Ellevest Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Ellevest aims its service toward women, but with a la carte access to financial professionals and low fees, the company will appeal to all investors.
Alana BensonNov 18, 2021

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Our Take

4.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line:

Ellevest offers three tiers of service, starting at $1 a month. Members get discounted access to professional help, free educational resources and a unique investing algorithm that factors in women’s pay gaps, career breaks and longer lifespans. Ellevest Private Wealth Management is available for investors with $1 million or more.

Ellevest

on Ellevest's website

on Ellevest's website

Fees

$1 - $9

per month

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

2 months free

with promo code "nerdwallet"

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No account minimum.
  • Goal-focused investing approach.
  • Portfolio mix that factors women’s needs.
  • A la carte sessions with coaches and CFPs.

Cons

  • IRA access for Plus and Executive members only.
  • No tax-loss harvesting.

Compare to Other Advisors

Ellevest
SoFi Automated Investing
Vanguard Digital Advisor
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

$1 - $9

per month

Fees

0%

management fee

Fees

0.15%

per year (approximately)

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

2 months free

with promo code "nerdwallet"

Promotion

Free

career counseling plus loan discounts with qualifying deposit

Promotion

No advisory fees

your first 90 days of Vanguard Digital Advisor investment management (Enrollment requires a Vanguard account with a minimum of $3,000)

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Full Review

Where Ellevest shines

Ellevest specifically focuses on the needs of women: Gender-based investing at Ellevest means factoring women's generally lower incomes, different lifetime earnings curve and longer lifespans into portfolio construction. (Yes, men can be clients, too: They get recommendations that account for their own salary curves and longevity data.)

Ellevest’s coaching: Ellevest helps clients learn about everything from retirement planning to how to negotiate for a raise and career counseling  — issues that can affect women differently than men.

Where Ellevest falls short

IRA access: You can only get IRA access at the higher-cost Plus and Executive levels.

No tax-loss harvesting: Ellevest does not offer tax-loss harvesting, unlike several of its competitors.


Ellevest is best for:

  • Goal-based investing.

  • Hands-off investors.

  • Beginning investors.

  • Values-based investing.

  • Career coaching.

  • Financial planning sessions.

Ellevest at a glance

Account minimum

$0.

Account management fee

Essential: $1 per month.

Plus: $5 per month.

Executive: $9 per month.

Investment expense ratios

Core Portfolios: 0.06% - 0.23%. Impact Portfolios: 0.12% - 0.26%.

Account fees

Folio, a third-party, charges $100 for full account transfers out of an Ellevest account and $25 for partial transfers.

Portfolio mix

16 asset classes covered. Core Portfolios draw from 17 ETFs; Impact Portfolios draw from 23 ETFs and mutual funds. No customization allowed.

Socially responsible portfolio options

Clients can choose to invest in an impact portfolio for no additional fee. Impact portfolios put up to 53% of the portfolio in ESG and impact funds.

Accounts supported

  • Essential: Individual taxable account only (not joint).

  • Plus and Executive: Individual taxable account, traditional, Roth and SEP IRAs. Ellevest also provides asset allocation advice on 401(k) accounts for Plus and Executive members, but does not directly manage them.

Tax strategy

Tax-optimized asset location and rebalancing.

Automatic rebalancing

Free on an as-needed basis.

Human advisor option

No human advisor access included in membership, but members can purchase a la carte access to coaches and CFPs for a discounted rate. Nonmembers can access a CFP through Ellevest for retail price.

Bank account/cash management account option

Spend & Save accounts pay no interest. Users can round up spare change from their Save account and transfer it to their investing account.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website)

Phone, email, Instagram direct message and Facebook Messenger support Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern. Email support for urgent matters on weekends.

More details about Ellevest's ratings

Account minimum: 5 out of 5 stars

While there is no minimum to start investing with Ellevest, some portfolios do have minimums. Those minimums range from $1 to approximately $240. You may not receive the entire recommended portfolio until your balance meets that specific portfolio’s minimum.

Account management fee: 5 out of 5 stars

Ellevest’s tiered structure ranges from $1 per month to $9 per month, with varying perks at each level.

Ellevest Essential

$1 per month:

  • Individual taxable account only (no IRA).

  • Checking and savings account and a cash back debit card.

  • 20% discount on one-on-one sessions with a financial planner or career coach.

