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Wealthfront review: Is automated investing right for you?

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Designed with millennials in mind, this robo-advisor helps build an automated investment plan around your life and goals

For many people without experience, investing can be intimidating. How do you get started? Which type of investment should you choose? Should you manage your money yourself? And if you hire someone to grow your money, whom should you choose?

Founded in 2011 in California’s Silicon Valley, Wealthfront is an investment firm that removes the guesswork from investing. It helps you build a financial plan and reach your goals with the help of automated investments. Consider letting it grow your money if these philosophies resonate with you:

  • You believe in investing for the long term.
  • You want low fees.
  • You believe software can manage money better than humans.

Let’s dive into Wealthfront so you can see if it’s right for you.

0.25%

Annual fee

$500

Minimum deposit to open

Details

Annual fee0.25%
Minimum deposit to open$500
Available asset typesMutual funds
Index funds
ETFs
Available asset classesReal estate
Government bonds
TIPS
Corporate bonds
Emerging market stocks
Emerging market bonds
Foreign developed stocks
US total stock market
US stocks
Dividend growth stocks
Natural resources
Wealthfront Wealthfront

First $5,000 managed free when you open a new account

Offer valid for new Wealthfront users

Last verified

How does Wealthfront work?

Wealthfront takes a user-friendly, all-in-one approach to investing, placing your money in a data-driven selection of assets that align with your financial goals:
  • Ease of use. Use Wealthfront‘s dashboard or mobile app to get a comprehensive overview of all your linked financial accounts anytime, anywhere.
  • Diversify your portfolio. Wealthfront invests your money in index funds and uses risk parity software to keep your investments diversified, allowing you to maintain the risk profile you’re comfortable with.
  • Keep taxes to a minimum. With software that executes trades strategically to keep your tax bite low, you’ll have more money left to grow over time.
  • Diverse product selection. Wealthfront allows you to open individual and joint accounts, trusts, 529 college savings plans, along with Traditional, Roth and SEP IRAs.
  • Resources. Wealthfront‘s blog provides a suite of educational resources to help you better understand investing.
  • Security. Wealthfront is backed by SIPC insurance, which protects up to $500,000 of your money in the event that Wealthfront runs into financial trouble.

How much does Wealthfront cost?

While the minimum deposit is $500, it’s free to open a Wealthfront account. Plus, you won’t pay fees for withdrawals, account closure, account transfer or trades.

Wealthfront charges an annual advisory fee of 0.25% — lower than the industry average of 1%, and it doesn’t charge trading commissions.

What are the benefits of Wealthfront?

  • Investing on autopilot. Investing your money with Wealthfront will allow you to set up your investment and forget it. You won’t need to manage your portfolio, make trades or anything else.
  • Free financial planning. Wealthfront‘s Path tool will analyze your financial data — everything from bank accounts to credit cards, loans, your home’s value and even Social Security — and assemble a custom plan to grow your money. Use it to save for a house, college, retirement and more, or get instant answers to more than 10,000 financial questions.
  • High-yield cash account. With the Wealthfront Cash Account, your money can earn a 1.82% APY with no fees and FDIC insurance up to $1 million.
  • Simple — and low — fees. Wealthfront charges an annual advisory fee of just 0.25%.
  • Calculated strategies. Wealthfront uses industry-leading Smart Beta technology in its PassivePlus investment suite for accounts with $500,000 or more to build a personalized portfolio that will maximize growth potential through intelligent weighting of stocks. For an additional 0.03%, it also uses Risk Parity for accounts of $100,000 or more to minimize risk by diversifying across multiple asset classes.
  • Automatic deposits and easy transfers. You can schedule free weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly deposits into your Wealthfront account, and transfers of cash or stock into or out of your account are fast and free.
  • Keeps your risk profile intact. Whatever your personal tolerance for risk, Wealthfront will constantly rebalance your portfolio to match it.
  • Reduces your tax bill. Wealthfront‘s PassivePlus uses a strategy called tax-loss harvesting to keep your taxes to a minimum. This involves strategically selling some exchange-traded funds (ETFs) at a loss so you can offset income on your tax return. If you have at least $100,000 in your account, you’ll qualify for Stock-Level Tax-Loss Harvesting, which is a more advanced version of tax-loss harvesting.
  • Fast, flexible line of credit. If your account contains at least $100,000 and isn’t a tax-advantaged retirement account, you get automatic access to a Portfolio Line of Credit that lets you borrow up to 30% of your account value without any paperwork or credit check, and often within 24 hours.

