Archive | Finance

13 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Betterment Automated Investment Platform Review

A month or so ago I reviewed Acorns, which is a micro investment round-up app.  My biggest complaint about Acorns was the high fees, I have since dropped Acorns and have been experimenting with a Platform called Betterment.

Betterment is a much more well rounded system, it offers various types of accounts.  It has the standard Traditional and Roth 401ks as well as a normal brokerage account, however you can create accounts based on goals.

It has several pre-defined goals for you, like Safety Net, Retirement Savings, College Savings, Home Purchase, etc.

Now before you scream at me what a terrible idea it is to place Safety Net funds in an investment account, one thing that makes Betterment awesome is that you can adjust how much of your account is in stocks, and how much is in bonds.

For example, my retirement accounts are mostly all stocks, I’m young enough that the market can (and will) crash before I retire, but I have enough time for it to rebound, so I can accept the risk of a higher stock percentage, for the potential greater return.

On the other hand, I have a house savings goal, which is split about 40% Stocks and 60% bonds, this way there is some security with the bonds in case the market plummets, but I can still get some of the growth that the market brings along with it.

I do have also have an emergency funds account, while I do keep at least 6 months in my High Interest Savings account, being self employed can be a bit up and down, so I’m aiming for a 24-month emergency fund so I would have time to retrain if necessary.  The amount in this account is only 10% Stocks, with 90% bonds.  This gives me the security of having Bonds to prevent it from falling, but still with some extended growth that stocks can give.

Allowing you to set these percentages on your own, and change them at any time, is a great feature because it lets the more conservative investors be able to set something that helps them feel more comfortable, and the more risk averse among us can go all in with stocks.

The stocks that are being traded are all Vanguard ETFs: VTI, VTV, VOE, VBR, VEA, and VWO.  The bonds are varied from both domestic and international, again all Vanguard: SHV, VTIP, BND, LQD, BNDX, and VWOB.

This is a good mix to get you a lot of market sectors which is beneficial because, for example, of pharmaceuticals drop, you’ll have enough spread out that it wont be too impactful.

The fees for Betterment is where it gets.. well.. even better.

You pay a fixed annual percentage rate, considering this is a fully managed account, the fees are at an excellent rate.

If youhave less than $10,000 combined in your accounts, your fee is $3 a month, however if you have direct deposit set to a minimum of $100 a month, then the fee changes to 0.35%

For those with over $10,000 the fee decreases to 0.25% and once you have passed $100,000 then your fee drops even lower to 0.15%

These fees are extremely competitive, even for a self directed account, let alone a completely managed one.

You also get the first three months free to try it out.

I’ve tried a few different accounts, I had a 401k at Merrill Edge which I am in the process of rolling over, this was a self directed account and honestly I don’t know enough nor am active enough to maximize that, not to mention the fees were higher.

I also had a Scottrade account, which was $7 per trade, which is fairly high rate, and again self directed.

I really like that this account is fully managed, so I can just let it work on it’s own.  If my account gets off from the % I set, then it automatically rebalances with my next deposit.  Additionally they offer tax loss harvesting for accounts with over $50,000 to help minimize tax impacts.

Betterment is an incredibly easy to use, simple way for beginner investors, or busy people, to be able to invest on auto pilot, I’ve had it for about two months and so far am a huge fan.

The average Betterment return over the last decade has been 114%, meaning that people who invested $100 in 2004, now have $214.  Keep in mind this includes the 2008 recession, and this is with an average of 60% Stock, 40% Bonds.

That return is about on par with what should be expected, on average your money will double every 10 years, so this is slightly above what you would expect.

Personally, I have had my accounts open for 2 months and have gotten about 2% of a return, though keep in mind it ran at a loss for a lot of last month due to a declining stock market.

So far I’m pleased with Betterment, I think it’s perfect for someone like me who is new to investing, and wants something that can just do it for them, so far I’m only putting in the minimum $100 a month to reduce the fee, but am in the process of moving all my other accounts over to it because I am so pleased with the service.

You can try Betterment for 3 months totally free of charge, deposits and withdrawal are easy from your bank account using standard ACH, though I would recommend doing at least $100 auto deposit monthly to take advantage of the reduced rate if you are just starting out.

Have you tried Betterment?  What do you think?


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18 December 2014 ~ 7 Comments

Acorns Micro-investment Round up app review

Acorns is a cool little iOS and Android App that connects to your bank account and uses “Round-Ups” to invest money.

Basically if you make a purchase of, for example, $4.98 cents, it will then hold the remaining $0.02, rounding it to $5, and using that to make an investment.

One of the things I liked about Acorns was that it was really a “set it and forget it” style of investing, you set it up, it monitors your transactions and rounds up your change, then once it reaches $5 or more, makes an automatic deposit into your investing account.

You don’t really have to put any thought into it, or any active actions to make it work, once it is set up, it just goes until you stop it.

This is great for the audience that I believe it to be targeted to, which is essentially people who don’t have the knowledge (or patience) for selecting their own stocks, but don’t quite need the hand holding that comes with having your own advisor manage your investments for you.

This makes it a super easy way for people who know they should be investing money, but aren’t, to start dipping their toes into the water.  The issue however, is that when you are trying to compete with the sort of automated online/cloud based investing.. the fees just aren’t up to par.

With Acorns you pay $1 a Month + 0.5% (Up to $5k, then it drops to 0.25%).

I used this for a few days and found from my own personal use it was averaging about $3 a day in Round-Ups.

If we took that $3 x 30.5 days a month we would be given a monthly investment of $91.50.

A $1 Fee + 0.5% turns out to $1.45, or 1.59% of our investment…

Now if we just stopped investing here, and let the money sit.. with a market average annual return of 7% a year, our $91.50 would have an annual growth of $6.40, but the fee on it would be nearly $20.

When you look at online investment options, the novelty of the ‘Round-Ups’ is quickly washed aside by the fact that fees are so dramatically higher than their competitors, and will be sitting there slowly eating away at your investments.

Have you used Acorns?  What do you think?

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