Betterment Review 2021: Pros, Cons, & Expert Opinion

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Betterment review


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In a nutshell: Betterment is an industry leader as a simple, low-cost, easy-to-use robo-advisor.

With just 0.25% in management fees and automated tax-loss harvesting, Betterment makes it easy to put your portfolio on autopilot.



  • Low Management Fees

  • Tax-Coordinated Portfolio

  • Automatic Investing


  • Limited Portfolio Customization

  • Limited Compatibility with External Accounts

  • No Real Estate Investing

Betterment review


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In a nutshell: Betterment is an industry leader as a low-cost, easy-to-use robo-advisor.

With just 0.25% in management fees and automated tax-loss harvesting, Betterment makes it easy to put your so on autopilot.



Account Minimum



Up to 1 Year Free


  • Low Management Fees

  • Tax-Coordinated Portfolio

  • Automatic Investing


  • Limited Portfolio Customization

  • Limited Compatibility with External Accounts

  • No Real Estate Investing

In this article
What is Betterment?
Betterment Account Types
Betterment Features
Betterment’s Methods
Betterment Pricing
Betterment Portfolio
Betterment vs. Vanguard
Betterment vs. Robinhood
Betterment FAQ
Rating Betterment’s Features

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Disclosure: This Betterment review may contain affiliate links. This means we earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase a product through our links.

Betterment is a leader as a simple, low-cost robo-advisor. With low management fees and tax-loss harvesting, it makes automation easy.

In this Betterment review, we’ll take a deep dive into Betterment’s features and how they stack up.

Robo-advisors like Betterment are changing the world of investing. That’s because they create personalized advice for investors using a series of algorithms.

Betterment creates an investment strategy and builds an investment portfolio that works.

Click for Betterment pricing and details.

Robo-advisors make financial planning much easier and far less stressful.

Let’s dive right in and take a look at everything Betterment has to offer.

The Betterment Story

Betterment was founded in 2008 by Jon Stein, who still serves as CEO. The company launched in 2010 after a big debut at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC.

Then, Betterment scored $3 million in funding and has enjoyed steady growth ever since.

The press has been kind to Betterment. For example, you’ve likely seen glowing reviews in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and CNN.

Betterment’s portfolio results have proved that this is more than hype. Indeed, Betterment now has more than 150,000 users and manages more than $4 billion.

Almost a decade from its start, Betterment is here to stay. In fact, it’s now a major player in the investment world.

The result? It’s bringing a new generation into the intelligent stock market investing.

What is Betterment?


0.25% (Digital), 0.40% (Premium)

Minimum Balance


Account Types

IRA, Brokerage, Trust, Cash, Checking

Tax-Loss Harvesting?


Best For

Passive Investors

Betterment is leading the world of robo-advisors. Investors use it to get advice on many different investment opportunities, including:

  • Mutual funds
  • Bond funds
  • Exchange-traded funds

Also, Betterment uses fractional shares.

What are fractional shares, you ask? They help users fully leverage their money.

For example, you may want to buy a share of Google stock. And then you look at the share price.


Don’t worry: fractional shares allow you to buy tiny chunks of a share. Thus, you won’t have to wait until you can buy full shares.

And Betterment is not just a bunch of algorithms. It has a great reputation compared to its competitors, such as Wealthfront.

» Want to see how Betterment compares to its competitors? Check out our list of the best robo-advisors.

It also has an excellent customer service record. And, if needed, you can get help from a certified financial planner (CFP).

Betterment offers unlimited access to CFPs through its Premium plan.

A Betterment brokerage account is perfect for new investors. Especially those who don’t want to spend many hours learning about investing.

As a result, Betterment remains the best-known robo-advisor on the market.

It’s also a great place for more experienced investors to park their money. That’s because tax advantages help it grow.

Now is a good time to sign up with Betterment. That means up to 12 months free (no management fees), for instance.

Click here to see promotion details.