What to watch out for

It’s your money, and you want to protect it. Before signing up, understand what Wealthfront is all about and what downsides you should look out for:

  • Software-based investment decisions. Wealthfront uses algorithms and software to invest your money, so you won’t get human advice or management like you would with a bank-issued investment portfolio.
  • No physical branches. If you prefer a traditional banking experience, you might be disappointed to learn that Wealthfront doesn’t have any physical branches you can visit or certified financial planners you can call up.
  • No fractional shares. Wealthfront invests your money in ETFs, which must be purchased as a whole. And since ETFs generally range from $30 to $100 per, some of your money could be left as cash sitting in your portfolio and not growing.
  • Fund management fees. While Wealthfront only charges a 0.25% annual fee, the underlying ETFs will have management fees that you’ll be responsible for.
  • Relatively high minimum deposit. Wealthfront’s $500 minimum deposit is on the high end compared to what other robo-advisors require. For example, Betterment — one of Wealthfront’s closest competitors — has no minimum deposit.

Case study: Amy’s experience

profile pic

Amy Stoltenberg
Writer

Wealthfront’s design seems inspired by the “resources” page from your favorite civilization game and eschews financial jargon in favor of plain English. But while Wealthfront’s condensed user outlook encourages patting yourself on the back, I’m aware that the processes have been simplified for a distracted millennial mind. Due to its hyper-personalized approach, Wealthfront feels more like a glorified savings account than any kind of investment portfolio.

Even though opening an account with a traditional brokerage firm may appear more complicated on the surface, at least it holds the promise that you can one day visit a branch location, set a fully vetted plan in place for retirement and even learn a thing or two about how the sausage is made.

Compare with other robo-advisors

Name Product Minimum deposit to open Available asset types Annual fee
$100
Stocks
Bonds
ETFs
Cash
0%
No advisory fees for automated investing that's professionally managed. Now with a Socially Responsible Investing portfolio option.
$100
ETFs
0%
Put your money to work. Pay zero SoFi management fees.
$0
Stocks
Mutual funds
ETFs
Real estate
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.
$500
Mutual funds
Index funds
ETFs
0.25%
Wealthfront builds a free financial plan for the life you want and automate your investments at a low cost.
$10
Bonds
0%
Earn a 5% fixed return on bonds that support American small businesses.
$0
Stocks
Bonds
ETFs
$1 per month
Invest your spare change. Anyone can grow wealth.

Compare up to 4 providers

How to get started

  1. Visit the Wealthfront website and click Invest Now.
  2. Complete the questionnaire, which includes questions such as why you want to invest, what kind of financial advisor you want, your pre-tax income, your tax filing status and your risk tolerance. After completing the questionnaire, you’ll receive a diversified investment plan. Click Open My Account to continue.
  3. Create an account by entering your name and email address and creating a password.
  4. Enter your mobile phone number for security verification.

Eligibility

In order to open a Wealthfront account, you’ll need to meet a few eligibility requirements:

  • Have a valid Social Security number
  • Have a US residential address
  • Be a US citizen
  • Make an initial deposit of at least $500

Required information

Throughout the application process, you’ll be asked to provide to provide the following information:

  • Name and date of birth
  • Address
  • Mobile number
  • Email
  • Employment information
  • SSN
  • Financial goals
  • Employment information
  • Risk tolerance

I’ve signed up. Now what?

Now that you’ve signed up and established your profile and risk tolerance, you should take advantage of everything Wealthfront has to offer.

  • Manage your preferences. After you sign up, you’ll have the option to add more information so that Wealthfront can provide more accurate investment recommendations.
  • Set up new accounts. While you can choose which account you’d like to open when you first sign up, consider setting up new accounts for different financial goals.
  • Monitor your portfolio. Use the app or dashboard to track progress and monitor your portfolio over time.
  • Read the blog. Check the Wealthfront blog for helpful investment information, interesting tips and more.

How to get help

If you need to get in touch with customer service, you can send an email through the Wealthfront website or log in to your account to set up a phone call.

Bottom line

Wealthfront is an innovative company that’s built on passive investing, a strategy that’s praised by many. In fact, legendary investor Warren Buffet, advises most consumers to invest in index funds — a common form of passive investing. With low fees and automated portfolio management, it’s no surprise why millennials and many other beginner investors choose Wealthfront. But if you’re looking for a more traditional or hands-on approach to investing, this company might not be right for you. Compare your options to find a robo-advisor that can help you meet your financial goals.

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