandout featuresCostSoFi Automated Investing

No advisory fee; free access to CFPs


$5 min. balance

Betterment automated investingLow advisory fee; smart financial planning tools

0.25% – 0.40% annually

$0 – $100,000 min. balance

Investment Account

Low advisory fee; 529 college savings plans 

0.25% annually

$500 min. balance

investment account

Holistic, women-focused approach to investing; 1:1 coaching

$12 – $97 annually

$1 – $240 min. balance

Blooom Automated Investing

Retirement plan optimization; advisor access

$120 – $395 annually

$1 min. balance

SoFi Automated Investing

Editor’s rating4.8/5Cost$0Account minimum$5Consider it if …You’re new to investingSoFi Automated Investing

Investment account types: Individual and joint taxable brokerage, traditional IRA, Roth IRA, and SEP IRA.

What stands out: 

Zero advisory feesFree one-on-one consultations with CFPs, a service that isn’t offered by some robo-advisors that charge an annual feeAdditional SoFi membership perks include loan discounts and career counseling4.3/5 Google Play store rating4.8/5 Apple App store rating 

What to look out for: 

No tax-loss harvestingPortfolios, while broadly diversified, are limited to 10 options

Read more: SoFi Automated Investing review


Editor’s rating4.6/5Cost0.25% – 0.40% annually (charged monthly)Account minimum$0 – $100,000Consider it if …You want low cost investment advice from a human advisorBetterment

Investment account types: Individual and joint taxable brokerage, traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, inherited IRA, and trust.

What stands out: 

Premium plans come with unlimited access via phone and email to Betterment CFPsOpen an FDIC-insured bank accountInvest in socially responsible portfoliosGet free checking and cash reserve accounts (nice feature for recurring deposits into investments)Use goal-setting, advice, and retirement planning toolsLink various accounts to clear and easy-to-use financial dashboardBuy one-off financial advice packages at standard industry ratesAutomatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting4.1/5 Google Play store rating4.7/5 Apple App store rating 

What to look out for: 

Accounts with a $100,000 balance can upgrade to get advisor access, but the annual fee increases from 0.25% (an industry low) to 0.40%

Read more: Betterment review — fees, returns, investing services, and competitors


Editor’s rating4.6/5Cost0.25% annually (charged monthly)Account minimum$500Consider it if …You’re balancing several goals and want to streamline your financesInvestment Account

Investment account types: Individual and joint taxable brokerage, traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, trust, and 529 college savings plan.

What stands out: 

Only top online advisor to offer 529 plansInvest in cryptocurrency trustsBorrow up to 30% of your investment balance at a low interest rate with a portfolio line of creditOpen an FDIC-insured bank accountInvest in socially responsible portfoliosGet personalized recommendations with smart financial planning software 4.6/5 Google Play app rating4.8/5 Apple App store rating

What to look out for: 

On-staff financial advisors don’t offer personalized advice

Read more: Wealthfront review — fees, returns, investing services, and competitors


Editor’s rating4.42/5Cost$12 – $97 annually (charged monthly)Account minimum$1 – $240Consider it if …You’re looking for a one-stop shop for financial planninginvestment account

Investment account types: Individual taxable brokerage, traditional IRA, Roth IRA, and SEP IRA (all held at Folio Investments).

What stands out: 

Open up to two FDIC-insured bank accountsGet an investment strategy built around women’s unique needs and challengesAccess an extensive library of content and advisor-led workshopsInvest in socially responsible portfoliosGet monthly progress reports4.3/5 Google Play app rating4.7/5 Apple App store rating

What to look out for: 

Financial coaching costs extra (but members get 20%-50% off)Upgrade required for access to retirement account management

Read more: Ellevest review —automated investing, plus access to financial planners and career coaches


Editor’s rating4.6/5Cost$120 – $395 annuallyAccount minimum$1Consider it if …A large portion of your wealth is in one or more employer-sponsored retirement accountsOpen account

Investment account types: 401(k), 401(a), 403(b), 457, Thrift Savings Plan, traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, nondeductible IRA, spousal IRA, Simple IRA, and self-directed IRA.

What stands out:

Get specific and personalized fund recommendations that reduce fees in your 401(k) or other workplace retirement planOpt to have advisors place trades on your behalfEmail and instant chat with a financial advisor with the Advisor Access ($245 a year) and Financial Consulting ($395 a year) plansSet up 1:1 calls with an advisor with the Financial Consulting plan

What to look out for: 

No taxable brokerage accountsNo mobile appYou need a balance of at least $40,000 for your annual to fee to stay under 1% (the starting point for most human advisors)

How we chose the best financial advisors

We compared a long list of Registered Investment advisors (RIAs), weighing the following five categories equally. 

Fees: What are the costs (i.e., expense ratios, trading fees, advisor fees)? Are they justified when considering the services offered?

Access: Who can use the service? Is it limited to a certain geographic location or available nationwide? Can you access your account via mobile app?

Ethics: Are the experts Certified Financial Planners and/or fiduciaries? Does the company have any disciplinary history over the past three years? What is the company’s investing philosophy? 

Services: What is included for the cost? Is there a good variety of investments to choose from? What else do you get working with this company (e.g. savings or checking accounts, budgeting tools, financial advice)?

Minimum balance: What is the minimum balance for an investment account? Is it accessible for beginners?

