M1 Finance Review: A Platform That Offers Customizable, Automated Investments With No FeesStocks
- M1 Finance
- Basics: M1 Finance is an investing platform that lets you completely customize how you invest your money, and also lets you automate and set and forget your investments so you can reach your money goals without lifting a finger.
- Pros: M1 Finance lets you automate your investments, including your dividend reinvestments; create your own ETFs; comes with no commissions or fees; and it offers multiple IRA options to investors.
- Cons: There is a learning curve to the platform interface if you’re used to other investment apps; you don’t have control of when your trades are executed; buying individual stocks is tricky; and the account types are limited.
- Minimum Investment:
• $1,000 for taxable accounts
$0 for basic use
- Sign-Up Bonus:
- Fractional Shares:
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Today I’m reviewing the M1 Finance investing platform, which you can use on desktop or on your mobile device through the app.
When I began using M1 Finance back in December 2018, I started by depositing $100 a day into a mix of small-cap and mid-cap exchange-traded funds (ETFs) because I thought my portfolio was underweight in those areas. Today, over two years later, that portfolio has about $45,000 in it, and I feel pretty confident in reviewing this platform.
If you’re interested in signing up for M1 Finance, you can use this link to get a $30 bonus after you deposit at least $1,000 (which equals an instantaneous 50%).
M1 Finance has both a free version and a paid version. If you’re just looking to automate your investing, the free version gets the job done.
The paid version is called M1 Plus and costs $125 a year. I actually use M1 Plus, and I’ll explain why later, but for now, just know that the free version is all you need if you’re just looking to do set-it-and-forget-it investing through M1 Finance, which is what M1 Finance is all about.
M1 Finance Review and Walkthrough Video
If you’d like to see a comprehensive step-by-step walkthrough of how to use M1 Finance, check out my YouTube video below!
What is M1 Finance?
The M1 Finance platform is a robo-investing brokerage hybrid that offers a combination of automated investing and customization options so that you can tailor your portfolios to your specifications.
M1 Finance makes it easy for all types of investors to open low-cost index funds and invest in taxable and tax-advantaged IRA and Roth IRA accounts or stocks and ETFs — but without the fees and commissions charged by your typical brokerage houses.
What sets M1 Finance apart from competitors is that it lets users take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to investing. Once you’ve created a portfolio that fits your needs, you can set the functionality to automatically continue your investments — and continue building your wealth. In other words, M1 Finance offers a simple, intuitive, and automated way for those who are brand new to investing, or those who are savvy investors, to achieve their investment goals without any extra hassle.
M1 Finance also allows you to completely customize your portfolio — including fractional shares and “slices” of ETF pies, which you can tailor to your preference. This type of feature is uncommon with robo-investing apps and makes M1 Finance a strong contender among the more well-known apps.
Before I go any further, though, it’s important to understand that there are two versions of the M1 Finance platform: a free version and the M1 Plus version, which is paid and offers extra features and functionalities. I’ll outline both types below.
How Does M1 Finance Work?
When it comes to investing with the M1 Finance platform, you can easily create portfolios filled with low-cost ETFs or individual stocks — or both.
The platform lets you tailor your portfolio to your liking, or you can opt into one of 80 expert portfolios, making the initial investment process simple.
Here’s what the M1 Finance platform allows users to do:
- Create “pies” with slices of ETFs and stocks: For each M1 investment account you have, you’ll create what M1 Finance calls a “pie.” This pie consists of various “slices” of investments, stocks, and/or ETFs, with a maximum of 100 securities. You can choose to tailor the slices to your preferences, or you can opt to mirror your investments after one of dozens of Expert Pies, which are displayed on the screen for you to follow. If you want to tailor your own pies, you can essentially tell the M1 Finance platform: “I want my pie to consist of 10% [or whatever percentage you want] of this stock, 20% of that stock, 20% of this ETF, 40% of that ETF, and 5% of that ETF over there.” This gives M1 Finance the go-ahead to allocate any money you deposit based on those percentages.
- Build your retirement portfolio: ETFs and stocks aren’t the only investments offered on the M1 Finance platform. You can also build your retirement portfolio via a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA, or a SEP IRA, all of which are accessible with this platform.
- Set up recurring transfers: M1 Finance allows you to set up a recurring transfer to be moved from your checking account into your M1 Finance account(s) on a monthly, weekly, biweekly, or even daily basis. I’ve set up my account to deposit daily Monday through Friday.
- Customize and automate your account: Customization and automation are the biggest upsides of M1 Finance. You can customize exactly what you want to invest in and automate those investments from your bank account seamlessly. That’s why I’ve kept my account with them for over two years and am still making recurring daily deposits.
