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Wealthfront Review 2020: Investing Made Simple

Today hundreds of millions of Americans invest in the stock market. There used to be two main methods of investing: opening a brokerage account or hiring a financial advisor to invest for you. 

Nowadays there are investment management companies that allow us to use Robo-advisors. Robo- advisors are “robots” that provide top of the line financial advice/investment management. These so-called “robots” are programmed based on algorithms and mathematical rules. 

Wealthfront has become one of the leaders in the Robo-advisor market space. 

Wealthfront was one of the first investment management companies to start with Robo-advisors. Today they are one of the best in the industry! 

In our review, we will dive into Wealthfront. We will show you what they do outstandingly well, what they need improving and if Wealthfront is the right online broker for you.

Whether your current broker just isn’t cutting it or you’re looking for a new broker, we’ show you what Wealthfront has to offer!

Quick Look at Wealthfront

Wealthfront is an investment management giant that offers affordable diversification investment portfolios with top of the line planning tools.

What separates Wealthfront from the rest is their Robo-advisory services. The overall goal behind Wealthfront is to offer the best financial advisory services to those who might not have previously been able to afford them. 

Account Minimum: $500 USD

Fees: 0.25% management fee for most accounts 

Pros:

  • Great financial planning that helps the investor see the whole picture
  • Profile line of credit available
  • Unbelievable planning tools available for investors (even if you have multiple goals) 

Cons:

  • There isn’t an online chat
  • Larger accounts might be exposed to more expensive mutual funds

Wealthfront is best for:

  • Investors who want a “hands-off” approach
  • A load of free financial tools
  • Investors who want to take advantage of tax-loss harvesting 

What is Wealthfront all About (Full Review)

Wealthfront is one of many investment firms in the Robo- advisory market. 

In the past decade, Robo-advisors have become a growing trend within the brokerage industry. They started as a way to help novice investors or those who lack time to invest.

Robo-advisors provide access to a virtual financial advisor without the bloated fees their physical counterparts can carry. Wealthfront has played a major part in revolutionizing this niche.

With Wealthfront, you do not actively trade individual stocks, mutual funds, options, etc. Like Betterment, you invest in a basket of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) created for you based on your circumstances. 

Let’s look at the services and features that Wealthfront provides:

Wealthfront Overview
Account minimum $500
Management fee 0.25% annually for most accounts – no trading commissions or fees for withdrawals. 
Accounts 
  • Individual & joint non-retirement 
  • Roth, traditional, SEP & rollover IRAs
  • Trusts
  • 529 college savings plans
  • 401(k) rollovers
  • Cash account 
Tax strategy/planning 
  • Tax harvesting in taxable accounts
  • Smart-beta- clients who have a balance of $500,000 or more
  • TurboTax customers can effortlessly import tax-loss harvesting information from Wealthfront 
Portfolio rebalancing Free for all accounts 
Helpful tools
  • Free financial planning tools
  • A line of credit available if needed
  • Can link external accounts 
Customer support Phone assistance 

  • Monday-Friday 10 AM- 8 PM eastern

Email

  • wealthfront.com/contact-us

It’s time to move on to a more in-depth understanding of Wealthfront, let’s dive in!

Signup & Portfolio Management 

Once you input your personal details, the Wealthfront Path financial advisor will ask you some questions. These questions are for you, to better understand how you stand as an investor.

Some of the questions include:

  • Choosing main investment goals: college saving, general savings or retirement
  • Your objectives: Maximum gains, minimum losses, both
  • If your portfolio lost 5% of its value, what would you do? Sell, buy, stay static

At the end of the process, Wealthfront will create an investment portfolio. The portfolio is customized to you for you based on your risk tolerance, goals and investing style.

Wealthfront keeps an eye on your goals and monitors portfolios closely. If an investor changes their risk tolerance Wealthfront’s algorithm will change as well. They will align your risk with the asset allocation in your portfolio.

