Ellevest, a robo-advisor created by and for women has made thousands of headlines. 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.
If you're ready to invest now, use this Ellevest promotion link to get your free financial plan from Ellevest >>
- What is Ellevest?
- Is Ellevest legit?
- Is Ellevest a fiduciary?
- How does Ellevest work?
- What are Ellevest's fees? How much does Ellevest charge?
- What are Ellevest's returns?
- Investing with Ellevest Impact Portfolios
- Ellevest vs. Fidelity
- Ellevest vs. Betterment
- Ellevest vs. Wealthfront
- Ellevest vs. Acorns
- Is Ellevest worth it?
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 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.
A business for women created by founder Sallie Krawcheck
You can read all about my advice to women getting started investing in this post.
Ellevest, with its outspoken feminist Wall Street veteran 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?
My interview with founder Sallie Krawcheck:
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 the Ellevest website. (Now, you can download the Ellevest investing app for iOS if you want to give it a try). Don't forget to use this Ellevest promotion link to get your free financial plan from Ellevest >>
Is Ellevest legit?
Yes, Ellevest is very legit.
Ellevest has received $77.6 million in funding, from Melinda Gates' Pivotal Ventures and former Obama White House advisor Valerie Jarrett.
Personal finance site Nerd Wallet gives Ellevest 4.5 out of 5 stars, Investopedia gave it 3.2 stars, and the firm has positive reviews from Yahoo! Finance, CNBC, TechCrunch, Bustle, U.S. News & World Report, Fast Company, and hundreds of others.
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.
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:
- 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.
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
Investing with Ellevest Impact Portfolios
The 50 Ellevest Intentional Impact Portfolios equity accounts that customize your holdings at the individual company level. Each portfolio holds approximately 300 companies, and each portfolio focuses on areas that matter most to women:
- Workplace diversity
- Workplace safety
- Product safety
- Labor relations
- Human rights and community
- Exploitative products (predatory loans or tobacco, for example)
- Ethics and fraud (corporate corruption)
- Climate change
- Toxic environmental waste
From the Ellevest Impact Investing White Paper:
You may be surprised to learn that investing in companies that care about sustainability, value transparency and good governance, and promote social responsibility, in fact, helps advance women and close some of the gender gaps women face today. That’s because the environment and climate change, poor governance and corruption, unequal pay and the lack of gender diversity disproportionately impact women.
Ellevest fees for its digital impact portfolios ranges from 0.16% to 0.23%, compared, to 0.06% to 0.15% for our core portfolios.
While Ellevest does not promise (or mention, for that matter) returns on its products, it does elaborate on studies that find that impact investments in companies with more women have proven to be less likely to file for bankrupcy, and more likely to profit, and those with higher environmental and worker protection standards are less exposed to legal action, and more likely to have high investor returns.
- 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.
Ellevest vs. Fidelity
Ellevest and Fidelity are both businesses that can help you invest your money, but they are very different.
Fidelity is a large financial services firm, which originally was known for its mutual funds. Today, Fidelity's services are broad and include:
- Brokerage — you buy stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other financial vehicles through Fidelity, by paying a flat fee every time you buy or sell
- Retirement plans — including Roth and Traditional IRAs, 401(k)s
- 529 college savings
- Financial planning and financial advising — Fidelity's wealth management fee-only services help you reach your goals that may include investing in the market, real estate, as well as tax and estate planning
- Roboadvisor — Building on the popularity of Ellevest and other roboadvisors, giants like Fidelity are now in the game
- Credit cards
- Checking and savings accounts
Ellevest vs. Betterment
Betterment is considered the grandfather of the roboadvisor platforms, and Ellevest and Betterment offer very similar services:
- Both Ellevest and Betterment require $0 minimum to start investing
- Both Ellevest and Betterment charge 0.25% management fees
- Both Ellevest and Betterment are easy-to-use with highly rated customer service
- Both Ellevest and Betterment offer impact funds
- Ellevest offers up to $750 in annual cash bonuses with qualifying deposits, while Betterment offers 1 year of free
- Ellevest is focused on serving women, whereas Betterment is for the general public
- Both Ellevest and Betterment offer advisory services — Betterment Premium requires a $100,000 minimum, while Ellevest Premium is set at a $50,000 minimum. Ellevest pairs each client with a dedicated advisor while Betterment does not.
Ellevest vs. Wealthfront
Wealthfront is another established roboadvisor:
- Both Ellevest and Wealthfront require $0 minimum to start investing
- Both Ellevest and Wealthfront charge 0.25% management fees
- Both Ellevest and Wealthfront are easy-to-use with highly rated customer service
- Both Ellevest and Wealthfront offer impact funds
- Ellevest offers up to $750 in annual cash bonuses with qualifying deposits, while Wealthfront offers up to $5,000 bonuses
- Ellevest is focused on serving women, whereas Wealthfront is for the general public
- Ellevest Premium includes a designated advisor for those depositing a minimum of $50,000 minimum, while Wealthfront only provides digital services.
- Ellevest's cash fund only earns 0.1% APY, while Wealthfront's cash account earns 1.27% APY.
Ellevest vs. Acorns
Acorns is an app that rounds up your debit and credit card purchases to the nearest dollar, and allows you to save or invest the difference. For example, if you spend $13.42 for a salad at lunch, Acorns will automatically round that sum up to $14, and deposit 58 cents into your Acorns account.
You choose how you want to invest your deposits by choosing your investing goals (short-term or long-term, major purchase, etc.), and an ETF fund to help reach those goals. Acorns also allows you to use your round-up totals for gift cards, as well as in a checking account feature.
Acorns is useful if you have a hard time finding extra cash to invest, since it automates savings with each purchase.
If this sounds useful, you can use all of your Acorns savings to transfer to Ellevest, where you can invest and grow your savings.
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, 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.
Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, 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. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.