Written by Apple Crider on September 7, 2020
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M1 Finance vs Wealthfront 2020: Best Investing Platform?

M1 Finance and Wealthfront are both investing apps that are on the rise and aiming to shake up the investing industry. By removing many of the hurdles that used to be commonplace in investing, these apps are leveling the playing field for everyday investors to get their piece of the pie.

Instead of tailoring towards investing professionals, these apps are built to be used by folks like you and me. They have traded out complex interfaces for simple pie charts and graphs that you don't need a master's degree to read.

Additionally, both of these tools pride themselves in the low fee structures they offer. Instead of paying top dollar to work with a real person, these apps provide some automated assistance at a much lower cost.

That being said, there are some significant differences between M1 Finance vs Wealthfront. We'll be covering those here.

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M1 Finance Review 2020: Best Free Investing Platform?

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Wealthfront Review

Wealthfront Review 2020: Best Modern Robo-Advisor?

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Summary: M1 Finance vs Wealthfront

  • Wealthfront is a robo-advisor and provides more services to investors
  • Tax-loss harvesting is a huge benefit for Wealthfront investors
  • Wealthfront has no trading commissions, but it does have an annual fee of 0.25% and a higher account minimum of $500
  • M1 Finance structures their platform around creating "pies" where you decide what investments go into the pie and how big each of the slices is
  • For those looking for a pre-built solution, M1 has a collection of "expert pies" to choose from as well
  • M1 Finance has a lower minimum balance of $100 ($500 for retirement accounts)
  • Buying fractional shares allows M1 Finance investors with a smaller account balance to buy only a piece of a share rather than needing to buy a full share
  • Both M1 Finance and Wealthfront are apps that aim to help long term investors create passive investment strategies
  • M1 Finance offers free portfolio building using stocks and ETFs
  • Wealthfront offers a robo-advisor solution that provides more comprehensive features like tax-loss harvesting but at a 0.25% annual fee

M1 Finance is a modern hybrid between a brokerage account and a robo-advisor. You're able to direct exactly what you want to invest in (or chose from a pre-built selection of expert portfolios) and then set the whole thing up on autopilot. The platform will take care of making sure that your portfolio continues to match your desired allocations and you can even set up automatic deposits from a bank account to fully streamline things.

Long-term investors will appreciate the free tools built-in like automatic frequent rebalancing and portfolio-level dividend reinvestment.

When M1 Finance was starting out, they initially charged a 0.25% fee (the same fee that Wealthfront currently charges). However, they decided to drop this fee to become a completely commission-free and fee-free platform.

If you are a long-term investor looking to create a DIY portfolio and take advantage of numerous tools to assist your portfolio, M1 Finance is a great option for you.

M1 Finance Features

Automatic Rebalancing

Rebalancing a portfolio is the process of maintaining a target allocation across different investments.

For example, if you had a portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% bonds and the stock market was doing quite well, the value of the stocks could increase and shift the balance from 60% and 40% to 70% and 30%. To rebalance the portfolio, you would sell off the additional 10% in stocks and buy an additional 10% in bonds.

This can be an effective way to ensure you are following Warren Buffet's age-old advice to "buy low and sell high".

However, constantly keeping an eye out for when you need to rebalance and manually doing this is more time consuming than the average long-term investor cares to spend.

With M1 Finance, you're able to set your portfolio up once and it will be automatically rebalanced for you every time you make a deposit or a withdrawal.

M1 Finance Free Training

We put together a free 30 minute video training that walks you through the entire process, step by step.
This training will help you get up and running in no time at all.
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Fractional Shares

As of my writing this, Amazon stock is trading at about $3,500 per share. If you're a beginner investor with only a few hundred bucks that wanted to invest in Amazon you'd be out of luck because you can't afford a full share. Or even if you did have $3,500, you might not want Amazon stock making up 100% of your portfolio.

However, one of the features that sets M1 Finance apart from other investing apps is that it allows you to buy fractional shares. So instead of having to pony up $3,500 just to get a piece of Amazon, you can buy as little as 1/10,000 of a share (or $0.35 worth) of Amazon stock when you are just starting out.

M1 Finance Fees

M1 Finance is a completely free platform to use. The only fees you pay are those associated with any ETFs you decide to invest in. These can be as low as 0.03% if you decide to invest in an ETF like VOO from Vanguard. Or if you prefer to build your portfolio from individual stocks, you'll have no fees at all.

Additionally, M1 Finance has one of the lowest account minimums at only $100 to open an account (or $500 for retirement accounts).