Wealthfront has a goal to minimize the amount of taxes you pay. They have one of the best tax-loss harvesting programs in the industry. This service is available for taxable accounts and the bottom line is to save money on taxes.

If you have a large investing account of $100,000 or $500,000, Wealthfront adds additional technology to help your investments perform.

 Wealthfront has a service called  Smart Beta (formerly known as Advanced Indexing) which helps increase returns by intelligently weighing securities in your portfolio. 

Commissions & Fees

Wealthfront pricing is very competitive, similar to other top investment companies like Betterment. 

Fees can be very damaging to an investment portfolio. Wealthfront is well aware of that and boasts as one of the lowest fee structures in the industry.

In general, there are two main costs that you should be aware of when signing up with an investment firm that uses Robo-advisory.

  1. Management fees-
    • A fee to the brokers, in our case Wealthfront for their investment platform and service.
  2. Investment fees-
    • These fees are for the purchased securities and go to the investment funds themselves (not Wealthfront).
Account minimum $500
Management fee 0.25%
Investment fee Between 0.06%-0.13%
Total fee Between 0.31%-0.38%

Investment Options 

Wealthfront has hundreds of thousands of securities available for investors. For the most part, Wealthfront focuses on low-cost ETFs that cover the following asset classes:


Stocks

  • U.S stocks
  • Emerging market stocks
  • Dividend stocks
  • Foreign stocks

Bonds

  • U.S government bonds
  • Municipal bonds
  • Corporate bonds
  • Treasury inflation-protected securities
  • Emerging market bonds

Alternatives

  • Real estate 
  • Natural resources 

We must note that there may be a slight difference if your account is tax-deferred like an IRA. for the most part, the portfolio Wealthfront creates is based on the above ETFs listed

Goal Setting Tools

Wealthfront has some of the best tools available to their investors! 

On your dashboard, your goals are always right there to keep you updated and show your progression towards your goal.

Wealthfront has numerous tools to help you reach your goals. For example, if you’re interested in opening up a college savings account, Wealthfront can help you reach an attainable goal. They have a college saving estimator that projects the cost of room board and tuition. 

They use third party data to gather the most accurate information on the web to accurately guide investors to their goals. 

Features

The nice thing about Wealthfront is that they offer so much more than your average online brokerage. Below are a few of the many features you can your to leverage your portfolio and get to your goals faster

Wealthfront Cash Account: A high-interest cash account

  • 2.07% APY (no fees)
  • Unlimited transfers (FDIC deposit insurance up to $1 million) 

Tailored Transfers: Exclusive to Wealthfront investors

  • If you are moving from a previous broker you can transfer assets into a diverse portfolio overtime inset of selling 
  • This can help lower taxes 

External Account Support: Organize all of your accounts

  • This is service that helps you keep your accounts organized and under on roof
  • Helps you see the full picture

529 College Savings: An account specifically designed to save for college

  • There are great tax advantages
  • You can use this account for tuition, room, board, etc 

Portfolio Line of Credit: Once you have $25,000 in your individual, trust, or joint account you have access to credit with Wealthfront

  • 4.5%-6% interest
  • Can borrow up top 30% of your account

Free Financial Planning: Use Wealthfront’s app to plan, just download it

  • You can plan your child’s college education costs with the app
  • If you’re interested in buying a home, you can get estimates on mortgages to better understand the market 

Time off: A planning service that helps users evaluate possible time they can take off from work

  • They offer a calculator that is connected to your financial data
  • The calculator can tell you how much you can take off from work while keeping your financial goals intact

Retirement savings: Plan for your retirement

  • Wealthfront can help you plan for your retirement while looking at all of your accounts
  • Giving you a full realistic view

PassvePlus: Wealthfront’s investment strategy set

  • Established to maximize client investments and minimize tax using tax-loss harvesting
  • Beta Smart is a service that helps clients weigh stocks in portfolio more intelligently (for investors with $500,000 and up)

Customer Service & Educational Tools

Wealthfront offers a large variety of services on their web desktop panel. A few of the following are: “My Wealthfront,” “Getting Started,” and “Learning Center.” These services are available on the online help center whenever you need them. 

