Wealthfront Review

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Trader Rating
13 minutes read/Updated: 30 September 2020

Wealthfront are one of the world’s most well known robo-advisory services. They are leaders in the passive investment model. There are very few downsides to this low cost investment advisor. Established in 2011, now manages over $12 Million in assets under management.

The way this robo-advisor functions is that clients are first asked ten questions to gauge their risk tolerance when they sign up to the platform. Once this is established, the deposits are divided into portfolio allocations based on Modern Portfolio Theory (‘MPT’). This allocation remains constant regardless of how much money is invested. The typical allocation is 60/40 stocks to bonds based on MFT, but there is flexibility depending on how questions are answered. Risk tolerance preferences can be changed.

For accounts under $10,000, Wealthfront is the cheapest robo-advisor on the market. It is about average for accounts above this figure, and far cheaper than actively managed services. The primary Wealthfront competitor are known as Betterment, with similar services.

In particular, their model has a huge appeal for millennials and younger generations. This is because it allows customers the ability to set their goals and to use an algorithm to carry out the investment. This eliminates the hassle of having to talk and negotiate with a personal advisor. It also eliminates a lot of confusion in terms of fees and charges. Robo-investment costs a fraction of human managed services. Like other robo-advisors, specializes in minimizing the tax burden for investors.

With this robo-advisor, It is also possible to avail of the free financial tools to plan for specific goals. Investors of all kinds can benefit from them, especially those with huge portfolios who want to take advantage of the generous 0.25% management fee. Also remains one of the best robo-advisors on the market for the foreseeable future.

What can you trade?

Significantly specializes in low cost ETF funds. These EFTs are based on stocks, bonds, real estate, and natural resources. The ETFs are mainly from Vanguard, iShares, and Schwab, as well as the Energy Select Sector SPDR. Nothing is really traded as it is a passive wealth management tool. The client can change their risk preferences and the portfolio will be rebalanced to match this.

Strengths
  • Tiny management fees at 0.25%
  • Free management for accounts under $5,000
  • Free financial planning toolkit - Exceptional goal setting dashboard
  • Tax loss harvesting, stock level tax loss harvesting, and SmartBeta optimization
  • Best robo-advisor for tax minimization
Weaknesses
  • No fractional shares
  • Portfolios under $100,000 are not customizable beyond questionnaire

What can you trade?

Open Demo Account

Wealthfront Stocks Review

$500 Min Deposit
Good App Support
1:1 Max Leverage

Wealthfront stocks are based on 4 major ETFs. These ETFs are from Vanguard and cover 4 sectors – US, Foreign, Emerging Market, and Dividend. The ETFs available are the Vanguard US Total Stock Market (‘VTI’), Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets (‘VEA’), Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets (‘VWO’), and Vanguard Dividend Appreciation (‘VIG’).

Allocations in these stock ETFs depends on the answers given in the initial risk tolerance questionnaire. The reasons that ETFs are the primary investment vehicle is for tax advantages, diversification, and risk mitigation. They are also cheaper than mutual funds.

Wealthfront Commodities Review

Broker does not provide a huge list of commodities, as these are typically quite volatile. It does offer an ETF based on Natural Resources – the Energy Select Sector SPDR (‘XLE’). It also offers an ETF based on real estate – the Vanguard REIT (‘VNQ’).

Wealthfront Indices Review

Also provides 5 ETFs based on bonds in 5 sectors – US Tips, US Government, Municipal, Corporate, and Emerging Market. The 5 ETFs are the Schwab US TIPS (‘SCHP’), Vanguard Total Bond Market (‘BND’), iShares National AMT-Free Muni Bond (‘MUB’), iShares Corporate Bond (‘LQD’), and iShares JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond (‘EMB’).

Recently introduced its own mutual fund known as the PassivePlus Risk Parity Fund. This is for investors who want to introduce more risk with the potential of acquiring more gains. The minimum threshold for this fund is $100,000 and it comes with a higher expense ratio that the ETF average.

 

What did our traders think after reviewing the key criteria?

Fees

Our review team was more than impressed with Wealthfront on all possible levels. It is the perfect tool for huge portfolios as well as small investors who want to plan for specific financial goals.

It really excels in terms of reducing the tax burden with its tax loss harvesting and stock level tax loss harvesting. Combined with its SmartBeta feature, it is unbeatable when it comes to reducing taxes for large portfolios. All of these features are combined in the Wealthfront platform through a service known as PassivePlus.

The goal setting functionality is arguably the best on the market right now. Whether users are saving up for a vacation or a retirement, it works equally well. The PATH model is built on academic findings and clients will love that their preferences are being taken into account. This is partially why millennials are taking to this platform in droves.

Most actively traded funds simply clump clients together into a standardized mix of stocks and bonds without any degree of personalization. To talk to a human advisor, the costs are simply too high for most, and are only suitable for people with huge bank accounts.

Works exceedingly well, and the knowledge base clearly answers any questions that potential investors might have. It is easy to setup an account, easy to get started, and easy to withdraw funds. Everything is streamlined without any hidden fees or hassle. Which is why our review team believes this is the best robo-advisor on the market right now.

Wealthfront Fees

Its the most cost-effective wealth management platform in a highly competitive space. The management fees are only 0.25% annually, with the first $5,000 managed for free. The ETF expense fees are tiny, at just 0.18% on average.

Aside from this, there are no hidden costs. It runs automatically and all you have to do is check in to see if your financial plans are on track. For larger accounts, there are certain funds that have higher fees, and this will need to be investigated.

Account Types

Account types offered through Wealthfront include Taxable, Joint, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, Rollover IRA, SEP IRA, Trusts, Non-Profit, and 529 accounts. They do not offer 401(k), 401(k) assistance, Coverdell, custodial, money market, partnerships, limited partnerships, Simple IRA, CDs, or Solo 401(k)s.

