Wealthfront combines automated, holistic planning with the ability for you to invest through their robo-advisor platform. At the same time, you can keep an eye on the bigger financial picture while receiving personalized advice to help you meet your goals. You can choose to save for any number of life events with a diverse range of account types available. Additionally, Wealthfront offers the ability to link all of your bank accounts together so you can see all of your savings and investments under one umbrella. 

How It Works

Choosing Wealthfront as your robo-advisor help you start investing quickly. When you open your account, you’ll be asked a few questions that allow Wealthfront’s software to craft a personalized investment plan just for you. The strategy is based on both your financial goals and the ability to save. 

Start by selecting an area of life to focus on, such as retirement, home buying, college tuition for your children, or travel plans. If you’re not sure or what you want to select, Wealthfront will recommend that you begin with retirement planning to make sure you’re financially prepared for the future.

Once you establish a personalized plan and deposit your funds into your chosen Wealthfront account, the money is automatically invested into funds that make sense for you. Wealthfront offers globally diversified portfolios designed for investments of five years or longer. Your portfolio can consist of up to 11 different asset classes based on your savings goals and risk appetite. Wealthfront’s platform automatically rebalances your portfolio to keep your goals on track. 

Taxable Brokerage Accounts

For long-term investing, Wealthfront has a selection of brokerage accounts available. You can choose between individual, joint, and trust accounts. These accounts let you invest funds for general savings goals or to augment any tax-advantaged retirement accounts you already have. While your earnings are taxed, there are no restrictions on withdrawals or the purpose for which you can use those funds.

Retirement Accounts

Wealthfront helps you prepare for retirement by offering a suite of tax-advantaged accounts. If you meet eligibility requirements, you can open a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA. For self-employed individuals and small business owners, you can opt for a SEP IRA. Alternatively, you can also use a 401(k) Rollover to maximize an existing retirement account from a previous employer.

Education Accounts

Prepare for your children’s future by investing in a tax-advantaged 529 College Savings Plan. Wealthfront’s savings tools can help you determine how much to invest specifically for each child’s education and how much to put away in different accounts for other needs so you remain flexible with your money. 

Cash Accounts

If you plan on using your savings in the short-term, Wealthfront recommends placing that money in an insured, high-yield savings account rather than in an investment portfolio. They offer a 2.57% APY with no fees and unlimited transfers. Plus, your funds are FDIC-insured up to $1 million. 

Portfolio Line of Credit

If you have at least $25,000 in an individual, trust, or joint investment account, you automatically have access to a portfolio line of credit. You can borrow up to 30% of your assets, with variable interest rates ranging between 4.75% and 6.00%. Your investments are used as collateral.

Pricing Model

Management Fees

0.25% 

Account Minimum

$0 

When you invest through Wealthfront, you’ll pay an annual advisory fee of 0.25% that is deducted from your account on a monthly basis. This figure is calculated based on your average monthly balance. Expense ratios range between 0.07% and 0.16% depending on the investment funds chosen for your portfolio. Other than that, you don’t have to worry about trading commissions, withdrawal fees, minimum balance fees, or transfer fees. 

If you open a 529 account for education savings, your fee will be structured a little differently. The total annual cost ranges between 0.42% and 0.46%, which includes the advisory fee, program administration fee, and any underlying ETF expenses. 

If you opt for a Wealthfront cash account, you won’t have to pay any fees at all, from the time you open your account to potentially closing it as well. 

Additional Features

Integrative Mobile App

Wealthfront offers a mobile app that helps you see a snapshot of your overall financial help and identify any gaps in reaching your short-term and long-term goals. You can link all of your accounts to get a comprehensive view of where you stand each day. This app is available for free, regardless of whether or not you currently have a Wealthfront account. 

$100k+ Benefits

Once you’ve invested $100,000 or more in your Wealthfront account, you’ll qualify for a suite of extra benefits. The first is an advanced level of tax-harvesting available for individual stocks if your balance is in a taxable account. Wealthfront also activates their Risk Parity features once you hit the $100,000 threshold. It involves an enhanced asset allocation strategy that is meant to increase your risk-adjusted returns.

SmartBeta

If you surpass the $500,000 investment level, you gain entry to the SmartBeta program, which weighs your portfolio securities more intelligently to help increase your returns. There is no additional fee when you qualify for this service. 

Advantages

Wealthfront comes with several advantages, some of which are standard across robo-advisors, and others that are unique to this platform. Most notable is that there are no fees for withdrawing funds or transferring money out of your account. Many brokerages typically charge fees for both of these services, especially if you’re closing an account. Wealthfront, on the other hand, gives you very few reasons not to at least try out the platform, especially with no transfer costs and a low minimum account balance of just $500. 

Part of Wealthfront’s financial planning tool is to link all of your bank accounts to know your current financial situation in real-time. But this also makes it easy to set up transfers directly from your bank account into your Wealthfront account. 

Finally, like most other robo-advisors on the market, Wealthfront implements tax-loss harvesting into all taxable investment accounts. This tactic allows you to stick with your investment strategy while automatically searching for opportunities to decrease your tax obligations. Tax-loss harvesting occurs daily so your account is as tax-efficient as possible. 

Disadvantages

Just as with any other service, Wealthfront has a few shortcomings. One is that there’s no discount if you have a higher account balance. Some robo-advisors drop to a lower percentage when you reach a certain investment amount, but you won’t find that service at Wealthfront. While the fixed fee is low, it’s smart to weigh your options based on your anticipated investment amount.

Wealthfront still operates as a true robo-advisor, meaning you can’t upgrade your account or pay an extra fee to get real-life advice from a human. For many people, it’s one of the great things about Wealthfront. But if you start to have additional questions about your investment strategy, you may end up feeling limited by only one pricing model. 

A final limitation of Wealthfront is that there are no fractional shares. That means they don’t buy partial ETFs in order to invest every penny that you deposit, so you always have some uninvested cash in your account. Wealthfront also maintains cash in your account to cover your entire annual fee, even though those funds are taken out monthly. 

Who It’s Best For

If you want a “set it and forget it” mentality, then Wealthfront is a great choice to consider for your investment accounts. Their platform has integrated prompts to make sure you’re being asked the right questions to keep your finances on track, both in the short-term and the long-term. 

Using Wealthfront can also keep your finances organized, especially if you have multiple accounts for different purposes. If you’re working on several goals, such as saving for retirement as well as for college tuition for your kids, you can see exactly how those different portfolios are performing within a single online platform. 

It’s also ideal if you’re starting off with a lower account balance. Not only is the opening deposit a reasonable $500, you also get to take advantage of a fixed annual fee. Some firms charge a higher percentage for smaller accounts, but you don’t have to worry about that with your Wealthfront.

The Bottom Line

Wealthfront provides sophisticated financial planning tools and investment accounts for a diverse array of users. Whether you’re looking for one specific type of account or want to mix and match for different financial goals, Wealthfront gives you the flexibility to do so. 

Start by making sure you’re on par to meet your retirement needs, then begin thinking more widely about other life goals, whether that’s saving up for a house or funding your kid’s college education. Integrated support from Wealthfront’s platform helps you track your progress across multiple goals and prioritize your ability to meet each of those specific needs.

Author

Lauren's work has been seen in a variety of news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, Crediful, Kiplinger, and CBS News. Before her writing career, Lauren worked in community outreach for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond as well as in non-profit fundraising. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband and three kids.

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