Wealthfront also has an overwhelmingly large amount of informational videos on investing. If you need assistance, simply call Wealthfront’s support line.

Wealthfront doesn’t have an online chat, but they have a customer support team. They are open Monday through Friday, 7 AM-5 PM Pacific time. They also have a twitter presence and most support questions are posted over there. 

Security 

Wealthfront is an investment management company that knows how to take proper security measures. They go above and beyond to protect investors from hackers and foreign dangers

Wealthfront is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). Being a member of the SIPC, clients are protected up to $500,000. They also ensure separate cash accounts by the FDIC up to $1 million per account.

In addition to that, Wealthfron takes personal security seriously. They are equipped with a 2-step authorization and security questions at login for added protection. 

What Separates Wealthfront From The Rest

There is much to like about Wealthfront. Many of their positive features have been pointed out already, but just in case you missed them, here they are:

  • Fees: Wealthfront is hard to beat when it comes to fees. When you look at Wealthfront vs. Betterment in terms of fees, both are low in price, though Wealthfront has a slight edge due to the flat structure.
  • Tax-loss harvesting: This has been covered at length, but Wealthfront uses tax-loss harvesting to effectively and efficiently grow your portfolio.
  • Personalized service: Much like Betterment, Wealthfront is set up to help you reach your specific goals. For those lacking access to a true physical financial advisor, this is a huge benefit.
  • Dividend Reinvestment: Unlike Motif Investing, Wealthfront offers dividend reinvestment and does so wisely. This allows for greater potential in growing your portfolio, especially when rebalancing is taken into consideration.
  • Simple:  Many often hold back from investing in the stock market out of fear or feeling like they don’t know enough. Wealthfront makes it incredibly simple and straightforward so you can do other things and learn along the way.
  • Led by a team of experts: This is part of what really helps Wealthfront stand apart. They have a big-league advisory committee led by Burton Malkiel. You can’t get that anywhere else.

Drawbacks to Wealthfront

There are many things to like about Wealthfront, especially for those new to investing. Although no brokerage is perfect. Below are some of the things to keep in mind when considering Wealthfront:

  • Lack of customization: Regardless of your situation or stage in life, you are going to be offered the same selection of ETFs. You also have no input as to which ones will be selected. This provides simplicity, though for the DIY crowd it may not be a good fit. It is very important to point out that this lack of customization is not unique to Wealthfront, but applies to the Robo-advisor market as a whole.
  • Wealthfront is not for the DIY investor: The beauty of handing management over to someone else is also a downside to those wanting control. Again, this isn’t unique to Wealthfront and comes with any Robo-advisor.
  • They don’t know what else you’re invested in:  If you have outside 401(k) accounts or other brokerage accounts Wealthfront does not know what you invested in. This can result in being over-invested in certain classes, industries or sectors if you’re not careful. A relatively simple way to counteract this is to sign up for a free Personal Capital account so you can monitor all of your investments in one place.
  • No pure cash option:  Again, like many other Robo-advisors you don’t have access to a money market fund. You buy whole shares with Wealthfront and they leave enough cash to cover management fees and nothing else. For those needing quick access to cash or wanting to pull back temporarily, this is not an option.

Bottom Line: Is Wealthfront Right For You?

Whether you are new to investing, or you simply lack the time to invest, Wealthfront can help meet those needs. 

Overall we think Wealthfront is an excellent investment service with one of the best Robo-advisors available. 

They are a transparent online brokerage with plenty of tools and features to help you grab hold of your financial goals.

If you’re an investor looking for the middle ground between DIY and hired financial advisor, Wealthfront is perfect for you.