Getting Started

Betterment enrolls new investors in an automated portfolio of stocks and bonds. Then, it charges a flat 0.25% fee for its Digital Plan. For the Premium plan, you’ll pay a 0.40% fee.

Betterment’s website shows you how much you need to contribute for retirement. Doing so will help you stay on track.

As a result, you will see how your account will grow over the years. And with automated deposits, you won’t have to manage a thing.

Betterment has several features that will help your money grow:

  • Tax-loss harvesting (TLH+)
  • Automated diversification
  • Tax-Coordinated Portfolio
  • Reinvestment of dividends

Not only that, but it’ll save you money on taxes, too.

Betterment is simple, effective investing for the Internet generation.

Our enthusiasm for Betterment is real. Read on to learn why.

Betterment Account Types

Betterment has a wide variety of account types:

  • Individual taxable account
  • Joint taxable account
  • Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, and SEP IRA
  • Inherited IRA
  • Trust account
  • High-yield savings account
  • Checking account

Betterment also supports 401k rollovers. Hence, it allows you to roll an old 401k into a Betterment IRA.

You also have the option to link external accounts to help track your financial goals.

How Does Betterment Stack Up?

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Up to 1 Year Free

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Monthly Fees


Minimum Investment



Invest for Free

Tax-Loss Harvesting


Dynamic Rebalancing


Monthly Fees


Minimum Investment



Up to 1 Year Free

Tax-Loss Harvesting


Dynamic Rebalancing


Betterment Features

Betterment has many unique features that set it apart from the competition. These features help ensure your portfolio will be safe, secure, well-managed.

Custom Asset Allocation

This customization is based on the account type an investor has and what their risk levels look like.


This feature is especially useful for investors with irregular income. You can invest automatically when your bank account balance reaches a certain amount.

Likewise, you can limit the amount of the investment. One of the best things about SmartDeposit is that it is easy to set up.

Tax-Coordinated Portfolio

This feature allocates assets based on the tax efficiency of pre-tax and after-tax accounts.

Passwords to Control Security

You can use services like Personal Capital and Mint to see a read-only version of your info. And you can do this without compromising the security of your account.

Mobile App Access to a Financial Expert

Anyone who signs up for a Betterment account can send a message to a financial expert using the Betterment app. It’s an excellent way of getting an answer to any pertinent questions.

Giving to Charity

Customers of Betterment can donate some of their shares to certain charities. This benefits the charities as well as helping investors to avoid capital gains tax on the shares which they donate.

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Flexible Portfolios

Anyone who has $100,000 or more in their Betterment account can take advantage of this opportunity. It allows you to adjust the asset class weights within your portfolio.

Betterment Financial Advice Packages

These packages allow you to get help from a financial advisor.

That includes advice from a licensed financial expert or certified financial planner. That can be especially helpful for

For $199, you can book a 45-minute Getting Started call with a financial advisor.

Then, if you want a call that is more tailored to your needs, you can book one of four 60-minute calls for $299:

  • Financial Checkup
  • College Planning
  • Marriage Planning
  • Retirement Planning

Betterment Cash Reserve and Checking Account

This new feature from Betterment replaces the previous Smart Saver option. The new account is a cash management account called the Cash Reserve account.

The new account has an interest rate, or APY, of up to 0.40%. Additionally, this savings account has no fees.

Betterment Checking users have access to the following:

  • Betterment checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Visa debit cards

The checking account also has some nice features. For example, Betterment will reimburse all ATM fees. That means both foreign and domestic.

It also eliminated overdraft fees, transaction fees, and minimum balances.

What’s left? A no-nonsense checking account.

Betterment IRA Review, and Other Account Types

Because so many users start Betterment IRAs, this account type is worth a little extra attention.

An individual retirement account (IRA) helps with retirement planning.

You can also use Retireguide to carry out a comprehensive retirement calculation. This helps you choose the right retirement account.

Which one is best depends on tax deference preferences and retirement goals. Either way, Betterment’s visualization tools make it easy to see the advantages of each tax model.

In addition, users can start taxable accounts, 401k, trust accounts, and 529 plans.

