M1 Finance review

Hands-off investing with a twist: You pick your investments and they’re managed for you.

Pros

  • Free to use
  • Pick your own investments
  • Automated portfolio monitoring
Cons

  • No tax-optimized investments
  • No customer support on weekends
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What we think of M1 Finance

Is M1 Finance worth it? Sure. Its Standard account is free to use, and there are no trade commissions. It comes with a free checking account, offers fractional shares, has a decent selection of accounts and automatically rebalances your portfolio.

What we like about M1 is that it strikes an interesting balance between automated investing and self-directed trades. Traditional robo-advisors are like two-wheeler bikes with training wheels: If your investments go sideways, there’s something there to help you course correct.

M1 Finance takes the training wheels off by letting you pick your own investments, but it doesn’t totally abandon you to the pavement — it’s designed to rebalance your portfolio automatically once you choose your investments. Kind of like having an older sibling running alongside the bike.

Ultimately, M1 Finance is a sensible option for investors who want a little more autonomy over their portfolio but aren’t quite ready or don’t have the time for full-blown active trading. The major drawbacks? It only offers access to stocks and ETFs and doesn’t help offset taxes with tax-loss harvesting options.

How does M1 Finance work?

As far as robo-advisors are concerned, M1 Finance is a bit of an odd duck. It offers automated investing, yes — but with a unique twist: Investors select their portfolio investment slices when they sign up. It doesn’t sound particularly groundbreaking, but it’s different from how most robo-advisors operate.

A standard robo-advisor asks you a bunch of questions when you sign up to determine your risk tolerance. It uses your responses to customize its investment algorithm and pick your portfolio holdings. M1 Finance lets its investors decide.

M1 Finance pies are made up of three or more individual “slices,” which act as the building blocks of your portfolio. These can be individual stocks, ETFs or other prebuilt portfolios known as custom, expert or community pies. You select at least three slices and give each a target weight for a total of 100%. If one allocation is more important than the others, you can assign it a higher weight.

Once you’ve built your portfolio, you fund your account to start investing. From there, M1 Finance automatically reinvests funds as they’re deposited into your account.

Custom pies: For investors ready to hand-pick their portfolio

This is M1 Finance’s core offering: custom portfolio pies that you hand-pick and craft yourself. If this is your first time putting something like this together, don’t panic. The ingredients have already been set out for you.

Granted, you’re spoiled for choice — M1 Finance has over 6,000 stocks and ETFs to choose from — but all you need to do is pick a few slices. Then you’ll be asked to set the target weight of each slice: essentially, how much of your pie would you like to dedicate to that specific ingredient.

Once you’ve picked your stock and ETF slices and assigned each a target weight, M1 Finance executes your strategy as outlined by your investment pie.

Expert pies: For new investors seeking guidance

Now, let’s say you’re not much of a baker — something about all those carefully measured ingredients feels like a hassle. Enter M1 Finance’s expert pies: over 80 professionally designed portfolios crafted around various investing goals and risk tolerances.

Think of this as your preassembled, prebaked pie. All you need to do is pick one off the rack and get it cooking by funding your account.

Community pies: For the socially responsible investor

M1 Finance’s community pies are value-driven portfolios well-suited to the socially conscious investor. These are preassembled pies that support Black, female, LGBTQ+, Latinx and Asian American companies. There’s also a pie that focuses on sustainable businesses. M1 Finance plans to add more community pies over time so socially responsible, value-driven investors have plenty of choice in the companies and causes they want to support.

Is M1 Finance really free?

Yes, the M1 Standard account is free to use. To upgrade to M1 Plus, you’ll generally need to pay a $125 annual fee, but you can get a free 1-year trial when you sign up today.

Head over to M1 Finance and scroll down to the button that says “Get M1 Plus” to get the offer. Oh, and you’ll need a $100 minimum deposit to get started with either service — $500 if you plan to open a retirement account.

Keep in mind that while M1 Standard is free to use, you may still encounter the odd account fee. For example, outgoing account transfers are subject to a $100 processing fee. And accounts with less than $20 and no activity for at least 90 days will get slapped with a $20 inactivity fee.

How does M1 Finance make money?

At the end of the day, M1 Finance is a business, and businesses need to make money to stay — well, in business. So if the M1 Finance Standard account is free to use and doesn’t charge trading commissions, what’s the catch? How does M1 Finance make money?

M1 Finance has a few different revenue streams. First, it makes money by lending out its investors cash holdings and earning interest on what it lends at a rate set by the Federal Reserve. Numerous investment platforms do this and it’s a pretty common practice.

Next, M1 Finance earns income from M1 Plus membership fees and interest from its M1 Borrow line of credit program.

Finally, like many commission-free trading platforms, M1 Finance earns money from Payment for Order Flow (PFOF). Essentially, M1 Finance routes customer orders to market makers for execution.

Market makers act as middlemen that help execute and fill the trade. In exchange for business, these market makers pay M1 Finance: Payment for Order Flow.

M1 Standard vs. M1 Plus

The M1 Standard account is free to use and has almost everything you need to hit the ground running, including unlimited commission-free trades, automated rebalancing and fractional investing. The main difference between M1 Standard and M1 Plus — besides the $125 annual fee — is that Plus gives you an extra trading window, 0.25% discount on borrowed funds and 1% APY on your M1 checking account.

PlansYearly feeMinimum depositFeatures
M1 StandardFree$100 for self-directed accounts

$500 for retirement accounts

  • Unlimited free trades
  • Dynamic rebalancing
  • Fractional shares
  • Custom and expert portfolios
  • One daily trading window
  • Free checking account
M1 Plus$125$100 for self-directed accounts

$500 for retirement accounts

Everything in M1 Standard, plus:
  • Two daily trading windows
  • 0.25% discount on borrowed funds
  • Free checking account that earns 1% APY and 1% cash back on debit card purchases

How do I sign up?

