M1 Finance Review: Free DIY Robo-Advisor ($50 Referral + Up to $4,000 Transfer Bonus)
Updated brokerage transfer bonus. I’m not a huge proponent of robo-advisors in general, as my experiences with them have generated a lot of unnecessary taxes every time they change their model portfolios to chase the latest and hottest trends. My favorite option is one where you control the model portfolio, but the robo does all the hard work: M1 Finance. Here’s a quick rundown of what makes them different:
Fully customizable. You pick your own target asset allocation “pie”. (You can add ETFs or individual stocks.) You can simply copy one of the many model portfolios out there, or customize it as you like. You have full control! M1 handles the tedious stuff, like rebalancing or dividing a $100 contribution across 8 different ETFs. Here is my pie which I named the My Money Blog Portfolio.
No commissions. Free stock/ETF trades with a low $100 minimum account size for taxable accounts and a $500 minimum for retirement accounts.
0.00% management fee! Most robo-advisors charge an annual management fee of 0.25% to 0.50% of assets (or force you to own something bad, like artificially low-interest cash).
Free dynamic rebalancing. All new deposits (and withdrawals) will be invested (or sold) dynamically to bring your portfolio back toward your target asset allocation. M1 will also rebalance your portfolio back to the target allocation for you automatically (for free) whenever you chose, on demand. You don’t need to do any math or maintain any spreadsheets.
Fractional shares (dollar-based). For example, you can just set it to automatically invest $100 a month, and your full amount will be spread across multiple ETFs. Dollar-based transactions were one of the advantages of buying a mutual fund, but fractional shares solve this problem. ETFs are also usually more tax-efficient.
Real brokerage account that you can move out. Some robo-advisors hold special, proprietary funds that you have to sell if you ever leave, possibly creating a big tax bill. M1 is built on a regular brokerage account, so you can move your ETFs and stock shares out to another broker whenever you want.
M1 Finance investment minimums:
A minimum account balance of $100 is necessary to get started on M1. Once the $100 account minimum has been reached, deposits can be any amount above $10. Retirement accounts require an initial investment of $500.
M1 Finance checks off nearly all the boxes of my brokerage wish list. They do all the managing for me, but according to my rules. But since I can choose the exact ETFs that they purchase, if I decide to stop their service down the line, I just end up with a brokerage account filled with ETFs that I can easily move elsewhere. I suppose the only thing they could add would be to have the high availability of customer service of a huge company like Fidelity or Schwab. Otherwise, I really like their feature set and I have been putting my recent annual IRA contributions into M1.
How do they make money? They have a variety of income streams, most of which are optional:
1) Interest on idle cash (can be minimized as you can auto-invest all idle cash in the investment account)
2) M1 Borrow (you take out a loan, they charge interest)
3) M1 Spending (checking and debit card generates fees for them)
4) Payment for order flow (same as Robinhood and TD Ameritrade)
5) M1 Plus (premium $125 a year subscription that gets you higher interest rates and debit card cash back).
$50 referral bonus. There is currently a $50 referral bonus only available if you open with a M1 Finance referral link (that’s mine), make an initial deposit of $100 for taxable accounts and $500 for IRAs within 30 days of sign-up, and not withdraw the initial deposit within 30 days. This is a limited-time offer, the standard offer is only $10.
M1 transfer bonus. By transferring over your portfolio from another brokerage, you can earn additional money with their transfer bonus. Transfer an outside brokerage account or IRA to M1 and earn up to $4,000. After opening the appropriate M1 account (taxable, Roth IRA, etc), simply upload your outside brokerage statement and they will do the transfer work for you.
$40 bonus with $10,000 to $19,999 in new assets
$75 bonus with $20,000 to $49,999 in new assets
$150 bonus with $50,000 to $99,999 in new assets
$250 bonus with $150,000 to $249,999 in new assets
$500 bonus with $250,000 to $499,999 in new assets
$1,000 bonus with $500,000 to $999,999 in new assets
$2,500 bonus with $1,000,000 to $1,999,999 in new assets
$4,000 bonus with $2,000,000+ in new assets
Bottom line.M1 Finance is a brokerage account that acts like a free, customizable robo-advisor with automatic rebalancing into a target portfolio. You control the model portfolio, and they do the tedious work. I deposited part of my annual Roth IRA contribution with them.
Disclosure: I am now an affiliate of M1 Finance, and may be compensated if you click through my link and open a new account.
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