I've been hearing a lot about Ellevest, a robo-advisor created by and for women. I was intrigued.
After all, it is one if my life's missions to get more women to take control of their money, and save and invest for their dreams now, as well as the future.
If I have said it once, I'll say it a million times:
Women will never have equal power until we have equal money.
You can read all about my advice to women getting started investing in this post:
A business for women created by women
Ellevest, with its outspoken feminist Wall Street veteran co-founder Sallie Krawcheck at the helm, having raised $45 million in startup investment for Ellevest, seemed very much focused on answering that.
Money is power. Money is freedom. Money is control. That is how they are keeping us down — by making money something women are embarrassed to talk about. — Ellevest co-founder Sallie Krawcheck
This quote from Sallie got me especially interested in Ellevest … but is this really a soul-sister, or is it just patronizing pink-coating (or my new fav: femertizing) in a lucrative industry?
What is Ellevest?
Ellevest is a robo-advisor that promises to address the unique earning, saving and investing challenges faced by women.
Robo-advisors are a great tool for people who are not a financial professional or are suspicious of paying an advisor to manage your money (like me, and for good reason). Instead of paying a human financial advisor 1 to 2 percent or more to manage your money, robo-advisors run computer algorithms and charge far less.
There has been a lot of incredible research to show that by taking human (and male!) bias out of the process and relying on machines, investment returns are better, and fees are systematically lower.
Plus, robo-advisors tend to be very, very easy to use. The fact that most financial services platforms are so freaking confusing is one of the reasons that people — women especially — do not invest as much as they should.
Take it from me: I am a long-time business journalist and every time I go to move money around in my online brokerage, I find myself completely overwhelmed, confused and angry at the entire financial industry — which is nearly entirely designed and run by men.
In fact, 86 percent of financial advisors are men with an average age of older than 50 years, and scads of studies find that women are treated not-as-well as men when they seek out financial services.
Behind-the-scenes, analysts, portfolio managers, risk managers, etc., skew totally male. It is no wonder their products don't appeal to or work for women.
Which brings me to the big question of this post: Is it possible to make a financial tool that actually serves women better than men?
Is this a bunch of fluffy marketing — or something more meaningful?
I admit that despite my love for Ellevest's mission, I was skeptical of being pandered to.
Why investing specifically for women?
Ellevest's marketing argues that it addresses the very real challenges that create the gender wealth gap. — the fact that over her lifetime, women earn save and invest far less than men. Our net worth is but a fraction of our male counterpart.
Ellevest promises to help close the wealth gap by addressing in its product the facts that:
- Women tend to take time off work to have babies and care for loved ones. As such, they tend to experience peak pay earlier in their career than men. Due to the gender pay gap, a woman will have $320,000 less in savings by age 67 than a man of the same age, according to one report.
- Women live 6.7 years longer on average (and therefore need our money to last longer than for men)
- Women tend to be less aggressive about asking for raises, promotions and other career events. Case in point: In one study of students graduating with master's degrees from Carnegie Mellon, the men's starting salaries were more than $4,000 higher than the women's, on average. The university's career services department strongly advised all students to negotiate for their starting salary. Only 7 percent of women asked for more money than the initial offer, while 57 percent of men did — 8 times more often.
Because of these realities, women's investing and savings needs are different than men's, Ellevest argues.
Therefore, all those online retirement calculators (for which the results tend to be so freaking depressing, most of us avoid them like last season's jeans, myself included) and gender-neutral retirement products are not an accurate fit for both men and women. This graph below is from
Women and men also tend to have different investing styles, risk tolerance, and investing goals, Ellevest argues in its case for a female-focused robo-advisor.
Lots of science backs this up, including the Fidelity Investments study of 8 million accounts that found that women's investments earn on average 0.4 percent more than men's, in part because we are less likely to make expensive, frequent trades and invest in less risky portfolios, like target-date funds, which are designed to grow less risky as it nears your retirement date.
Plus, Ellvest suggests that its algorithm is more likely to help me reach my goals.
Their site says: “We shoot to get you to your goals in 70% of markets, while others shoot for 50% … In practical terms, that means that our Ellevest plans are more likely to recommend that you save more as compared to other advisors that aim for achievement at only a 50% likelihood.”
All of this really resonated with me personally, and so I took a look at Ellevest >>
How does Ellevest work? My personal experience …
The very first thing I noticed about Ellevest is that it looks good.
The site is clean, easy-to-use, and it is easy on the eyes.
