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Wealthfront Review: Investing, Simplified

This Wealthfront review will help you show investing doesn’t have to feel overly complicated. You don’t have to know all the terminology and spend lots of time looking over your portfolio and adjusting. You just need to take the first step. This overview details the benefits of using the robo-advising service for your retirement planning.

Don't have a lot of money but want to get started investing? Wealthfront makes investing simple. With low minimums and fees, investing feels a lot less intimidating. Click through to read!

Launched in 2011, Wealthfront is one of the big names in robo-advising and has over $3 billion in assets managed. They utilize the Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) to create a diversified investment portfolio for a person based on their risk tolerance and investment goals.

Investing, especially investing in your 20’s, can feel intimidating. There are so many terms thrown around. Mutual funds. ETF’s. Index funds. Risk tolerance. It can be overwhelming and feel like information overload. Many people know investing is important but they put it off because of the time they think it takes to set up and manage investments.

Robo-advisors make investing less intimidating. With low minimums to open accounts and automated management, investing has become a lot more simplified. (which is pretty awesome! 🙂 ).

This Wealthfront review will help you get to know more about one of the most widely used robo-advisors and how the service can benefit you.

Getting Started with Wealthfront

1) Questionnaire

After clicking the ‘Invest Now’ button on the Wealthfront homepage, you are taken to a questionnaire where you answer questions asking what you look for in a financial advisor, your age, income, how you want to invest your money, and what you want to do when the stock market fluctuates.

2) Investment recommendations

After completing the questionnaire, Wealthfront will show you a recommended investment plan based on a risk tolerance score of 1-10. The risk tolerance score will be based around the answers you gave about your situation and goals.

You can enter your email address and get the investment plan emailed to you. The plans focus on low-cost ETF’s (exchange traded funds) to build and manage your portfolio. Different combinations of the following ETF’s go into your investment portfolio:

  • VTI – Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF
  • VEA – Vanguard Developed Markets ETF
  • VWO – Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF
  • VIG – Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF
  • LQD – iShares Investment Grade Corporate Bong Fund ETF
  • EMB – iShares Emerging Market Bond Fund ETF
  • MUB – iShares Municipal Bond ETF
  • SCHP – Schwab Treasury Inflation Protected Securities ETF
  • VNQ – Vanguard REIT Index Fund ETF
  • XLE – Energy Select Sector SPDR
Fees

With Wealthfront, you don’t have to pay high fees (like you would with a traditional financial advisor) for automated investment service that fits your goals and risk tolerance. The fees with a Wealthfront account are very appealing when compared to those of other robo-advisors.

You get your first $10,000 managed for free ($15,000 if you sign up through a referral). Any amount over the $10,000 threshold is managed at a flat rate of 0.25%. This is on top of the fees charged by the ETF’s in your portfolio, which average around 0.12%.

Features

Low Account Minimum: You can open an account with Wealthfront with as little as $500. This makes it a lot easier for a person to get started investing when they have little money. Many of the funds at online brokerages like Fidelity and Vanguard have $2,500-3,000 minimums.

Automated Rebalancing: When your investment portfolio fluctuates, you don’t have to worry about going in and rebalancing to get back to your desired allocation. Wealthfront does it for you.

Tax-Loss Harvesting: Wealthfront’s philosophy is all about maximizing returns on your investments and letting you keep more of the returns your portfolio makes. 

All taxable, non-retirement accounts come with daily tax-loss harvesting which helps you potentially minimize the taxes you pay and maintain the risk and returns you get. Investment losses are “harvested” (sold off) to offset taxes from your other gains and income.

No Commission/Trading fees: The first $15,000 is advised for free (when signed up through a referral). The only fees with Wealthfront are the 0.25% advisory fee on accounts over $15,000 and the ETF expense ratios which average 0.12%.

Low fee service for the new/passive investor: Wealthfront’s fees are low and reasonable when you consider the piece of mind you get from having an automated investment portfolio.

Disadvantages

No customization: What you see is what you get. Wealthfront’s recommended portfolios included a diversified set of low-cost ETF’s but you can’t add any different ones you may want.

