M1 Finance

4 out of 5

Managed by: M1 Finance

At A Glance

M1 Finance is a good option if you want a robo-advisor without the standard annual account fee or if you want to start with smaller amounts. DIY investors will enjoy being able to add stocks and ETFs to the same portfolio, but this platform may not be a good option if you want a fully-automated robo-advisor to manage your portfolio.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No fees
  • Can buy premade investment portfolios
  • Can trade most U.S.-listed stocks and ETFs
  • Fractional investing
  • Dynamic portfolio rebalancing

Cons

  • No initial interview to recommend an investment strategy
  • Requires self-management
  • No human advisors
  • Cash management account only available with premium membership

M1 Finance is best for:

  • DIY investors
  • Investing small amounts of money
  • Premade portfolios
  • Customizable portfolios

M1 Finance Key Details

Account minimum
  • Taxable accounts: $100
  • Retirement accounts: $500
Management fee
  • M1 Finance Basic: $0 management fee
  • M1 Plus: $125 per year
Account fees

$100 IRA termination fee

Portfolio mix and average expense
  • Premade portfolios
  • Most expert pie expense ratios are between 0.05% and 0.13%
  • Can buy most stocks and ETFs that trade on US stock exchanges
Account types
  • Individual or joint taxable account
  • Traditional, Roth, SEP, and Rollover IRAs
  • Trusts
Tax-loss harvesting

M1 Finance does not offer comprehensive tax strategies

Automatic rebalancing

Dynamic rebalancing with manual rebalance on-demand

Human advisor option

Not available

Socially responsible investing

Available

Fractional shares

Available

Access

Online and Android or iOS mobile app

Customer support

Phone and email

Promotions

Up to $2,500 bonus for account transfers and $10 cash bonus when joining

M1 Finance Review

Our Experts Take
Josh Patoka - Spade Business Team
Josh Patoka
December 3, 2020

M1 Finance is a hybrid robo-advisor and self-directed investing app without any fees. You can invest in premade portfolios similar to what most robo-advisors offer, but in addition you can buy individual stocks and ETFs with the same account.

Unlike fully automated robo-advisor platforms, you will need to self-manage your portfolio.

M1 Finance uses dynamic rebalancing to buy assets beneath their target allocation and some of the premade portfolios on offer include advanced investment strategies other robo-advisors don’t provide.

While most robo-advisors charge a minimum 0.25% annual advisory fee, M1 Finance stands out by offering services with zero added fees.

If the basic services aren’t enough for your investment needs, you can upgrade to M1 Plus for $125 per year. Premium features include a second daily trading window, a rewards checking account, and access to a line of credit.

How Does M1 Finance Manage Your Money?

M1 Finance isn’t a typical robo-advisor that manages the entire investment process for you. For instance, there isn’t an initial interview to recommend a model portfolio. You must decide what to buy and if you buy multiple assets, you’ll have to determine the target portfolio allocation.

While this requires extra effort, some investors will appreciate the flexibility. Before beginning to fully customize your portfolio, you can choose a single premade expert pie. As your investment strategy evolves, you can add stocks, ETFs, and additional expert pies to diversify your portfolio.

Expert Pies

When you buy expert pies, M1 Finance essentially operates as a robo-advisor. These pies invest in stocks and ETFs aligned to a particular investment strategy.

Here’s an in-depth look at some of the different expert pie investment strategies. For each expert pie, we’ve outlined the current dividend yield, expense ratio, and risk level.

General Investing

The General Investing pies are most similar to how robo-advisors invest. These pies invest in stock and bond index ETFs using the Modern Portfolio Theory in up to 12 different US and foreign asset classes.

The asset allocation for each pie focuses on a risk tolerance type ranging from ultra-conservative to ultra-aggressive.

Plan for Retirement

Similar to 401(k) target-date retirement funds, M1 Finance’s Plan for Retirement pies let you choose a pie that will cash out closest to your planned retirement year.

Each retirement year offers aggressive, moderate, and conservative risk tolerance options. Most pies hold between 15 and 20 ETFs.

Responsible Investing

M1 Finance currently offers two separate socially responsible investing portfolios directed to various Nuveen ESG-focused ETFs. One pie only invests in domestic assets, while the other pie provides both US and international exposure.

Income Earners

The Income Earners pies fare built around dividend-focused ETFs and fixed income from government or corporate bond ETFs.

Hedge Fund Followers

One unique investment strategy is borrowed from popular hedge funds like Berkshire Hathaway and Pershing Square. These pies don’t short stocks but invest in individual stocks.