Is this important — or is it just gussied up marketing to dumb women? Well, I don't think women are dumb, and I will give Sallie the benefit of doubt and assume she doesn't either.
The reality is this: Women and men respond to different marketing.
Women statistically have not responded well to gender-neutral marketing, which is one of the reasons why we don't invest as much as we should, or we want to.
As I am fond of saying: Whatever works.
The first step to participating in Ellevest is a remarkable, totally free financial plan. It takes about 4 minutes to get a very realistic snapshot of where I am in my financial goals, and what it will take to get there.
Ellevest gives you six investment routes to chose from (you can choose them all, and then rank them based on what your priorities are).
These include money goals women actually have:
- Building an emergency fund
- Starting a business
- Owning a home
- having a kid
From here, you can opt to start investing — opening a new account, connecting your bank account for a one-time or recurring transfers, and/or transfer funds from your existing traditional IRA or Roth IRA.
It takes a few minutes, and you are immediately sent to a page outlining your portfolio and what you can expect returns will look like:
If you don't know what some of these terms mean, click on the dot to expand and learn.
Don't really care/feel overwhelmed, and trust Ellevest will manage this for you? That is fine, too.
If you chose more than one goal-saving for an emergency fund, start a business, and buy a house — each of these portfolios will look different, since the risk, deposits and other factors required to meet those goals are different.
What are Ellevest's fees? How much does Ellevest charge?
You can join Ellevest with a $0 investment. Yes, it is totally free to join.
Ellevest's financial plan is also totally free. They recently updated their prices, and it is very competitive with other leading robo-advisors like Wealthfront and Betterment.
What are Ellevest's returns?
There is no legit brokerage, robo-advisor, or legit planner that will guarantee returns on your investment (and if someone does try to promise you returns, run for the hills!).
Ellevest is no different.
Ellevest suggests an investment strategy based on your age, goals, income, sum you already have saved, and manages your investments to help you achieve your goals — like retirement, buying a house, a vacation, or having a baby. Ellevest is the only robo-advisor that takes into account your gender — as the pay gap, typical female life experiences like downscaling your career to care for children — do impact your earning, saving and investing as a woman
Ellevest does say that it expects to help you reach your goal in 70% of market scenarios. It is easy to adjust your investment strategy with a few clicks, should your income, budget, or risk tolerance change.
0.25% annual fee of assets under management. That means $25 per year if you invest $10,000.
- Ellevest Tax Minimization Methodology (fancy way of saying tax harvesting, which is a fancy way of saying saving on taxes)
- Unlimited support from the Ellevest Concierge Team via text, phone, and email — for help navigating your accounts and goals.
New: Ellevest Premium
0.50% annual fee of assets under management.
$50,000 minimum, which would mean a $250 annual fee if you invest $50,000.
- All of the benefits of Ellevest Digital, plus …
- 1:1 Executive coaching with the Ellevest Career Team, for issues ranging from salary negotiations to career transitions
- 1:1 Personalized guidance for your money goals with their certified financial planners
- Really easy to use interface
- Low fees
- Easy access to support
- A unique approach to investing that could be a game-changer in the financial industry, as well as for women everywhere
- Customizable, low-fee portfolios. Ellevest's portfolios are all ETFs, or exchange-traded funds, which are extremely low-cost. There is lots of options that fit with your age, goals, risk tolerance and other factors.
- Direct deposit.
- Jibes with Mint.com and other apps.
- Backed by registered Folio Investing, a pioneer in ETF funds, a registration that protects your investments up to $500,000 in the event of broker failure.
Is Ellevest worth it?
If you are looking for an easy-to-use robo-advisor that is uniquely focused on supporting women, and closing the gender investment gap, Ellevest is an excellent choice.
To learn how to get started investing for women go to Ellevest and get your free financial plan (a great way to see if you like it). Here is how:
- Visit Ellevest here >>
- Fill out the usual info: Name, birth date, address
- Create a financial plan / set a goal like retirement, an emergency savings, vacation, buy a home or save for a baby. This is 100% free, and very eye-opening.
- Start investing with Ellevest for as little as $1. In that case, link your bank or brokerage account. You can transfer an existing IRA to Ellevest for free.
- Chose whether to
- Choose your plan:
- Ellevest Digital— basic, online only
- Ellevest Premium (with phone advice from a certified financial planner)
- Ellevest Private Wealth Management
- Log in any time to check your goals, transfer funds, set up autopayments, or get free advice from the Ellevest education center.
This post was created in partnership with Ellevest, and some of the links in this post generate a commission. I never recommend products that I don’t truly believe in.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.