Ellevest reviews 2022: Investing, banking, saving, and financial coaching – for beginners

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Ellevest, created by and for women, has made thousands of headlines since it launched in 2014. I was intrigued by the product and the mission.

I elaborate below, but in summary:

Ellevest offers all the financial basics you need, including investing, banking*, saving, and money and career coaching. Below is my full review of the platform, which I rated 9/10 based on my personal experience using it. Here’s why I think Ellevest is a great tool for beginner investors:

  • Ellevest is specifically designed with women in mind and considers factors like pay gaps and parental leave in its financial planning algorithms. 
  • Its banking model allows you to save as you spend and earn rewards without putting money on a credit card. 
  • Compared to traditional financial advising, Ellevest is a steal and removes the bias of working with (mostly male) financial advisors. 

Take advantage of 2 months free with Ellevest with promo code WEALTHYSINGLEMOMMY now >>

Still have questions about Ellevest? Continue reading:

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What is Ellevest?

Ellevest is a robo-advisor that promises to address the unique challenges faced by women related to earning, saving, and investing.

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 design investment strategies automatically by running various computer algorithms. They often match the performance of human advisors (though there is of course no guarantee) and typically charge far less, meaning you get to keep more of your money.

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 like Ellevest 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. 

How to start investing for women

Is Ellevest good for beginners?

If you’ve never sought outside help for money management, Ellevest is a great place to start. Here’s an overview of what’s included in an Ellevest membership: 

  • Investing — Ellevest builds you a personalized investment portfolio, which you can change at any time. The company uses an algorithm to factor in outside influences on a woman’s wealth, including pay gaps, extended time off work and longer lifespans. There is no minimum deposit to start investing. Select plans also include multi-goal investing, which allows you to open five customized investment accounts for different financial goals (like buying a house, sending kids to college, etc.). These goals also use the information you provide to help you figure out how much you'll need to save for each.
  • Learning — Ellevest’s financial planners and career coaches provide free online workshops, email courses, and video resources on career advice, money, and investing decisions.
  • Banking — You can earn an average 5% cash-back on select brands with an Ellevest debit card, which also rounds up your extra change into an FDIC-insured savings account. Ellevest has unlimited ATM fee reimbursements, no minimum balance requirements and no overdraft fees.
  • Retirement — Ellevest recommends how much you should be saving to prepare for retirement, taking into consideration your outside retirement accounts.
  • Coaching — One-on-one coaching sessions and workshops with financial planners and career coaches are available at a discounted rate for Ellevest members, up to 50% off for top-tier members.

Investing: How Ellevest’s robo-advisor works

What makes Ellevest so unique is the fact that it takes into account the unique challenges and realities of being a woman when it makes financial recommendations. 

For example, we know that women tend to earn less than men, even when they have the same education, same experience, and perform the same roles. This often translates into women earning a lower annual salary than their male counterparts, which translates into lower lifetime earnings over the long run. 

As previously mentioned, their investment algorithm factors in important realities for women, such as pay gaps, career breaks, and longer average lifespans. Other robo-advisors don’t typically take these factors into account, and instead will give users the same advice whether they are men or women.

Additionally, Ellevest acknowledges that being a woman often involves leaving the workforce for a period of time to have children or raise a young family, which likewise can impact earnings and, subsequently, career advancement and retirement security. That’s why the platform also offers retirement planning services specifically geared toward a woman’s unique situation, as well as career coaching services that can help you reach your career goals (money and career coaching sessions are offered to members at a 20-50% discount, depending on what membership plan you’re on).

Ellevest’s investing features include:

  • No minimum for investing
  • Customer service by phone, text and email M-F
  • Account types: Taxable brokerage, Roth and Traditional IRAs, checking and savings, joint accounts.
  • Portfolios with ETFs and Mutual Funds are the only type of investments offered — this is a pro if you want to keep investing simple, a con if you want more choice and control over your portfolio.

When you sign up for your Ellevest account, the algorithm will design a portfolio that is specific to your financial situation and goals. Depending on your timeline and risk tolerance, this portfolio can be aggressive, moderate, or conservative. 