There is the option to upgrade to M1 Plus which will cost $125/year and will provide you with a host of benefits like a higher APY on your idle funds and an additional trading window. However, this is optional and not going to be necessary for most investors.

M1 Plus

M1 Finance Pros

  • Completely free investing platform
  • Allows new investors to get started with only $100
  • Buying fractional shares provides more options for beginner investors
  • Expert pies make it easy to get started without prior experience
  • Keep your money working for you with portfolio-wide dividend reinvestment

M1 Finance Cons

  • Lacking advanced portfolio optimization strategies
  • No tax-loss harvesting
  • Fewer guard rails for first-time investors

What Is Wealthfront?

According to Statista, Wealthfront is the third-largest robo-advisor with over $17 billion in assets under management. The company was started at the height of the 2008 financial crisis when it became clear that the public was tired of the traditional finance industry.

The premise of a robo-advisor is that it automates your investing by using computer algorithms to construct a portfolio based on your preferences and characteristics (age, time horizon, risk tolerance, etc.) Many robo-advisors facilitate passive long-term investing strategies and include features like lower fees, automatic rebalancing, and tax loss harvesting to increase their efficiency.

Wealthfront Features

Tax-Loss Harvesting

This is a strategy offered by Wealthfront to reduce (or even eliminate) your tax bill from your investments.

By taking advantage of movements in the market, they are able to capture losses that will offset the gains in your portfolio automatically. Traditionally this is something you would need to pay a financial advisor to manually do for you.

According to Wealthfront, in 2018 tax-loss harvesting saved their clients 3.12% to 6.24% of their portfolio values which more than pays for the 0.25% annual fee.

Whether the markets as a whole are trending up or down in a given year, Wealthfront's algorithms will likely be able to more than pay for the cost of the service through this benefit alone.

Want to find the best robo-advisor for you?

We put together a free comparison table that analyzes all of the top robo-advisors available today. This guide will help you compare the features and benefits of each side by side.
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Advanced Investing Strategies

Having raised over $200 million of venture capital, Wealthfront has significant resources to invest in its technology and developing unique services for its clients.

Through hiring a number of PhDs, they have been able to systematize a number of other traditionally manual processes for improving returns.

However, many of these features are only available to investors with significant assets on the platform.

Risk Parity

This feature is only available to investors with over $100,000 invested with Wealthfront.

Risk Parity is a system for strategically allocating assets between different asset classes to equalize the risk across asset classes.

This is a more complex strategy, but has statistically outperformed more traditional asset allocation methods and is therefore reserved for more advanced investors.

Smart Beta

This feature is only available to investors with over $500,000 invested with Wealthfront.

The S&P 500 and other indexes traditionally weight their holdings based on their market share (i.e. the bigger the company, the bigger portion of the index it comprises).

Various researchers have found that this may not be the most effective way to create an optimized portfolio. By considering a variety of factors instead of just how big the company is, it is possible to outperform conventional portfolios.

Smart Beta automatically creates multi-factor portfolios to produce a more optimal and tax-efficient portfolio for investors.

Wealthfront Fees

Wealthfront does not charge any commissions to buy or sell investments, transfer funds in or out of the platform, or to make trades.

However, there is a 0.25% annual fee that applies to all of the assets that you keep with them. This fee will be deducted from your account automatically every month.

The first $5,000 in assets will be managed for free if you sign up using the link below. This can be a great way to try out the service before you commit to paying for it.

wealthfront fees

Wealthfront Pros

  • Compared to working with a financial advisor the 0.25% fee is reasonable
  • Tax-loss harvesting can make the service pay for itself
  • Advanced investing strategies like risk parity and smart beta for high net worth investors

Wealthfront Cons

  • The platform is not free to use
  • You are not able to invest in fractional shares
  • Limited access to customer support
  • $500 minimum to open an account

M1 Finance vs Wealthfront: Final Summary

Both M1 Finance and Wealthfront are both great platforms for long term investors looking to create passive portfolios. Both are tailored towards newer investors that are looking for lower fees and simple interfaces for getting started.

M1 Finance is 100% free to use and provides a strong platform for investors comfortable with taking control of their investments on their own.

Wealthfront charges a modest 0.25% annual fee which is easily justified by tax-loss harvesting and other advanced portfolio optimization strategies offered.

For investors looking for a very hands-off approach, Wealthfront facilitates a very passive experience while still receiving many of the benefits previously reserved for the clients of financial advisors.

Keep Reading:

M1 Finance Vs Wealthfront
Article written by Apple Crider

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