Ellevest Plus

$5 per month, includes everything from Essential and:

  • Access to IRA accounts.

  • Personalized retirement planning with access to retirement specialists, guidance on how to invest a 401(k) and support for IRA transfers or 401(k)/403(b) rollovers.

  • 30% discount on sessions with a financial planner or career coach.

Ellevest Executive

$9 per month includes everything from Plus and:

  • Multi-goal investing with up to six customized investment accounts for each of your money goals.

  • 50% discount on sessions with a financial planner or career coach.

All members have access to a customized investment plan that, according to simulations, gives them a 70% likelihood of reaching a goal target. Another feature that increases the likelihood that you'll achieve your goals is auto-deposit, the ability to have a portion of your paycheck deposited directly into your Ellevest account. After all, it's harder to spend it if the money doesn't even make a pit stop in your checking account.

But the specific goals you have access to depend on your membership level.

  • Ellevest Essential includes the Build Wealth goal, which offers only an individual taxable investment account (no IRA), plus checking and savings accounts.

  • Ellevest Plus adds the Retirement goal, which allows you to open an IRA and lets you see how your progress toward retirement impacts your ability to build wealth as your primary goal.

  • Ellevest Executive adds access to the rest of the goals, such as buying a house or starting a business. The Executive level, like Plus, also provides a dose of reality in terms of trade-offs that may be necessary to achieve multiple goals — for example, how buying a house this year might delay starting a business.

The downside of this structure is that Essential members are not able to open retirement accounts (like IRAs) unless they upgrade to Plus or Executive status.

One thing to note, Ellevest used to charge a percentage of assets under management instead of a flat fee. Ellevest customers who signed up before the company restructured its offerings will be able to move to the new plans or stay with their existing pricing plan. But clients who have not moved to a membership can’t access banking or coaching offerings unless they become a member.

Investment expense ratios: 3.5 out of 5 stars

An expense ratio is an annual fee charged by mutual funds, index funds and ETFs, as a percentage of your investment in the fund. If you invest in a mutual fund with a 1% expense ratio, you’ll pay the fund $10 per year for every $1,000 invested. If these fees are high, they can significantly drag down your portfolio returns. But Ellevest’s core portfolios have reasonably low expense ratios in comparison to other robo-advisors. Expense ratios are paid in addition to your Ellevest membership fee.

Account fees: 3 out of 5 stars

Some robo-advisors offer zero additional fees, but Ellevest is not one of them. Folio, a third-party, charges $100 for full account transfers out of an Ellevest account and $25 for partial transfers.

Portfolio mix: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Like its peer robos, each Ellevest portfolio has specific target allocations: more aggressive funds for long-term goals and more conservative ones for the short term. Customers are, however, given some measure of control over how aggressively their money is invested and can toggle their exposure to stocks up or down within reason (between 5% or 10%, depending on the goal).

Ellevest portfolios are composed of a mix of ETFs that cover more than 16 asset classes. For its core portfolios, Ellevest chooses from 17 ETFs. Many of the funds Ellevest uses are from Vanguard, a leader in low-cost ETFs.

Socially responsible portfolio options: 4 out of 5 stars

Ellevest’s Impact Portfolios invest up to 53% of a portfolio into ESG and impact funds that promote positive social change and the advancement of women on boards and senior leadership teams. Impact Portfolios draw from 23 ETFs and mutual funds and are available at every level.

Accounts supported: 2 out of 5 stars

Currently, Ellevest offers only individual taxable accounts and IRAs (Roth, traditional and SEP), though IRA access requires a Plus or Executive membership. Ellevest doesn’t offer joint taxable accounts. 401(k) and 403(b) rollovers are only available for Plus and Executive members, as is allocation guidance for external 401(k) plans.

Tax strategy: 2 out of 5 stars

Tax-loss harvesting is an investment strategy that can significantly reduce capital gains taxes. In taxable accounts, the practice involves selling losing investments to offset the gains from winners. In contrast to its larger rivals, Ellevest doesn't offer automated tax-loss harvesting. That could be a turnoff for the wealthiest investors with high balances in taxable accounts.

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

Like most robos, Ellevest aims to put any securities that might generate taxes into tax-deferred retirement accounts and puts investments that tend to have low tax burdens into taxable accounts. And the company’s Tax Impact Alerts warn about potential taxes triggered by portfolio changes.

