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Ellevest review 2023

Updated January 4, 2023
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Ellevest: Best for

  • Women investors
  • Beginning investors
  • Social-impact investing

With its goal to help women investors, Ellevest takes a service-first mentality to its robo-advisor investor service. Ellevest is one of the few robo-advisors charging a flat monthly fee for its service, whether you have $100 or $100,000, meaning your assets may grow but your advisory fee won’t. Ellevest is an able robo-advisor with key features, including goal-based planning, a broad portfolio of low-cost ETFs, a strong education offering and à la carte access to advisors for an additional fee. That said, Ellevest scaled back some offerings at the end of 2022, notably eliminating its cash management account, and has refocused somewhat on high-net-worth clients as part of its private wealth division. This feature set and focus make Ellevest a compelling pick for your next robo-advisor.

Investors looking for an all-digital robo-advisor should check out Wealthfront, while those needing a human advisor at least sometimes may want to see what Betterment and Schwab Intelligent Portfolios can bring. And if you’re looking for even more high-gloss service, then Personal Capital is worth a look, even though it’s pricier.

Ellevest: In the details

Broker logo
3.5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Bankrate Score
Cost
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Investments and Portfolios
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Account Types
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Features and Tools
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Customer Experience
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
About Bankrate Score
Account Minimum
$0
Management Fee
$5 a month for Plus plan, $9 a month for Executive plan
Portfolio Mix
20 funds in the core portfolio, 27 funds in the impact portfolio, across 21 asset classes
Fund Expense Ratio
Average core portfolio ranges from 0.05 to 0.10 percent. Average impact portfolios range from 0.13 to 0.19 percent.
Account Types
Individual taxable, Roth IRA, traditional IRA, SEP IRA and rollover IRAs
Cash Management Account
None
Customer service
Email and phone, Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. ET
Tax Strategy
Optimizing asset location, minimizing taxes on sale, municipal bonds where relevant
Rebalancing
Yes, automatically when needed
Tools
Multi-goal planner (Executive plan), on-demand learning, workshops, email courses, one-on-one coaching for a fee
Promotion
Rates as of January 4, 2023 at 6:10 PM

Pros: Where Ellevest stands out

Two service tiers at low cost

Ellevest separates its robo-advisor service into two different tiers with varying features and costs, allowing you to pick what you need and not spend extra on what you don’t. And speaking of cost, the management fees are reasonable, though the robo-advisor eliminated its $1 monthly plan last year:

  • Ellevest Plus: This tier includes a basic taxable investing account as well as an IRA plan for retirement. Access to financial planners is discounted by 30 percent. Cost: $5 per month, or $54 per year.
  • Ellevest Executive: This tier includes the elements of the prior tier while giving you access to financial planners at a 50 percent discount. You’ll also be able to set up a multi-goal investing plan and see how changes in the goals affect one another. Cost: $9 per month, or $97 per year.

It’s worth highlighting the fact that prices for the plans are discounted if you pay for an annual plan instead of monthly. Regardless of the plan, there’s no account minimum.

Regardless of which plan you select, it’s worth noting the pricing structure at Ellevest. It’s a key departure from the rest of the industry, which generally charges a percent of your assets (often 0.25 percent). So as your assets grow, so do your fees. That’s in sharp contrast to pricing at Ellevest, where the monthly fee will stay the same if you bring $10,000 or $1 million. 

So even if you’re paying a little more percentage-wise now, it may make sense to keep your assets here longer term. And if you’re a high-net-worth individual (with more than $1 million), Ellevest also offers private wealth management, an area that it’s been moving into more over the past year.

Low-cost ETFs and portfolio construction

Ellevest uses a variety of low-cost ETFs from 21 asset classes to construct its portfolios. It even offers an “impact” portfolio that uses funds that invest in companies promoting ESG (environmental, social and governance) goals, including those making a positive impact for women. 

Ellevest’s core portfolio uses ETFs with expense ratios that range from 0.04 to 0.20 percent. When these funds are combined into a portfolio, the blended average is typically between 0.05 and 0.10 percent, or a cost of between $5 and $10 annually for every $10,000 invested. That’s a competitive rate and ranks among the top robo-advisors

To create its impact portfolios, Ellevest uses slightly more expensive mutual funds and may invest up to 53 percent of a client’s portfolio in such ESG and impact funds. The net result for costs: a portfolio that averages between 0.13 and 0.19 percent. That’s a total of $13 and $19 annually for every $10,000 invested – still a reasonable price for a portfolio.

This impact portfolio helps distinguish Ellevest from the competition, too. Only a handful of robo-advisors — including Wealthfront and Betterment — offer this allocation in their portfolios.