Aggressive portfolios are typically better for those with a long investment timeline and who are comfortable with some volatility. They typically skew more heavily toward stocks and offer the most potential for growth over the long term. Conservative portfolios are typically better for those with shorter timelines or who are less comfortable with volatility. They most often skew more heavily toward bonds, which offer stability but lower returns over the long term. Moderate portfolios fall somewhere in the middle.  

In either case, your portfolio will consist of a mix of different exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that provide instant diversification both across different asset classes (stocks, bonds, etc.) and within those asset classes.

In terms of actually investing in your portfolio, all you need to do is link your bank account. You can then set up auto-deposits which transfer money into your account on a recurring basis. The options currently available are:

  • Twice a month
  • Monthly
  • Quarterly

You can also make a one-time transfer at any time if you have extra money that you’d like to invest.

Banking: How Ellevest’s banking and debit card works

Ellevest’s Mastercard World debit card offers some of the perks of a credit card without the fees. When you shop at participating retailers, eligible transactions will earn you cash that gets transferred into your Ellevest savings account once a month.** Offers are customized based on your spending history. Ellevest also gives you the option to round up your transactions and place the “spare change” into your savings account.*** 

These are some of the other perks of Ellevest banking: 

  • No overdraft fees
  • No minimum balance requirements****
  • No account fees
  • ATM fee reimbursal in the U.S. ($5 fee applies for international transactions)*****

Ellevest account funds are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 per depositor through Coastal Community Bank, member FDIC.******

Saving: How Ellevest can help you save

In addition to the savings offered through Ellevest’s debit card services, the company also helps qualifying members save money for retirement.

Ellevest Plus and Executive members can open a retirement account for no additional cost as part of their monthly membership. Ellevest doesn’t charge any fees to move over existing retirement accounts, but you might incur transaction and transfer fees from your current IRA, 401(k), or 403(b) provider. 

Ellevest offers both traditional and Roth IRAs and will recommend which type you should open based on your total household income. Its retirement algorithm factors in variables that affect women — pay gaps, breaks in employment (like time off for maternity leave), and longer lifespans. 

Coaching: How Ellevest educates members

Ellevest members get free access to live workshops and can get up to 50% off on one-on-one and group training sessions. You can also find free educational articles and email courses from your member dashboard. 

List of courses on Ellevest site.

During individual sessions, coaches work with members to go over their financial and career goals and create strategies to attain them. Some coaching packages include multiple sessions over an extended period of time.

You can also seek help in a small-group setting, where members support each other as they follow the advice of an Ellevest financial coach.  

Ellevest also regularly holds free live workshops over Zoom, where you’ll learn for 45 to 60 minutes then have a chance to ask questions. 

Ellevest fees

Ellevest currently offers three membership plans:

Membership plans and fees on Ellevest website.

Ellevest Essential

Ellevest Essential costs $1 per month:

  • A personalized investment portfolio that is tailored to your unique financial situation and goals
  • $0 minimum
  • Some free online workshops and others at 20% off, email courses, on-demand webinars, and video resources to help you learn about finances and career advancement
  • Access to a savings account.
  • 20% discount for one-on-one coaching with financial planners and career coaches

Ellevest Plus

Ellevest Plus costs $5 per month includes everything in Essential, plus:

  • An extra 10% off on coaching services (for a total discount of 30%)
  • Access to Ellevest’s retirement services

Ellevest Executive

Ellevest Executive costs $9 per month and comes with everything included with both Essential and Plus, plus:

  • An additional 20% off of coaching services (for a total discount of 50%)
  • Access to multi-goal investing

Ellevest pros and cons

ProsCons
> One base fee per month (starting at $1 a month for the Essential membership) to access investment and banking accounts, plus learning tools and more (depending on your membership level)

> No overdraft fees

> No minimum balance requirement

> Reimbursement of ATM fees in the U.S. 

> Cash back on select debit card purchases

> Retirement planning and investing that considers a woman’s unique circumstances
> Many online reviews cite difficulty transferring balances and canceling memberships

> Coaching services are an additional cost even at the highest membership level

> Retirement accounts only available to Plus and Executive members

> $5 fee for international transactions

Ellevest alternatives: Who are Ellevest’s competitors?

Ellevest is frequently compared with other robo-advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront in Reddit discussions, though it stands out for its obvious catering to women investors. Here are some close competitors and how they stack up against Ellevest. 

