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Wealthfront vs. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services: Which Is Right for You?

Feb. 19, 2019
Advisors, Investing
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In the heated battle of robo-advisors vying to help you build a portfolio, Wealthfront and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services are among the top choices. Yet there are key differences — especially the minimum you need to open an account, the types of accounts supported and management fees.

Let’s see how they stack up:

Wealthfront vs. Vanguard

Management Fee

0.25%

0.25%

Account Minimum

$500

$500

Promotion

$5,000

$5,000

amount of assets managed for free

Management Fee

0.30%

0.30%

Account Minimum

$50,000

$50,000

Promotion

None

None

no promotion currently offered

Wealthfront is best for:

  • Low account balances.
  • Free financial tools, even if you don’t have a Wealthfront account.
  • 529 college savings plan management.

Wealthfront at a glance

Overall
5.0 NerdWallet rating
Account minimum
$500
Account management fee
0.25% (first $5,000 managed free for NerdWallet readers).
Investment expense ratios
ETF expense ratios average 0.08%.

Portfolios that include the Wealthfront Risk Parity Fund may have an overall expense ratio of 0.11%.
Account fees (annual, transfer, closing)
None.
Portfolio mix
ETFs from 11 asset classes (portfolios generally consist of 6 to 8). Individual stocks held in larger accounts.
Accounts supported
  • Individual and joint non-retirement accounts.
  • Roth, traditional, SEP and rollover IRAs.
  • Trusts.
  • 529 college savings plans.
  • Cash account (not charged management fee).
Tax strategy
  • Daily tax-loss harvesting on all taxable accounts.
  • Stock level tax-loss harvesting on accounts over $100,000.
  • Smart beta on balances over $500,000.
  • TurboTax customers can easily import tax-loss harvesting data from Wealthfront.
Automatic rebalancing
Free on all accounts.
Human advisor option
None.
Tools
  • Robust and free financial-planning tools (available even if you don't have a Wealthfront account) to help plan for life events, including retirement, home purchase, college and extended travel.
  • Ability to link outside accounts.
  • Portfolio line of credit also available.
Customer support options (includes website transparency)
Phone support Monday-Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern; email support.
Promotion
NerdWallet readers get free management on the first $5,000 invested. Refer a friend and you both get an extra $5,000 managed free.

Learn more: Read our full Wealthfront review
 


Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is best for:

  • Large account balances.
  • Low-cost access to financial advisors.
  • Comprehensive financial planning.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services at a glance

Overall
4.5 NerdWallet rating
Account minimum
$50,000
Account management fee
Depends on account balance:
0.30%: Less than $5 million
0.20%: $5 million to less than $10 million
0.10%: $10 million to less than $25million
0.05%: Greater than $25 million
Investment expense ratios
0.04% - 0.12%; weighted average is 0.08%
Account fees
No account fees; some customers may incur transaction costs for non-Vanguard products (this isn't typical)
Portfolio mix
Portfolios are created by advisors on an individual basis. Core holdings are Admiral Shares of Vanguard index funds. ETFs and active funds are incorporated if needed.
Accounts supported
  • Non-retirement accounts.
  • Roth, traditional, rollover and SEP IRAs.
  • Trusts.
Tax strategy
Assets are allocated strategically among taxable and tax-advantaged accounts to optimize for taxes. Tax-loss harvesting done on client-by-client basis.
Automatic rebalancing
Quarterly; Advisors can also review and alter the automatic rebalance trades at any time
Human advisor option
Appointments typically take place Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern; certified financial planners available
Tools
High-quality tools, including simulators, calculators, retirement-planning and educational materials
Customer support options (includes website transparency)
Phone and email support available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern; some information difficult to find on website.
Promotion
None

Learn more: Read our full Vanguard Personal Advisor Services review
 

Curious about other options?

The number of online advisors continues to swell, as does the range of services. NerdWallet conducted an in-depth analysis of 22 offerings this year. We’ve covered the best choices here.

Read: Best robo-advisors »

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