Betterment’s Methods

By now, you’re probably wondering how Betterment works.

When using Betterment, the first thing investors are asked about is their goals. For example, building a retirement fund or creating an emergency fund. 

Betterment reviews your goals and considers what your holdings should be. In addition, it determines the appropriate level of risk.

Finally, it provides dedicated advice based on the financial goals of the investor.

Betterment Investment Performance

Independent investment managers often charge more than 1% annually. Nevertheless, they usually fail to beat the market.

Betterment has “beaten the market” 88% of the time since its inception. It does this with a portfolio of US and international stocks compiled by experts.

Betterment Performance

Like many robo-advisors, it uses Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) to maximize performance while minimizing risk.

As a result, Betterment’s portfolio grew a massive 101.3% between 2009 and 2014.

And in 2013, the platform boasted 11% growth with a 70% stock allocation.

New User Promotions

Betterment’s new user promo waives the service free for up to 12 months for new accounts. Plus, there are extra perks for those who refer people.

Seamless Platform Performance

Betterment platform performance couldn’t be better. Not only that, but it works well on just about any platform.

Betterment Mobile App

For instance, whether you have a desktop, laptop, or smartphone, Betterment is compatible.

It’s a 21st century platform and it just works.

Better Investment Philosophy

Betterment uses every possible method to save their users money and add value to the platform.

For example, it includes free standard offerings:

  • TLH+
  • Smart Deposit Automation
  • Tax-Coordinated portfolio

And these features are all built on low-cost, high-performance ETFs.

Betterment Investment Options

It’s easy to create custom asset allocations and personalized investment goals. You can also create a variety of account types including taxable and non-taxable.

Nearly every aspect of Betterment is great. Simply put, it’s an investment model that offers the best results to the most people.

Betterment investing returns

Betterment Pricing

Betterment recently changed their pricing policy. Consequently, all users now pay 0.25% with the Digital plan.

This is a discount for low-net worth users. These users used to pay 0.35%.

However, it’s also a price increase for high-net worth users. They used to pay 0.15%.

Plan Name

Minimum Balance

Management Fees







There is no account minimum required for the Betterment Digital plan.

However, there is now a Premium plan with a 0.40% fee. This plan includes personalized asset advice and management.

Investors can get unlimited access to investment advisors by phone and email with this service. It’s worth noting that the Premium plan has a minimum account balance of $100,000.

There is an impressive range of low fees all round for all Betterment services.

Betterment Portfolio

Betterment works to give the user a strong selection of individual stocks and bonds. As a result, users see great historical performance and affordability in an investment account.

The user selects their own stock/bond allocation. Bonds generally offer slow growth, reliable dividends, and low risk of value loss.

On the other hand, stocks are more volatile, but can experience higher growth.

The range of expense ratios for Betterment’s ETFs is from 0.07% to 0.15%, depending on asset allocation.

Betterment’s current portfolio offerings are as follows:



Vanguard U.S. Total Stock Market (VTI)

iShares Short-Term Treasury Bond Index (SHV)

Vanguard US Large-Cap Value Index (VTV)

iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond

Vanguard US Mid-Cap Value Index (VOE)

Vanguard Short-Term Inflation-Protected Securities (VTIP)

Vanguard US Small-Cap Value Index (VBR)

Vanguard US Total Bond Market Index (BNDX)

Vanguard FTSE Developed Market Index (VEA)

iShares National AMT-Free Muni Bond Index (MUB)

Vanguard FTSE Emerging Index (VWO)

iShares Corporate Bond Index (LQD)

iShares J.P. Morgan USD Emerging Markets Bond (EMB)

*Note: Betterment stocks slightly favor value and small-cap stocks, which historically outperform the broad market. You wanted a detailed Betterment review. We tried to leave no stone unturned.

Socially Responsible Investing

Socially-responsible investing refers to ETFs that have a positive impact on the world.