The Wealthfront set of ETF’s are good, research-based recommendations but if you’re the type of investor who likes to fine-tune their portfolio themselves, you’re out of luck. Wealthfront is not for the DIY, hands-on type of investor

No fractional share purchases: Wealthfront only purchases whole shares of stocks, so you will likely have a bit of cash sitting in your account until it’s able to buy whole shares again. This is different from Betterment, which buys fractional shares and invests all of your cash.

Types of Accounts Offered

Wealthfront supports several taxable and non-taxable investment accounts: personal and joint non-retirement taxable accounts, Traditional and Roth IRA’s, including 401(k) rollovers, and SEP-IRA’s. They also recently announced support for 529 college saving plans.


Verdict

Wealthfront isn’t as flashy and out there as its counterpart, Betterment. Wealthfront makes up for it by the way of its fee structure and world-class investment team. While Betterment offers no account minimum, it’s fees, for account balances below $100,000, are higher than Wealthfront.

Wealthfront is more accessible and easier to new investors with little money. The first $15,000 of an account is managed for free. Because of this, Wealthfront makes for a really attractive option to get started investing with little money. Use my referral link below to learn more and open your account.

 


Are you confused about the world of investing and want to learn more? Enroll in my free 7-day Investing 101 For Millennials email course.

Just two years ago, I knew nothing about investing and kept all my money in a savings account earning 0.05% interest. Once I learned more about investing and it’s power to build wealth, I got started with it. Investing doesn’t have to be overwhelming or scary!

The course will walk you through the basics of investing, why it’s important, why everyone should be doing it, and how to set up and get your first investing account ready to go.

Click the image below to learn more!

Investing 101 for Millennials


What do you think of robo advisor services? Do you think it makes investing less intimidating and more accessible? 

How To Choose The Best Robo-Advisor For You

There’s a new kid on the block and it’s the kind of person you weren’t looking for but now totally want to know. (big statement to make, I know). Let’s talk about how to choose a robo-advisor.

Investing doesn't have to be complicated. You can have a passive, hands-off option that allows you to grow your wealth. Click through to read on how to choose a robo-advisor.

Not exactly a person, more like an automated service. These automated services walk you through what you want to do with your money and create a portfolio plan around it.

If you’re any more than an occasional reader of personal finance blogs, you are probably aware of the importance of investing. You’ve seen the charts showing how magical compound interest is, stood awkwardly while baby boomers told you retirement horror stories, and even saw the fake quote from Albert Einstein about how compound interest was the 8th wonder of the world.

You know investing is important but you don’t want to have to research what funds to pick, how to rebalance your portfolio, and do a bunch of other things that leave you puzzled.

You want a passive option that allows you to be investing while not having to get too involved with managing your investment portfolio. Let’s talk about how to choose a robo-advisor.

How I (finally) got started investing

Set out to do good for myself, I got enrolled in a 401k plan at my first full-time job and it came with an employer match. I contributed into the 401k but didn’t really know anything about investing. Scratch that, I knew *nothing* about investing. So the money just sat there in my account, for several months, not invested in anything.

A few months later, I opened up a Roth IRA with Fidelity (the same place where my 401k was). I was excited and ready to invest! But…most of Fidelity’s funds came with a $2,500 minimum to invest. I had nowhere near that.

After moving on from that first job, I rolled the 401k into my Roth IRA and started to look at how to invest.

I read several blog posts, listened to podcasts, and read a really great book called, The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be Complicated. The information, although all good, didn’t give me the desire to fully manage my hypothetical investment portfolio.

Mulling over options, I came across the idea of using robo-advisor services. I wondered how to choose a robo-advisor service that was best for me. The top two platforms, Betterment and Wealthfront, both offered a very nice appeal to a beginning investor like me. Both services offered automatic rebalancing and investment portfolios geared towards your risk tolerance and goals.

It came down to fees and situation. I chose Wealthfront, since you can get the first $10,000 in assets managed for free. The fees becomes a flat rate of 0.25% after $10,000.

Now I have a portfolio of low-cost ETFs and my investing is automated! I don’t have to check on it as often as a do-it-yourself type of approach. I like that.