Just Stocks and Bonds

M1 Finances offers premade portfolios that own only two total market ETFs:

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market (BND)
  • Vanguard Total World Stock Market Index Fund (VT)

These two ETFs give exposure to nearly every stock and bond asset class. The lowest stock exposure you can get is 10% with the M1’s 10/90 pie. On the other side of the spectrum, the 90/10 pie offers 90% equity exposure.

Other Strategies

Other M1 Finance investment pies focus on a specific asset class, for example:

  • Cannabis
  • Domestic growth
  • Domestic value
  • Global growth
  • Global value
Customizable Portfolios

M1 Finance lets you build your portfolio to fit your investing goals. For greater simplicity and to avoid having to open a separate brokerage account to buy stocks and ETFs, you can always buy an Expert pie.

If you are ready to customize your portfolio, you’ll have access to over 3,800 individual stocks and more than 1,800 ETFs. It’s not possible to buy thinly-traded stocks or stocks with complex hidden fees like an American Depositary Receipt (ADR). However, you can buy sector, inverse, and leveraged ETFs.

Dynamic Rebalancing

When building your investment pie, you must assign a target allocation for each investment slice. The minimum target allocation is 1% if you hold multiple assets.

M1 Finance invests your new cash with a $25 minimum balance and buys assets below their target portfolio allocation first. You can also sell an entire position and M1 will reinvest the sale proceeds and waive the $25 trade minimum.

Fully-automated robo-advisors sell partial positions when certain assets drift 5% above their target allocation. With M1 Finance, you’ll need to request a manual rebalance to sell overallocated positions.

M1 begins filling all buy and sell orders when the daily trading window opens at 10 a.m. EST. Most orders execute within one hour.

Upgrading to M1 Plus lets you trade during the afternoon window from 3 p.m. EST. You must submit all trade orders and manual rebalances before the window opens or M1 may not execute the order until the next trading day.

Fractional Shares

M1 Finance buys fractional shares for each stock, ETF, or expert pie in your portfolio. To start investing, you’ll need a minimum $100 in taxable accounts and $500 in retirement accounts. After the initial investment, M1 Finance only requires $25 to auto-invest your new cash using dynamic rebalancing.

M1 Plus

When you upgrade to M1 Plus, you get full access to all of the M1 Finance investment options with a free account as well as the following features:

  • Afternoon trading window
  • M1 Spend checking account
  • M1 Borrow line of credit

M1 Spend checking accounts earn interest on your account balance. You can also earn 1% back on debit card purchases. While this is a good feature, other advisors cash management accounts without requiring any upgrades.

Advantages of M1 Finance

No advisory fees: A fee-free robo-advisor is rare. The only fees you’ll need to pay with M1 Finance is the ETF expense ratio. The M1 Plus plan costs $125 per year, but is optional.

Wide investment selection: The variety of expert pies makes it easy to invest with both passive and advanced investment strategies. Either stick with the initial pie, or diversify your portfolio with access to most stocks and ETFs on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.

Fractional investing: Buying partial shares with a $25 minimum investment makes it easy to invest small amounts of money, making M1 a good option to first time investors.

No cash buffer: Some free robo-advisors maintain a cash buffer of at least 5%. This buffer can reduce your long-term investment performance — M1 Finance invests every cent you put into your portfolio.

M1 Plus: Upgrading to M1 Plus can be worth it if you want a reward checking account, second trading window, and potential access to a line of credit. These perks can make it easier to manage your money compared to other robo-advisors, but will take a bit more effort.

Disadvantages of M1 Finance

Not fully automated: New investors may feel overwhelmed by having to build their portfolio, and more experienced investors may not want to self-manage their portfolio. But the expert pies make it easy to invest, while dynamic rebalancing reduces portfolio drift.

No human advisor access: M1 Finance doesn’t offer human advisor access and has minimal learning tools. This investing app is likely a better option for experienced investors who can find answers to their questions elsewhere.

No tax-loss harvesting: M1 Finance doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting since portfolios are self-managed, but does use tax-efficient selling practices to minimize your taxable gains.

Is M1 Finance Safe?

Your M1 Invest accounts are SIPC-insured up to $500,000, including $250,000 in uninvested cash. This protection doesn’t insure against ordinary market losses.

Your M1 Spend checking account balances are FDIC-insured up to $250,000.

Is M1 Finance Right For You?

M1 Finance can be an excellent option if you’re comfortable self-managing your portfolio. The expert pies make it easy for new and busy investors to invest for free, plus being able to buy individual stocks and ETFs in the same account is convenient.

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