M1 is a robo-advisor that comes with a diverse mix of investment options. It’s well-suited for investors who want to pick individual stocks in addition to exploring expert-crafted portfolios. With M1, you’ll find an interesting blend of the ability to DIY your portfolio while still enjoying automated rebalancing and recommendations based on your own financial goals.
Plus, M1 stands out as extremely accessible by not charging fees for management or trades. While there are minor minimum deposits required depending on the type of account you choose, you don’t have to maintain high balances to qualify as an M1 investor.
Learn more about how the platform works and how to design a potentially fee-free investment strategy with M1 Finance.
How It Works
M1 Finance lets you integrate your overall financial needs with the ability to invest, borrow, and spend from a single platform. You can choose from 80 portfolios or you can customize your own by choosing from over 6,000 stocks.
Your portfolio on the M1 platform is depicted as a pie chart so you can visualize how your investments are spread out. Set a percentage to choose the weight of each investment and your new deposits then flow into your portfolio in accordance with those target allocations.
There are two types of “pies” you can choose from: custom or expert. A custom pie is your own collection of stocks and funds. Expert pies, on the other hand, are professionally designed to meet your goals with your risk tolerance or invest in entire industries. They’re curated to include either ETFs or a collection of stocks.
Previously, you could also select industry-based expert pies, but there are no longer offered on the M1 platform to new users. As part of your overall investment strategy, you can pick and choose from all different types of pies, then allocated what percentage of each one should be designated as part of your overall portfolio.
You can also set a schedule for automated investing to deposit funds from your selected bank account into your investment account. Using the mobile app or website, simply connect your preferred bank accounts, then initiate a deposit on your own or set up a schedule for automatic deposits.
M1 Finance offers both taxable and tax-advantaged investment accounts, as well as a checking account with the potential for competitive rewards. Here’s what to expect from each type of account to make sure M1 can meet your investment needs.
Individual and Joint
For general investment purposes, you can set up an individual account for yourself or a joint account to share with your spouse, domestic partner, or relative. A joint account enables both parties to have equal ownership of the investments. Both individual and joint accounts are taxable.
Create a tax-advantaged investment account by choosing a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA to help you grow your funds for retirement. It’s possible to rollover existing IRAs or 401(k)s to your M1 IRA account, but you have to contact the support team directly to initiate the process.
A trust allows you to open an account on behalf of either an individual or a group. It’s an easy strategy for designating a beneficiary for estate planning purposes. With M1, this type of account must be opened using paper forms. You can select a trust account as part of your signup process, then receive the forms in the mail and return them to M1 at your convenience. The minimum account balance for a trust is $5,000 which is much higher than M1’s other account options.
M1 now offers a checking account that includes features such as direct deposit, bill pay, and a debit card. The basic account option is a no-frills account with no minimum and no monthly fee. You can also opt to upgrade to the M1 Plus account, where deposits earn 1.5% APY and you can 1% cashback on all purchases with no maximum limit. There’s no account balance requirement but you do have to pay a hefty $100 annual fee.
$100 opening deposit for an investment account
$500 opening deposit for retirement account
While you won’t pay management or trade fees with M1, there are some miscellaneous fees you could occur while managing your account. Some common ones include:
- Inactivity fee after 90 days: $20
- Outgoing transfers: $100
- IRA conversion fee: $25
- IRA termination fee: $100
- Mutual fund sales: $20
- Liquidating securities on foreign exchanges: $50
You may also be subject to regulatory fees when you sell a stock or ETF, which typically amount to pennies per trade.
M1 implements fractional sharing, which means you can maximize your deposits and ensure every penny is invested, rather than having excess funds sitting in your account with no growth.
Another feature is the ability to borrow funds at a low rate. M1 Finance lets you borrow up to 35% of your portfolio as a line of credit with no credit check or extra paperwork. You can use the money for anything from financing a major life event to refinancing existing debt with a 4.25% interest rate.
If you opt to upgrade to M1 Plus, you’ll get access to rewards checking as well as to a second trading window, giving you more investment options available. You also receive a 0.25% discount on M1 Borrow, the company’s line of credit. The entire M1 Plus package costs $100 per year so you need to make sure all of the extra benefits exceed the fee.
Finally, M1 offers a referral bonus. Get a friend to sign up for M1 and you’ll both receive $10 to invest in your accounts.
Unlike many other robo-advisors, M1 Finance lets you add individual stocks to your portfolio, so if there’s a specific company you’re excited about you can invest in them directly.
The platform also features automatic portfolio rebalancing to keep your “pie slices” in check with your set preferences. This is standard for robo-advisors but still great for hands-off investors.
M1 also uses a lot allocation strategy when you make a withdrawal from your investment account. After you initiate the withdrawal, the M1 algorithm analyzes your current investments to sell the best securities for this purpose. The first ones prioritized are losses that offset future gains; then those that result in long-term gains; and finally, those that result in short-term gains.
M1 does not implement automatic tax-loss harvesting into your investment accounts. This is standard with many robo-advisors as a way to keep your portfolio balanced while minimizing your taxable capital gains. While there is tax efficiency when it comes time for withdrawals, tax-loss harvesting is one area where M1 fails to deliver.
Another downside is that M1 uses batch trading once a day. The trading window begins at the beginning of the day until all orders have been completed. That means you can’t trade at a specific time and must submit your requests before 9 a.m. Central to be included in that day’s trading window. While robo-advisors aren’t usually used for real-time trading strategies, it is an unfortunate pitfall if you want to trade your individual stocks at a certain point.
Also, be aware that M1 Finance is a true robo-advisor. You don’t get access to a human advisor, even as an optional add-on package as some platforms offer. It’s important to already have an understanding of the investment field before jumping into M1.
Who It’s Best For
M1 can be used for beginner investors as well as those who want a little more customization than the typical robo-advisor allows for. It’s easy to select an expert pie for a totally hands-off experience. However, it’s not quite as automated as some other robo-advisors that ask you a series of questions to create a recommended portfolio. If you don’t have any idea of how to craft an investment strategy that makes sense for your short-term and long-term financial goals, you may want to pick a robo-advisor that gives you more support.
M1 is well-designed for people who want to invest in specific companies in addition to broader portfolios. If you prefer a hybrid approach to your investments, this could be a good option for you. Plus, trading is free with no fees so if you like trading frequently, it’s an excellent way to invest without a hefty price tag. The only downside is that you can’t trade in real-time so it’s not suited for frequent traders.
The Bottom Line
M1 Finance is a fee-free investment option that allows for multiple customization opportunities. If you’re looking for a true robo-advisor experience, it’s a great option to consider, especially if you already have an idea of how you want to invest. With expensive transfer fees, however, make sure it feels like a good fit for your portfolio before you commit so you don’t end up losing all those extra savings by closing your account.