Automatic rebalancing: 5 out of 5 stars

Automatic rebalancing is regular rebalancing of your portfolio in response to market fluctuations or other factors that shift your portfolio out of its intended investment allocation. The market moves and over time, your allocation will move, too. So if your target was having 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds and stocks are doing well, you could end up having 70% in stocks, which may be more risk than you are comfortable with. With automatic rebalancing, the computer monitors your allocation and will automatically adjust your investment if they get out of line. Ellevest offers this service for no additional fee.

Human advisor option: 2 out of 5 stars

Ellevest gives all members access to a range of professional financial help — for an extra fee. Users can purchase a variety of sessions (everything from a one-time session on budgeting to unlimited access to a CFP) at a 20%, 30% or 50% discount based on their membership plan. Even if you’re not an Ellevest member, you can purchase sessions at their retail price (for example, unlimited access to a CFP costs $1,999 a year for non-members). The CFP sessions Ellevest offers are similar to Betterment's a la carte financial planning packages, which are also available with no minimum account balance.

However, for ongoing, unlimited access to a financial planner, the services diverge: Betterment Premium, which offers unlimited calls and emails to a team of CFPs, requires a $100,000 balance and charges an annual management fee of 0.40%. Ellevest allows members at any level to purchase “unlimited” access.  Phone calls are scheduled quarterly, but you get unlimited email access for a flat annual fee of $999.50 to $1,599.20, depending on your membership level (and not including the monthly membership fee). If you need to, you can request more calls (though other planners may assist you with urgent questions if your advisor isn’t available, and it may incur an extra fee).

On the $100,000 account balance required for Betterment Premium, the service's 0.40% annual fee is $400 a year. That dollar amount goes up as your account balance grows. With Ellevest, if you don’t need professional help, you don’t have to pay for it, but when you do pay for those services they can be costly.

Members also have access to free, digital workshops with Ellevest’s team of coaches, in-app learning which includes useful videos, articles, guides and email courses, and personalized progress reports with tips to keep their money goals on track.

Savings account/cash management options: 2 out of 5 stars

Ellevest’s banking program comes with a debit card and the ability to round up spare change into a Save account or transfer it to an investing account. Spend & Save accounts have no overdraft or minimum balance fees, and those with a Spend account get unlimited ATM fee refunds when they set up direct deposit.*

Ellevest also offers cashback to members using the Ellevest debit card. Members can earn an average 5% back on eligible transactions, including at select women-owned businesses.

While it’s nice to have a savings account option alongside your investment account, Ellevest’s Save accounts currently earn 0% interest. Other robo-advisors offer savings accounts or cash management accounts paying 0.30% or more.

Customer support options: 4 out of 5 stars

Ellevest has the standard phone and email support during business days, as well as Instagram direct message and Facebook Messenger support. There is also email support for urgent matters on weekends.

Ellevest Private Wealth Management

Ellevest also has a Private Wealth Management option for clients with over $1 million in assets. The private wealth management service offers personalized planning, access to a dedicated team that will coordinate with accountants and estate attorneys, executive coaching, and impact investing and offers investment opportunities that help address gender inequality, racial injustice and climate change.

» Want to compare options? Check out our roundup of the best wealth advisors

Account minimum

$1 million.

Account management, planning or subscription fee

0.90% for clients with under $2 million in assets. That fee drops the more assets you have under management.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing)

Wire fee: $15. Alternative investment custody fee: $250.

Setup or onboarding fee

None.

Advisor access and credentials

Financial advisors are all Investment Advisor Representatives and the majority are either CFPs or CFAs. Reviews are scheduled at least annually or more depending on the client’s circumstances and needs. Advisors are available in person, by video, chat, text, phone, or via email during flexible hours.

Financial planning services

Retirement, education, estate and business planning, cash flow analysis, budget analysis and tax strategies.

Tax and estate planning are coordinated with the client’s CPAs and estate planning attorneys.

Investment expense ratios

On average:

Equities: 0.15%. Fixed income: 0.15%. Alternative investments: 1.5% to 2%.

Portfolio construction

Portfolios are custom and unique to a specific client's needs and goals. Ellevest can manage stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs for all clients and alternative investments for clients who are eligible (such as accredited investors). At certain account balances, impact strategies can be further customized.

Brokerage options

Clients’ assets are only managed and held at Ellevest's custodian, Charles Schwab.

