Blooom Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Blooom manages 401(k)s and other workplace retirement plans, plus some IRAs, too. With no minimum account balance and the option to pay a reduced flat annual fee, the service offers a unique service at a reasonable cost.

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Our Take

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: Blooom brings much-needed investment management to employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k)s, plus some IRAs, too. Investors can also test drive the service with the company’s free analysis tool.

Blooom

on Blooom's website

on Blooom's website

Fees

$45 - $250

per year

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

$10 off

with code REEETIRE

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 401(k) management.

  • No account minimum.

  • Free analysis.

  • Access to financial advisors.

Cons

  • Limited risk tolerance assessment.

  • Aggressive asset allocation.

  • High costs for small account balances.

Compare to Other Advisors

Blooom
Betterment
SoFi Automated Investing
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

$45 - $250

per year

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Fees

0%

management fee

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

$10 off

with code REEETIRE

Promotion

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

Promotion

Free

career counseling plus loan discounts with qualifying deposit

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Full Review

Blooom stands out in a crowded field of robo-advisors by narrowing its focus to one segment: retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs. By tending to Americans' retirement assets, Blooom offers management services that often are overlooked by other advisors.

The company exclusively manages defined-contribution plans — 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, TSPs and 401(a)s — as well as traditional and Roth IRAs. (Currently, Blooom's IRA and Roth IRA management is limited to accounts held at Vanguard or Fidelity.) Blooom's model is simple and straightforward: There's no account minimum, and management costs a flat annual fee ranging from $45 to $250 each year, depending on the level of service desired and number of accounts managed.

Blooom allows you to add brokerage accounts to their platform so you can see all your accounts in one place. However, their advisors can only help answer questions on brokerage accounts if you have an eligible company-sponsored account or IRA that Blooom is able to manage and sign up for their Standard or Unlimited membership tier. Customers looking for an advisor to directly manage non-401(k) or non-IRA funds will need to look elsewhere.

Blooom is best for:

  • Employer-sponsored plan participants.

  • People with IRAs at Vanguard or Fidelity.

  • Hands-off investors.

  • Free 401(k) portfolio analysis.

Blooom at a glance

Account minimum

$0

Account management fee

Essentials package $45/year/account (personalized portfolio)

Standard package $120/year/account (personalized portfolio + auto optimization, transaction activity alerts, advisor access)

Unlimited package $250/year/unlimited accounts (all above + priority advisor access)

Investment expense ratios

Not rated. Investments used are limited to plan offerings, though Blooom will prioritize funds with the lowest expense ratios.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing)

None.

Portfolio mix

Not rated. Investments used are limited to plan offerings. Blooom prioritizes index funds, with occasional use of actively managed funds. The service first reviews funds already owned.

Socially responsible portfolio options

Not rated. Investments used are limited to plan offerings.

Accounts supported

  • Employer-sponsored plans: 401(k)s, Thrift Savings Plans, 457s, 403(b)s and 401(a)s.

  • IRAs and Roth IRAs at Fidelity or Vanguard.

Tax strategy

Not rated. Typical robo-advisor tax strategies cannot be employed in the tax-advantaged retirement accounts Blooom manages.

Automatic rebalancing

Blooom reviews accounts approximately 95 days after the last adjustment. If the account has not drifted enough to warrant an optimization, Blooom monitors changes in the account until another adjustment is necessary. Rebalancing occurs between one and four times per year.

Human advisor option

No advisors available for Essentials tier.

Registered investment advisors available via chat and email for Standard and Unlimited tiers.

Bank account/cash management account

Not rated. Customers don't invest or stash savings directly with Blooom.

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

Live chat and email support Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern. No phone support.

» Want to check out other providers? Here are our top picks for best robo-advisors

Where Blooom shines

401(k) management: Blooom stands out for its niche strategy of managing employer-sponsored retirement plans. Even though 401(k)s are the primary retirement savings vehicle for many people, it’s rare for robo-advisors to manage them — most deal exclusively with IRAs (individual retirement accounts) and taxable accounts.

Blooom manages any 401(k), no matter where the account holder works or where the account is held. There's no need for your employer to have a partnership with the service.