How to choose a robo-advisor

I want to go through some ways to help you figure out how to choose a robo-advisor for you. Let’s get crackin’

1. Management fees

One of the big things to do when investing, besides the actual investing part, is to keep your fees as low as possible. Fees from the funds you’re invested in, advisor/management fees, trading costs, they can all add up.

As actor Billy Eichner says, Keep your fees, like your milk, under 1%. Keep them wayyyyy under 1%.

Betterment charges a 0.25% advising fee. Wealthfront is free, having no advising fee on the first $15,000 managed. It becomes 0.25% after that.

2. Investment Options

With many robo-advisors, including Betterment and Wealthfront, you don’t have a choice in which funds to invest your money. The investment decisions are made by the platform (usually via a computer algorithm). So it’s important to see what investment options there are when looking at how to choose a robo-advisor.

The money is often invested in low-cost ETF’s like a total stock fund, emerging markets, international, and some bond funds. What is unique is your asset allocation (the percentage you have in stocks and bonds) based on your risk tolerance, which is usually based on a short questionnaire you fill out.

3. Minimum Opening Deposit

When you have little money to invest, low or no account minimums can be *wonderful*. Betterment offers no account minimum ($0, yeah!) and Wealthfront has a $500 account minimum.

Don’t focus too much on getting one with the lowest account minimum. Keep in mind the full scope of features, interface, and fees each platform has to fit your needs.

4. Platform Interface and Features

One of the things surprisingly mentioned when looking at how to choose a robo-advisor is their online interface. Some of them have really great interfaces that help you visualize your long-term goals and figure out ways to do more.

This is so great at motivating you to save for retirement and your other goals.

Betterment offers a RetireGuide calculator that shows you how much your money will amount to over time and how much you need to save per month or year to reach your goals. It lets you customize your accounts to different types of goals you have (retirement, house down payment, etc.)

Wealthfront offers a similar thing with their Path tool, a visual interactive tool used to set and see your savings goals over time. You can also connect your accounts to monitor your spending with it.


Robo-advisors are a fresh face when it comes to the world of investing. It’s going to be interesting to see how they do in the years to come.

A lot of people, including seasoned investors, are critical of them due their new-ness and spot in the investing world. We all have to start somewhere, right? Robo-advisors can be a great way to get started investing or for people who know they should invest but don’t want to manage it too much. For me, when it came to how to choose a robo-advisor, it came down to three things: fees, investment options, and customer help/online tools.

I want to keep my fees as low as possible, while still being able to passively invest. Ultimately I went with Wealthfront.

For investment options, I wanted to make sure most of the pre-selected investment options were low-cost funds. Also, looks matter (sort of… :)). I wanted a platform that had an interface that made it easy to enable auto-deposits, give a snapshot of investment loss or growth, and show me how much to save based on my goals.

You’ll still find me reading over articles on investing and looking over different investment portfolios, but for now, using a robo-advisor service like Wealthfront works great for me.


Are you confused about the world of investing and want to learn more? Enroll in my free 7-day Investing 101 For Millennials email course.

Just two years ago, I knew nothing about investing and kept all my money in a savings account earning 0.05% interest. Once I learned more about investing and it’s power to build wealth, I got started with it. Investing doesn’t have to be overwhelming or scary!

The course will walk you through the basics of investing, why it’s important, why everyone should be doing it, and how to set up and get your first investing account ready to go.

Click the image below to learn more!

Investing 101 for Millennials


Have you ever considered using a robo advisor? How do you choose the best robo advisor? 

You’re Allowed To Suck

better at managing my money

I’ve been slacking on getting better at managing my money. I’m not really sure how else to phrase it. I’ve been going over budget and spending on things I really don’t need to spend on.

For what seems like the longest time, I’ve always felt I wasn’t good with my money. I would think about how I would be doing something but could be doing it better. I would procrastinate on doing things because I wanted to “get this thing out of the way before this other thing”.

I knew I was okay at managing my money but I never thought I was some personal finance extraordinaire. Even saying the term is widely debatable. What even makes up a personal finance extraordinaire?

