Best Robo for Complex Financial Planning 2021

Posted on February 24, 2021

Best Robo for Complex Financial Planning 2021

  • Winner: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
  • Runner-Up: Personal Capital
  • Honorable Mentions: Ellevest & Wealthsimple

Investors with complex financial planning needs benefit from the ability to work with a live planner and should consider robo advisors with access to human advisors.

Vanguard Personal Advisors Services

Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services includes planning with a live advisor for only a 0.30% annual management fee. Personal Advisor Services championed the hybrid-advice model early on and centers the planning experience around live advisors. Working with an advisor, users can plan for multiple long-term investment goals and receive a comprehensive illustration of their assets. In previous Rankings, we have highlighted a lower quality online experience at Vanguard than many of the independent robos.

Following the introduction of Vanguard’s digital-only offering, Digital Advisor, Vanguard has also revamped the online experience with Personal Advisor Services. An improved online experience combined with a live advisor makes Vanguard Personal Advisor Services a compelling choice for those with more complex planning needs.

Personal Capital

The runner-up in this category is Personal Capital, which combines a traditional, live-advisor approach with best-in-class digital planning tools. The free digital planning tools are flexible and can handle a broad set of income and spending goals. For example, Personal Capital has a “Retirement Paycheck” feature that will help users determine a tax-efficient withdrawal strategy as they transition from earning a salary to relying on assets to supplement their income during retirement. When an investor needs help beyond what the digital planning tools can provide, Personal Capital’s team of live advisors and planners is there to bridge the gap.

Personal Capital also offers access to multiple portfolio strategies, including direct indexing and SRI-themed portfolios. Those investing more than $1,000,000 with Personal Capital’s Private Client service can receive custom portfolios that include individual stocks and bonds, as well as the option of gaining exposure to private equity investments. The biggest detriment to Personal Capital is its fees, which currently start at 0.89% annually.

When compared to other digital advice providers, this fee is high but it is still lower than most traditional advisors. Fees aside, Personal Capital was one of the few advisors in our Ranking with a perfect score in the financial planning category and is well-suited to help clients with complex needs.

Wealthsimple & Ellevest

Both Wealthsimple and Ellevest earned honorable mentions for complex financial planning capabilities. In their respective highest service levels—Wealthsimple Generation and Ellevest Private Wealth— investors receive individualized planning and investment services comparable to those offered by Personal Capital’s Private Client offering. Ellevest, which caters to female investors, also has the unique feature of offering career coaching to help its clients navigate salary negotiations and other career challenges.

Ellevest recently changed to a subscription model and now offers planning, budgeting, and career coaching sessions to their non-Private Wealth clients for an additional fee. On the other hand, Wealthsimple provides access to live advisors to all of their clients, regardless of service level. But, those who wish to build a full financial plan with a Wealthsimple planner will need a minimum investment of $100,000 and must be signed up for Wealthsimple Black or Generation.

Details of how we rank the robos can be found here:

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