Follow these seven steps to open an account:

  1. Go to M1 Finance.
  2. Hit Get Started.
  3. Enter your email, create your password and select Sign up now.
  4. Confirm your email address and choose Continue.
  5. Choose which pies you want to use in your portfolio and select Continue.
  6. Assign a percentage weight to each of your pies and hit Continue.
  7. Follow the steps to verify your identity and fund your account.

Eligibility

To sign up for an M1 Finance account, you’ll need to meet a few eligibility requirements:

  • At least 18 years old
  • US citizen or resident
  • US residential address
  • External bank account

Required information

You’ll need the following information when you open your account:

  • Legal name
  • Mailing address
  • Social Security number
  • Government-issued ID number
  • Login information for external bank

    Is M1 Finance legit?

    Yes, M1 Finance is a legit robo-advisor founded in 2015. It’s registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). And your investments are insured up to $500,000 by the SIPC and your check accounts are insured up to $250,000 by the FDIC. So you can feel confident banking and investing with M1 Finance.

    M1 Finance reviews and complaints

    As of June 2021, M1 Finance isn’t accredited by the Better Business Bureau, but it has an A- rating and 1.47 out of 5 stars based on 32 reviews. Its Trustpilot rating is a bit more optimistic, with a 2.6 out of 5-star rating based on three reviews.

    Android users are pretty happy with the M1 Finance app — 14,730 users rated it an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars. And M1 Finance has a 4.6 out of 5-star rating based on 31,200 reviews on the Apple App Store.

    Many customers enjoy the “pie” concept, which helps investors visualize their finances. The primary complaint is M1 Finance‘s lack of customer service options, including waiting several days to hear back from someone. Reviewers agree that M1 Finance isn’t for active trading, stating that the platform is “really centered around putting your investing on autopilot.”

    What financial services does M1 Finance offer?

    M1 Finance lets you invest, borrow and manage your cash in one intuitive automated platform. It offers:

    • Investment accounts. Create an individual, joint, IRA or trust account and then build an investing strategy that’s right for you.
    • Checking accounts. Integrate your investments with a checking account. M1 Plus customers who pay the $125 annual fee earn 1% APY and 1% cash back on qualifying debit card purchases.
    • Portfolio lines of credit. Borrow against your portfolio with interest rates up to 3.5% once your portfolio value reaches $10,000.

    What is a qualifying debit card purchase?

    To earn 1% cash back on a debit card purchase, you must swipe your debit card in person or enter your debit card number online for goods or services, excluding returns, fees or credits.

    ATM transactions, peer-to-peer transactions, fund transfers and loan payments are not eligible for cash back. And purchases made through third-party services like Venmo and PayPal may not be eligible.

    How do I contact M1 Finance support?

    There are two ways to contact M1 customer service:

    • Email. Fill out the request form on its website for a reply within one business day — though some investors report waiting several days for a response.
    • Phone. Call 312-600-2883 weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.

    Alternatives to M1 Finance

    The platform is certainly worth a look for those eager to choose their investments — but it won’t be a practical fit for everyone. Since M1 Finance occupies such an interesting middle ground between traditional robo-advisors and self-directed trading platforms, not all investors will benefit from its approach.

    Those seeking more autonomy over their investments may want to shift into self-directed trading. If that’s the case, consider a platform like Robinhood, TD Ameritrade or Webull. But be warned: If you open a self-directed brokerage account with any of these platforms, you’ll be on your own — solely responsible for diversifying and maintaining your portfolio with no automated rebalancing feature to keep you on track.

    If you’re not quite ready for self-directed trades or don’t feel comfortable building your own portfolio, consider a robo-advisor that does this for you, like Betterment. You’ll answer a series of questions when you sign up, and your robo-advisor will use your responses to draft your asset allocation strategy. Then, all you’ll need to do is fund your account and you’re off to the races.

    Name Product Minimum deposit to open Available asset types Annual fee
    Acorns
    $5
    ETFs
    $1 per month
    Invest your spare change. Anyone can grow wealth.
    SoFi Automated
    $0
    Stocks, Bonds, ETFs
    $0 per month
    Put your money to work. Let SoFi build and manage a portfolio for you. Pay zero SoFi management fees.
    Titan
    $100
    Stocks
    1% on balances of $10,000+
    While not technically a robo advisor, Titan offers a hands-off investment platform that seeks to outperform the market.
    Betterment
    $0
    ETFs
    0.25% on balances up to $99,999

    0.4% on balances of $100,000+
    Betterment's automatic investment site aims to improve your returns and support good financial habits with passive investing and financial planning support.
    Stash Invest
    $0
    Stocks, ETFs
    $1 per month
    Stash is more than an investment app. You’ll have access to tools that can help you become a confident investor.
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    Disclaimer: The value of any investment can go up or down depending on news, trends and market conditions. We are not investment advisers, so do your own due diligence to understand the risks before you invest.

    Bottom line

    M1 Finance is ideal for long-term investors who want the guidance of a robo-advisor but the freedom to change things up. This platform has zero fees or commissions, plus it comes with unusual features like fractional shares and dynamic rebalancing.

    But M1 Finance doesn’t help you set and track goals like other robo-advising platforms. Even if you decide on the automated investing option, you’ll need to know what you want to invest in before you start. If you’re brand new to investing and need extra guidance, keep shopping around for options.

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