I’ve always thought it was someone who kicked butt with their finances and had mastered the art of managing money. This was a person who had a rock solid six-month emergency fund, buffer in their checking account, small money cushion account for pop up expenses, and a paid off old car that they proudly drove around in. Because getting new, financed cars sucks, FYI. 

This was a person who maxed out their Roth IRA every year and was on the path to retiring early at 55. They would ride off in their convertible (preferably used, non-financed) into the sunset with their sunglasses on.

Now, THAT was the type of person I needed to be. Not someone who ordered take-out for the third time in a week and hadn’t been tracking their spending for the month.

Sometimes I suck at money.

Saving it, investing it, earning it, basically just not being better at managing my money.

I like to prioritize saving for travel and retirement but sometimes I find myself spending a wee bit too much on Starbucks and eating out. I love watching movies and sometimes I blow my entertainment budget by spending too much on movie tickets and rentals. Judging from the internet’s top productivity listicles, watching TV and movies is the devil’s advocate. Oops. So I have another strike against me. 

For a long time, I would build up an emergency fund. Then it would be quickly dashed down by some unexpected expense that would leave me feeling bad. Dental bills and car repairs are the worst. Other times the coffee and take out habit would get out of control and I would feel even worse since I knew it was something I could control.

So basically, throughout my many ups and downs with money, I always felt not near what I would picture to be when it came to being “good with money”. Sometimes I suck.

Knowing my money motivation, the ‘why’ behind my money was important to articulate, but it hasn’t been a catch-all in stopping some of my bad spending habits.

Lately, though, one thing has helped. I’ve started to realize it’s okay to suck.

I’m not living paycheck to paycheck or YOLO-ing all day every day. So at least there’s that. I’ve never dipped into my retirement account either. I still do have an intact emergency fund. I do feel bad about some of my spending but I always make an active effort to combat it. So all hope isn’t lost.

Tying my financial identity to a one-off purchase doesn’t seem rational.

As much as money is an emotional thing, once I think logically about it, I realize I’m not so bad.

Addressing the root of the sucky feeling, usually a bad spending habit, and working to prepare for it next time makes things feel a lot better. The key is to not stop and wait. Just keep going.


How do you address those feelings of being inadequate financially?

Rebel With A Plan

Rebel Without A Cause? Nah, more like Rebel With A Plan. 🙂

Rebel With A Plan is a call to action to embrace your uniqueness and build the life you want

Just a few days ago I had my one year blogoversary! On February 11, 2016 I published my first post about candy bars and the taste of business.

I had started this blog as a way to practice my writing skills some more and be in a community where talking about money was accepted and fun. You know, kinda along the same tone as how Jon Oliver talks about retirement plans without sounding super boring. It’s been great so far The most awesome thing I’ve gotten to do was getting to go to FinCon16 (the financial online media conference).

FinCon16 was actually where I started to get questions about the reasoning behind my blog name. It doesn’t have any of the names people often think of when it comes to personal finance blogs: frugal, saving, thrifty, money, budget, cents, rich, or debt.

People would see the ‘rebel’ part of my domain and ask what my ‘plan’ was. So what’s your plan?! 

Well, today I’m finally talking about the meaning behind the name. A full one year after having this site. Better late than never, huh?

It all started with a movie…

My blog name is derived from the 1955 movie Rebel Without A Cause. Arguably the most famous movie James Dean is known for.

I LOVE Rebel Without A Cause. There’s just something about its outcast and rebellious collection of characters that makes it endearing to watch. Back in early 2016, while mulling over what to call my site-to-be, I re-watched the movie.

I didn’t want my personal finance blog to have frugal, saving, or anything else that had to do with money in the title. Wanting to start a personal finance blog but not wanting it to have anything to do with money in the title. Kind of weird, right?

I didn’t want to have something to do with money in the title.

I wanted the blog to be about more than just money. I wanted it to be about a way of thinking.

I wanted it to be about how money fit into the life around you and how important it was. I wanted to cover additional topics in personal development, creativity, and lifestyle on the blog.

