ellevest review
Updated May 27, 2020

Ellevest Review 2020

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You’ll find no shortage of robo-advisors on the market today, all working to elbow their way to the front of the line with new features, low fees, and unique mobile apps. Some of them even cater to specific audiences with their platforms.

But with all of the competition out there, is it really possible for a robo-advisor to do anything that different from what’s already available?

Enter Ellevest.

Launched in 2016, this robo-advisor aims to be something truly unique, appealing to female investors and the investments, causes, and issues that impact them the most. Ellevest’s mission? Help women overcome the effects of gender-neutral investing.

Additionally, they focus on providing female investors with the advice and insight that they need to make portfolio choices based on issues that affect them specifically: their life expectancy, their income, and their unique income trajectory (it’s not the gender pay gap you’re used to hearing about).

Let’s take a look at Ellevest, what makes this company different from the rest, and how much of a difference they can make as a robo-advisor platform for women, by women.

About Ellevest

Ellevest was founded in 2014 by Sallie Krawcheck, who helped lead companies such as Merrill Lynch, Citi Private Bank, and Smith Barney. She quickly realized that the investment community was mostly “for men, by men,” with portfolio opportunities and even advising platforms catering to male investors.

In fact, as the Ellevest website mentions, 85% of investors are men (with an average age of 50+).

Quickly frustrated with this trend, Krawcheck decided to do something about it. She sought to help the female investors of our country understand both the what and the why of their portfolios.

And she founded Ellevest to do just that.

Why is Ellevest Necessary?

The Ellevest website is designed to offer information that addresses financial needs that are unique to women. To that end, they offer a resource-rich platform to help educate women on their ideal style of investing, as well as create tailored portfolios to meet those needs.

We’ve all heard about the gender wage gap, a term coined to address the frequently-seen difference in pay between men and women working the same job. This gap has narrowed significantly in the last decade, however there is still a discrepancy between what women and men earn over the course of their careers.

This is the issue that Ellevest wants to target.

As you can see from the graphic below (located on their website), men and women will often reach a very different point at the end of their careers, even if they started in the same place.

salary peak ellevest

Here, you see a chart following both a man and woman from age 30 to 63. Both start out earning $85,000 annually at age 30, and investing 10% of their pay.

As time goes on, though, their trajectory changes significantly.

The woman’s salary peaks at age 40, when she’s making about $93,000. (By contrast, the man is making about $106,000 at that same age.) The man’s salary doesn’t peak until age 55, when he is making around $111,000 per year.

The problem here is compounded: the woman earns less each year, her salary peaks sooner (at a much lower number), and she earns tens of thousands less per year on average than her male counterpart. In fact, if both of our example wage-earners were to retire at age 67 after saving 10% of their income each year, he would have a shocking $320,000 more in his account than she would — lasting him about six years more.

Oh, and did we mention that women typically live longer than men, too? Even though they earn less (and therefore are likely to have less saved up for retirement), they also need their money to last longer.

years of of money ellevest

It’s no wonder, then, why Ellevest was created. The concerns that affect women in terms of portfolio management and retirement planning are unique to them.

If women continue to follow the gender-neutral investment strategies offered by most robo-advisors, they may wind up with less saved than they truly need.

Why Ellevest Stands Out

There are a few great features of the platform that make it stand out among the sea of robo-advisors on the market today. Here are a few of our favorite reasons to consider using Ellevest:

There are no fees to open, close, or transfer your account. Plus, there is a $0 minimum deposit to start, so you can open an Ellevest account no matter where you are in your investment journey.

Ellevest makes their algorithms as informative as possible. They won’t just show you how much you’re saving and what your projected portfolio growth will be; they also give you an easy way to see the impact of fees and even taxes on that portfolio.

That way, you can properly account for the impact of those expenses. Without this, you may think that you are on track with your savings, only to find out that you will actually fall short.

They will help you minimize your tax burden. Thanks to Ellevest’s Tax Minimization Methodology (TMM), you can be sure that your portfolio is optimized each time it’s rebalanced.

They will minimize your taxable gains while maximizing your taxable losses, without you needing to do a thing.

Additionally, Ellevest will move your portfolio around to best benefit you tax-wise. This might include putting higher-taxed securities in tax-deferred retirement accounts, and/or putting lower-taxed securities in the accounts that are taxable today.

Pros of Ellevest

If you’re thinking about using Ellevest to help plan and manage your investment portfolio, there are a few great features of which you’ll be able to take advantage. These include:

1. Real-world goals

Ellevest will devise a retirement strategy for you based on your specific needs. This includes accounting for things like a longer lifespan and, therefore, a larger retirement savings target.

2. Tailored investment recommendations

Ellevest recommendations are made only after analyzing your current goal targets and financial profile, as well as creating a gender-specific salary curve projection for you.

3. Affordable and competitively priced

There are three pricing tiers to choose from with Ellevest, starting as low as 25 basis points (or 0.25%).

4. Automatic rebalancing

Over time, or as your allocation drifts away from your target portfolio, Ellevest will automatically rebalance on your behalf. You don’t even need to think about it!

5. Strategic tax reduction with TMM

Ellevest’s Tax Minimization Methodology (TMM) works by diversifying your portfolio today and optimizing your future rebalances in order to reduce your tax burden.

6. No Minimum Deposit

Even if you’re just starting out, Ellevest is there for you with a $0 investment minimum.

Cons of Ellevest

Of course, no platform is perfect… and Ellevest isn’t the exception. These are a few things to keep in mind if you’re considering a portfolio here.

