DIY vs ready-made investments

Find out the main differences between DIY and ready-made investments and what's best for you.

When you first set out to invest, there are a couple of different platform types that you’ll come across: share trading platforms (which we call DIY) and robo-advisors (which we refer to as ready-made). Some providers offer both options, while others might specialise in just one of the two.

Whichever one you choose will depend on how you want to invest and what you want to get out of investing. We’ll explain the difference between a robo advisor and a DIY and help you figure out which one of the two would suit you best.

DIY platforms

A DIY platform is a share dealing provider that lets you buy shares, funds and other types of investments, such as commodities and bonds. You can choose from its range of investments to create your own collection of investments — like when you go into your favourite donut shop and choose individual donuts to create a box of 12.

You’re in charge of how much of your investment goes towards each individual share or fund, and it’s up to you to keep tabs on it and change it as you go.

Ready-made

Ready-made options are typically offered by robo-advisors. Rather than choosing individual investments, you can choose an “off the shelf” portfolio. A professional has collected together the investments for you and they keep tabs on how it’s doing.

You often choose a ready made portfolio based on how much risk you’re prepared to take on, and you can see a rough guide on how much you might expect to make from each one.

Think back to being in that donut shop – you could pick up a box of 12 that’s already been put together. You can expect to see a mix of safer choices that everyone likes among a collection of riskier ones.

A mix of the two

One approach could be to try out both. If you’re just getting started, you could assign most of your funds to a ready-made portfolio that suits your risk profile and invest the rest into a portfolio that you make up yourself. You can see if you can “beat the pros”, while not completely throwing caution to the wind — this certainly ticks the “diversified portfolio” box, too.

How do I choose between DIY and ready-made?

This depends solely on who you are as an investor – consider these questions:

What are you trying to achieve with investing?

If you’re interested in the markets and want to have a go — as though you were taking up a new hobby or skill — you might prefer to choose DIY as it’s a lot more time consuming, but can be rewarding.

If you’re disappointed in the interest rates offered by savings accounts and simply want to make your money work a little more, you may prefer a ready-made platform. This is a more passive option and means you can sit back a little.

How much time can you dedicate to investing?

If you’re prepared to spend some time creating a diverse portfolio and you’re happy to keep tabs of it regularly and rebalance around once a month, a DIY portfolio could work for you.

If you’re thinking you’d like to spend more time than this on investing, you may be looking for day trading. This is where investors make several trades each day, in an attempt to time the market and make quick wins. It’s a fairly time-consuming process and doesn’t often work out for beginners.

If you’d prefer to put your money into an investment and set up a direct debit, with the idea of only checking in on it every few months, then a robo-advisor might be more suitable for you.

What's a diverse portfolio?

A diverse portfolio is a collection of different types of investments from a range of different sectors and countries.

Someone who has only got shares in the “FAANG stocks” — Facebook (Meta), Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (Alphabet) — might hold 5 different stocks, but they’re all US technology shares. So if there was a stock market crash in the US or in the technology sector, they wouldn’t do so well.

A fund is a good way of diversifying, but you’d still want to choose a few different ones, so all your investments aren’t managed by only one fund manager

How much money are you planning on investing?

Most providers allow you to invest from as little as £1, although some longer standing providers have quite significant minimum deposits. You don’t ever need a lot of money to start investing — ready-made options tend to let you invest very small amounts, and DIY platforms would work as long as the provider you’ve chosen lets you invest in fractional shares, has a low minimum deposit and has funds or exchange traded funds (ETFs) available.

This allows you to still create a diverse portfolio of investments with a small sum.

How much risk do you want to take on?

Typically, a ready-made portfolio carries less risk than going at it yourself — a professional fund manager will put them together and rebalance them to keep them in line with their risk profiles. With DIY, you’re in the driving seat — it’s up to you to decide when to sell or purchase an investment. You could also fall into a trap of not diversifying enough, which a fund manager will have experience in.

That doesn’t mean to say that you’ll lose all your investments quickly — higher risk could mean higher reward, but it’s difficult to pin down how risky your portfolio is.

If you’re not keen on risk and would prefer to let the professionals do their thing, consider a ready-made portfolio. If you’re happy to take on some additional risk, a DIY option would work.

Can I change my mind?

Yes! Your choice now doesn’t determine how you invest for the rest of your life. If you choose a robo-advisor and find yourself interested in researching investments and want to have more say, you can always move to a new provider. Equally, if you go for a DIY choice and find that you don’t have the time to research investments or that you could get better returns with a robo, then you can change from a DIY to a robo-advisor.

There are providers that offer both, so if you think you want to try the “beat the pros” tactic or that you might want to change to a different investing style down the road, then it could be an easier switch.

What next?

Now you’ve got a better idea of what type of portfolio you want, it’s easier to find an investment provider. If you decided you’d like a robo-advisor, you can compare robo-advisors. If you’d prefer a DIY platform you can compare share dealing providers.

If you think you might like something that offers both, you can compare share trading accounts that also offer ready-made portfolios using our comparison table.

All investing should be regarded as longer term. The value of your investments can go up and down, and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. If you’re not sure which investments are right for you, please seek out a financial adviser. Capital at risk.

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