Blooom offers IRA account management, too, as long as your IRA or Roth IRA is held at Vanguard or Fidelity.

No account minimum: Beginner savers can have Blooom manage their accounts right from the start, giving them a better shot at getting off on the right foot.

Free analysis. Anyone can register for an account and have Blooom analyze their 401(k) for free.

It's a fairly painless process: You'll create a username and password, share a bit of information about yourself, then securely link your 401(k) by selecting your provider and logging in through Blooom’s site. The company then tells you how your fees and asset allocation compare with its recommendations, suggesting ways to improve.

You can adjust your recommended asset allocation to take more or less risk, and once you've settled on a breakdown between stocks and bonds, Blooom will share its recommendation for your 401(k) compared with how your 401(k) is currently allocated and the investments available to you.

Do-it-yourselfers could easily take those recommendations and change their asset allocations on their own, without signing up for a paid account with Blooom.

Investment expense audit: Employer plans generally offer limited investment options, some of which can carry higher-than-average fees. Blooom works with the investments available in the account by grouping them into asset classes, then selecting the investment in each bucket with the lowest internal expense ratio.

Although there are many instances when there's only one fund in each category — and no way to lower expenses — this method can help investors lower their expenses overall while maintaining an appropriate asset allocation and diversification.

Financial advisors: Blooom offers email and live online chat support, including registered investment advisors who are able to answer any financial planning question. That includes topics that fall outside of 401(k) management, such as debt repayment, budgeting and preparing for major life events.

Cost: Blooom hopes customers see as much value in outsourcing the management of their 401(k) as they do in paying for things like Netflix. There’s something to be said for the clean, flat annual fee. Investors know exactly how much they’re paying, and the fee is charged to a credit or debit card rather than skimmed from the account balance.

Blooom's flat fees allow customers to choose the level of service that best fits their needs. Tiers start at $45 per year, per account with its Essentials package, which provides the customer with a personalized portfolio. The next tier is $120 per year, per account with its Standard package, which supplements the personalized portfolio with auto-optimization, transaction activity alerts and advisor access. The most comprehensive tier is the Unlimited package, which costs $250 a year for an unlimited number of accounts, giving all the services in the Essentials and Standard tiers combined with priority advisor access.

But there’s a downside to flat fees, too. To compare costs with other advisory services, both robo and human, it’s important to evaluate that fee as a percentage of the assets under management.

Here are a few examples of Blooom’s pricing at various account levels:

Account balance

Essentials tier fee (% of assets/year)

Standard tier fee (% of assets/year)

Unlimited tier fee (% of assets/year)

$2,000

2.25%

6%

12.5%

$10,000

0.45%

1.2%

2.5%

$25,000

0.18%

0.48%

1%

$50,000

0.09%

0.24%

0.5%

$100,000

0.05%

0.12%

0.25%

For comparison, robo-advisors typically range from 0.25% to 0.50%, and human advisors typically charge about 1% of assets under management. Given that Blooom is one of the few robo-advisors that manages 401(k)s, and that the company offers customers access to financial advisors, we think its charges are reasonable.

Where Blooom falls short

Limited investor assessment: While Blooom's sign-up process offers simplicity — linking your 401(k) account takes a matter of minutes — the questions determining how Blooom allocates your assets aren't as thorough in assessing risk tolerance as we would like to see. Some of that can be explained by the company’s focus on employer retirement plans: It rightly assumes the goal of every client is retirement. However, we think investors would benefit from a more robust assessment of risk tolerance during onboarding.

No phone support: Blooom's customer support and access to financial advisors is exclusively online, via chat and email.

Is Blooom right for you?

Blooom brings much-needed investment management to employer-sponsored retirement plans. That's a significant benefit because such plans usually are the primary retirement vehicle for people who have them. Few other robo-advisors have tapped this market.

But before signing up, do the math to figure out what percentage of assets you’ll pay based on your account balance. Check into whether you have access to comparable services directly through your 401(k) or other employer retirement plan; some offer free investment guidance.

Arielle O'Shea contributed to this review.

on Blooom's website