Wealthfront vs. Betterment - A Plebian's Perspective - First Experiences

First Experiences

I've now been enrolled in Betterment and Wealthfront for just over two weeks. Each account was funded with $7,500 and no additional investments were added at this time. Here's how we stand.



At this point, neither account has provided any tax loss harvesting. I'm not sure why, probably due to the short duration, so I'm interested to keep an eye on that. As you can see, both have had positive movement. Partially because the time of creation the market was in a dip, so I will keep an eye on this over time. Starting today, I will add $100 per account every month.

Again, I would greatly appreciate your referral if you decide to use either service.

Wealthfront Referral | Betterment Referral

First Glance Pros and Cons

Betterment Pro

External Account Linking - I haven't explored this feature fully just yet, but it claims it can give better advice.

Wealthfront Pro

The Landing Page - I find this landing page to be the most appealing of the two sites. Right up front it contains everything I'm looking for in a clean format. Current Balance, Performance Chart and Holdings Distribution. It's to the point and provides value.

Betterment Con

Email Volume - I'm not sure if I have the ability quite yet to unsubscribe, but I feel like I'm getting a lot more communications from Betterment than I am from Wealthfront. A few of them I've read, but it's starting to get the the point of deleting without reading. I signed up for a "set and forget" robo-advisor for a reason, I don't want to be overwhelmed by communication.

Wealthfront Con

Quite Frankly, none. I find this service appealing. Right now, because I'm under the $15,000 threshold it will remain free. If, some day, I had $100,000+ invested, then the cost ratio of Betterment takes over, but right now Wealthfront is my clear favorite.


Wealthfront vs. Betterment - A Plebian's Perspective - Signing Up

Signing Up for Wealthfront and Betterment

Day 1

I've now signed up for both Betterment and Wealthfront robo-advisor services. I setup both accounts to be a joint account with my wife. There were a few hurdles along the way, mostly with one company over another, I'll point those out as I outline the process.

Sign Up - Wealthfront

The process was incredibly easy. I signed up via a referral link to get the additional $5,000 in freely managed assets. (Feel free to use mine) Put in the essential information, set my risk tolerance and funded the account and I was on my way. In both cases, the thing that disappointed me most was the lack of "instant" funding. I use an ally.com account, but neither company supported instant account linking and fell back to the traditional wait-two-days method of placing and removing two deposits.

Biggest A+ on this sign up process was the joint account setup. I just had to add my wife critical details and we were on our way. Once the account was funded we hit the ground running. In my case, I went for a risk tolerance of 8.5.

This seems to translate to about 85% stock related investments and 15% fixed income investments. Seems pretty good, I look forward to seeing the performance over the next few months.

Sign Up - Betterment

Betterment's process for signing up was very similar to that of Wealthfront. They ask for the core details, have you set a goal (or goals) and have you fund your account. Again, no support for instant account linking or funding for ally.com which was a little disappointing. Again, I signed up, set my target/risk tolerance, and you'll see that the summary page view of this looks very similar.

Two complaints here, maybe I signed up wrong, but when I setup my betterment account, there was no option to fluently setup a joint account with my wife. I first had to setup an account individually, then invite my wife to create her own Betterment account, then setup a joint account together. After that, I had to re-link the bank account I had started to link. Not only that but the joint account didn't receive my sign up benefits of the free 90 days as they were "applied" to the individual account during the sign up process. This could stand to be cleaned up, but, after some conversations with customer service I was able to get to the end goal.

Next Steps

Now that the accounts are funded, my intent is to start taking advantage of some of the additional features that each company provides. To start, I plan to setup a recurring deposit of 100$ a month into each account just to get the most out of the experiment. I'll post about performance, ease of use and other features.


Wealthfront vs. Betterment - A Plebian's Perspective - Getting Started

I've recently left the trading industry which opens up my ability to try other providers other than my previous employer. In the past, I managed my portfolio by myself with great attentiveness and spending a good deal of time following my investments. I'm looking forward to exploring the robo-investor world of automatic management.

If you find my assessments helpful, here are the links to benefit us both in using Wealthfront and/or Betterment.
Wealthfront | Betterment
When you sign up for Wealthfront, we each receive $5,000 additionally free assets.
When you sign up for Betterment, we each receive free management time.

The Baseline

$7,500.00 in each account initially. Adding $100/month thereafter.

The Objective

Spend 1 year with each account, monitoring success of the accounts with similar distribution settings. Comparing and contrasting the experience with each system.

Head-to-Head Comparison

Account Highlights
  • Individual and joint non-retirement accounts, as well as trusts
  • Traditional, Roth, SEP and rollover IRAs
  • Individual and joint non-retirement accounts, as well as trusts
  • Traditional, Roth, SEP and rollover IRAs
Automatic rebalancing Yes Yes
Tax-loss harvesting Yes Yes
Direct indexing Yes, for balances above $100,000 No
Fractional shares No Yes
Goal-based savings No Yes
Investments ETFs ETFs
Expense ratios 0.12% average 0.09% – 0.17%
Account minimum $500 $0
Promotion Manages the first $10,000 for free. Get up to six months free, depending on initial deposit amount:
  • $5,000: Three months free
  • $25,000: Four months free
  • $100,000: Six months free
Referral program Invite a friend and Wealthfront will waive fees on an additional $5,000 for both of you.
My link to help us both.
Investors who get three people to sign up using their referral link get one year of free management. Plus, for each friend who joins, you both get 30 days for free.
My link to help us both.
Management Fees
  • < $10,000: Managed for free.
  • > $10,000: 0.25% annual advisory fee
  • < $10,000: 0.35% annual advisory fee with a minimum of $100 per month in auto-deposits, or $3 per month without auto-deposits
  • $10,000 < $100,000: 0.25% annual advisory fee
  • > $100,000: 0.15% annual advisory fee
Asset classes
  • U.S. stocks
  • Foreign stocks
  • Emerging markets
  • Dividend stocks
  • Real estate
  • Natural resources
  • TIPS
  • Corporate, municipal and emerging market bonds
  • U.S. stocks
  • Foreign stocks
  • Emerging markets
  • TIPS
  • Short-term treasuries
  • Corporate, municipal, emerging market and foreign bonds