The Best Robo Advisors in Canada 2019: A Complete Guide

best robo advisor CanadaIn this article, we’ll review the best robo advisors in Canada for 2019. By the end, you should be able to decide a) if a robo advisor is right for you; and b) which one best suits your needs.

If you want a hands-off approach to investing and a combination of a human and computer algorithm to help you invest appropriately, a robo advisor might be for you.

Robo advisors have been around for years and are popular for offering low cost, easy investing. Recently, there’s an even more competitive landscape in Canada, with robo advisors popping up across the nation.

Is Robo Advisor Right For You?

Robo advisors are investing platforms that use a computer algorithm to design and manage your investment portfolio. This creates a hands-off approach to investing. Robo advisors tend to do things like select investments or investment classes for you, build a portfolio based on pre-defined risk tolerance, and automatically rebalance that portfolio for you.

There are definitely pros and cons to robo advisors, which we’ll outline below. They’re not for everyone. But for some investors – particularly those who want to free themselves from high fees and decision fatigue – they can be a life-saver. They can also help you reach financial independence quicker, by making objective investment decisions on your behalf.

Best Robo Advisors in Canada 2019  

BrandBest For
WealthsimpleBest Overall
BMO SmartfolioHuman Touch
Questwealth PortfoliosCompetitive Fees
Nest WealthMature Investors
JustwealthInvestment Variety
ModernAdvisorExpert-Assembled Portfolio

Wealthsimple: Best Overall

Wealthsimple is more than just an attractive website and heart-warming commercials. They’re one of the leading robo advisors in the world, with offices in Canada, the USA, and Europe. They’ve secured funding from major investment firms and collected a board of directors and leadership team with extensive experience in the field. Today, Wealthsimple has 175 employees and $3 billion in assets under management for over 100,000 global clients, making them the largest robo advisor in Canada. The short story: they know what they’re doing with your money.

Regarding their platform, there’s no minimum investment amount, and anyone can open an account. Your portfolio is invested in ETFs that span the globe, and like most robo advisors, they’ll tailor the portfolio to match your style and risk tolerance. They have three pricing tiers, which are pretty straightforward:

  • Basic (deposit up to $100,000) – 0.5% fee
  • Black (deposits of $100,000 to $500,000) – 0.4% fee
  • Generation ($500,000+ in deposits) – 0.4% fee with a bunch of additional perks

You’ll also find savings account options and features like tax-loss harvesting and financial goal-planning.

What we like:

  • Tons of industry experience, with access to human advisors
  • Sleek, user-friendly platform
  • Broad investment selection, including Halal and Socially Responsible Funds
  • The ETF MERs are nearly the lowest in the industry: average 0.20%, for a total cost of 0.60% – 0.70%
  • No minimum investment requirement
  • Reasonable fees at 0.50% for accounts under $100K (dropping to 0.40% after that)
  • Free tax-loss harvesting (non-ETF purchases)
  • Young and Thrifty readers get their first $10,000 managed for free for a year

What we don’t like:

  • Higher fees than other robo advisors
  • Doesn’t have many unique financial tools
  • Limited portfolio options

BMO Smartfolio: Best for Human Touch

BMO Smartfolio is brought to you by Canada’s oldest bank, Bank of Montreal (BMO). We’re starting to see more banks add a robo advisor feature to their offerings, and BMO was one of the first with Smartfolio.

A few important details to note: there’s a $1,000 minimum investment amount and fees range from 0.4% to 0.7%. Their team of dedicated advisors helps you select from award-winning ETFs to build a portfolio that works for your preferences and risk tolerance. In addition, the MER of the ETFs held within your portfolio will likely be a weighted average of 0.20% to 0.35% of the value of your SmartFolio account.

What’s unique about BMO Smartfolio is its investment approach. Using a hybrid approach, they use “smart beta” ETFs and have a team of advisors watching your portfolio and actively making adjustments where needed. So it functions like a robo advisor, but with a more hands-on approach behind the scenes – which is very unique for this type of product. They’ll rebalance your portfolio roughly four times per year, so you’re always on top of your asset allocation.

