SigFig is an automated investment management service that helps you maximize assets held in certain existing accounts. It basically brings the robo-advisor experience to select traditional brokerages. With SigFig, you get personalized and automated portfolio investing with ongoing access to financial advisor help — as long as your funds are in the right accounts.
Learn more about how SigFig differs from typical robo-advisors, what you need to get started, and how much you can expect to pay for this service.
How It Works
SigFig is a robo-advisor service managing your investments that are held in accounts at either TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, or Fidelity. Some of their prominent features include automatic rebalancing, ongoing reinvestment of dividends, and tax reduction strategies such as tax-loss harvesting.
When you set up your SigFig account, you can create a custom portfolio based on specific goals, whether it’s saving up for retirement, buying a house, or building your wealth. You’ll input factors such as your age, time horizon, risk level, and planned monthly contribution. If you prefer speaking to a real person to advise on your portfolio, you can also schedule a 15-minute phone consultation before finalizing your account.
Once you’ve answered SigFig’s automated questions, you can view your proposed optimal portfolio online. This features outlines your suggested asset classes (selected out of nine options) according to your self-described risk tolerance. SigFig uses low-cost funds from companies like Vanguard, Fidelity, State Street, Schwab, and iShares.
You can link your checking and savings accounts to manage withdrawals and deposits. SigFig’s algorithm continually monitors your account performance and implements automatic rebalancing as necessary.
How does SigFig determine when your portfolio is out of balance?
If any asset class strays more than a few percentage points from its target allocation, it’s automatically rebalanced by SigFig. When you add funds, whether automatically each month or at varying intervals, that money is also distributed in a manner that keeps your portfolio balanced.
If you ever want to discontinue using SigFig as your account manager, just call to cancel. There’s no penalty and your assets still reside in the brokerage through which you opened your account unless you opt to transfer those funds elsewhere.
Types of Accounts
SigFig supports both individual and joint investment accounts as well as all types of IRAs (including SEP and SIMPLE IRAs for self-employed individuals and small business owners).
You can also rollover existing IRAs or a 401k from an old job. Currently, SigFig does not manage active 401k plans, but they may offer this service in the future. Also remember that in order to qualify to use SigFig, your accounts must be opened with an eligible brokerage firm.
SigFig charges a competitive 0.25% annual management fee and on top of that, your first $10,000 is managed completely for free. A small portion of your account is held in cash and your fee comes out of that amount on a monthly basis.
Depending on your chosen brokerage, the average ETF expense ratios range between 0.07% and 0.15%.
A great bonus feature that comes with SigFig is unlimited access to help from a financial advisor. You can schedule an appointment at anytime to discuss your accounts, new goals, and upcoming life changes that may impact your investment strategy.
For account support, you can also contact customer service over chat, email, or phone. The SigFig team is available Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET. If you choose to send an email for support, it may take 24 hours to receive a response.
The major standout feature of SigFig is that there’s no extra fee for getting advice from one of their financial advisors. Not only is this service uncommon among robo-advisors, it also usually comes at a steeper price. At SigFig, financial advisor access is an automatic benefit received no matter what your account balance may be, while maintaining the same 0.25% management fee. Other robo-advisors often require a high balance and more expensive fee or don’t offer the option of a human advisor at all.
SigFig also provides a large degree of flexibility in how they manage your funds. You can choose how much of your account you want SigFig to manage. Simply select the account (or accounts) you want them to manage, then choose “just a portion” to set the amount you want them to manage on your behalf. It’s an easy process that lets you finetune your portfolio exactly how you want it while still keeping all of your assets in the same accounts.
Another important advantage of choosing SigFig to manage your investments is their tax-loss harvesting ability. This is a popular feature associated with robo-advisors, but not all of them actually offer it.
Here’s how it works with SigFig.
When implementing their tax-loss harvesting strategy, SigFig identifies ETFs that have declined in value and then sells them so you can recognize losses when filing taxes. In other words, it reduces your taxable capital gains.
The assets that are sold off are then replaced with another allocation within a correlated asset class fund that holds a similar risk level. That way your portfolio is balanced to your goals and specifications, but you’re minimizing your tax bill. This feature is automatically triggered when an asset class is identified as having enough of a loss to cover the trading costs. While the IRS has rules limiting wash sales, SigFig’s technology is designed to avoid these situations so you can take advantage of these tax benefits while enjoying full peace of mind.
The biggest downside to using SigFig is that your funds must be in one of their partnering brokerage accounts: TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, or Fidelity. If your funds aren’t currently held with one of these companies, you’ll need to transfer the money and open a new account in order to use SigFig.
If you’re already investing elsewhere and want to transfer funds in order to be eligible, there will be some costs involved that you should consider first. When you close another account (or even just transfer out all of your funds), you’ll likely be charged either an account closing fee or a full transfer fee. Unlike SigFig, many other robo-advisors let you invest directly through them, making it a much more streamlined process than having to go through an additional party to get your investments managed.
SigFig’s $2,000 minimum deposit is also above the industry average. Many robo-advisors don’t require any minimum at all or keep it under $1,000. While two grand is still a relatively low minimum compared to traditional investment accounts, it may be a barrier for many beginning investors. If you don’t want to wait to invest until you’ve saved that amount, you need to find another robo-advisor.
Finally, SigFig doesn’t offer fractional sharing. Some of your investment money is held in cash, though exactly how much is unclear. The reason for this may be so they can easily access your management fee that’s billed monthly, but it may be worth investigating just how much of your funds won’t be invested at any given time. After all, that means you’re not earning anything so if it’s a large amount, your growth could be stunted over time.
Who It’s Best For
SigFig is best for people who already have an account opened with either TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, or Fidelity. Once that step is complete, it’s easy to answer SigFig’s automated questions and assign them as your account fiduciary. You can also use their partial management feature to have them manage just a portion of your portfolio in order to determine how you like the robo-advisor experience. From there you can determine how much to ultimately have SigFig manage on your behalf.
SigFig is also good for investors who meet the $2,000 threshold but also have less than (or not much more than) $10,000 invested at this time. This threshold is managed by SigFig completely for free so all you have to worry about are ETF expense ratios.
The Bottom Line
SigFig offers a unique proposition to those who are interested in a robo-advisor: open your account with one of their partners and let their algorithm take over on your behalf. With access to financial advisors that is quite uncommon in the robo-advisor space (especially with no upcharge involved), it’s easy to see why people are attracted to the SigFig platform.
Experimenting is easy and low-risk, especially since you get your first $10,000 managed for free and there’s no cost to cancel. If you’re currently investing through TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, or Fidelity, SigFig could give your portfolio a boost with automatic rebalancing and ongoing tax-loss harvesting.