There are two main problems many investors have when starting out: The first is not being able to hire a financial advisor because you don’t have enough assets. The second is finding out how to diversify your investments.
These are problems because most financial advisors are looking for clients with $250,000 of assets or more. You can find some advisors who will take you on as a client with less, say $50,000, but most first timers don’t even have that. Up until recently, your option was basically save up until you have $3,000 and invest with Vanguard. But times have changed. Betterment solves this problem and solves the problem of diversifying your investments as well.
How Betterment Works
To start investing (with as little as $100 per month) you simply choose your investing goal, risk tolerance and timeline. From there, Betterment will invest your money and periodically rebalance your portfolio for you. Betterment invests your money in one of their index portfolios consisting of ETF’s (see below). Depending on your risk tolerance, your portfolio will be created with a mix of the stock basket and the bond basket. That’s it.
Stock Market Basket
Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI)
iShares S&P 500 Value Index (IVE)
Vanguard Europe Pacific (VEA)
Vanguard Emerging Markets (VWO)
iShares Russell Midcap Value Index (IWS)
iShares Russell 2000 Value Index (IWN)
Treasury Bond Basket
iShares Barclays TIPS Bond Fund (TIP)
iShares Barclays 1-3 Year Treasury Bond Fund (SHY)
When you are first starting out, Betterment takes a fee of 0.35% to manage your money and that decreases as your account size increases. There are no other fees that they charge. (Note that if you forego the $100 monthly deposit, you will be charged a monthly $3 fee). Of course, you still pay the management fees of the underlying ETF’s that you invest in. But since they are ETF’s, the management fees are low.
Betterment has been around since 2010 and is protected by SIPC insurance, like most investment brokers. Note that SIPC insurance does not guarantee you against loss of money like FDIC insurance does. It covers you in the event of fraud.
Betterment preaches investing to reach your goals and to focus on the long term along with diversification and balancing risk and reward.
Why I Recommend Betterment
I love Betterment because of its simplicity and low fee structure, not to mention it follows my rules for what you can control when investing. Additionally, it is a great way for first timers to begin investing. The downside of it is that there are only a handful of ETF’s you can invest in. However, since the site is tailored specifically to first time investors, less is more. I find for those just starting out, having more options gives them “analysis paralysis” and they end up doing nothing because they are overwhelmed.
Full Disclosure: I am not getting paid for this review. If you do click on the sidebar ad and open an account to get the $25 bonus, I will get a commission. (Thank you in advance for anyone that does go this route.) I am not currently using Betterment as I invest in a larger variety of index mutual funds and ETF’s. If I were a first time investor, I would be investing with Betterment and I do recommend it to my friends and other first time investors.
Have you tried Betterment? What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks of the site?