Planning that factors in women’s earnings

It’s well-known that, in general, women earn less than men, negatively affecting their lifetime earnings. Less commonly known is that their “earnings curve” over a working lifetime is shaped differently, too. For women with bachelor’s degrees, earnings peak at age 40, says Ellevest, citing a study from Payscale, while they don’t top out until age 55 for men. Such differences create real concerns for women who are looking to save for retirement in the back half of their careers, as many soon-to-retire workers do. 

Ellevest factors these differences into its financial planning to give a more realistic picture of what women can save and invest. That’s critical if you’re investing for a specific goal, because you want to have a realistic path to get there and a reasonable chance of success in doing so.

And if you’re not a woman? You still benefit from a robo-advisor that shows it responds to actual needs, rather than working from a “one-size-fits-all” script when it comes to financial planning. 

Access to human advisors

Ellevest offers à la carte access to financial advisors, allowing you to pay for what you need rather than paying for a feature that you may never use. After all, you’re paying the base fee to receive a financial plan and investing expertise, so why pay for something more? 

Ellevest offers unlimited, one-on-one access to sessions with a certified financial planner for one year at a headline rate of $1,990 for non-members. As a member of Ellevest, however, you’ll receive a discount on this rate, depending on your service level. With the Executive member discount, you’ll pay $999.50. That, combined with its annual fee of $97, means you’ll pay about $1,097 annually for unlimited access to an advisor. 

That’s more than the annualized fee of $360 at Schwab Intelligent Portfolios for similar access. Betterment offers a similar program, which would run $400 annually on its minimum investment amount of $100,000, though the effective price would continue to rise as your assets increased in value.

You can also access individual sessions on budgeting, home buying and more. Prices start at a headline rate of $229 and run to more than $3,000 for a package with multiple sessions and unlimited access to advisors. So if you plan to use these extras, it could quickly make sense to move up to the Executive plan first, so you can save money. 

Smooth sign-up process

The sign-up process is a breeze and you can get a new account registered in no time. You’ll be asked about your financial situation, marital status, career goals and more. Ellevest uses these factors to build your portfolio, but you’re not asked much about your risk tolerance. You’ll enter bank details as you create the account as a means to pay the monthly or annual fee. 

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll land on a dashboard page that shows you clearly how to set up your portfolio. You can graphically see how monthly deposits lead to a larger portfolio, and you can adjust your portfolio’s aggressiveness up or down by 5 or 10 percent, shifting more into stocks or bonds, respectively. You can turn the impact portfolio on or off. 

The dashboard clearly shows when you’ve set up your plan, and gives you the option to open a cash management account. You also can delve into Ellevest’s learning resources, including email courses and workshops, or sign up for one-on-one coaching sessions for an extra fee. Throughout the setup process, Ellevest helps you understand how and why to invest. 

Following your sign-up, you’ll receive regular emails with helpful articles, ways to motivate yourself to stay on track and details on building your financial plan. This unique feature keeps you engaged with the service and they’re a reminder that Ellevest is trying to help you succeed.

Cons: Where Ellevest could improve

Lack of cash management account

Ellevest eliminated its cash management account in 2022, a retrenchment for an account that was good but not quite as good as those offered by rivals such as Betterment and Wealthfront, both of which offer competitive interest rates and a “do-it-all” financial account. Ellevest’s move reflects a refocusing on its strength – investing – rather than trying to compete on all fronts.  

Fewer account types

Ellevest offers a somewhat more limited selection of account types than some rivals. It offers an individual taxable account but not a joint account. It has the standard retirement accounts, the traditional IRA, the Roth IRA and the SEP IRA, and you can roll over an employer-sponsored account, such as 401(k) or 403(b) to an Ellevest IRA. Those options will suffice for many, but those needing two other typical options (trusts and 529 accounts) are forced to turn elsewhere.

No tax-loss harvesting

In a crowded field of robo-advisors, many of which tout tax-loss harvesting services, Ellevest stands as an exception. Tax-loss harvesting involves selling off a losing investment for a tax write-off and reinvesting the money elsewhere or in a similar asset, effectively deferring taxes. 

Ellevest doesn’t offer the feature due to many specifics in each individual’s situation, making the benefits of an automated approach uncertain. The company says: “It’s hard to definitively state that deferring taxes will increase your portfolio’s return, as some advisors guarantee.”

But Ellevest does recognize that tax minimization is an important part of an investor’s returns, so it does minimize taxes where it’s appropriate. This involves avoiding short-term capital gains when possible and realizing tax losses when it makes sense. It also includes putting securities in the appropriate account (higher-taxed assets in tax-protected accounts, for example.)

Review methodology

Bankrate evaluates brokers and robo-advisors on factors that matter to individual investors, including commissions, account fees, available securities, trading platforms, research and many more. After weighting these objective measures according to their importance, we then systematically score the brokers and robo-advisors and scale the data to ensure that you are seeing the top options among a field of high-quality companies. Read our full methodology.