Ellevest Review: A Robo-advisor For Women
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It’s a tough pill to swallow, but women investing for retirement and other financial goals like homeownership, need to plan differently than men. This includes accounting for the potential of reduced earnings after having a child or needing more retirement savings because of having a longer life expectancy.
While women can sign up for any investment platform to start building wealth, there is one robo-advisor that’s geared specifically toward their needs. Ellevest, which launched in 2016, is known for its gender-specific algorithm that accounts for some of the factors that limit a woman’s ability to invest.
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Below, Select looks at some of the factors you should consider before deciding whether Ellevest is right for you and whether this female-focused platform is worth the money.
On Ellevest’s secure site
Minimum deposit and balance
No minimum deposit to start investing and no minimum account balance for Ellevest Membership advisory service; however, there are portfolio-specific minimums (ranging from $1 to approximately $240)
Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Ellevest Essential membership costs $1/month (or $12/year), Ellevest Plus costs $5/month (or $54/year) and Ellevest Executive costs $9/month (or $97/year); fund fees range from 0.05% to 0.10% across all Ellevest Core Portfolios and 0.13% to 0.19% across all Ellevest Impact Portfolios
Stocks, bonds, ETFs, ESG, mutual, alternative and impact funds
Online workshops, email courses and video resources
- Investment algorithm factors in important realities of women’s lives, such as pay gaps, career breaks and longer life expectancy
- Unlimited access to online workshops, email courses and video resources from Ellevest team of financial planners and career coaches
- 1:1 sessions (starting at $38) with Ellevest financial planners and career coaches at a discount (20% discount for Essential members, 30% for Plus and 50% for Executive)
- Offers private wealth management for high and ultra high net worth individuals, families and institutions (investments of $1 million or more)
- Ellevest requires membership cost ranging from $1/month to $9/month
- 0.05% to 0.19% fund fees
Ellevest offers a few basic investment accounts. It provides individual taxable brokerage accounts, Roth IRAs, traditional IRAs, SEP IRAs and rollover IRAs. But if you’re looking for a 529 savings plan or a joint brokerage account with your spouse, you might opt for a robo-advisor like Wealthfront, which offers joint accounts and 529 savings plan accounts.
While there’s no minimum amount required to open an account, there are portfolio-specific minimums that range from $1 to $240. Individuals with over $1 million to invest are eligible for Ellevest private wealth management services.
Since Ellevest is a robo-advisor, users link their bank account, enter their financial goals, investment horizon, annual income and balances in their other retirement accounts and brokerage accounts. This is meant to provide a picture of your current financial status. Users are then given recommendations on an allocation for a portfolio.
There are two types of portfolios offered by Ellevest: a Core portfolio and an Impact portfolio. With the Impact portfolio, users invest in companies focused on positive social impact and advancing women on boards.
Both portfolios have passively managed exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and the Impact portfolio also contains mutual funds. ETFs are made up of a collection of stocks and bonds are intended to track certain indices like the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones.
In order to diversify your portfolio, the funds that make up your portfolio may contain up to 21 different asset classes such as U.S. real estate, emerging markets, and US large cap growth stocks. Ellevest uses funds from different companies, like Vanguard and Schwab, to create your portfolio. After it’s built a portfolio for you, it will adjust the investments for you over time to help you meet your financial goals
Unlike other robo-advisor platforms like Wealthfront, Ellevest does not offer automated tax-loss harvesting. Tax-loss harvesting is intended to minimize the amount you owe in capital gains taxes and reduce your taxable income up to $3,000.
Tax-loss harvesting works like this: If you have an investment that’s decreasing in value, you sell it to offset any capital gains you’ve earned from other investments you’ve sold. After you sell the losing investment, you purchase a very similar investment to replace it, so your portfolio remains the same. With a robo-advisor, software, not an individual, does the tax-loss harvesting for you.