While watching Rebel Without A Causethe thematic nature of the film ran through my mind. The movie was taking place in the 1950’s. The war had ended, babies were being born left and right and America was experiencing economic prosperity. The American Dream was alive and well. People embraced the comforts of home ownership and starting a family.

James Dean’s character, Jim Stark, felt like an outsider.  He felt restless and disillusioned with the society he lives in. Many millennials of today feel the same way.

That’s how my blog name was born. Millennials are feeling restless and out of touch with the so-called American Dream. They either can’t afford or don’t want houses. They face small paychecks with big costs of living. All around them, society is telling them to consume more. Buy a house, buy a new car, buy another new car, have kids, get the best most expensive furniture (does IKEA count?), have a big costly wedding, and so on.

It’s no shock many millennials are going towards a different way of life. Many of them have a plan to embracing living with less and focusing on what they truly value.

It sounds minimalist-y to say that but minimalism isn’t the main force behind it. The main objective of the plan is to embrace your own values and way of thinking and use those as a driving backbone toward mastering your money and building your best life.

My plan is to live a life where I’m in control of my finances so I can go towards the things I really want. I want to be able to travel, save a lot of money, and retire early. That’s my goal, anyway. I don’t want to life a life constant more and being in debt. I’m putting my focus towards something different.


What’s your plan? 

I Paid Off My Student Loans! I’m Debt Free!!

I'm 22 years old and I paid off $21,000 in student loan debt in 1.5 years.

I’ve been writing and re-writing the first few sentences of this post over and over. It’s taken me a while to write because I didn’t know how to just come out and say it. It feels almost surreal to even say it to myself, let along the internet.

Let’s talk about debt. Debt is a turbulent and pesky little (big?) thing. It sneaks up on you. It shows you that anything is yours even if you can’t afford to fully pay for it at that very moment. I used to have the typical view of debt. I thought it was normal and just a fact of life since lots of other people had it too.

My first tango with debt happened when I was 17 years old. I was going to high school taking several AP classes, working a part-time job, doing tech work for my school’s theater productions, and also doing 1-2 community college classes every semester.

My parents had gone through a lengthy and trying divorce that left both of them with several thousands of dollars of credit card debt and emotionally drained. Due to my parents spending habits, they said they wouldn’t be able to contribute to my university expenses.

It was a shock even though I sort of knew it was coming given that I was paying for the textbook and class expenses for my early start community college classes. Debt suddenly became there for me. It consoled me and showed me that I could go to university and get my bachelor’s degree.

Everyone else my age was signing the loan documents without a worry. The adults around me assured me that my student loans were “good debt” and that I would get a good-paying job right after university and be able to pay the loans back. I believed them.

Throughout university, I stayed conscious of my student loan amount and tried to minimize it as much as possible. I opted not to stay in dorms my first year of college, instead choosing to live out of my car. I took a full schedule of 15-18 hours every semester, worked several jobs, unpaid internships (ugh…), and went to events with free food whenever I could.

After graduating university in 2.5 years with my bachelor’s degree, I soon found out getting an entry-level job in my field was harder than I ever imagined. The worse part of it was I started getting letters and emails about my debt. $21,000 in student loan debt. 

I had all of these things I wanted to do: move out of Texas and to a different state, travel, contribute to retirement. But I couldn’t do any of those things to the extent I wanted because I had debt creeping up on me, the grace period slowly winding down.

I ended up in a dreadful job unrelated to my major and got to work. I stayed late, took extra work, came in on some of my days off, and worked to make as much money as possible to pay off my debt. Whenever I had more free time, I hopped on Craigslist and Upwork to find extra work.

Debt was no longer my friend who consoled me. It was my enemy and I was determined to get rid of it as soon as possible. I set a goal to pay off my debt in 2.5 years. In a charged fit of anger and motivation, I grabbed a piece of paper, jotted down some words and taped it to my bedroom door and in my car. The paper read:

How bad do you want it? 

I looked at those words every day and kept them in mind whenever I got exhausted and wanted to quit. That piece of paper was my accountability when I had no one to turn to. People around me called me cheap, stingy, and teased me about driving an old car and not going out often.