- Opt to autoinvest: If you choose to turn the auto-invest feature on, the M1 Finance platform will autoinvest the cash balance in your account once your cash balance hits $25 plus your minimum cash balance. For example, my minimum cash balance is $0, so when the cash balance in my account hits at least $25, M1 Finance will automatically invest it into my pie. If my minimum cash balance were $100, M1 Finance would automatically invest the excess of my cash balance over $100 when it hit $25.
- Earn dividends: M1 Finance also adds your dividends to your cash balance. If you opt into auto-invest, your money will be automatically invested once the account cash balance of dividends and other deposits reaches the minimum threshold you’ve set.
- Utilize M1 Borrow: M1 Finance also offers M1 Plus users access to M1 Borrow, which allows you to borrow up to 35% of your account value with the click of a button — and at an extremely low interest rate of 3.5% (currently). Often, margin accounts at other brokerages only allow you to use margin to buy stocks in your account, but with M1 Plus, you can spend the money on whatever you want. However, only taxable accounts qualify for this, so you can’t borrow against a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA at M1 Finance.
M1 Finance Features
|Minimum Investment||$100 for individual or joint investment accounts; $500 for retirement accounts|
|Account Transfer Bonus||Yes, up to $2,500|
|Referral Program||Yes; $30 referral bonuses for referring friends or family|
|Tax Loss Harvesting||No|
|Mobile Versions||iOS, Android|
Low minimum investment requirements
M1 Finance only requires you to invest $1,000 to get started with ETF or stock investing. That’s not as low as some of the other platforms, but it is low enough to be accessible for most small-time investors.
Share and fractional share options
The M1 Finance platform allows you to invest how you choose to invest — thanks to fractional shares of ETFs and stocks, or slices, that you build into pies that are tailored to your needs. Slices are issued by the percentage of your investment amount that you dictate, which puts you in control of how your money is split among your investments.
No commissions or fees
M1 doesn’t charge any commissions or fees for investors who are buying or selling stocks. There are also two options for the platform — one free and one paid. The paid account gives you access to more features, but there is a free option you can take advantage of.
M1 Finance doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus, but it does offer a lucrative account transfer bonus worth up to $2,500 if you transfer or rollover an account that qualifies (typically an IRA retirement account).
You can also use M1 Finance to invite friends or family to the platform. When you send an invite to a friend or family member and they sign up, you earn a free bonus worth up to $30 — and so do they — once their accounts are fully approved and verified.
Automatic dividend reinvestment
M1 Finance also offers users the ability to automate dividend reinvestments. There’s a minimum balance requirement of $25, but if your cash and dividends add up to the minimum, you can set your account to automatically reinvest the money.
M1 Plus offers users M1 Borrow, which allows you to borrow against 35% of your taxable portfolio at 2% interest rather than at 3.5% interest. You can use that money for whatever you want.
I typically invest it since 2% is such a low interest rate that I can invest in other things and get a return higher than 2%. Keep in mind, though, that investing has inherent risk, and borrowing to invest amplifies that risk. Unless you have very stable financial footing, borrowing to invest is not necessarily something I would recommend.
Afternoon trading window
Rather than limiting you to the morning trading window, M1 Plus allows you to use an afternoon trading window. Plus, you can use both windows if you have more than $25,000 in your portfolio.
Another benefit of M1 Plus is M1 Spend, M1 Finance’s checking account. This account gives account holders 1% interest (as of right now) and 1% cash back on qualifying debit card purchases.
I personally use M1 Plus for the low interest rate, which I think is a huge benefit, since if you have debt at a higher interest rate, you can pay it off at 2%. Before you do the same, though, you should run the numbers between 2% and 3.5%, taking into account the $125 annual fee. Overall, I’m very happy with both M1 Finance and M1 Plus.
How to Get Started With M1 Finance
Opening an account with M1 Finance is surprisingly simple.
1. Decide whether the free or paid account makes more sense.
You’ll need to choose between the M1 Plus and regular M1 accounts, so make sure to weigh the benefits and possible downsides to each account before you make a decision.
2. Download the app or visit the desktop site.
You can access the M1 Finance platform through the M1 Finance app or the website. If you want to use the app, you’ll need to download it — and it’s available for iOS or Android.
3. Enter your email and choose a password.
To create an account, you’ll need to enter your email address and set a password. There aren’t any risk assessments or questionnaires, so once you’ve created an account, you’ll be taken to a pie-building feature to practice creating a pie.
