M1 Finance is a financial platform that allows customers more control over their portfolios in comparison to other robo-advisors, such as Betterment and Wealthfront. In addition, the service is free for individual investors, which is a huge advantage. The investment procedure is typical of most robo-advisors.
First, the risk tolerance of the investor is gauged through a questionnaire. Based on this, fund allocations are suggested. However, investors can choose what stocks to invest in and how much to allocate, based on the suggestions. This makes M1 Finance a more customizable and innovative investment platform than its competitors.
Maximum Investor Flexibility
Investors have more freedom in what they invest in and can mix and match their ‘pies’ as they wish.
M1 Finance is 100% fee-free.
Low Account Minimum
Can open an account with as little as $0.01, as M1 Finance offers fractional shares.
No Tax Loss Harvesting
The inability to provide tax-loss harvesting means a lot of investors will have to steer clear. However, it does offer tax minimization strategies.
No mutual funds, FX, or bonds available.
M1 Finance is perfect for buy and hold investors who want the benefits of automated investment while being able to retain control over their funds.
How Does M1 Finance Work?
Like all robo advisors, M1 Finance is based on modern portfolio theory. Customers are asked a series of questions to determine their risk preferences. After this, they are grouped into a risk grouping, which includes ultra-conservative, conservative, moderately conservative, moderate, moderately aggressive, aggressive, or ultra-aggressive. From this classification, a portfolio or ‘pie’ allocation is suggested. Customers can then choose their allocation by selecting pie ‘slices’.
Commissions & Fees
The zero-fee policy is where M1 Finance really stands out, even among the cheap robo-advisor investment services. Their stated aim is to make investing possible for all classes of people and remove investment barriers. For taxable accounts, the minimum is $100 and for retirement accounts, the minimum is $500.
M1 Finance makes a profit primarily through its line of credit service and by lending shares to short-sellers. In addition, they can lend money to institutions based on the unused cash in customer accounts. They are the only large fee-free robo advisor on the market. This is a huge advantage and the biggest selling point with this particular platform.
However, it is worth stating that there are some miscellaneous fees with M1 Finance. Accounts with no activity for 90 days and less than $20 will be shut down and charged $20. Requests for paper copies and many bank transfer incur a fee, as do numerous other services.
Platform & Tools
M1 Finance does not offer a large level of investor resources and educational tools, in contrast to other robo-advisors. It does not publish its own research. There are no charting tools for technical analysis and it is missing some of the typical instruments provided by many investment platforms. It is suited for long-term investors and not traders.
However, its main selling point is that investors have such a high degree of freedom in terms of how they create their portfolios. Like Wealthfront, M1 Finance also allows a line of credit, up to 35% of the total portfolio value. The platform is intuitive and it is easy to bring ‘pie slices’ together. They also offer a checking account and debit card, known as M1 Spend.
The mobile application offers much of the same functionality that can be found on the desktop version of the platform. Investors can reallocate their pie slices through the application and use it to transfer money between accounts.
Like the desktop application, the mobile application does not offer any charting tools for technical analysis, though this would not bother most retail investors. Both iOS and Android applications are available. The mobile application can be integrated with the M1 Spend plan and it may be used to track expenses and monitor portfolio performance.
Deposits & Withdrawals
All deposits are initially received as cash into the M1 Finance portfolio. M1 Finance only allows for a single transfer at a time. So if you initiate a deposit or a withdrawal, you cannot initiate another until the first clears. For the first deposit, you need to link a bank account. This can be done with a micro deposit.
Making deposits is easy with the platform, and M1 Finance recommends recurring deposits as a means of building wealth (a suggestion pushed forward by most other robo-advisors). There is a $50,000 maximum withdrawal limit per day and ACH transfers are free, though other types of transfer will incur a charge.
When the deposit is made, it is automatically allocation based on your portfolio preferences. As you withdraw and deposit cash, M1 Finance automatically rebalances your portfolio. You can also choose to hold your cash uninvested. You need at least $100 to invest in a portfolio.
Many customers believe that M1 Finance is going to grow and expand over the next decade, due to its innovative approach to investing which allows users complete control. The pie slice design is very appealing in both the mobile and desktop applications.
The fact that the service is completely free adds to the popularity of this platform. M1 Finance does not perform its own research and there is a lack of analytical tools available to customers, but is ideal for people who have a general idea of what they want to do.
A lack of physical outlets and personal advisors is a drawback to the M1 Finance platform. However, customer support is generally described as helpful. You can get in touch using a toll-free number, by email, or through the mobile application. There is no live chat option.
Security & Reliability
M1 Finance is a member of FINRA and securities are SIPC insured up to $500,000 ($250,000 for cash deposits). They are also registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) as a broker-dealer. M1 Finance does not store any customer information and all communications are encrypted. This is typical of all reputable brokers. M1 Finance accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000.
Assets are held with a third-party custodian known as Apex Clearing and the entire platform uses the industry-standard AES 256 encryption. The customer is the only entity that can gain access to his/her account. M1 Finance also makes use of Two-Factor Authentication (“2FA”) which vastly increases user account protection.