For many years, the Big Three discount investing houses -- Fidelity, Schwab and Vanguard -- operated on a simple full service vs. self service model. You could either pay them to handle your investments or you could do it yourself. But now most of those companies offer an new and wholly different level of service.
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Check out these options for free robo-advising
Back in 2008, Vanguard began offering some level of advice and with a charge of less than 1% for those with $500,000. It's like the whole investing world turned on its axis!
But it wasn't until last May that Vanguard launched Personal Advisor Services. Combining technology with the human touch, Vanguard's free offering is by far the most successful in the new world of robo-advising, according to Bloomberg. (Account minimum required: $50,000)
Charles Schwab was a few months earlier to the party than Vanguard with its free online robo-advising service called Intelligent Portfolios. But Schwab has so far lagged far behind in total dollar amount of assets managed through robo-advising. (Account minimum required: $5,000)
Now comes the latest news: Fidelity is getting in on the action too. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Fidelity Go service is ready to be tested with 500 of the company's existing customers. (Account minimum required: $5,000)
Big guys outpace the pioneers
The robo-advising arena is proving a big boon for the big discount investment houses. But they're really going down a trail that was first blazed by startups like WiseBanyan.com, which was the first free online-based financial advisor. WiseBanyan will build a financial plan for you for free. The portfolios they recommend are made up of the ultra low-cost exchange traded-funds that Clark loves. The free financial planning is offered hoping you'll buy other services from them -- no obligation of course.
WiseBanyan is just one of a number of organizations that launched a couple of years ago trying this kind of thing. WealthFront.com is another. It's specifically set up to offer free guidance to those with portfolios of less than $10,000. Once you're beyond that, they charge a quarter of a percent per year. Betterment.com charges fees on a scale, but they're generally about one-eighth of a percent per year of the money you have on hand. Other similar sites to check out include Blooom.com and GetWela.com.
If you're just starting out or are younger in life, Internet-based artificial intelligence advice is a reasonable way for you to get financial guidance and direction. But note this well: Later in life, there's no substitute for a well trained and educated human being like a fee-only financial planner. Such a person can be invaluable for guiding you when you've built up a pile of money and it's getting closer to when you're going to spend it.
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