Many online brokerage services are beginning to include “robo-advisors” to construct effective, automated portfolios for clients. The demand for this service is growing as more investors shift towards a passively managed approach of buying index funds.
The question becomes, how do you know which robo-advisor is best for you? Two services at the forefront of the portfolio automation revolution are Betterment and Charles Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolios. Betterment is a full-blown robo-advisor while Schwab is a brokerage that offers a supplemental robo-advisor feature to investors.
In this article, we will be comparing Betterment vs Charles Schwab and explaining the different features that each platform offers.
Charles Schwab is the leading stock brokerage firm in the US with over $7.5 trillion in assets under management. The company has built a significant reputation with the public and provides a whole host of services to their clients. One of these is their Schwab Intelligent Portfolios which automates the investing process by building a personalized portfolio for a fee.
Betterment is one of the pioneers in the robo investing market. The service is similar in a lot of ways to Schwab's Intelligent Portfolios, however, because this is the single focus of Betterment, they are able to provide a much more comprehensive robo-advisor to their clients.
The primary difference between the two companies is that Schwab is much more than a robo-advisor. They also offer investors the ability to buy and sell individual stocks and a number of other asset classes. At the same time, Betterment's single focus on their robo-advisor has allowed this platform to thrive.
|Feature||Betterment||Schwab Intelligent Portfolios|
|Minimum Investment||$0 ($100,000 Premium)||$5,000 ($25,000 Premium)|
|Fees||0.25% Annual Fee||No Management Fee|
|Premium Fees||0.40% Annual Fee||$300 One Time Fee + $30/Month|
|Average ETF Expense Ratio||0.13%||0.08% To 0.15%|
|Best For||Low Minimum Investment||No Fees|
|Account Types||Individual, Joint, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Trust, Cash Accounts||Individual, Joint, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Trust, SEP IRA, Simple IRA|
Betterment’s sole purpose is to automate the investment process for its clients. By acting as a bridge between individuals working in the investment services industry and clients who wish to capture similar returns, Betterment is attempting to revolutionize the way we invest. They offer useful services like a robo-investing platform as well as a high yield savings account and checking account.
Betterment follows a very similar process compared to Schwab Intelligent Portfolio in the sense that it first requires its clients to answer some very important questions before constructing a portfolio.
These questions are used to learn more about the client's goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. Betterment does this to effectively create a portfolio that will work for its client. After this step, the process is entirely automated. You can set up recurring deposits if you wish.
The automation features will take care of rebalancing and changing your asset mix over time. The tax-loss harvesting feature will also kick in to lower your investment taxes.
Betterment’s robo-advising system uses exchange-traded funds just like Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolio. The index-tracking funds are chosen depending on the client's investment goals and risk tolerance.
Betterment offers a wide range of different investments as it acts to satisfy all sorts of investor preferences. Some examples are:
A portfolio that reduces exposure to companies that have potential negative social impacts.
A bond portfolio that is designed to facilitate higher dividend income. This could work, for example, as a low-cost option for retired clients to continue to gain income.
This portfolio is also called the “Goldman Sachs Smart Beta Portfolio." It automatically invests clients' money in companies that embody four important characteristics. Goldman builds these portfolios with an aim for good value, strong momentum, high quality, and low volatility.
This high-yield cash account offered by betterment allows investors the option to keep their money in cash while accruing a higher interest than the normal savings account. This account acts as a risk-free way to earn meaningful interest on your money since you are fully FDIC insured.
Their site offers a How-To page and FAQ section as well as customer support available during normal business hours (see Betterment because hours vary).
Depending on account minimums, Betterment offers different fixed rates and benefits.
Betterment Digital, $0 Minimum (0.25%)
The features of this portfolio include portfolio automation, efficient tax management, investment advice, and top customer support. The fee for this is 0.25% annually.
Betterment Premium, $100,000 Minimum (0.40%)
All of the Betterment Digital services plus more. Access to the annual call hosted by Betterment’s highly qualified team of financial experts. Increased monitoring of clients' portfolios is also available with this plan. The annual fee for Betterment Premium is 0.40% annually.
Betterment is a member of SIPC (Securities Investors Protection Corporation) which insures security theft and fraud up to $500,000 in securities and $250,000 in cash per account.
Through their Intelligent Portfolios, Schwab is attempting to revolutionize the way that it manages its clients' money. By introducing this feature in 2015, the brokerage giant was able to increase their offerings.
This robo-advisor aims to automate the investment process and create fully functioning, low-risk, high-return portfolios. As an added benefit, the basic version of this robo-advisor is completely free. The only caveat is the minimum balance is $5,000.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolio utilizes the power of Exchange-Traded-Funds (ETFs). ETFs track an underlying basket of different stocks, commodities, or bonds that help to create a well-diversified investment experience and hedge against the risks of individual stock purchasing.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios' high-tech system automatically rebalances your investments. This is accomplished by buying and selling when the percentage of its client's holdings change. This makes sure you stay on track with your target investment allocations.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolio utilizes tax-incentive practices by harvesting tax losses and helping to offset taxes on capital gains. The process is intricate, but the beauty of automation is Schwab Intelligent Portfolio will do the work for you.
24/7 U.S.-based customer service is at clients' disposal. This level of attention to customer service shows that Schwab is committed to its clients and answering their most pressing questions.
Through these different account types, clients can take advantage of a number of tax benefits that retirement accounts have to offer. In the long run, this has the potential to significantly alter investment returns.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios: $5,000
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium: $25,000
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios: $0 commissions and 0% management fee.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium: $300 one-time initial planning fee, $30/month management fee.
So what is the final verdict? Both of these services offer cheap, automated ways for investors to accumulate wealth for their future.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolio is a good option for the investor who has the $5,000 account minimum.
Betterment has $0 account minimums, so this may be a better option for someone with a smaller account.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios offer a competitive alternative to Betterment by offering free prebuilt portfolios at their basic tier. Schwab has the upper hand when it comes to fees.
Betterment offers an easy-to-use platform, with access to financial planners and full-scale investment management. Betterment has the upper hand on features and use-ability.
With this being said, both services have their pros and cons. It is up to you to figure out which service is the best fit, so make sure to do your research and choose the one that fits your specific needs.