Other online financial advisors we considered

Vanguard Digital Advisor: You can think of Vanguard Digital Advisor as Vanguard’s second robo-advisor offering. The difference between Vanguard Digital Advisor and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services comes down to fees and human advisor access. Though you’ll pay less for Vanguard Digital Advisor ($3,000 minimum deposit and a 0.20% annual fee), you won’t be able to utilize personalized support from a professional financial planner.Personal Capital: Personal Capital offers competitive robo-advisor services. The investment app also gives you access to human financial advisors, and it offers account features like tax-loss harvesting, single stock diversification, Retirement Planner, and more. The biggest drawback is cost. You’ll need a minimum balance of $100,000 to get started, and you’ll pay between 0.49% and 0.89% in management fees.Schwab Intelligent Portfolios: This advisor offers several attractive features, least of which is a $0 advisory fee. But you’ll need at least $5,000 to get started, and you won’t have access to human advisors unless you upgrade to the premium service, which requires a balance of $25,000, a one-time planning fee of $300, and a monthly fee of $30.Fidelity Go: Created as Fidelity Investments’ robo-advisor offering, Fidelity Go provides low-cost automated investment management but doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting. There’s a tiered pricing structure that charges 0.35% for balances above $50,000. And you won’t be able to consult human advisors unless you upgrade to Fidelity Personalized Planning & Advice, which requires a $25,000 minimum and 0.50% annual fee.E-Trade Core Portfolios: E-Trade’s robo-advisor charges a reasonable annual fee of 0.30% on all balances (with a $500 minimum), but doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting. While E-Trade Core Portfolios’ customer service is strong, investors have no access to human financial advisors. 

How to find an in-person financial advisor

If you’d rather meet with an expert face to face, here are the best free online tools for finding one in your area:

CFP Board’s Let’s Make a PlanThis is a database of all CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals who are authorized to use their CFP® marks by the CFP® Board and are accepting new clients.Using the advanced search function, you can choose from over 40 focus areas you’re looking to get help with and include your current amount of investable assets.Click here to visit the CFP Board website.XY Planning NetworkThis database helps connect young professionals — those included in generations X and Y (millennials) — with individual advisors.Every advisor holds the CFP® certification, is a fiduciary, does not require a minimum net worth to take on new clients, and does not earn commissions.Click here to visit XY Planning Network.SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor Match toolThis tool asks users to answer a few questions about their income, savings, investments, and goals. In less than 10 minutes, it matches you with up to three advisors who will reach out to you after SmartAdvisor’s concierge team calls to confirm your request.Every financial advisor on the platform is a fiduciary, must be registered at the federal or state level, and has not had a felony conviction or disclosure within the past 10 years.Click here to visit SmartAdvisor.The National Association of Personal Financial AdvisorsThis platform maintains a database of fee-only financial advisors, not specifically CFP® certificants, who commit to a fiduciary oath once a year. You can filter by location to see a list of advisory firms in your area.Click here to visit the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors website.

Frequently asked questions

Why trust our recommendations?

Personal Finance Insider’s mission is to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We understand that “best” is often subjective, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a financial product, we outline the limitations, too. We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and fine print of various products and services so you don’t have to.

What is the best financial advisor company?

The best financial advisor depends on what you’re looking for. There are typically two categories: so-called robo-advisors, which use computer algorithms to create an investment portfolio and offer either digital or human recommendations, and advisor matching companies, which connect clients with credentialed human advisors.

Someone seeking comprehensive and personalized advice and a low-effort investment approach should consider SoFi Automated Investing, which creates a custom portfolio aligned with your goals and offers no cost sessions with certified financial planners. For investors with balances over $100,000, a good option is Betterment, which offers goals-based portfolios and complimentary, ongoing financial advice.

How much do financial advisors cost?

Financial advisors who are providing financial advice often charge by the hour, typically between $100 to $300. Advisors who are creating a comprehensive financial plan tend to charge a flat rate between $1,000 and $3,000. 

If you hire an advisor to manage your investment portfolio you’ll be charged a percentage of your account balance, typically between 1% and 3% annually. While that’s much higher than the fees that the best robo-advisors charge, you get the added benefit of being able to build a relationship with a trusted source who can adjust your strategy as needed, provide personal recommendations, and answer questions when they arise.

How much money do you need to hire a financial advisor?

Many traditional financial advisors require clients to have at least $100,000 in an investment account before they’ll manage it. Many online financial advisors (or robo-advisors) have no minimums. 

If you’re looking for financial advice only, many advisors don’t care about a minimum net worth, income, or investment balance as long as you can afford their fee.

Is a financial advisor worth it?

Not everyone needs a financial advisor — human or otherwise. However, you should consider paying a financial advisor if you need specific advice on your finances or investment strategy or you’re too overwhelmed or confused by your money to plan for retirement or invest in the stock market. 

Most online financial advisors — which may or may not give you access to a human expert — charge clients monthly or quarterly. You can always cancel if you don’t feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.

What’s the difference between a financial advisor and a financial planner?

A financial advisor is a catch-all term that includes financial planners and investment advisors. Most online advisors offer both investment management — whether it’s carried out by a human or a sophisticated computer algorithm — and financial planning services or tools.

Certified financial planners, or CFPs, are trained extensively in several areas of financial planning, including retirement, taxes, insurance, and estate planning. They also abide by the fiduciary rule, which means they’re legally obligated to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own and their firm’s. All CFPs must be fiduciaries, but not all fiduciaries have to be CFPs.

How do I choose a good financial advisor?

The best financial advisors follow the fiduciary rule, meaning they operate in their clients’ best interest, and are fee-only. This means client fees are their only compensation and they don’t earn commission when you invest in certain funds or buy financial products.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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