My parents preached the benefits of getting a new car. It was hard not to listen to them. It was hard because I was a guy whose car would break down every few months and I didn’t have a someone close to lean on when I needed an in-between car. My mom’s husband would shake his head and tell me to stop being stingy and just finance a new car. I didn’t want to.

Then things got worse. My dreadful job started to take a heavier toll on me. I fell deep into depression, lost my appetite, and started losing weight at an alarming rate. I became pale and would wake up in the middle of the night sweating. Everything felt wrong and I didn’t know how to make it right. I still had my debt. I was still in my shackles.

Fortunately, after some care, I started to get slightly better. My mood was in a better place and I began to look at options. I came across a post about teaching English in Thailand and decided to move abroad for work. I quit my dreadful job, my mood started to get better, and I was finally able to start traveling.

But I still had debt.

So, after getting settled into my new full-time job, I began doing a tutoring side job, working at a language center and also offering private lessons to students. I found some online work and started doing that as well.

And the same situation as back home started happening. People around me didn’t understand it. My fellow foreign teachers would joke about me being too cheap and not knowing how to have fun. While they went off on weekend trips and holidays to other countries, I stayed in my small apartment, typing up blog posts and doing private tutoring lessons. They paid their minimums while I paid extra.

Whenever I did travel, it was usually in a basic manner. That Great Wall of China photo? It was taken during a hurried 20-minute walk while I was on a layover in Beijing to go visit back home. The original 3-hour walk didn’t happen because of delays. The Myanmar photos? Those were taken during a hurried 1-day trip to Bagan in which I had to argue with several taxi drivers because they kept trying to rip me off. I only got to spend 2.5 days in Myanmar because I had gotten a flight deal and it was all I could afford. And the reason you don’t see me in a lot of my photos? It’s because I was usually a haggle sweaty mess from hauling my small Jansport backpack everywhere since I didn’t have any suitcases and didn’t want to pay for luggage.

People back home continued to like my photos and thought I was living a wonderful life abroad when in reality I was usually working all the time with not a lot of vacation time.

My work from putting in extra hours became more evident as money continued to pile up in my savings account. I noticed something bad was happening. I was hoarding money in my savings account instead of putting it towards my debt. I did it because I was scared. I was scared of not having a lot of savings and having to go back to a dreadful job again. I was battling a financial scarcity mindset and it was hard to beat.

I mention all of this because, like many, the journey to becoming debt-free is a turbulent one. There are ups and downs and everyone just doesn’t seem to understand your mindset. You’re looked at as weird and cheap. Instant gratification and FOMO constantly rear their alluring heads at you.

People look at you with a dishearting smile and say “You shouldn’t focus so much on your debt. Live your life” to which you could whisper back “I’m doing this so I can fully live my life.”

A few days ago,  I made the decision to take a large chunk out of my savings to finally pay off the rest of my debt. It felt scary at first because of my scarcity mindset but ultimately I knew it was the sensible thing to do. It made no sense to keep a lot of money in my savings account while also having debt.

I logged into my student loan service provider and made the final payment.

And suddenly, just like that things changed. My name is Colin Ashby, I’m 22 years old, and I just finished paying off $21,000 in student loans in 1.5 years. I’M DEBT-FREE!!!!

I envisioned my “debt-free day” to be this big action-packed movie sequence where I would bust through window, glass shattered and drive off into the sunset waving dollar bills in the air. Tom Cruise would be portraying me.

As you can tell, I’ve got an over-active imagination sometimes 🙂

Even though I’m not blasting through windows on a motorcycle, being debt-free in reality still feels pretty badass!


Welp, this post has crossed 1500 words, I should probably stop. I made a some video talking about being debt-free and revealing the meaning behind my blog name Rebel With A Plan. 

The video ran super long so I had to cut it up a bunch and make it into two videos. The first one about becoming debt-free is below. My 1 year blogiversary just happened so on Wednesday the self-titled post, Rebel With A Plan, will go up talking about the meaning behind the blog name. Stay tuned!

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