Will women really benefit from a female-focused robo-advisor? We’ll weigh the pros and cons in our Ellevest review.
Every time I turn around, it seems like there’s another robo-advisor popping up on the market. Most recently, I learned about Ellevest. However, this growing company has a unique focus that differentiates it from the big names out there today: they’re seeking to close the financial gap caused by gender-neutral investing.
That’s right, Ellevest is geared towards women and the specific investment needs that their income, the gender pay gap, and even their life expectancy requires. Ellevest’s mission is to provide women with investment advice for women, from women, and in a way that helps level the playing field.
So, just how different is Ellevest from other robo-advisors, and do women really need investment advice tailored to them?
“What the Elle?”
We’ve been hearing about the gender pay gap for decades, but Ellevest takes things a step further. This robo-advisor tailors customers’ investment strategies to their unique earning curves and even their lifespans, making it easier than ever for women to invest for their lives.
Let’s take a look at the example that Ellevest gives.
You have a man and a woman, both 30-years-old with bachelor’s degrees and earning $85,000 when they enter the market. They start out on a level playing field, but their finances quickly drift apart. For instance, by age 40 the average woman’s salary will have peaked. This is not only earlier than the average man’s salary peak–which happens at age 55–but the income peak itself is much lower: about $93,000 for women versus about $111,000 for men.
Why Gender-Neutral Investing Is An Issue
This differentiated earning curve means that typical, gender-neutral investing is an issue, because it does two things.
First, it diminishes a woman’s overall earning potential across the course of her career. In the example chart above, the woman will have $320,000 less than the man when they both reach their planned retirement age of 67. This means that she will start at the same point, get the same education, and retire at the same time as her male counterpart, but with hundreds of thousands of dollars less to work with. This can have a serious impact on her retirement plans, and even her ability to retire when she wants.
Second, it means that the woman may very well run out of money during retirement, when she does finally quit her career. If her investment strategy is the exact same as the man’s in this example, and she spends the same amount in retirement, she will actually run out of money 6 years earlier than he will. This is especially impactful because she is likely to live as many as 5 years longer than him, on average!
All of these factors combined mean that she may need to tailor her investment strategy to correlate with the path that her earnings take. Which is where Ellevest comes into play.
What Ellevest Offers
If you’re thinking about using a robo-advisor to manage your retirement savings, Ellevest may be able to provide the unique approach that your earnings, plans, and even your life might require. And while the company is unapologetically geared toward managing the investments of women, this doesn’t mean that men aren’t welcome.
Let’s take a look at what Ellevest offers to investors and why they’re one of the most competitive (if not the most unique) robo-advisors to hit the market.
Set Real-World Goals
When you are setting aside money each month, you are likely thinking about your future. Your retirement is in mind, ensuring that you set a large enough goal to meet all of your needs later in life.
Ellevest helps investors not only determine how much they need to save in order to adequately provide for their own retirement plans, but how they can get there. This might mean readjusting target savings goals, rebalancing a portfolio, and considering your risk capacity according to your goals… not some standard chart that all customers follow.
Ellevest considers the types of goals for which you’re saving, how long you plan to invest, and even your projected lifespan. That way, the company can help you tailor your investment plan according to your individual goals.
Then, with all of these individual factors in mind, Ellevest will create a portfolio that is tailored to you. They will choose from 21 different asset classes, developing a risk-balanced plan that is focused on maximizing returns and beating the market in 70% of market scenarios.
Even though retirement is the primary focus, it’s probably not the only thing you’re saving your money for, either. Depending on where you are in life and your plans, you may be saving for a new car, the down payment for a house, or even your children’s education. Ellevest can help you with these smaller goals, too, with their short-term planning layer. They will provide you with savings plans and goals that, as with your retirement goals, have at least a 70% of likelihood in the market.
Ellevest was designed with all women (and even men) in mind, regardless of the size of your portfolio. Whether you’re just starting out, approaching the later years of your career, or have no idea where you stand, you can still benefit from Ellevest’s services. It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, either.
Ellevest has three investment tiers, each with their own requirements and pricing. No matter which tier you choose, you’ll enjoy:
- No account fees–including those for opening, closing, or transferring your account
- Automatic deposits
- No-penalty withdrawals from Ellevest
- Automatic rebalancing
- Ellevest’s Tax Minimization Methodology (TMM)
- Unlimited support from Ellevest’s Concierge Team of financial professionals
- Free emergency fund
Depending on the level of service you desire beyond that, and the total value of your portfolio, your fees will vary.
|Minimum Balance||Annual Fee|
|Private Wealth Management||$1,000,000||Based on assets under management|
Moving up from Ellevest Digital to Premium gives you access to Certified Financial Planners and coaching services that are exclusive to the higher tiers. This one-on-one coaching can be incredibly valuable, offering advice and guidance for everything from personalized savings goals to salary negotiations and transitions within your career.
Pros and Cons of Ellevest
If you’re thinking about using Ellevest to manage your investments, there are a few key things to consider.
Where does Ellevest shine most?
- Female-focused approach: Investing has a female-focused approach, allowing you to meet the goals that are specific to your salary, career path, and earning potential, as well as your expected lifespan. Typical robo-advisors don’t take all of this into account.
- Valuable premium services: The platform offers services including salary negotiation and career coaching, helping you to not only make the most of what you earn, but even allowing you to earn more.
- No fees: There are no fees for opening, closing, or transferring your account, and there’s a $0 minimum to start.
- Financial planning: You can plan for and work toward smaller savings goals, seeing how they impact the bigger picture. Want to buy a house in 5 years? Ellevest can not only help you save for the down payment, but also show you how it can affect your retirement plans.
- Diversified portfolios: Your investments will be comprised of a mix from 21 different asset classes–this is more than the number offered by both Wealthfront and Betterment! The wide selection allows for not only a healthy, goal-reaching mix but also low expense ratios.
Of course, no robo-advisor is perfect. There are a few places where Ellevest lacks:
- No tax loss harvesting: Ellevest doesn’t offer automatic tax loss harvesting for accounts. This could mean more work for you, and even the utilization of a separate tax advisor to optimize your losses.
- No support for some taxable accounts: You can track and manage your taxable accounts (401k and IRA), but those such as trusts, college funds (529 plans), and other savings aren’t supported.
Is Ellevest Right for You?
If you’re a woman who is concerned about making retirement planning a success–based on your own unique career, earning, and life factors–Ellevest probably piques your interest. Even if you’re a man, though, Ellevest can still help you make your retirement strategy as personalized as possible.
By considering everything from your salary and earning potential to your lifespan, Ellevest helps clients create the portfolio that is most likely to meet their goals. Plus, it does so for a relatively low fee and excellent account “extras.” While Ellevest isn’t for everyone, it’s probably worth a look if you want a personalized robo-advisor and industry-leading asset class options.
- Female-focused investing approach
- No fees for opening or closing account
- No minimum to open an account
- Wide selection of investment options
- No automatic tax loss harvesting