According to Sylvia Kwan, the Chief Investment Officer at Ellevest, the company chooses not to offer tax-loss harvesting because it endorses the view that tax-loss harvesting only defers the taxes an individual owes until a later date. So if you’re seeking a robo-advisor platform that offers tax loss harvesting for your taxable brokerage account, consider other platforms like Wealthfront and Betterment.
Ellevest also provides users with non-investment accounts like savings (Ellevest Save) and checking account (Ellevest Spend) as well as a cash-back debit card.
The money in your Ellevest Save and Spend accounts is FDIC insured up to $250,000. Neither account offers an APY, so if you’re looking to save up for an emergency fund, you might consider using a high-yield savings account like Ally Bank Online Savings Account or the Marcus by Goldman Sachs High Yield Online Savings account.
With a high-yield savings account, you’ll get an interest rate that’s higher than you would on a traditional savings account, and you’ll typically get a number of free withdrawals per statement cycle, so you can have cash immediately if you need it.
Ellevest offers 1:1 coaching sessions with Ellevest financial planners and career coaches, which are discounted based on your membership plan.
These sessions can be quite pricy even with the discount. One budgeting and debt planning session with a Plus membership will cost you more than $200. However, getting a coaching session from other robo-advisor platforms could cost you more: A ‘getting started‘ call with a CFP at Betterment will cost you nearly $300.
If you can’t afford the 1:1 coaching sessions, you can opt to use the free educational resources like online workshops, email courses and video resources that Ellevest offers.
There are three account tiers: Ellevest Essential, Ellevest Plus and Ellevest Executive. If you’re interested in using Ellevest to invest for retirement, you’ll have to opt for the Plus or Executive option which will cost you an additional $4 to $8 a month in comparison to the Essential option.
- $1 a month or $12 a year
- Individual taxable account
- Access to an Ellevest checking and savings account and a cash-back debit card
- 20% discount on one-on-one sessions with a financial planner or career coach.
- $5 a month or $54 a year
- Traditional, Roth, rollover 401(k)/403(b) and SEP IRAs
- 30% discount on one-on-one sessions with a financial planner or career coach
- $9 a month or $97 a year
- Can open up to five investment accounts
- 50% discount on one-on-one sessions with a financial planner or career coach
Ellevest also charges expense ratios, or a small management fee, that’s equal to a percentage of the total amount of money invested. For the Core portfolio, the expense ratio is 0.05% to 0.10% per year. For the Impact portfolio, the expense ratio is 0.13% to 0.19% per year.
Expense ratios and membership fees could eat away at some of your earnings if you’re not investing enough to make them worthwhile.
For example, if you’re an Ellevest plus member with $10,000 invested in a Core Portfolio, you will spend up to $64 a year, $54 on the membership fee and up to $10 on the expense ratio. If you opted for robo-advisor Betterment you would be charged a 0.25% annual fee in addition to the expense ratio, which is typically between 0.07% to 0.15%. So if you had had $10,000 in a retirement account with Betterment you’d be charged about $25 for the annual fee and up to $15 for the expense ratio, or about $40 total.
There are no overdraft fees or account fees for the Ellevest Save or Ellevest Spend accounts. ATM fees can be reimbursed when using your Ellevest debit card. With the cash-back debit card, you’re eligible to receive up to 5% cash-back rewards at select retailers, but in order to figure out which retailers are eligible, you’ll have to check out the Ellevest app or website.
Ellevest has very favorable reviews on the Apple App Store, with a score of 4.8/5 based on more than 4,500 ratings at the time of writing. Some reviews praise the app for making it easier to understand investing as a newbie while others complained about the app being buggy.
Ellevest could be a good option for individuals who are new to the world of investing and personal finance and want an app that will tailor their investment strategy to them while accounting for gender differences.
However, the membership fees and expense ratios on investments can reduce your earnings, so you could be better off opting for another platform. Do your research before you sign up to make sure it’s the right investment vehicle for you.
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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.