Tuesday, July 5, 2022

    Wealthfront vs. Vanguard: Which platform is right for you?

    Wealthfront vs. Vanguard: Which platform is right for you?

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    Wealthfront vs. Vanguard Editor’s Rating Min. deposit Fees Next steps

    Wealthfront Wealthfront Investing


    Wealthfront Investing


    A five pointed star

    4.2 /5

    $500

    0.25%; 0.06 – 0.13% for low-cost investment funds


    Learn More

    Vanguard Vanguard


    Vanguard


    A five pointed star

    4.6 /5

    $0 ($3,000 for Vanguard Digital Advisor; $50,000 for Vanguard Personal Advisor Services)

    0% (0.20% to 0.30% for professionally managed portfolios)


    Learn More

    Wealthfront vs. Vanguard: The biggest differences

    Wealthfront and Vanguard offer multiple investment choices and account types for retail investors. But while Vanguard is an


    online brokerage

    , with both DIY and automated investing, Wealthfront solely provides automated portfolio management.

    You’ll pay less to set up an automated investing account at Wealthfront (it has a $500 minimum; Vanguard Digital Advisor and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services require $3,000 and $50,000, respectively), but your overall investment selection will be more limited compared to Vanguard’s. 

    Vanguard is best for most types of investors, as it offers access to stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, and much more. If you’re a hands-off investor strictly in search of robo-advice, Wealthfront is the better choice. The account also offers an investment type that Vanguard’s equivalent accounts don’t: crypto trusts.

    Is Wealthfront right for you?

    Wealthfront is an automated investing platform (aka “robo-advisor“) offering individual and joint investment accounts, IRAs, 529 plans, trusts, and cash accounts.

    It stands out from other popular automated accounts because its investment selection is made up of more than just ETFs; Wealthfront also offers crypto trusts (e.g., the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust [GBTC] and the Grayscale Ethereum Trust [ETHE]) and index funds. And it employs several strategies — including tax-loss harvesting, US Direct Indexing, Risk Parity Funds, and Smart Beta investing — to build wealth for its users.

    Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need a minimum balance of $100,000 to use US direct indexing (formerly known as stock-level tax-loss harvesting) and risk parity. You’ll need at least $500,000 for smart beta strategies. Wealthfront says smart beta aims to increase your returns by weighting your portfolio’s investments more strategically.

    With tax-loss harvesting, the


    robo-advisor

    aims to minimize taxes you owe by capturing losses in your portfolio. The same goes for its US direct indexing strategy, except this strategy strives to capture losses on stocks within an index, according to Wealthfront. The risk parity fund, however, strictly aims to increase your risk-adjusted returns.


    Investment Types


    ETFs, index funds, and crypto trusts


    Investment Types


    ETFs, index funds, and crypto trusts

    Pros

    • Low annual fee for investment accounts; crypto trust investments available
    • Tax-loss harvesting, portfolio lines of credit, 529 college savings plans available
    • Cash account
    • Mobile app and investing and retirement tools

    Cons

    • You need at least $100,000 to utilize additional investment strategies
    • No human advisor access


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    • Consider it if: You’re balancing several goals and want to streamline your finances.

    Is Vanguard right for you?

    Dating back to 1975, Vanguard is an online brokerage with individual and joint accounts, automated investing accounts and managed portfolios, trusts, custodial accounts, IRAs, and much more.

    Unlike Wealthfront, Vanguard offers a vast selection of self-directed investment accounts. This means that you’ll make the trading decisions for your account, as opposed to those using robo-advisors. 

    The online brokerage also offers commission-free stocks, ETFs, and options, and you don’t need to meet a minimum account size requirement to trade with a self-directed account. You’ll mainly run into account minimums for Vanguard’s automated and advisor-guided accounts, Vanguard Digital Advisor and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services.