4. Practice making pies on the platform.
The platform will prompt you to start building pies at this point. You can create your own pie or choose an Expert Pie that’s made up of ETFs and/or individual stocks. The Expert Pies are displayed near the bottom of the screen.
If you choose to build your own, you’ll pick three investments and then customize the “slices” on the following screen. That first pie is saved for you if you want to use it for investing later on, but it primarily functions as a tutorial.
5. Finish setting up your account.
You’ll need to finish setting up your account by deciding which type of brokerage account you want to open. M1 finance offers individual brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and joint accounts. You can open up multiple types of accounts or stick with one type.
6. Link your payment source.
To finish your account setup, you’ll also need to link your bank account, which you’ll use to fund your investments.
How to Buy Stock on M1 Finance
After your account is complete, you can start making investments.
1. Create a new pie.
When you’re ready to start investing, you’ll need to have at least $1,000 funded to your account. To create new pies or manage existing ones, you will click on the research tab, and then click on pies.
You’ll see the pies you created earlier in this tab. The pies are grouped into two categories: used, which are the ones invested in your portfolio, and unused. You’ll also see the option to create a new pie.
If you create a new pie, it will be given the default name of New Pie and the date. You can edit this information by clicking the edit button.
2. Select the stocks or ETFs you want to use in your pie.
If you’re creating a new pie, you’ll click on “Create New Pie.” This will take you to the options for stocks and funds you want to add. If you want to refine your search, you can use the filters on the right side of the screen.
The filters include market capitalization, P/E ratio, and dividend yield percent. You also have the option to filter by sector or click on the column headers to sort.
If you want more information on a particular stock, you can click on the stock. That pulls up a profile of that stock and more detailed information. As you add stocks, they will appear at the bottom of the screen.
After narrowing down the selections, you can choose the different pie slices you want to invest in. When you’re ready to do this, just click “Add.”
3. Weight your stock percentages.
After selecting your stocks, you’ll need to choose the percent of each stock or ETF slice in the pie. The M1 Finance platform is set to default each slice evenly, but you can change the weighting if you want more or less of one stock.
On my account, I created a pie that’s 50% Vanguard Mid-Cap Growth ETF (VOT), and 50% Vanguard Small-Cap Growth ETF (VBK). Whenever I deposit some amount of money, M1 Finance will allocate that money in such a way that the value of VOT will be 50% of my account and the value of VBK will be 50% of my account.
I have not referred at all to the actual ETF price of VBK and VOT. That’s because the actual price doesn’t matter. When you set up pies in M1 Finance, M1 Finance buys fractional shares of stocks and ETFs for you so as to get your allocation in your account equal to the percentages you allocated in your pie.
Say you have a pie like mine and you deposit $1,000 into it. M1 Finance is then going to purchase $500 worth of VOT and $500 worth of VBK. But then let’s say your VOT goes up to $550 and your VBK goes down to $450, and then you deposit another $100. In that case, M1 Finance would allocate that $100 entirely to VBK to realign the percentages with your pie.
4. Follow the steps to confirm your investment
Click save to keep the changes you made above. Follow the final steps to finish your investment. Once you complete the steps, the money you’re investing will be automatically spread across your portfolio based on your target allocations.
5. Adjust any auto settings
Accounts with M1 Finance are set to auto-invest, but you can adjust the auto-investment feature at any time. Leaving the auto-investment feature on will automatically reinvest dividends or money added to your account. You can also automate your deposits to put your portfolio on autopilot.
Pros and Cons of M1 Finance
M1 Finance Pros
- A free version of the platform: M1 Finance has a free version that gets the job done if all you want to do is set-it-and-forget-it investing. There’s no fee to use the free version, hence the word “free.”
- No commissions or fees: The platform doesn’t charge you to buy or sell stocks or ETFs. There are no monthly fees to contend with, either. You can upgrade to the M1 Plus account for a price, but it’s optional.
- Completely customizable ETFs: If you’ve watched my video on investing for beginners, you know that I’m a fan of ETFs, since they help keep you from putting all your eggs in one basket. M1 Finance offers completely customizable portfolios, or “pies,” allowing you to essentially create your own ETF.
- Automated investing: M1 Finance makes it incredibly easy for you to automate your investing in the platform on whatever basis you want so that you can spend less time on your investing and more time doing the things you love in life or making more money to put into your M1 Finance pies.In my opinion, the whole point of M1 Finance is to allow you to be able to set and forget your investing, which it does very well.
- Multiple IRA options: You can set up IRAs at M1 Finance, so in addition to taxable brokerage accounts, you can also set up a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or SEP IRA.
