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Written by Kevin Mercadante on June 15, 2021
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Top 6 Best Robo Advisors For College Students In 2021

It’s never too early to begin investing, even if you’re a college student. In fact, now is the very best time to begin! College is preparing you for adult life, and investing needs to be part of that life. If you begin while you’re still in college, you’ll have a built-in advantage going into the “real world.” That’s because one of the biggest stumbling blocks to investing for new college graduates is just getting started. But if you’ve already crossed that hurdle before graduation, you’ll be way ahead of everyone else.

Fortunately, it’s easier for college students to invest than ever before. That’s because robo-advisors make investing simple, automated, and inexpensive. Sign up with the right robo-advisor, and all you need to do is fund your account—the robo-advisor will handle all the management details for you.

And don’t let lack of money be an obstacle! You can get started investing through a robo-advisor with literally no more than a few dollars. That’ll be plenty to get started, and you can continue to build gradually between now and graduation.

For that reason, we provide this list of the six best robo-advisors for college students.

1. SoFi Automated Investing

Best for: Best all-around robo-advisor for college students.

Why SoFi Automated Investing is a good robo-advisor for college students: SoFi is the best all-around robo-advisor for college students, but not because it necessarily stands out in any single category. Instead, it’s an excellent robo-advisor across the board. For starters, no minimum investment is required, and there are no fees to manage your account. SoFi Automated Investing would be an excellent choice if that were all they provided. But there’s a lot more.

For example, if you want to engage in self-directed investing—along with your managed portfolio—you can do it through SoFi Active Investing. They also offer unlimited access to financial advisors at no additional cost. And if, like most college students, you’re likely to have student loans to refinance upon graduation, SoFi is one of the leading sources of student loan refinances. The platform functions as a community where you can get help and connect with other SoFi participants.

All those benefits make SoFi Automated Investing the top choice among robo-advisors for college students.

SoFi Automated Investing Highlights:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None, but minimum of $1 to begin investing.
  • Available accounts: Individual and joint taxable investment accounts, plus traditional, Roth and rollover IRAs, as well as Keogh plans.
  • Investment mix: ETFs (exchange traded funds) invested in U.S. and international stocks and bonds.
  • Fees: None.
  • Customer support: Phone, email and live chat, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Eastern time.

Why SoFi Automated Investing is the right choice for college students:

  • No minimum initial investment required.
  • No advisory fees to manage your account.
  • The service comes with unlimited access to financial planners, and at no cost.
  • If you have student loans to refinance, SoFi is one of the top providers in the industry.
  • If you want to try your hand at self-directed investing, you can do it with SoFi Active Investing. It even allows you to invest in cryptocurrencies.

What may hold SoFi Automated Investing back:

  • Nothing that will impact college students.

2. Fidelity Go

fidelity logo

Best for: Robo-advisor provided by a broker where you can also participate in self-directed investing.

Why Fidelity Go is a good robo-advisor for college students: If SoFi Automated Investing didn’t exist, Fidelity Go would easily be our top choice. They offer many of the same benefits, including no minimum initial investment, and no advisory fees—at least on the first $9,999 in your account. They also use Fidelity Flex Funds in the construction of your portfolio, which is important because these funds have no investment expenses. Those are the investment expenses that exist just below the surface of all funds, that reduce investment returns the same way advisory fees do. Fidelity Go eliminates these fees with their Flex Funds.

But we also like that Fidelity Go is part of Fidelity Investments. That means you can try your hand at self-directed investing with one of the very best investment brokerages in the industry, while having most of your money managed through the robo-advisor. The company is also near the top in customer service, and even has about 140 local branches in major cities around the country.

Fidelity Go Highlights:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None, but $10 to begin investing.
  • Available accounts: Individual taxable investment accounts, and traditional, Roth, and rollover IRAs.
  • Investment mix: ETFs in U.S. and foreign stocks and bonds, as well as short-term investments.
  • Fees: None on balances under $10,000, then $3 per month on balances from $10,000 to $49,999, then 0.35% on balances of $50,000 and up.
  • Customer support: Phone support 24/7, live chat Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Eastern time, plus 140 branches nationwide.

Why Fidelity Go is a good robo-advisor for college students:

  • No minimum investment required to open an account.
  • No advisory fee on the first $9,999 in your account.
  • Use of Fidelity Flex Funds means no investment expenses on funds.
  • 24/7 customer service access by phone, and 140 local branches.
  • Self-directed investing available through one of the top brokerage firms in the industry.