Ellevest vs. Robinhood 

Robinhood offers free stock, cryptocurrency, ETF and options trading. It also has a Gold tier starting at $5/month that offers bigger instant deposits, professional Morningstar research, Level II market data from Nasdaq and access to margin investing.

Robinhood offers a debit card connected to members’ brokerage accounts. The card can be used at over 15,000 international and 75,000 U.S. ATMs. Members will have to cover out-of-network ATM fees. Robinhood does not offer tax-free retirement accounts. 

Robinhood has an F rating on the BBB website (not accredited). A current alert on the page states: 

“On June 30, 2021, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) fined Robinhood Financial LLC (no: 2020066971201) $57 million and ordered the company to pay approximately $12.6 million in restitution. Without either admitting or denying the charges FINRA’s investigation found that at certain periods going back to 2016, Robinhood negligently communicated false and misleading information concerning critical issues to its customers, approved thousands of customers for option trading who either did not satisfy the company’s eligibility criteria or whose accounts were red flagged (indicating options trading may not have been appropriate for them), failed to reasonably supervise it’s technology which led to problems with accepting and executing customer orders, outages and system failures causing customer losses as well as failing to report thousands of customer complaints that it was required to report.” Robinhood has 1.1 stars on Trustpilot.

Ellevest vs. Acorns

Acorns is a robo-advisor aimed at young people who want to start saving. Like Ellevest, it offers the option to round up transactions, though it deposits the funds into a portfolio of ETFs rather than a savings account.

Acorns offers two membership tiers, Acorns Personal for $3/month and Acorns Family for $5/month. Both plans offer investment, checking and retirement accounts and financial advice. The family plan allows members to include an unlimited number of kids per family. Acorns Checking also has no overdraft or minimum balance fees and offers free ATM access nationwide. 

Acorns has an A rating on the BBB website (not accredited) and 2.4 stars on Trustpilot. 

Ellevest vs. Betterment

Ellevest and Betterment offer many of the same services—checking, investment, and retirement account options, plus educational tools. Financial advising is included in Betterment’s premium membership and is available for an additional cost to digital members (its base membership option). 

While Ellevest charges members a flat per-month fee starting at $1/month, Betterment charges a 0.25% management fee for its base members annually (0.40% for premium) on all assets it manages. Betterment also doesn’t charge overdraft fees or require minimum balances. It reimburses ATM fees and foreign transaction fees worldwide (Ellevest charges $5 for foreign transactions). 

Ellevest and Betterment both have 3.1 stars on Trustpilot based on three and four reviews on the site respectively. Neither firm is BBB accredited, though Betterment has a B+ rating compared with Ellevest’s B rating. 

How to open an Ellevest account

To open an Ellevest account you start by answering a few basic questions. These answers are fed into Ellevest’s algorithm in order to generate financial recommendations to help you reach your financial goals. In addition to your basic contact information, you’ll need to provide your:

  • Zip code: This helps Ellevest understand your area’s cost of living, local home prices, etc.
  • Age: This helps Ellevest understand where you are in your career and what your financial timeline looks like.
  • Education level: This helps Ellevest gauge your earning ability.
  • Current annual pay: This helps Ellevest understand your current earnings, which can impact your budget and investing strategy.
  • Career information: Again, this helps Ellevest understand your earning ability, as well as whether or not there is room for salary growth over time. It also helps them recommend relevant career workshops.
  • Marriage status: Single, divorced, widowed, etc. This helps Ellevest understand whether or not you are supporting yourself on one or two incomes.
  • Number of children: This helps Ellevest understand whether or not you have childcare expenses and also whether or not you might need to save and invest for their education. Ellevest will also recommend relevant products and services related to your investing goal.
Ellevest zip code screen.

You’ll then identify your money goals, which include:

  • Investing for the future
  • Creating a budget
  • Consolidating 401(k)s or IRAs
  • Paying off debt
  • Saving for emergencies
  • Planning for retirement (available on the Plus and Executive membership plans)

You can select as many of these options as you want.

Interestingly, the app also asks you about your career focus and your career goals, which is not often included in other investment apps. You can select from options such as:

Career focus options on Ellevest site.
  • Getting a raise
  • Getting a promotion
  • Feeling more confident in a negotiation
  • Landing a new job
  • Feeling like less of an imposter
  • Making a career change
  • Building your network

Ellevest will then ask you how much money you have in other accounts, such as savings accounts, retirement accounts, and other investment accounts. This helps the system have a clearer sense of your full financial picture before making any recommendations.

