Looking for the right investment platform for you? M1 Finance is one of the most well-known on the market, and rightly so – it’s easy to use, rarely costs you a thing, and offers more flexibility than most. That said, it’s not the right platform for everyone, so today I’m going to guide you through an M1 Finance review to find out what it offers, the pros and cons, and finally, if it’s right for you.
What is M1 Finance?
M1 Finance is a company that offers a range of financial services from loans to investments, but the reason you’re here is likely for its offerings as a Robo advisor and online broker.
M1 Finance offers complete freedom to build investment portfolios as you please, but they also provide prebuilt “Pies” which are portfolios they’ve curated, so you can opt to invest in those instead or as well.
At the time of writing, they offer the following type of accounts:
- IRAs (Traditional, Roth, Rollover, SEP)
M1 does not charge any fees or commissions, so it’s entirely free to use for most. M1 makes its money through its plus membership ($125 per year) and its Owner’s Rewards Card ($95 per year). They also generate money through interest on cash and lending securities, M1 Borrow (their lending arm), and payments for order flow.
How does M1 Finance work?
M1 Finance differs from other Robo advisors because they give you more control over how you invest. You have complete control to choose your investments (whether in an ETF or individual stock, or a mixture) and won’t be funneled into any particular funds or allocations.
M1 also provides investment portfolio templates, which they call “Pies”. If desired, you can invest all your money into their Pies instead of choosing your assets individually, which is a good choice for those new to investing. M1 will automatically manage, rebalance, and reallocate your contributions to these Pies.
Here are the different investment categories M1 Pies offers:
- General Investing
- Plan for Retirement
- Responsible Investing (for social responsibility)
- Income Earners (builds a portfolio based on assets that deliver high returns)
- Hedge Fund Followers (you can mimic strategies of hedge fund managers)
- Industries and Sectors
- Just Stocks and Bonds
- Other Strategies
All dividends you receive are reinvested on your behalf, so you don’t need to do anything to make sure that money gets reinvested instead of spent.
What’s the minimum you can invest with M1 Finance?
You can open an account with M1 Finance to get a lay of the land for free, but you’ll need $100 to start investing. M1 Finance offers fractional shares, which means you can buy into an asset with all the money you have, even if it’s not enough to buy a full stock.
Is M1 Finance easy to use?
Yes, in general, M1 Finance is very easy to use. Once you’ve learned how Pies work (they guide you through this when you set up your account), you can create one, and when you add money to your account and M1 automatically distributes it as you allocated.
For example, if you wanted to invest 10% of your portfolio in Apple Inc. and you funded your account with $10,000, $1,000 would go to buying Apple stock.
If you later decided you didn’t want to invest in any individual stocks, you can easily edit your Pie and reallocate it – or allow it to be done automatically for you.
It’s also easy to add new assets to your Pie, simply by searching for the asset you’re looking for and adding it to your portfolio. They also have a Watchlist so you can keep an eye on a certain stock you’re interested in.
Other aspects that make M1 Finance easy to use are:
Automatic contributions – If you prefer a “set it and forget it” style of investing, you can set up automatic contributions to your Pie(s) on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, which M1 will then automatically allocate as per your Pie percentages. Dividends are also automatically reinvested for you.
Free starting consultation – If you’re new to platforms like M1 Finance and you’re not sure what you should be looking at, M1 offers free consultations with one of their product specialists to show you the platform one-on-one. They won’t be able to offer investment advice, but they can discuss how you can use the platform to your benefit.
Support – Support is available through phone from Monday to Friday 9AM – 5PM CT, and through email at any time.
Dynamic rebalancing – While M1 Finance gives you the freedom to set up your own portfolio and allocations, it will handle all the rebalancing for you. For example, if you set up a Pie with 4 different allocations, all at 25%, you may find after a year that the ones that have performed well have grown to 30%, leaving you with two assets that are at just 20% of your portfolio. M1 Finance will rebalance your portfolio to keep it as close to what you set up at the start as it can to keep you at your preferred risk appetite.
Tax-efficient withdrawals – If you want to withdraw funds from a taxable account on M1 Finance, you don’t need to worry about overpaying. They have a tax-efficient strategy to minimize your taxes automatically. It does this by selling securities that are considered a loss (as this reduces your gains), then selling long-term gains (as they’re taxed less), before ever considering selling your short-term gains (since they’re highly taxed).
Use online or via an app – You can access M1 Finance on your computer or mobile device. The interface is clean, easy to use, and aesthetically pleasing. You can see everything you need to know at a glance, and buy, sell, rebalance, and edit your portfolio with just a few clicks (or taps).
What are the pros and cons of using M1 Finance?
- M1 Finance doesn’t charge commissions or broker fees
- You can start with little money (just $100)
- You can choose your own investments and they’ll automatically manage your portfolio for you (and you can always change things later)
- A huge range of ETFs and stocks to choose from – including over 6,000 ETFs and individual stocks through the Nasdaq or New York Stock Exchange
- Their Pies are designed by experts
- There are no fees for buying and selling within Pies
- They use fractional shares, so you can fully invest your money
- You can set up automatic deposits on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis
- Dividends are reinvested, so you don’t have to do anything to start benefiting from compound interest
- It integrates with 2 popular tax platforms for reporting: H&R Block and TurboTax
- Once your account reaches over $2,000, it’s a margin account which means you can withdraw money quickly without having to wait for your assets to be liquidated
- Desktop and mobile versions
- Limited to stock and ETF trading
- No quiz to determine risk tolerance, so it’s up to you to pick the right Pies and investment options for you
- Learning how to create your own Pies is a learning curve
- No options for cryptocurrency, mutual funds, or active trading
- No human advisors available
- No tax-loss harvesting
- There’s one trading window a day (9.30AM ET) unless you upgrade to their plus membership, which is $125 a year
- If you want to close your account but don’t remember to close it after withdrawal, you’ll be charged – they charge a $20 inactivity fee for any account with no activity for 90 days and less than $20 in the account.
How to Open An Account With M1 Finance
Opening an account with M1 Finance is super straightforward – all you need to do is:
- Go to M1 Finance
- Enter your email address and create a password
- Create a Pie – they’ll guide you through their Pie system and then help you to create a practice Pie
- Open a brokerage account – this will allow you to start investing. To do this, they’ll need to verify your identity and then you’ll need to enter your personal information
- Choose an account type (Taxable, Joint, IRA, or Trust)
- Create your Pie(s)
- Fund your account by linking a bank account
Once you’ve completed all these steps, you can sit back and wait for your money to grow.
M1 Finance Review: Is it Right for You?
M1 Finance is a good choice for a wide range of investors but is best for those who already know a little about what they should be looking for. If you jump in with no idea about risk tolerance or what’s a “safe” investment versus what’s riskier, you may make a mistake and lose more than you’re willing to.
It’s those kinds of mistakes that can scare new investors away, so if you’ve got a low-risk tolerance and aren’t sure what you should be doing, you may be better off on another platform that holds your hand more firmly. (Betterment is a good alternative here.)
That said, beginners who have done some research on investing will be at home with M1 Finance, and it’s even better if you’re more experienced and looking to take a more active role in your investment portfolio. M1 Finance is an ideal choice for experienced or knowledgeable investors.
Theresa is a personal finance blogger. She writes content for busy professional women to take control of their money and investments. She enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, and writing. Her work has been featured on GoBanking Rates, Your Money Geek, Savoteur, the Corporate Quitter, Thirty Eight Investing, and more.