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.
Pros & Cons
No account minimum.
Access to financial advisors.
Limited risk tolerance assessment.
Aggressive asset allocation.
High costs for small account balances.
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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 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, Charles Schwab or Fidelity.) Blooom's model is simple and straightforward: There's no account minimum, and management costs a flat fee of $120 a year, regardless of account size. If you pay upfront for the year, the price drops to $108. Otherwise, you'll pay installments of $30 four times a year.
Blooom also offers financial advice on other accounts, but only if you sign up for the main service. 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, Charles Schwab or Fidelity.
Free 401(k) portfolio analysis.
Blooom at a glance
Account management fee
$120 per year.
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)
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.
Not rated. Typical robo-advisor tax strategies cannot be employed in the tax-advantaged retirement accounts Blooom manages.
Blooom works within plan rules to look at accounts as they drift out of the preferred allocation. Rebalancing occurs between one and four times per year.
Human advisor option
Registered investment advisors are available via chat and email.
Free 401(k) analysis; retirement calculator.
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 - Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern. No phone support.
$15 off with code COOODE15.
» 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, Charles Schwab 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.
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 classifying 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 to customers, 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.
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:
Fee as percentage of assets per year
For comparison, human advisors typically charge around 1% of assets under management, and robo-advisors typically range from 0.25% to 0.50%. 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 that's a reasonable charge.
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 also contributed to this review.
on Blooom's website