Ellevest amount available in other accounts.

Finally, you will need to select a membership plan to fit your goals.

Once you’ve done this, you will need to finish setting up your profile by providing your contact information, linking your Ellevest account to an external bank (in order to fund your investments and pay your membership fees), and confirm your membership. This is very similar to how you would open any other investment account, and you’ll need the same information.

Ellevest reviews in 2022:

Emma’s personal experience with Ellevest

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.

View of Ellevest homepage.

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 choose from depending on your membership plan (you can choose them all with the executive plan, and then rank them based on what your priorities are).

These include money goals women actually have:

  • retirement
  • build an emergency fund
  • start a business
  • own a home
  • have 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.

2022 Ellevest reviews on BBB

Though Ellevest is not accredited with the BBB, the Bureau has given the company a score of B. Ellevest currently has 32 complaints on the BBB website (as of January 2022), and the company has been very responsive in answering these complaints. Most of the complaints center around confusion opening an account and trouble canceling. 

Ellevest review on Better Business Bureau site.
Negative Ellevest review on Better Business Bureau site.

2022 Ellevest reviews on Reddit

There are some interesting discussions and reviews about Ellevest on Reddit:

Ellevest FAQs:

Is Ellevest legit?

Yes, Ellevest is very legit.

Ellevest has received $77.6 million in funding, from investors like Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures and former Obama White House advisor Valerie Jarrett.

Personal finance site NerdWallet gives Ellevest 5 out of 5 stars and ranked them the best robo-advisor for IRA investing, Investopedia gave it 3.72 stars, and the firm has positive reviews from Yahoo! Finance, CNBC, TechCrunch, Bustle, U.S. News & World Report, Fast Company, and hundreds of others.

Who started Ellevest?

Ellevest was founded in 2014 by Sallie Krawcheck, a veteran of the financial industry who realized that financial products (like investment accounts) were not designed with women in mind. Before founding Ellevest, Krawcheck held a number of leadership positions at key financial institutions, including Citigroup and Bank of America.

Who is Ellevest owned by?

Ellevest was founded by CEO Sallie Krawcheck, a Wall Street powerhouse who previously led Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Smith Barney and served as CFO of Citigroup. Her impetus in starting Ellevest was her frustration with an investment industry built for and by men that was keeping women from attaining their investment goals. She co-founded the business with Ellevest President Charlie Kroll, who built his own financial tech startup, Andera, and served on boards at Venture for America and Brown’s Entrepreneurship Program. 

Is Ellevest a broker?

The broker-dealer for Ellevest Digital and Premium portfolios is Folio Investments, and the broker-dealer for Ellevest Private Wealth portfolios is Schwab.

Is Ellevest a fiduciary?

Yes, Ellevest is a fiduciary. That means that Ellevest’s fiduciary responsibility is to look out for clients’ best interests — not the company’s bottom line. There are federal laws that require financial fiduciaries to follow rules and create policies to protect clients’ money, and be transparent about how an investment advisory manage your investments and communicates with you. Ellevest adheres to those laws — and then some.

Is Ellevest FDIC-insured?

Any money that you hold in your Ellevest banking accounts are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 (the legal limit).** 

Because investment accounts cannot be FDIC-insured, money held in your Ellevest investment accounts is not guaranteed. This means that you can lose money if the investments lose value. 

That being said, your investment accounts are SIPC-insured up to $500,000. This means that if Ellevest were to ever go out of business, you don’t need to worry about losing your investments.

Is my money safe with Ellevest?

Because investment accounts cannot be FDIC-insured, money held in your Ellevest investment accounts is not guaranteed. This means that you can lose money if the investments lose value. That being said, your investment accounts are SIPC-insured up to $500,000.

How do I withdraw money from Ellevest?

To withdraw money from your Ellevest account, all you need to do is log into your account and click “Move Money.” Then click on “One-time transfer” and enter how much money you need to withdraw. It will typically take about 7 days for you to receive your money after you request a withdrawal. 