What may hold Fidelity Go back:

  • Advisory fees apply to an account with a balance of $10,000 or more, starting at $3 per month, and rising to 0.35% on account balances of $50,000 and up. Those are high fees for robo-advisors.
  • Fidelity Go uses no alternative investments, like real estate or commodities.
  • No tax-loss harvesting is offered on taxable investment accounts.

3. Betterment

Best for: Robo-advisor with high-interest savings, no-fee checking and no minimum investment requirement.

Why Betterment is a good robo-advisor for college students: Betterment is the company that introduced robo-advisors to the world and continues to be a leading innovator of the product. They provide complete investment management with an annual advisory fee of 0.25% on all account balances under the Digital plan. And if you’re fortunate enough to build a $100,000 account, you can switch over to the Premium plan and get unlimited access to certified financial planners. But that’s in the future, and it does include a higher advisory fee.

What we like about Betterment is that the U.S. stock positions are invested in value stocks. Those are companies often overlooked in the current investment environment that can provide exceptional long-term returns. But we also like that Betterment provides banking services to go along with your investments. That includes a high-interest cash account, currently paying 0.40% APR. They also allow you to create different account types, like emergency savings and spending goal accounts. Plus, there’s a no-fee checking account that comes with a Visa debit card.

Betterment Highlights:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None for Digital, $100,000 for Premium.
  • Available accounts: Individual and joint taxable investment accounts; traditional, Roth, rollover, and SEP IRAs; trusts; and a high-interest cash account.
  • Investment mix: ETFs invested in U.S. and foreign stocks and bonds.
  • Fees: 0.25% annual advisory fee on the Digital plan, 0.40% annual advisory fee on the Premium plan.
  • Customer support: By phone and email, Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Eastern time.

Why Betterment is a good choice for college students:

  • No minimum balance to open a Digital account.
  • U.S. stock position is invested in value stocks, with the potential to outperform the general market.
  • Their High-interest cash account currently pays interest at several times the rate of local banks and credit unions.
  • Tax-loss harvesting on all taxable investment accounts.
  • No-fee checking account with a Visa debit card.

What may hold Betterment back:

  • Betterment invests only in stocks and bonds; no alternative investments, like real estate or commodities, are used.
  • The advisory fee of 0.25% at the middle of the robo-advisor fee range.

4. Wealthfront

Wealthfront review

Best for: Robo-advisor with high-interest savings and no-fee checking.

Why Wealthfront is a good robo-advisor for college students: There are a lot of similarities between Wealthfront and Betterment, and it’s not an accident. They’re the two largest independent robo-advisors in the industry and compete with each other directly. So, it’s no surprise Wealthfront offers many of the same services as Betterment. That includes comprehensive portfolio creation and management, with tax-loss harvesting, at an annual advisory fee of 0.25%. They even offer a high-yield cash account, currently paying 0.35% APR, as well as free checking with a Visa debit card.

But where Wealthfront outperforms Betterment is in portfolio diversification. In addition to stocks and bonds, they also offer positions in real estate and natural resources. Those allocations can enable your portfolio to grow in environments where a stock and bond portfolio might not.

Wealthfront Highlights:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: $500.
  • Available accounts: Individual and joint taxable investment accounts; traditional, Roth, rollover, and SEP IRAs; trusts; and a high-yield cash account.
  • Investment mix: ETFs invested in U.S. and foreign stocks and bonds, real estate, and natural resources.
  • Fees: 0.25% advisory fee on all account balances.
  • Customer support: By phone, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Pacific time, as well as email responded to within one business day.

Why Wealthfront is a good choice for college students:

  • Wealthfront adds real estate and natural resources investments for greater diversification.
  • Tax-loss harvesting on all taxable investment accounts, at no additional charge.
  • Offers a high-yield cash account, currently paying 0.35% APR.
  • No-fee checking account with a Visa debit card.

What may hold Wealthfront back:

  • Does require a minimum of $500 to open an account.
  • Annual advisory fee of 0.25% is at the middle of the robo-advisor fee range.

5. M1 Finance Expert Pies

Best for: Robo-advisor that lets you choose your own investments.

Why M1 Finance Expert Pies is a good robo-advisor for college students: What makes M1 Finance Expert Pies unique among all robo-advisors is that they allow you to choose your own investments, then provide complete management. They do this through a system referred to as “pies.” Each pie is composed of up to 100 exchange traded funds (ETFs) and/or individual stocks.