It does all that while being fully diversified and low-cost. Specifically, it replaces the following asset classes with SRI alternatives:

  • U.S. stocks – large cap
  • Emerging market stocks
  • Developed market stocks

Betterment has offered socially-responsible investing since 2017. But, in 2020, it expanded its socially-responsible products.

The original portfolio became known as the Broad Impact portfolio.

It then added two new socially-responsible portfolios: Social Impact and Climate Impact. In doing so, it allows investors to hone in on the issues they value most.

Climate Impact Portfolio

The Climate Impact portfolio focuses on mitigating climate change. In particular, it invests in three areas:

  • The companies with the lowest carbon footprints in each sector
  • Funds that actively exclude companies with fossil fuel reserves
  • “Green bonds” which invest in alternative energy, pollution control, and climate adaptation

Specifically, the Climate Impact portfolio invests half of its assets in the iShares MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF (CRBN). It’s worth noting that low carbon does not mean carbon-free.

CRBN scores a C grade on Fossil Free Funds with almost $23 million invested in fossil fuels.

That said, the fund has almost $485M in assets. That’s less than half a percent of its equity in fossil fuels.

And that’s better than other popular funds such as VTSAX. This fund has about 6% of its equity in fossil fuels.

Still, I would have liked to see a slightly better score in terms of climate impact for this fund.

The rest of the Climate Impact portfolio is invested in SPYX, EFAX, and EEMX. SPYX also scores a C on Fossil Free Funds, but the other two score slightly better with a B grade.

Social Impact Portfolio

The Social Impact portfolio invests in US companies that value diversity. This includes funds such as the NACP ETF and the SHE ETF.

These funds give exposure to organizations that value ethnic, racial, and gender diversity.

BlackRock Target Income Portfolio

This is a relatively new portfolio option at Betterment. It’s an ideal solution for anyone who is looking for low risk investments.

The entire portfolio is centered on bonds that provide a low level of risk.

Goldman Sachs Smart Beta Portfolio

This is another portfolio that is a recent addition to Betterment. In order to compete with the likes of Schwab, investors who use Betterment can benefit from the implementation of Smart Beta. This helps improve returns.

Betterment vs. Vanguard

Vanguard can sell you the same portfolio as Betterment for a little less money in annual fees. But only if you are willing to do a lot more work on your own.

In most cases, the cost difference is very slight.

At Vanguard, you’ll also have to perform your own tax-loss harvesting, tax-coordinated portfolio service, re-allocation, re-investment, etc.

These perks more than cover the cost of your Betterment fees.

Betterment vs. Robinhood

Betterment and Robinhood both have a lot to offer, but the target market is quite different.

Betterment is great for those who want a hands-off approach to investing. Once you determine your stock/bond, all you have to do is add money to your portfolio.

The platform does the rest. Since it has automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting, it is a set-it-and-forget-it solution.

Of course, you do pay a fee for that convenience, which is something to keep in mind.

Robinhood is really quite different. This app is a commission-free trading platform that allows you to trade a variety of different assets.

Specifically, you can use Robinhood to trade stocks, bonds, ETFs, and options. Even cryptocurrency trading is possible with this app.

And there are no commissions for any of these trades, nor is there a membership fee.

What you don’t get with Robinhood is any sort of dynamic rebalancing or tax-loss harvesting. It’s more of a DIY solution.

Nevertheless, the lack of commissions make Robinhood great for more active traders. Day traders would find this app useful, for sure.

Betterment FAQ

It’s time to take a look at what Betterment has to offer in more detail.

Too busy to read the full review? Here are some answers to your deepest burning questions about Betterment.

Can I Trust Betterment?

You can certainly trust Betterment; it has been around more than a decade. The company is regulated and its users are insured by the SIPC.

In addition, it has great scam/fraud protection and encryption.

See their BBB rating here.

Is Betterment a Good Investment?

Betterment is indeed a good investment for many people. It invests your money in a diverse portfolio of 14 ETFs.

This allows it to have strong long-term performance. And it does that with a low management fee of 0.25% for Digital members.

Can You Lose Money with Betterment?

It’s always possible to lose money with Betterment, at least in the short term.