The account minimum of $500 is enticing for many investors. They also offer a portfolio line of credit which is unique and a high interest checking account of 2.07%. Accounts with over $100,000 can take advantage of a line of credit against their portfolio with an APR rate between 4.75% – 6%.

Platforms

Our trading panel wer particularly impressed with the investment methodology. The Wealthfront free financial management tool uses an investment strategy known as PATH. This was developed by a team of PH.Ds to optimize portfolio returns depending on user preferences. You can open an account for free and get access to this investment strategy very rapidly.

Its like having a personal financial advisor, except in a software format. Users input their financial  goals and PATH then tells them if they are on the right track to achieve them. This has appeal to a modern investor who want an automated approach without having to talk to an advisor or wade through paperwork to invest.

Its the only pure robo-advisor to offer a free financial planning tool. Mint and Personal Capital provide a similar service, but do not incorporate the PATH model. You can answer up to 10,000 questions with PATH in order to tailor it for exactly what you are looking for.

Also has a SmartBeta features that is available for accounts larger than $500,000. This helps to enhance returns over the market indices. This feature is available at no additional cost, and announced that its tax-loss harvesting, Stock Level Tax-Loss Harvesting, and Smart Beta options are all merged into one combined service called PassivePlus.

Usability

The Wealthfront mobile application and core website is excellent. The application runs very smoothly and is intuitive to use. It is incredibly detailed and informative but also streamlined and usable. It displays metrics on each specific financial goal that you set using the PATH model, such as how much money you need to earn, how long it will take, planned savings a month, account returns, and more.

Broker has an advantage here in the sense that it only offers pure robo-advisor services. With an active trading platform that requires a lot of features for sophisticated professionals, it is a lot more difficult to build a platform to cater to the many diverse requirements.

The passive investment model is simple and easy. And all their platforms are simple and easy to use, with everything you need being readily available. You can set financial targets for your holiday, retirement, university, or real estate investment. The application will show you how on track you are to achieve each specific goal. It is the perfect combination. Wealth management used to be something only for wealthy investors with time to visit physical branches.

With simple mobile applications coupled with a strong PATH model, wealth management has been brought to the masses.

Customer Support

wealthfront review

As a robo-advisor, there is no massive amount of customer service support with Wealthfront. There are no physical branches and no live chat option. However, it is designed to run on autopilot without errors (and it succeeds, by and large), so the need for customer service is actually lessened with this provider.

In addition, the knowledge base is very informative for answering basic questions. They don’t push you into talking to a representative or into a more expensive option, unlike Fidelity and Personal Capital.

 

Payment Methods

Broker offers 3 primary deposit methods. These are ACH bank transfer, account rollover, and wire transfer. ACH transfers take between 2 to 3 business days. You can schedule recurring transfers. There are no fees for incoming wire transfers. Third-party wire transfers are not accepted. Funding by checks is also an option, but only for 529 accounts.

You can withdraw a minimum of $250 each time, as long as your balance does not fall below the $500 minimum threshold. There are no fees to withdraw funds, and withdrawals typically takes about 4 business days in total. All withdraws from your portfolio allocation smartly to keep the risk/reward ratio intact and to minimize tax obligations.

Best Offers

Currently, the Wealthfront service is free for accounts under $5,000 by using a number of online promotions. Nevada residents can get the first $25,000 managed for free. For every new customer you refer to them, you can get an additional $5,000 managed for free.

Regulation and Deposit Protection

Funds are not actually held by Wealthfront, but are stored with the Royal Bank of Canada (‘RBC’). A cash account with Wealthfront is FDIC insured up to $1,000,000, 4 times the average coverage with a typical bank. You can open a cash account with as little as $1 and it pays a nice 2.07% interest rate, also supports Two Factor Authentication for added account protection.

Only invests in SIPC covered securities registered in street name at the Depository Trust Company (DTC). This means that the securities purchased on your behalf are held separately from other assets. The robo-advisor does not engage in proprietary trading so market risks are greatly lessened.

Wealthfront Advisers LLC (“Wealthfront Advisers”) is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (‘SEC’). It is  a wholly owned subsidiary of Wealthfront Corporation.

Awards

Wealthfront has won a tonne of awards for its innovative approach to investment. Investopedia gave it the best for Beginners 2019, Best for Goal Setting 2019, and Best Robo Advisor 2019. The NerdWallet platform reported that was the overall best robo-advisor in 2019.

Wealthfront FAQs

Wealthfront is a safe and reliable broker. Here are some of the reasons-

  • Wealthfront Advisors is an Investment Advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
  • It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wealthfront Corporation.
  • WealthFront does not have a proprietary desk which minimises market risk to a great extent.
  • The wealth manager only invests in securities covered by SIPC.
  • Lastly, all securities purchased on behalf of clients are in separate accounts.

You can start with a $1 deposit for cash accounts and $500 for investment management. The management fees are only 0.25%, and the first $5000 under management is free. The ETF expenses are also small at just 0.18% on average. If you are able to refer customers, the firm waives off the management fee on an additional $5000. For residents of Nevada, Wealthfront does not charge a fee for the first $25,000 you invest with them.

Wealthfront maintains all client funds in the Royal Bank of Canada. Besides, every cash account with the broker is insured up to $1 million by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), that’s about four times the insurance cover offered by banks. The insurance protects clients if Wealthfront goes out of business.

If you are withdrawing funds from Wealthfront, the entire process takes about 4 business days. The minimum withdrawal is $250 but you should ensure that you maintain the minimum threshold limit of $500. Wealthfront does not charge any fee for fund withdrawals.

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 75% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.