M1 Finance Cons
- Interface differs from competitors: If you’re used to Robinhood, T.D. Ameritrade, or Fidelity, where you deposit your money, select the stock you want to buy, put the quantity you want to buy, set your limit price, and then press buy, M1 Finance is going to look new to you. However, I would encourage you not to let that be a turnoff, since it’s actually not that tricky (you just have to adjust to the pie terminology).
- No control of the trade timing: You cannot time your trades in any specific manner whatsoever. M1 Finance will execute your order when it executes your order, and that’s it.
- Buying individual stocks is tricky: It can be difficult to buy individual stocks on M1 Finance. Why does this matter? Say there was a dip in a stock and you wanted to buy said stock on the dip. If you were in Robinhood, Chase You Invest, or any other brokerage, you could just log into your account and buy the stock. With M1 Finance, it’s trickier to do that. You would have to create a pie for that stock or add the stock to an existing pie and calculate what the percentage should be based on how much money you want to put into that stock. M1 Finance would then execute your trade, not immediately, but during the next trading window, at which point the stock you wanted to buy might have already bumped back up or gone down even more. Thus, you just don’t have as much control surrounding specific purchases at specific prices of specific securities as you do with a more traditional brokerage account platform. In return, though, you get the customization and automation.
- Account types are limited: As I mentioned previously, you can set up IRAs in M1 Finance, which is great, but you can’t set up an HSA, ESA, 529, Solo 401(k), etc., with M1 Finance.
M1 Finance FAQs
- Is M1 Finance Safe?
M1 Finance is safe, offering users many layers of protection. This includes cybersecurity safeguards and insurance to protect your money and investments against losses if M1 Finance becomes insolvent or goes bankrupt. There are other safeguards in place, too, like the use of the Plaid app, a third-party app used by other investment platforms to integrate your bank account and allow you to transfer funds to invest.
- Who should upgrade to the M1 Plus account?
If you like the idea of using M1 Borrow, which allows you to borrow against 35% of your taxable portfolio at 2% interest rather than at 3.5% interest, the M1 Plus account might be a good option for you. An M1 Plus account can also be useful for investors who want access to the bank account offered by M1 — and the perks the account offers.
- Can I day trade on the M1 Finance platform?
No, you can’t day trade on M1 Finance. That’s one of the downsides to using M1 Finance since it’s geared toward longer term investments. The good news is that if you’re looking for an investment platform that allows you to day trade, there are plenty of other options, including Webull or Robinhood.
M1 Finance Alternatives
|M1 Finance||Robinhood||TD Ameritrade||WeBull|
There are other investment platforms to choose from if you want to look outside of M1 Finance. Here are a few alternatives that might work if…
You want more investment options
While M1 Finance offers more investment and account options than some of the other platforms, it’s still limited to stocks, ETFs, and fractional shares. If you want to invest in crypto or trade options, you may be better off with another investment platform like Webull, which offers both (albeit in limited capacities). Like M1 Finance, you won’t pay commissions or fees with Webull, but you’ll have more investment options to choose from.
You want to reap the benefits of a lucrative sign-up bonus
If you have a large amount of cash to invest and want to take advantage of a lucrative sign-up bonus, TD Ameritrade offers up to $2,500 to new account holders (based on the amount you deposit in your brokerage account). When you factor in the wide range of investment options offered by TD Ameritrade, the platform can be a big win for investors large and small.
You want more deposit options
The deposit options available to fund your M1 Finance account are limited. If you’re looking for an investment platform that offers more funding options, you may want to take a look at Robinhood. This platform offers the same $0 fee and commission perks as M1 Finance, but you’ll have way more options for adding money to your account. That includes auto deposits, instant deposits, and even direct deposits from your paycheck, which can help you stay on track with your investing goals.
Final Thoughts on M1 Finance
Would I recommend the M1 Finance investing platform? This is my favorite investment platform and brokerage for a reason. It lets you automate nearly every part of your investment strategy, and also lets you determine what, how, and when you’re investing your money into your “pies.”
You can also use it to set up IRAs at M1 Finance, so in addition to taxable brokerage accounts, you can also set up a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or SEP IRA in this platform. That’s going to be a useful feature for a lot of people.
However, M1 Finance isn’t going to be a good fit for everyone. It doesn’t offer any control over when your trades are executed — they happen when they happen — nor does it offer the range of investment options that larger brokerages like TD Ameritrade or even Robinhood offer.
That said, the whole point of M1 Finance is to allow you to be able to set and forget your investing, which it does very well. I would encourage you not to let the downsides — like the slightly trick interface or the other trade executions — be a turnoff.
Logan is a practicing CPA and founder of Choice Tax Relief and Money Done Right. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.