Free for 90 days: Sign up now and get 90 days managed free after your first deposit. See offer details

What We Offer

Compare Investment Managers: A Quick Guide

Betterment offers you more features and benefits for your money than other services. Take a look.

Articles by Betterment Editors

By the Editorial Staff
Betterment Resource Center  |  Published: July 25, 2014

When you compare investment managers, investigate the costs and benefits of each service.

Betterment offers you more features and benefits for your money than other services. Take a look.

A common question we hear is, “You guys are great—but what’s the difference between Betterment and other investment managers?” When we delve into the answer—whether on the back of a napkin or in conversation—we list the values that set us apart: we are smarter and more efficient, which should result in better net investor returns.

To help you compare, we selected four management types and their cost structures and features. In the table below, you can see Betterment costs a fraction of other kinds of investment managers while offering more automated features. The same $500,000 investment at Betterment costs around 1/10th of what it would cost to manage with a traditional manager, according to published fee data.

Our assumptions are detailed at the bottom of the table.

Our comparison of the total costs and benefits to manage a $500,000 investment:

Management type: Automated DIY ETFs Mutual Funds Traditional Manager
Example services TD Ameritrade, Scottrade, E*Trade, Vanguard, Fidelity Vanguard, Fidelity, Schwab, State Street, T. Rowe Price Manually managed portfolios
Minimum investment None None None $100,000+
Annual trading fees¹ None $408 None Varies
Average fund expense ratio² 0.12% 0.63% 1.16% 1.16%
Internal fund trading cost³ 0.005% Varies 1.44% Varies
Management fee4 0.25% or 0.40% depending on the plan you choose None None 0.99%
Cost per year $1,350 $3,558 $5,800 $10,750
Automated tax loss harvesting % X X X
Automated rebalancing % X % %
Automated dividend reinvestment % X % %
Next-day deposits  % X X X
Automatic tax-optimized lot selection % X X X
Fractional shares % X X X
Personalized allocation advice % X X %
Goal-based investment accounts % X X X
Account syncing % X X X

Our philosophy starts with passive investing and we only use index-tracking ETFs in our portfolio, hand-selecting every fund based on cost, correlation, and liquidity. With our algorithm-based advice, every customer receives personalized allocation adapted for his or her investment goals.

Learn more about Betterment’s investment services and portfolio.

¹Assumes quarterly rebalancing across a 12-fund portfolio for a total of 48 trades annually for DIY investors with an average fee of $8.50 per trade; ETF trading fees can typically range from $0 to $20 for DIY investors, according to Wall Street Journal. Trading fees for mutual funds can vary widely and may not always be disclosed. For RIAs, pricing plans vary and some advisors may pass on trading costs to their clients. Costs may vary by provider. 

²More information about Betterment fund expenses can be viewed here. For other columns, we used the fund weighted average total expense ratio of ETFs (0.63%) and average for open-ended actively and passively managed funds (1.16%) found in the 2013 Lipper Quick Guide to OE Fund Expenses. The overwhelming majority of assets in the United States are invested in mutual funds, including funds under management with an advisor, which is why we used this expense ratio. With the exception of Betterment, all fund expenses are illustrative and are not specific to any of the listed companies Traditional Manager column.

³For Betterment ETFs, internal fund trading costs are calculated as the average tracking error of our portfolio, which would reflect decreases in NAV due to trading costs. For mutual fund fees, we used a study of funds’ annual expenditures of 1,758 domestic equity funds over 1995-2006 from Shedding Light on “Invisible” Costs: Trading Costs and Mutual Fund Performance, by Roger Edelen, Richard Evans and Gregory Kadlec, Pg. 2.

4We used Betterment’s stated management fee of 0.25%, 0.40%, or 0.50%, depending on the plan you choose. We used a 0.99% management fee for advised portfolios, based on average fee provided in the PriceMetrix 2014 The State of Wealth Management 4th Annual Report, Pg. 5. Costs may vary by provider.   

Recommended Content

View All Resources
The Senate Is Planning a Tax Hike on Retail Investors. It Should Be Removed.

The Senate Is Planning a Tax Hike on Retail Investors. It Should Be Removed.

The Senate’s current tax bill includes a mandate that would be punitive for everyday investors. Without a doubt, the FIFO mandate should be removed from consideration.

Affected by the Shutdown? We’re Here to Help.

Affected by the Shutdown? We’re Here to Help.

As government employees continue to persevere through uncertainty, Betterment hopes to provide financial clarity for customers.

Investing’s Pain Gap: What You Put Up with To Earn Returns

Investing’s Pain Gap: What You Put Up with To Earn Returns

Markets are frustrating—especially when you look at a year’s worth of returns. Year to year, you can easily experience what we call the pain gap. The key is to not let the pain gap create a behavior gap between your account and market performance.

Explore your first goal

Safety Net

This is a great place to start—an emergency fund for life's unplanned hiccups. A safety net is a conservative portfolio.


Whether it's a long way off or just around the corner, we'll help you save for the retirement you deserve.

General Investing

If you want to invest and build wealth over time, then this is the goal for you. This is an excellent goal type for unknown future needs or money you plan to pass to future generations.

Smart Saver

You could earn 20X more than a typical savings account with our low-risk investing account for your extra cash.

How would you like to get started?

Your first step toward a smarter investing future starts here.

Create a Betterment account

Go ahead and join the smart, modern way to invest.

See what we can do for you

Tell us a bit about yourself, and we'll show you the benefits of investing with us.

Get a free investing checkup

Help us get a sense of your investing approach and see how you could improve.

Transfer a 401(k) or an IRA

Move an existing retirement account into a Betterment IRA.

Download the mobile app

Enjoy the Betterment experience anywhere on the go.


Search our site

For more information and disclosures about the Betterment Resource Center, click here. | See our contributors.