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If you’re looking for commission-free trades and a robo-advisor that gives you some control over your investments, check out M1 Finance. It’s a hybrid robo-advisor that gives buy and hold investors the best of both worlds.
More than just an investment platform, though, M1 Finance helps investors favorably manage their finances while investing for future goals.
What is M1 Finance?
M1 Finance is a robust platform that allows users to invest, borrow, and spend all in one app. Known as a robo-advisor, M1 Finance works a little differently than your standard robo-advisors like Wealthfront or Betterment.
M1 Finance helps you create the perfect portfolio based on your answers to specific questions and then automatically manages it for you. It’s like getting the best of both worlds – you have a say in where and how you invest and then the platform manages it so you don’t have to have a completely hands-on approach.
In addition to investing, you can manage your cash with an integrated checking account or open a portfolio line of credit to borrow funds.
How does it Work?
Investors have over 6,000 investments to choose from within M1 Finance. You can build your own portfolio or choose from prebuilt Expert Pies each with a different investment strategy. You can create one pie or several, based on the financial goals you have.
Investors can open an individual or joint taxable account or a retirement account, depending on how you want to invest your funds. Once you open your account and choose your allocations (or an Expert Pie), M1 does the rest, using its proprietary trading system to maintain your desired allocation.
What Features Does M1 Finance Have?
- Invest – This feature is for self-directed investors who want the reassurance of automatic rebalancing from a robo-advisor. You do the initial work and the platform takes over from there.
- Borrow – You can borrow against your portfolio with a flexible line of credit if you have at least a $10,000 balance. The M1 portfolio credit line has low interest rates and flexible repayment options. You can borrow up to 35% of your portfolio’s value. If you have a standard M1 account, you’ll pay 3.5% APR and if you have an M1 Plus account, you’ll pay 2% APR.
- Spend – Your M1 Spend account is a checking account with a Visa debit card. You can easily transfer money between your spend, invest, and borrow account too.
- M1 Plus – For a small annual fee, you can have even more benefits including 2% APR on all credit lines, automated transfers to your investment account, earn 1% APY on your checking account balances, and earn 1% cash back on qualifying purchases made with our Visa debit card.
What Does M1 Finance Cost?
M1 Finance has two fee structures. Most people use the ‘free platform’ that offers commission-free trades and no management fee. But, there’s a tradeoff for the free platform – you only get one trading window per day. This means you may put in an order, but it won’t trade at the price you thought if it wasn’t close to the time of the trading window.
M1 Plus is M1 Finance’s paid service. It costs $125 a year or just about $10 a month. For the cost you’ll get:
- Lower margin rates
- A second trading window for more accurate trades
- Interest on your cash
- Custodial accounts
- A one-year free trial
M1 Finance Customer Service
Like most robo-advisors, most of your communication is on the computer. M1 Finance offers a large FAQ section which they point you to first with any questions. They do offer customer service hours which you can reach via phone, email, or online chat, whichever you prefer.
The customer service hours are pretty short, though, as they are only available 9 AM to 4 PM EST Monday through Friday. Many people see this as a downside especially since most people look at and work on their accounts at night or on the weekends.
Pros and Cons
- Commission-free trades on all stocks and ETFs with up to 6,000 assets to choose from
- Only $100 minimum investment to open an account
- Automated rebalancing if your portfolio falls off its allocation
- Low APRs on any credit lines
- High-yield interest rates on your checking account
- The option to open taxable or retirement accounts
- You can trade fractional shares which allows you to invest in just about any stock even if you can’t afford a full share
- No management fees
- If you have no activity for 90 days, you’ll be charged a fee
- The goal setting features in M1 lack the capabilities most other robo-advisors offer
- There aren’t any human advisors to talk to
Is M1 Finance Safe?
M1 Finance takes security very seriously. They use the same level of security most banks use and they use military-grade encryption to protect your personal data. They also use two-factor authentication and offer FDIC insurance of up to $250,000 per person just like a bank on your Spend accounts.
If you’re looking for a robo-advisor but want a say in some of your investments or how your portfolio works, M1 Finance could be the perfect option.
It’s not the hand-holding robo-advisor like Betterment or Wealthfront, but it’s great for those who want to get their feet wet investing but aren’t ready to do it themselves quite yet. While the short trading window is a downside of M1 Finance, if you’re only trading occasionally and otherwise leaving your portfolio to sit and grow – you should be in good shape using M1 Finance to achieve your financial goals.