1. This robo-advisor isn’t free

While Ellevest does have competitive pricing — especially for the features and services offered — this platform isn’t free. Fees start at 25 basis points, or 0.25%, depending on which service tier you choose.

If you’re looking for a robo-advisor that’s free, consider M1 Finance or Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.

2. No tax loss harvesting

Ellevest does not offer tax loss harvesting to investors on their platform. Their website has a great article that explains why this isn’t an offered service, but if it’s something you’re looking for from your robo-advisor, you won’t find it here.

3. Not all account types are supported

You can easily manage your taxable accounts through Ellevest (such as your 401k and/or IRAs), but the platform does not support trusts, 529 plans, and the like.

Pricing

Your cost for using Ellevest depends on the service tier you choose for your portfolio. There are levels to pick from:

  • Ellevest Digital
  • Ellevest Premium
  • Private Wealth

Ellevest Digital is designed for the typical investor. There is no minimum deposit and no balance requirement.

This level offers an algorithm-based tool that can help you set and work toward investing goals based on your age, gender, salary, and lifespan.

The fee for this tier is 0.25% (or 25 basis points) of your invested portfolio balance. So, for a portfolio with a $5,000 balance, you could expect Ellevest’s fee to be $12.50.

ellevest digital

Ellevest Premium is the next level up, offering even more personalized services to those investors with a higher portfolio balance. This tier is designed for those with $50,000 or more invested, and offers services such as one-on-one career coaching and financial planning.

The fee for Ellevest Premium is 50 basis points, or 0.50% of your total invested. So if you only invested the minimum $50,000, your annual fee would be $250.

ellevest premium

Lastly, there is Private Wealth by Ellevest. This tier is designed for investors with $1 million or more in their portfolio, and is a personalized service to meet a variety of your needs.

For example, this tier offers one-on-one portfolio management and a dedicated team of investment advisors waiting to help you.

The fee for this tier is based on your assets under management. However, the pricing ranges from 50 to 90 basis points, for clients with as little as $1 million and up to $10 million invested.

Accessibility

Ellevest has a comprehensive and resource-rich website, designed to answer many of your investment and portfolio questions. However, if you need to contact them for any reason, your only option will be to send an email.

The Ellevest website doesn’t say how long it will take to return your email, however. There isn’t a phone number available nor is there an online chat option.

Ellevest FAQs

  • How much does a portfolio with Ellevest cost me?

    You’ll be charged a fee for using Ellevest, which is calculated as a percentage of the total amount you have invested there. 

    For investors in the first tier (Ellevest Digital), the fee is 25 basis points. For investors with $50,000+ and in the second tire (Ellevest Premium), the fee is 50 basis points. And for investors with $1 million or more, the third tier (Private Wealth) will cost between 50 and 90 basis points. 

    Also, keep in mind that the investments you hold will include fees of their own, outside of what Ellevest charges for their services.

  • How safe is Ellevest?

    At Ellevest, your private information is safe. They will never sell your info, and use the most advanced browser encryption available to help ensure that you stay secure.

    Your portfolio is SIPC-protected for up to $500,000. This doesn’t mean that your investments themselves cannot lose value, of course, but your ownership of them is protected.

  • Why doesn’t Ellevest allow for tax loss harvesting?

    At Ellevest, the belief is that while tax loss harvesting may save you money today, it doesn’t necessarily save you money in the long run. For some investors, it may simply push taxes off for the future (when you’ll need that money the most). 

    For that reason, they do not offer tax loss harvesting to investors.

Alternatives to Ellevest

Whether you’re able to find a great alternative to Ellevest depends on what you’re specifically looking for in your robo-advisor. While you aren’t likely to find one exactly like Ellevest (at least, not yet), there are a few other options to consider.

If You Want a Robo-Advisor Geared Toward Women Investors

Currently, Ellevest is the only robo-advisor with a dedicated focus toward women. If you want a platform that understands and accounts for the unique needs of women and their investments, Ellevest is the best option for you.

If You Want Low Fees

There are many robo-advisors out there with low (or nonexistent) fees, if saving money on your portfolio management is your primary concern.

Platforms like M1 Finance and Intelligent Portfolios (by Charles Schwab) both offer free services to investors. Robo-advisors like Wealthfront and Round offer fees that are in line with those charged by Ellevest.

If You Want No Minimum Deposit

If you’re just starting on your investing journey, you might not have a large portfolio to your name. By choosing a robo-advisor like Ellevest, you have the freedom to open an account without a minimum deposit requirement.

Other robo-advisors with no minimum deposit include Betterment and Ally Invest.

Is Ellevest Right for You?

Each investor is different and will have their own personal portfolio needs. Because of this, the robo-advisor that’s right for you may not be right for your best friend, sister, or neighbor.

With that said, Ellevest gives women investors a good opportunity to not only understand their investments, but take charge of them.

With a recourse-rich platform, algorithms based around women’s unique investing needs, and competitive fees, this robo-advisor is worth considering.

Give Ellevest a look if you’re wanting a platform that doesn’t have a minimum deposit requirement, offers automatic rebalancing, and makes it easy to see the impact of your career trajectory, lifespan, and even the taxes and fees of your investments on your portfolio growth.

Rather than going along with the “by men, for men” investment industry, Ellevest wants to help women break free and save more than ever. Could this be the right place for you and your money?

Stephanie Colestock

Stephanie Colestock is a personal finance expert and writer who enjoys teaching people how to be financially independent and confident about their money choices, regardless of obstacles in their path (such as the crippling student loan debt she once held). Stephanie graduated from Baylor University, and is currently working toward her CFP certification. Her work can be seen on sites such as Forbes, Dough Roller, and Johnny Jet, among many others.

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