It is important to note that if you withdraw money from your investment account, this may cause you to realize capital gains, which can impact your taxes. Withdrawing from your Ellevest savings account should not impact your taxes, however. If you have a retirement account with Ellevest and withdraw from it, this can also trigger fees on top of taxes. 

Bottom line: 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 a solid choice. Its deep trove of financial content is high-quality. Check out Ellevest now >>

*Banking products and services are provided by Coastal Community Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to license by Mastercard International.

​​**The Ellevest Rewards program is powered by Dosh, an unaffiliated third-party provider, which offers Ellevest banking members cash back on Ellevest debit card purchases from select merchants. Each Ellevest Rewards, Powered by Dosh program offer is available for a limited time only for qualifying purchases at participating merchants (subject to the particular offer and full program terms). Cash back amounts will vary and offers may become unavailable without notice. Additional terms, conditions and exclusions apply and can be found in the Ellevest Membership Terms and Conditions Agreement.

***If you opt in to the Roundup Program for debit card purchases, each settled (i.e. fully completed) purchase transaction made with your Ellevest Debit Card will be rounded up to the nearest whole U.S. dollar. The Roundup amount will be transferred from your Spend account to your Ellevest Save account. Foreign purchases are rounded up to the nearest whole dollar after the purchase is converted to U.S. dollars. ATM withdrawals and transactions in whole US dollars, e.g. $20.00 are excluded from the Roundup program. If, at the time of settlement of a purchase, your Ellevest Spend Account has insufficient available funds to cover the full amount of the Roundup transfer, the Roundup Transfer will not be made.

If a purchase is canceled or reversed for any reason (including disputes), the corresponding Roundup Transfer will not be reversed. You can opt out of the Roundup Program at any time.

****Ellevest Digital doesn’t require you to maintain a minimum account balance. However, there are portfolio-specific minimums (ranging from $1 to approximately $240). You may not receive the entire recommended portfolio until your account balance meets the respective portfolio minimum.

Ellevest will not rebalance a portfolio until it meets the respective account balance minimum necessary to generate the required shares. This minimum is a function of portfolio allocation and the share price of individual holdings, which will vary.

*****Domestic ATM transaction fees will be reimbursed if a payroll direct deposit has been received within the prior 30 days of the ATM transaction settlement. International ATM withdrawal fee of $5 will apply.

******The Ellevest Save and Spend accounts are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 per depositor through Coastal Community Bank, Member FDIC.

What is Ellevest?

Ellevest is a robo-advisor that promises to address the unique challenges faced by women related to earning, saving, and investing.

Is Ellevest good for beginners?

If you’ve never sought outside help for money management, Ellevest is a great place to start.

Who are Ellevest’s competitors?

Ellevest is frequently compared with other robo-advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront in Reddit discussions, though it stands out for its obvious catering to women investors.

Is Ellevest legit?

Yes, Ellevest is very legit. Ellevest has received $77.6 million in funding, from investors like Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures and former Obama White House advisor Valerie Jarrett.

Who started Ellevest?

Ellevest was founded in 2014 by Sallie Krawcheck, a veteran of the financial industry who realized that financial products (like investment accounts) were not designed with women in mind. Before founding Ellevest, Krawcheck held a number of leadership positions at key financial institutions, including Citigroup and Bank of America.

Who is Ellevest owned by?

Ellevest was founded by CEO Sallie Krawcheck, a Wall Street powerhouse who previously led Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Smith Barney and served as CFO of Citigroup.

Is Ellevest a broker?

The broker-dealer for Ellevest Digital and Premium portfolios is Folio Investments, and the broker-dealer for Ellevest Private Wealth portfolios is Schwab.

Is Ellevest a fiduciary?

Yes, Ellevest is a fiduciary. That means that Ellevest’s fiduciary responsibility is to look out for clients’ best interests — not the company’s bottom line.

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 a solid choice. Its deep trove of financial content is high-quality.

Ellevest

9

Rating

9.0/10

Pros

  • One base fee per month
  • No overdraft fees
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Reimbursement of ATM fees in the U.S.
  • Retirement planning and investing that considers a woman’s unique circumstances

Cons

  • Many online reviews cite difficulty transferring balances and canceling memberships
  • Coaching services are an additional cost even at the highest membership level
  • Retirement accounts only available to Plus and Executive members

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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