    Account Minimum


    $0 ($3,000 for Vanguard Digital Advisor; $50,000 for Vanguard Personal Advisor Services)


    Fees


    0% (0.20% to 0.30% for professionally managed portfolios)


    Investment Types


    Stocks, ETFs, options, bonds, mutual funds, and CDs


    Account Minimum


    $0 ($3,000 for Vanguard Digital Advisor; $50,000 for Vanguard Personal Advisor Services)


    Fees


    0% (0.20% to 0.30% for professionally managed portfolios)


    Investment Types


    Stocks, ETFs, options, bonds, mutual funds, and CDs

    Pros

    • Commission-free stocks, ETFs, and options
    • Brokerage, automated, and advisor-managed accounts available
    • Thousands of low-cost mutual funds
    • Multiple resources with expert analysis and market insights
    • Several retirement accounts and services for retirement plan participants

    Cons

    • Higher options contract fee than other discount brokerages (Vanguard charges $1 per options contract)
    • No separate trading platforms for advanced traders; no fractional shares
    • No cryptocurrencies


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    • Promotion: None at this time.
    • App store rating: 4.7 iOS/ 1.8 Android
    • Consider it if: You’re a long-term focused investor looking for access to a variety of account types and investment choices.

    Wealthfront vs. Vanguard — Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    Is Vanguard better than Wealthfront?

    Vanguard offers both a wider range of investment types and accounts than Wealthfront. Plus, its product selection includes both self-directed investment accounts and automated or advisor-guided accounts. It’s a better option for many investors.

    Wealthfront, on the other hand, best suits robo-forward investors who want to build wealth through automated investing accounts. In addition (and because Wealthfront is solely designed for robo-advice), you’ll be able to utilize tax-loss harvesting, direct indexing strategies, crypto investments, and much more.

    The best choice for you depends on your investing goals and preferences. 

    Is Wealthfront worth the fee?

    That depends on what you’re looking for. If you want the option to invest in assets like ETFs, index funds, and crypto trusts (and you don’t mind its $500 minimum and 0.25% fee), Wealthfront is a competitive choice. The platform also provides tax-loss harvesting, direct indexing, and much more.

    Costs also include its fund fees which range from 0.06% to 0.13%. Interest rates for portfolio lines of credit (this product lets you borrow up to 30% of your investment account) span from 3.15% to 4.40%.

    If you’re planning on saving for your child’s education costs, you can open up its automated 529 plan. Fees for these accounts can be as high as 0.46%, but you’ll get tax-free withdrawals in the process.

    Can you lose money with Wealthfront?

    Yes. Like any investment platform that offers investments, no security you purchase is immune to market fluctuations and


    volatility

    How much money do you need to open a Vanguard account?

    You don’t need to meet a minimum to open a Vanguard self-directed brokerage account. When it comes to automated investing, though, you’ll need at least $3,000 for Vanguard Digital Advisor and a minimum of $50,000 for Vanguard Personal Advisor Services.

    Is Vanguard good for beginners?

    Both accounts are great options for beginners or those who don’t want to trade without the insights of an expert. The first, Vanguard Digital Advisor, invests your money into a diversified blend of Vanguard ETFs. Expense ratios represent the additional annual fees funds charge investors, and Vanguard’s ETFs have an average 0.6%


    expense ratio

    . In addition, this account has a $3,000 account minimum and 0.20% annual fee.

    Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, on the other hand, combines automated portfolio management with one-on-one advisor guidance. The account gives you access to a Vanguard


    fiduciary

    advisor, and it has a $50,000 minimum and 0.30% annual fee.

    On the retirement side, Vanguard one-ups Wealthfront. Wealthfront only offers traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and SEP IRAs. Vanguard offers those accounts in addition to SIMPLE IRAs, individual 401(k)s, and multiple All-in-One retirement funds.

    Plus, it has several resources — such as an investor education library and “News & Perspectives” hub — that help newcomers and beginners get acclimated to investing.

    Rickie Houston, CEPF

    Wealth-Building Reporter

    Rickie Houston is a wealth-building reporter for Business Insider, tasked with covering brokerage products, investment apps, online advisor services, cryptocurrency exchanges, and other wealth-building financial products. He is also a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF).
    Previously, Rickie worked as a personal finance writer at SmartAsset, focusing on retirement, investing, taxes, and banking topics. He’s contributed to stories published in the Boston Globe, and his work has also been featured in Yahoo News.
    He graduated from Boston University, where he contributed as a staff writer and sports editor for Boston University News Service.
    Learn more about how Personal Finance Insider chooses, rates, and covers financial products and services »


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