WiseBanyan is robo-advisor with a distinct motto: “Investing should be a right, not a privilege.” Living up to this belief, there are no account management fees and no investment minimum when you open an account. However, there are quite a few services you can add on to your account that do come with extra fees.
We’ll break down what type of investment accounts you can open with WiseBanyan, what you get for free, and how much you’ll have to pay for additional features.
How It Works
Just as you would with most other robo-advisors, WiseBanyan starts by prompting you with a series of questions about your financial goals, time horizon, risk aversion, and total money saved so far. You’ll then receive a recommendation on ETFs that are spread across different asset classes for a diversified portfolio based on your goals.
While there’s no account minimum that must be maintained, you’ll need a $1 minimum deposit to get started investing. You can also create “milestones” for your different savings goals to track your progress. After you start investing, your account management is completely automated with strategic investment picks, ongoing portfolio monitoring, and reinvestment of dividends.
All new clients start by opening a personal investment account as an individual. Once that’s opened, you can also open Roth IRAs, traditional IRAs, and SEP IRAs. WiseBanyan also allows you to roll over existing 401k and 403b accounts.
WiseBanyan only makes money on their a la carté products and services, not their portfolio offerings. They also don’t sell your private information, incorporate ads, or receive commissions for fund recommendations. The average expense ratio for ETFs is 0.12% for their core portfolio offerings.
Tax Protection Services: Opt-in for this package to receive three distinct services: WiseHarvesting, Selective Trading, and IRAutomation. You’ll pay 0.02% of your monthly average account value, or $20 — whichever is less. This equates to 0.24% annually, but there’s no contract so you can pick and choose when you want to activate this feature. Also, note that all IRAs come with a minimum $10 monthly cost.
What exactly do you get with Tax Protection Services from WiseBanyan?
WiseHarvesting: This is the same as tax-loss harvesting that other robo-advisors offer. It has the potential to turn minor losses into tax deductions.
Selective Trading: A feature that allows you to remove ETFs from your WiseBanyan account that are duplicated in other investment accounts you hold. This tactic can help you avoid wash sales.
IRAutomation: This helps you save time and maximize your retirement savings. You can set your annual deposit limits for each IRA and pick your funding strategy.
Fast Money: This is another service that helps to put specific financial goals on the fast track with your investment strategy. Features include: quick deposit, auto-deposit scheduler, and overdraft protection. It costs $2 per month to add on this feature.
Portfolio Plus: You’ll receive a greater selection of portfolios to choose from. You can customize your own or start with a WiseBanyan Featured Portfolio. This feature costs an extra $3 per month.
Teamwork: If you want to share your investment account rather than keeping it as an individual account, you can either add a partner who can view your financial milestones alongside you. In the near future, WiseBanyan says you’ll also be about to create a joint account through the Family account feature and add UGMAs or UGTAs for your estate planning needs.
For basic investment services, you have the potential to save quite a bit in annual fees. However, as your investment needs become more sophisticated, you may feel that the extra cost of the premium package options start to add up significantly, depending on your needs.
WiseBanyan comes with some interesting extra features you won’t find with most other robo-advisors, especially if you like incentives for meeting your financial goals.
Wallet Function: This feature holds cash and is connected to your bank account. As you set up Formulas (explained below), this money is used to fund those extra goals to give your accounts a boost. You can choose between one-time deposits and auto deposits.
Formulas Function: Formulas help to automate new opportunities by using the cash in your Wallet to fund your investments. Here are four types of formulas you can use to give your savings goals an extra edge.
- Round Up: Daily top-off of your milestones using cash in your Wallet
- Dividend Match: Add extra cash to match dividends you earn
- Bargain Hunting: Automated purchase when your portfolio goes on sale
- Level Up: Move up your milestone to the next $1,000 increment
The biggest and most obvious advantage of choosing WiseBanyan for your investment platform is that there’s no annual management fee when you stick to the basic options. Even if you choose some of the add-ons, you could potentially pay much less compared to other options out there.
Saving based on milestones is a feature employed by some robo-advisors, but not all. Luckily, WiseBanyan is among them. It’s incredibly helpful if you have specific goals over both the short-term and the long-term. Once you answer those question prompts we talked about earlier, WiseBanyan then recommends how much you should invest for each milestone. You can even view by monthly deposit to see what amount is needed each month to reach your goals by your chosen deadline.
Another benefit is that you can stay accountable to your savings goals by working on them together with a partner. Even though you’ll need separate investment accounts to participate, you can look at your progress in total and also view WiseBanyan’s projections based on both accounts.
Although WiseBanyan anticipates offering joint and family accounts soon, there is currently no way to share an account beyond viewing another customer’s joint milestone. For couples or families who want a holistic look at their finances, or an easier path to estate planning, you don’t have either of those abilities with WiseBanyan at the moment.
WiseBanyan also falls short on the way it manages IRAs. You do get a fairly broad selection (including SEP IRAs for self-employed individuals), but all accounts come with a minimum $10 monthly fee. IRAs are included in the a la carté Tax Protection package; although it’s capped at $20, you could end up paying as much as 0.24% each year. This starts to put WiseBanyan in league with other robo-advisors in terms of cost. Still, even at 0.24%, you’re at the lower end of the cost range, especially considering the benefits that come along with the package.
WiseBanyan does allow multiple add-on services but one area that’s lacking is that there’s no option to get advice from a human advisor. This might not be a problem for newbie investors who want to set and forget their investment strategy, but it could be an issue for those with more complicated finances. This seems like a major pitfall with the upcoming launch of the Family account feature, although it remains to be seen if any additional advisory services will be included.
Also, note that WiseBanyan doesn’t currently offer any type of college savings plan. You’ll have to go elsewhere if you want to invest through a 529 savings plan for your children’s future tuition needs.
Who It’s Best For
WiseBanyan is ideal for people who are just starting to invest. The fact that you can enter the market and start to grow your wealth without any cost at all is almost unheard of. As you start to get the hang of investing, however, you may want to take advantage of some of the add-on features offered by Banyan. At that point, it’s smart to compare costs with other robo-advisors to make sure you can’t get more features for a similar (or better) price.
Also, remember that while adding on additional services for a few dollars a month may not seem like a lot, they can represent a large percentage of your assets if you’ve just begun investing. In that sense, it might make sense for investors with a larger account balance to consider things like Fast Money and Portfolio Plus. The fixed monthly cost won’t eat up as much of your balance as it would if you were just starting off with a few hundred or thousand dollars in your account.
The Bottom Line
WiseBanyan is unique when it comes to providing easy entry into the world of investing. Plus, you can incorporate both taxable accounts and tax-advantaged IRA into your overall strategy. While not thoroughly complex at this time, beginning investors really do get quite a bit of value for what could end up being a near-free service.
With specific goal-setting features, it’s easy to track both long-term goals like retirement alongside those you hope to achieve more quickly. If you plan on sticking to WiseBanyan’s current account offerings, you’ll be able to see a fairly comprehensive snapshot of your investment and savings goals.