What Is M1 Finance?
M1 Finance is an online financial services provider that is a hybrid between a robo-advisor and a brokerage that manages investment accounts for nearly 1,000,000 users. Simply put, this means that M1 has a really clean and easy way to invest. You simply create and setup your account, determine how you want your money to be invested and then forget about it. M1 will do the rest for you with its automated investing and rebalancing capabilities.
M1 Finance allows you to customize your investment portfolio with ease and is a relatively inexpensive solution. M1’s target clients are individuals with a long term focus that have basic knowledge and experience investing in stocks and ETFs. One additional feature of the platform is that M1 comes equipped with expert “pies” or portfolios that you can use to invest in or you can create your own.
Overall Rating – 4.5 ★ / 5 ★
M1 is intuitive, very customizable, and has a very user-friendly setup. Once you have things set up, you’re on your way to reaching your investment goals as M1 does all the hard work for you. With most robo-advisors, you are stuck with their investment selection, but with M1 you are completely in charge of your investing, making it a great investment solution. They have expert pies, also known as portfolios, to help new users who aren’t advanced investors. Alternatively, they have 100 percent customizable pies (portfolios) where you can invest how, and where, you want if you are a more advanced investor.
M1 has no investment fees or commissions which makes them unique in the robo-advisor space considering most robo-advisors charge a small management fee. The clean and seamless user experience is an added bonus when using the platform. M1 has many unique platform features like their automated rebalancing, dividend reinvestment, expert pies, and more that we will explore in this article.
Pros & Cons
- No trading fees, commission or asset management fees
- Flexible portfolio building – including 80+ “expert” portfolios you can use
- Easy to use margin accounts with competitive interest rates
- The dashboard is clean and easy to use
- You can buy individual stocks and ETFs
- Transparent about how they make revenue
- The ability to buy fractional shares
- Dynamic rebalancing optimizes taxes
- The way trades are placed puts transaction timing out of your control
- Accounts with less than $20 and no trading activity for 90 days are charged a fee
- Limited to buying only stocks and ETFs
- The platform offers very little help setting financial goals
- You can not consolidate external account data for planning purposes
Minimums & Fees – 4.9★
M1 does not charge any portfolio management fees or fees for deposits and withdrawals from a bank account. They were one of the first services to offer this model and they consider themselves cutting edge when it comes to price comparison. The lack of management fees can easily end up saving you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your investment accounts.
- Annual cost to manage a $5,000 portfolio: $0
- Annual cost to manage a $25,000 portfolio: $0
- Annual cost to manage a $100,000 portfolio: $0
Portfolios held in stock only will not have any fund management fees associated with them. Portfolios with ETFs, however, have operating expense ratios (OERs) on the underlying funds that range from 0.06% to 0.20% just as they will at any other brokerage.
M1 has a minimum account balance of $100 to get started. After reaching that threshold, deposits can be any amount above $10. Retirement accounts, however, require an initial investment of $500 which is less than many brokerages.
M1 offers a competitive interest rate on borrowed funds through margin accounts. Users can upgrade to another service called M1 Plus that costs $125 a year to lower that margin rate and to get the additional services discussed later on in this article.
User Experience 4.3 ★
Ease of Use
M1 has both a mobile app and a desktop website that is made available to users. The mobile application is well put together and easy to use. You can do everything on the app that you can do on the desktop version.
The website is also very intuitive and easy to use. It walks you through step by step what to do. Your account performance is relatively easy to both view and understand. It has a great user experience. This is definitely a step in the right direction from what the finance industry is traditionally accustomed to.
M1’s ideal clients are those that have a good understanding of the markets and they expect their users to do some market research on their own. This results in a user experience being less accommodating for users with little investment experience.
M1 also integrates with TurboTax and H&R Block to allow for easy tax reporting.
M1 provides customer support over the phone or by email. You can also schedule a free consultation with an M1 specialist, though specialists are not usually registered financial advisors. M1 has detailed FAQs with most of the questions that customers face. They even have some useful videos covering different features.
Account Services 4.4 ★
M1 Account Services are very good, and it appears that they will continue to grow with time. You can set up automatic deposits as part of the account setup. This is a beneficial feature because it means that your account will automatically get funded by continual investments. Automation is an effective way to make sure you meet your goals. This automation can easily be changed or turned off at any time. Also, you can place trades for individual stocks or ETFs during the daily trading window. M1 has a huge variety of stocks and bonds for you to choose from. You can not, however, currently aggregate external accounts on M1 in order to be able to see all your accounts in one place.