You can choose from 80 pre-built pies or construct your own pie allocations. Once a pie is created, you’ll enjoy automated management with no advisory fee. And you can create as many pies as you like. This is perfect for the college student who wants to choose his or her own investments but doesn’t want the hassle of managing them.

M1 Finance Expert Pies Highlights:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None to open your account, but at least $100 to begin investing.
  • Available accounts: Joint and individual taxable investment accounts; traditional, Roth, rollover, and SEP IRAs.
  • Investment mix: ETFs and individual stocks.
  • Fees: No annual advisory fee and no trading commissions.
  • Customer support: Phone, Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Central time.

Why M1 Finance Expert Pies is a good robo-advisor for college students:

  • There is no minimum initial investment required, though you will need $100 to build your first pie.
  • There are no advisory or trading fees.
  • You can choose the individual stocks and funds in your pie(s).

What may hold M1 Finance Expert Pies back:

  • No availability of bonds or mutual funds; M1 pies contain stocks and bond investments only.
  • Though M1 can seem like the perfect stock trading platform, it isn’t allowed.
  • No tax-loss harvesting on taxable investment accounts.

6. Acorns

Best for: New investors who need help saving money to invest.

Why Acorns is a good robo-advisor for college students: Acorns’ advantage among robo-advisors—particularly for college students—is that it also helps you accumulate the money you need to begin investing. That’s because Acorns is a micro-savings app, in addition to being a robo-advisor.

This is done through a process they refer to as “round ups.” You’ll connect your spending accounts, like bank account debit cards and credit cards, to the Acorns app. Each time you make a purchase using one of the cards, Acorns will round up the sale. For example, if you make a purchase for $4.17, it’ll be rounded up to an even $5, with $0.83 going into your investment account. That will allow you to save money through regular spending activity, helping you build savings for investment on the platform.

Acorns Highlights:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None, but you will need at least $5 to begin investing.
  • Available accounts: Taxable investment accounts; traditional, Roth, rollover, and SEP IRAs.
  • Investment mix: ETFs invested in U.S. and foreign stocks and bonds, plus a real estate investment trust index fund.
  • Fees: Acorns Lite (basic taxable investment account) $1 per month; Acorns Personal (basic taxable investment account and IRA), $3 per month; Acorns Family (accounts for the whole family), $5 per month.
  • Customer support: Limited to email with a response time of one or two days.

Why Acorns is a good choice for college students:

  • Use the Acorns app to accumulate the funds you’ll invest with.
  • No minimum investment required to open an account.
  • The fees of $1 per month on the basic investment account, or $3 per month on the basic investment and IRA accounts, will be a real bargain on high account balances compared with other fee-charging robo-advisors.
  • Includes real estate as well as stocks and bonds in the investment mix.

What may hold Acorns back:

  • The fee structure of $1 per month on the basic investment account, or $3 per month on the basic investment and IRA accounts, will be high on very small account balances.
  • You’ll be required to open a basic investment account to be able to open an IRA account.
  • Very limited customer service—no phone support.

Bottom Line

You’re going to need to begin investing as soon after graduation as possible. The sooner you do, the better off you’ll be. Now is not too early. Sure, you’re in school and you have other obligations. But never underestimate the importance of getting started when it comes to investing. Studies and surveys have shown that those who begin investing early in life are more successful at it over the long term.

You have an opportunity to do just that right now. And because of robo-advisors, lack of funds or investing experience are no longer obstacles. You can open an account with no money at all and begin funding it gradually—literally, with just a few dollars at a time.

The robo-advisor you sign up with will create a fully balanced portfolio for you, then provide complete management going forward. That will include rebalancing your investment positions as necessary, and even reinvesting dividends. Best of all, you can open a regular investment account as well as an IRA. That will also give you a chance to get a head start on preparing for retirement.

Carpe diem—seize the day! When it comes to investing, you can do that using a robo-advisor. Right here, right now, using nothing more than a few dollars and a commitment to continue funding your account, regardless of how little that might be.

robo advisor for college students
Article written by Kevin Mercadante
Kevin Mercadante is a freelance professional web content writer for hire, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has extensive backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. In fact, it was his career crash-and-burn from the mortgage business in 2008 that led him into blogging and freelance professional web content writing. Kevin and his family live in New Hampshire, after long stints in New Jersey and Georgia.

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