What is Betterment?
If you have been searching for an all-in-one money tool that is easy to use, provides advice and automatically manages your investments, helps you reach your short and long-term financial goals, and is personalized to your specific situation, then look no further than Betterment.
Betterment is the largest independent online financial advisor with the singular goal of helping you to know what you should do to make the most of your money. During the economic crisis of 2008 they designed the first ever robo-advisor tool to automatically build and manage short and long-term investment portfolios – and they do it all with a tailored approach that is based on your personal profile and goals. They offer a suite of financial products and services to help with everything from the cash you spend today to the money you save for tomorrow and beyond.
Betterment Overall Rating: 4.7 ★ / 5.0 ★
The bottom line is that Betterment is one of the industry leaders when it comes to automated, low-cost investment and money management technologies. They have an easy to use yet robust platform where they automatically manage your investments, help you plan for retirement expenses, automate your savings, help you select the right accounts, and much more. And better yet, they are a fiduciary which means they act in your best interest.
Pros & Cons of Betterment
Pros of Betterment
- Transparent and low-cost with no hidden fees or additional trading costs
- Robust goal-based and personalized tools
- Automated investment recommendations, portfolio rebalancing, and dividend reinvestment
- Easy to use and great looking desktop platform and mobile app
- No account minimums for standard product
Cons of Betterment
- Several account offerings and services, which can be overwhelming or confusing for some
- Limited access to financial planners and advisors compared to other platforms
Betterment Pricing: 4.7 ★
As far as pricing goes, Betterment is extremely inexpensive when compared to other investment and cash management platforms. They are also very transparent, which is extremely helpful for the less-seasoned investor. Below is a quick pricing overview for their main services.
Investing and Retirement
Betterment charges a simple 0.25% annual asset-based fee on invested balances. Plus, each of the investments within the portfolios charge an annual expense ratio, which range from .03% – .50%.
The checking account option carries no monthly account fees, maintenance fees, minimums, withdrawal fees, and they reimburse all ATM fees worldwide (including 1% Visa transaction fees on foreign transactions).
Betterment’s Cash Reserve/savings account option carries no fees on balances, no transfer limits to and from other accounts, and no minimum balances.
One-on-one Expert Advice
Betterment provides several options for those looking to work with a licensed financial expert. The one-time call packages range anywhere from $199 – $299.
Betterment’s Premium Advice features are completely optional, but only available for those with a minimum balance of $100,000. They charge 0.40% per year on the invested balance for unlimited over-the-phone access to a team of Certified Financial Professionals and offer other concierge-type services. *This is the only Betterment service that requires a minimum balance.*
Betterment Offering / Product Features: 4.6 ★
What was once just an investing platform has now become a central hub for your financial life. Betterment can help manage, grow, and save your money through several different products and services to help with daily cash management, guided investing, and even retirement planning. There are a large number of services that Betterment offers, which could be overwhelming to new users or those that are seeking a very simple investment solution.
Investing money can be a difficult and daunting activity for those of us without the experience or time needed. Betterment believes that investing is all about reaching your long-term financial goals, like kitchen renovations, down payment for a house, or child’s education, all while making it as easy as possible for you. With their Invest product and automated platform they take the guesswork out of investing and help you with the following:
- Recommend investment portfolios based on your personal profile, goals, and timeframe.
- Automatically rebalance your portfolio to make sure your investments stay on track.
- Reinvest any dividends paid out by companies within the portfolio.
Betterment offers a range of risk-based portfolios that are built using low-cost ETFs and are globally diversified with the goal of achieving the best possible take-home returns. You can read a more in-depth analysis about their investment methodology here, but the simple idea is to maximize returns and minimize the cost and tax consequences of investing. Betterment is also a fiduciary, which means that they are legally bound to act in your best interest.
Similar to Betterment’s Invest services, its Retire product is designed to make a retirement plan that is as personalized as possible to your situation. They use the same investment portfolio recommendations and strategies as their invest product and also help with:
- Account type recommendations which include Traditional, Roth, SEP, and Roth Conversions.
- Automated savings through auto-deposits and account rebalancing
- Simple rollover process
- Tax Coordination services to implement tax-saving strategies
- Retirement income solution that analyzes spending habits to project retirement income needs
Spend & Save
In more recent years Betterment has ventured into offering checking and savings accounts through their Spend and Save products.
Spend is the Betterment checking platform that is a mobile-first checking account and debit card with no fees and is FDIC-insured up to $250,000. And when they say no fees, they mean NO fees. There are no ongoing account fees, no minimum balance requirements, and all ATM and foreign fees are reimbursed.
Betterment Cash Reserve (AKA Save) is their higher-yield cash account with no fees, no limits on transfers, and includes FDIC insurance up to $1,000,000. And just like other online-based savings accounts, you can categorize your savings objectives into different buckets and set up automatic deposits for each goal.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to the Betterment Cash Reserve is that while it is higher than national averages, it does earn a much lower interest rate than other high-yield providers like Ally or Marcus.
Betterment User Experience / Ease of Use: 4.7 ★
Betterment was created to make successful money management as easy as possible, and that principle bleeds deeply into their products and services. The 20,000+ reviews with a 4.8 rating for the app should be a testament to how clean and simple the platform is on both the desktop and mobile app versions. The one thing that you can expect from Betterment is that they are always striving to make things as easy as possible so that you have a great experience with reaching financial goals.
The end-to-end process from creating an account to ongoing account maintenance and using the other Betterment services is also exceptional. During the account creation process you will be required to provide some personal information like your name, address, Social Security Number, and other information. But keep in mind that this information is required by the USA PATRIOT ACT to open either an investment or bank account and is standard across the industry.
Once your account is created you will have access to a number of useful resources and tools. The dashboard is especially helpful where you can see a listing of your current accounts, updates on investment performance, recommendations on other products and services, the ability to link other outside investment accounts, and more. There is a lot to digest, but it doesn’t feel dramatically overwhelming.
Betterment Service: 4.6 ★
Betterment is also dedicated to providing top-notch service and a great experience. They are extremely quick to respond to complaints and issues and do everything they can to make it right. Betterment is so confident that the platform and services will meet your needs and expectations that they will waive their management fees for up to 90 days if you are unhappy.
Similar to other self-serve, online investment platforms, Betterment has a comprehensive online Customer Help Center to help fulfill and service-related questions and issues. They offer access to a long list of FAQs and other resources to help troubleshoot on your own, but if you need additional help you can also reach their team via-phone or email. The only thing lacking is the option to chat with a live representative.
Betterment Innovation & Other Features: 4.7 ★
Betterment is one of the industry leaders when it comes to automated, low-cost investment and money management technologies, earning them a 4.7/5 ★ rating.
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