Accounts supported

  • Individual and joint taxable accounts.

  • Traditional, ROTH, SEP, SIMPLE and inherited IRAs.

  • Individual 401(k)s.

  • Retirement plans such as cash balance plans and profit sharing plans.

  • Joint tenancy/community property, revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, uniform trust to minors accounts (UTMAs) and donor advised funds.

Tax strategy

Tax-loss harvesting on taxable accounts. Intentional Impact Portfolios offering enables stock-level tax-loss harvesting.

Is Ellevest right for you?

Ellevest is a good choice for beginning investors looking for help reaching their financial goals.

It offers free educational materials on topics ranging from retirement to interview coaching and budgeting, and it also provides access to professional coaches for an added fee. Ellevest is also a good fit for values-based investors and people who want to invest their dollars in companies that have policies and practices that advance women.

The service is best for hands-off investors who want to outsource portfolio management; if you would rather take a DIY approach to picking and choosing your investments, a robo-advisor may not be the right fit. (Consider an online broker instead.)

How do we review robo-advisors?

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. robo-advisors by assets under management, along with emerging industry players, using a multifaceted and iterative approach. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs.

DATA COLLECTION AND REVIEW PROCESS

We collect data directly from providers, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. Our process starts by sending detailed questionnaires to providers to complete. The questionnaires are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses from providers. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The questionnaire answers, combined with product demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists’ hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance across more than 20 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

RATING FACTORS

Evaluations vary by provider type, but in each case are based upon the weighted averages of factors that include but are not limited to: advisory and account fees, account minimums and types, investment selection, investment expense ratios, trading costs, access to human financial advisors, educational resources and tools, rebalancing and tax minimization options, and customer support including branch access, user-facing technology and mobile platforms.

Each factor can involve evaluating various sub-factors. For instance, when gauging the investment selections offered by robo-advisors, 80% of the score is based on the potential for diversification (how well-diversified a resulting portfolio of investments could be) combined with the availability of specialty portfolios and level of customization for investors. Expense ratios form an additional 10% of the score, and low or no management fee the remaining 10%.

FACTOR WEIGHTINGS

The weighting of each factor is based on our team’s assessment of which features are the most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way. The factors considered, and how those factors are weighted, change depending upon the category of providers reviewed.

INFORMATION UPDATES

Writers and editors conduct our broker reviews on an annual basis but continually make updates throughout the year. We maintain frequent contact with providers and highlight any changes in offerings.

THE REVIEW TEAM

The review team comprises seasoned writers, researchers and editors who cover stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, alternative investments, socially responsible investing, financial advisors, retirement and investment strategy on a daily basis. In addition to NerdWallet, the work of our team members has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Bloomberg News, Nasdaq, MSN, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance and other national and regional media outlets.

The combined expertise of our Investing team is infused into our review process to ensure thoughtful evaluations of provider products and services from the customer perspective. Our writers and editors combine to have more than 70 years of deep experience in finance, ranging from a former Wall Street Journal reporter to a former senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

While NerdWallet does have partnerships with many of the reviewed providers, we manage potential conflicts of interest by maintaining a wall between our content and business operations. This wall is designed to prevent our writers and the review process from being influenced or impacted by our business partnerships. This way, all reviews can provide an unbiased review that serves the interests of our users. For more information, see NerdWallet’s editorial guidelines.


* Banking products and services are provided by Coastal Community Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to license by Mastercard International. If you opt in to the Roundup Program for debit card purchases, each settled (i.e. fully completed) purchase transaction made with your Ellevest Debit Card will be rounded up to the nearest whole U.S. dollar. The Roundup amount will be transferred from your Spend account to your Save account. Foreign purchases are rounded up to the nearest whole dollar after the purchase is converted to U.S. dollars. ATM withdrawals and transactions in whole US dollars, e.g. $20.00 are excluded from the Roundup program. If, at the time of settlement of a purchase, your Ellevest Spend Account has insufficient available funds to cover the full amount of the Roundup transfer, the Roundup Transfer will not be made. If a purchase is canceled or reversed for any reason (including disputes), the corresponding Roundup Transfer will not be reversed. You can opt out of the Roundup Program at any time. Domestic ATM transaction fees will be reimbursed if a payroll direct deposit has been received within the prior 30 days of the ATM transaction settlement. International ATM withdrawal fee of $5 will apply.

on Ellevest's website