Betterment invests your money in the stock market, which is subject to short-term fluctuation. Most stock portfolios do make money, but you often have periods of negative return.

Your portfolio allocation plays a role as well. More aggressive portfolios will be hit harder during bear markets.

Betterment has an interactive tool on its website which allows you to see past returns using real Betterment portfolio data.

Unsurprisingly, over the past year, a more aggressive portfolio would have fared better than a more conservative one.

For instance, from June 2019 to June 2020, a Betterment portfolio of 60% bonds and 40% stocks would have had a +2.3% return. Conversely, a portfolio of 100% stocks would have had a –2.7% return.

Can I Use Betterment in Canada/Australia?

Not at this time, but they’re working on making it available. You may see that coming in the near future.

Reviews of Betterment’s Departments, Products, and Offerings

There are a lot of aspects to Betterment’s service. Here’s what we’ve found after more than a year of use.

Tax-Coordinated Portfolio


Tax-Coordinated Portfolio


Betterment’s TCP adds a lot of value to the already great service. TCP is a way to automatically put expensive holdings into pre-tax accounts and cheap holdings into taxable accounts.

Of course, this only works for people who have multiple accounts with Betterment. But as you use the service longer and longer, you’ll likely do just that.

Let’s say you have one taxable account, one Roth IRA, and one Traditional IRA.

Betterment’s algorithms automatically swap out all the assets contained in these accounts. Therefore, you’re left with an orientation that costs you the least amount of money possible.

Betterment estimates annual savings of 0.48% or 15% over 30 years.

Customer Service


Customer Service


Betterment is responsive and detailed in its emails. Betterment chat is now available, and representatives are available by phone 7 days a week until mid-late evening EST.

There is even a special line for 401(k) customers, Plus, and Premium customers.

Betterment Promotions


Betterment Promotions


Betterment offers up to 12 months of free service for new accounts with $500,000 and above:

  • $15,000-$99,999: 1 month free
  • $100,000-$249,999: 6 months free
  • $250,000+: 1 year free

Tax-Loss Harvesting & Rebalancing


Tax-Loss Harvesting & Rebalancing


Betterment offers free tax-loss harvesting and re-allocation/portfolio balancing. Also, Betterment will automatically rebalance your portfolio so you don’t have to worry about maintaining it.

You can find both of these on traditional platforms, but the time and costs involved would devour your savings.

How Do I Sign Up?

At this point, you might be ready to sign up for Betterment. Good news – it’s really easy.

New users input all the usual information, then start asking some questions about their investment goals (risk tolerance, time horizon, etc.).

You’ll be asked to link to your financial institution, which can be completed in minutes. New funds show up in a couple of days, at which point your account is up and running.

Users transferring IRAs and other accounts from other brokers will usually see the accounts appear in 2-3 weeks.

There’s no minimum deposit to begin, but make sure to take advantage of free service for the initial deposit amounts specified above.

Once your account is humming along, Betterment will send you a series of helpful emails. These emails detail Betterment features and make sure you’re getting the most out of the service.

Betterment understands how to make this helpful, not annoying, a delicate balance Vanguard hasn’t figured out, IMHO.

Click here to sign up.


By now, you know we’re enthusiastic about Betterment. We have every reason to be!

To sum up, Betterment is great for financial planning and investment strategies.

Investors and personal finance enthusiasts can appreciate just how easy Betterment makes it.

It’s easy to use and effective at growing wealth. The result? New investors are signing up by the thousands, especially as there is no minimum investment.

We love how responsive Betterment is to user feedback and how quick they respond to our emails. Plus, they’ve added so many useful features and improvements in a short time.

We only expect Betterment to get better. Even now, they’re a true leader in the robo-advisor and modern investment landscape.

Click for Betterment Pricing and Details.

Related Investing Product Reviews:

  • Investors Underground Review

  • Motley Fool Review

  • M1 Finance Review

The post Betterment Review 2021: Pros, Cons, & Expert Opinion appeared first on Modest Money.


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