5 Ways Betterment Differs from Its Competitors

Betterment’s investment services first came on my radar a couple of years ago. I invested $1,000 with the company as one of my investment experiments for the first Grow Your Dough Throwdown in January 2014. Later that year, I became an affiliate for the firm (gaining the opportunity for sales commissions on new accounts) and became a contributor to the firm’s online magazine.

Those in the financial industry refer to Betterment and similar companies as “robo advisors.” Robo references a robotic, rather than human, financial advisor. Advisor references the services the company provides as an SEC registered investment advisor (RIA), which involves the recommendation and management of a diversified investment portfolio for clients.

There are many similarities among robo-advisory services. But here are five ways that Betterment differs from similar advisory services, such as those from Wealthfront and TradeKing Advisors.

How to Set and Reach Financial Goals with Betterment

For many years, I have been resistant to the idea of setting financial goals; instead, I have opted to accumulate wealth so that I have the means to make purchases when needed. This wealth-building approach can be effective, and is certainly better than not saving, investing, and growing assets.

Still, there are at least a couple of shortcomings to general wealth building: 1) I’m not sure when my goal has been achieved; and 2) I’m reluctant to spend down the assets that I’ve worked so hard to accumulate, largely because I’m not clear about the purpose of my investments and the timing of withdrawals.

Goal setting can inspire me to save and invest, and make me feel happier and more secure about spending.

Managed Portfolios: What They Are and Why You Should Know

Managed portfolios seem to becoming more popular as more people want to invest, but aren’t sure how.

The practice of portfolio management has been around a long time but has more recently become part of the mainstream as portfolio management services are now accessible to the average person (who may have just a few thousand dollars to invest). Companies like Betterment and WealthFront (also called robo advisors) have begun to popularize the concept.

What is a managed portfolio or what are portfolio management services? Generally, a managed portfolio is one in which a professional manages investments on a client’s behalf. Typically, the client will pay a flat or sliding-scale fee based on the portfolio size. The fee is calculated by multiplying a percentage (such as 0.25% or 1.0% set by the investment or brokerage firm) by the assets under management (AUM). The AUM represents the dollar value of investments being managed.