- Margin loans up to 40%* of your account value (minimum account size: $10,000)
- Competitive rates for the industry
- No credit checks, no paperwork, no denials
- Use to invest more, fund major purchases, refinance debt, or anything else
- Integrated digital bank with the investment account
- Excess cash account accessed with a debit card
- ATM fees covered 1 time per month
- Move money between investments instantly
- Minimum balance of $0
- Premium offering that is currently priced at $125 per year
- Lower interest rate on lines of credit by 1.5%
- An additional daily trading window
- ATM fees covered 4 times per month
- Excess cash goes into an account with 1.7% APY**
- Debit card with 1% cash back
- Can also get credit card with 1.5%+ cash back
M1 offers the most common accounts that people use. The account types that M1 currently offers include:
- Traditional IRA
- Roth IRA
- SEP IRA
Opening an account at M1 is simple and straightforward. You just need to input your email address and a password to start creating your account. Once you’ve done that, you are then directed to build your portfolio to start investing. M1 currently does not have a risk tolerance questionnaire.
M1 gives you the choice of building your own pie, or portfolio, out of ETFs and individual stocks. You can also choose an expert pie on the bottom of the screen to help you construct your portfolio. At this point, they have a tutorial that takes you through setting up your portfolio.
Once you finish customizing your portfolio, the next step is to enter in your personal information and link a bank account. Once your selected bank account is connected, you’ll be able to set up an account automatic transfer to fund your account regularly. At this point, your account is ready to go. After creating your core account, you can add additional account types.
Portfolio Management – 4.7 ★
M1 monitors your portfolios to keep them in line with your investment objectives. This reduces portfolio drift as it dynamically rebalances your portfolio according to the rules you set up. You can also rebalance at any time, which is rare for a robo-advisor.
In taxable accounts, withdrawals are made to limit your tax bill. M1 allows for trades to be placed up to twice a day. M1 does not currently offer automatic tax-loss harvesting like some other robo-advisors, but has “dynamic rebalancing” which optimizes rebalance and taxation in other ways by rebalancing as you add or withdraw contributions.
Portfolios are represented as “pies” on M1. There is a variety of pies to choose from and you can invest towards whatever objective you would like. With the rules of rebalancing, it is easy to keep your portfolio as you design it.
You can also invest in socially responsible pies, where M1 has partnered with Nuveen. M1 also allows you to invest in individual stocks which allows for a customization that is far greater than most robo-advisors.
Other Features 4.0 ★
M1 has many platform features such as automatic investing, automatic rebalancing, fractional share investing. They also have some educational videos and articles to help you learn more about investing. To top it off, M1 boasts top of the line security for their platform.
M1 does not have a focus on goal setting for their different accounts. Many other robo-advisors focus on goal setting and planning, so if that is what you are looking for then M1 is not the place to find it. This is because M1 is a do-it-yourself (DIY) investment platform and its ideal users are familiar with the investment landscape. The only information that M1 does have on goal setting is found in a few support articles.
M1’s videos are mostly about their platform and how to use it. They have many articles about retirement planning. M1 has a registered broker-dealer but not a registered investment advisory service, so they are careful not to give advice anywhere on their site. Their content is in large part about account types and the importance of automating in order to save regularly.
The website’s security is the highest available using military-grade 4096-bit encryption for data transfers. You can also set up two-factor authentication using your mobile device. Fingerprint verification and face recognition are available on mobile devices as well. Your investments are covered with excess Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance up to $500,000 which includes a $250,000 limit for cash. Other cash balances in M1 Spend and M1 Plus are FDIC insured through Lincoln Savings Bank.
Is M1 Finance Right For You?
M1 Finance may be right for you if you are looking to save money by doing some of the work yourself. You get the hands-on experience of setting up your investments and then a hands-off approach after that point. You should have a good idea of how the stock market works and how to invest in ETFs and individual stocks—more importantly how to set up a portfolio. You should also understand your own risk tolerance if you are using M1.
For the experienced investor, there is a lot to like about this platform, especially when it comes to the lack of management fees. The customization of M1 is awesome for investors who know what they want to do because it allows for a cheaper and easier way to do it. M1 allows for a lot of control and automation over your portfolio at a very reasonable price.
This review is provided by and expresses the opinions of Savology to help users make informed financial decisions. Savology does not receive compensation for its product or provider recommendations but views such recommendations as an important part of helping people progress toward financial security.