What we like:

  • A unique approach with human advisors pulling the strings
  • 300 years of combined experience of Portfolio Managers and Chartered Financial Analysts
  • Backed by Canada’s oldest bank, BMO
  • Young & Thrifty readers get their first $15,000 managed for FREE

What we don’t like:

  • Fees are higher than we’d expect – between 0.4% – 0.7% per year + average MER of 0.24%
  • The human-touch may turn off some people who want an authentic robo advisor

Questwealth Portfolios: Best for Competitive Fees

Questwealth Portfolios is a robo advisor that falls under the umbrella of Questrade Wealth Management. When signing up for an account, you’ll get to align your investment strategy with a pre-defined portfolio, based primarily on your level of risk tolerance. The five portfolios are:

  • Aggressive: for high-risk investors
  • Growth: for medium to high-risk investors
  • Balanced: for medium-risk investors
  • Income: for medium to low-risk investors
  • Conservative: for low-risk investors

Each portfolio has a different blend of equity and fixed income (stocks and bonds) that will generate a different level of expected return.

You’ll need at least $1,000 to open an investment account – anything less than this will be held as cash. Fees range from 0.20% to 0.25%, based on the amount you have in deposits (which are held by a member of the Canadian Investment Protection Fund).

You’ll also have to consider the MER that’s tacked on to this fee (more on MERs below). The MERs on Questwealth’s funds average around 0.19%, but they can reach up to 0.35% if you’re looking for an SRI portfolio.

Questrade uses the following example to outline this:

“If you invest $20,000 in a Questwealth Balanced Portfolio the total fee would be 0.42% (0.25% management fee + a Portfolio MER of 0.17%). Compare that to the average mutual fund fee of 2.17% and you’ll see how much you’re saving on yearly investment fees, which in turn help you keep more of your money.”

Still cheaper than mutual funds and other robo advisor options.

With multiple account types and expensive fund options, such as Socially Responsible Investments, Questwealth Portfolios offers opportunities for all kinds of investors. Like others, Questwealth uses a hybrid approach and has advisors actively managing your portfolio behind the scenes, based on market fluctuations.

What we like:

  • Competitive fees: charging 0.20% – 0.25% to manage your money, plus an average ETF MER of 0.19%
  • A wide variety of funds and investment options, such as socially responsible investing
  • Low minimum investment requirement ($1000 minimum to open an account)
  • The user-friendly platform makes investing enjoyable

What we don’t like:

  • Actively managed: human touch may turn off some investors who want an authentic robo advisor.

Nest Wealth: Best for Mature Investors

Nest Wealth focuses on investments that are more conservative, primarily targeting mature investors that are entering or in retirement. It has a unique pricing model that benefits those who invest large sums of money: with Nest Wealth, you pay a monthly fee rather than an annual percentage of your portfolio value like most others. The pricing tiers are:

  • Under $75,000: $20/month
  • $75,000 and Under $150,000: $40/month
  • $150,000 & Above: $80/month

These monthly fees are in addition to the average MER of the ETFs, which is 0.13% for a balanced portfolio. Overall, this pricing system makes Nest Wealth a cost-effective option for investors with large portfolios.

However, Nest Wealth isn’t solely for retirees, but it does tend to appeal to that demographic. There’s no minimum investment amount, and you’ll walk through a series of steps to develop a customized portfolio for you.

It’s a true robo advisor, so your trades will occur automatically and follow an algorithm. They do charge some extra fees that others don’t (such as rebalancing fees), so consider that when making your decision.

What we like:

  • Low-risk investments with low fees make sense for mature investors with large deposits ($20-80 per month + average MER of 0.13%)
  • Customized portfolio creation for each customer
  • No minimum investment amount
  • Young & Thrifty readers can try Nest Wealth FREE for the first 3 months

What we don’t like:

  • Pricing can be confusing for those not used to their model
  • High fees ($20-80 per month + average 0.13% MER + $100 trading fees per year) can eat into smaller accounts
  • Not many options for those who want a variety of investments, including more high-risk ETFs

Justwealth: Best for Investment Variety

Justwealth isn’t your average robo advisor. When signing up, you’ll receive a portfolio manager that will manage your investments, as well as additional services like financial planning and portfolio reviews for an extra cost.

Justwealth has a massive selection of portfolios – 70 different portfolios derived from more than 40 ETFs. According to Justwealth, they have the biggest collection of portfolios out of any robo advisor in Canada. You can open a variety of account types, and the fee structure is straightforward:

  • 0.5% for balances under $500,000
  • 0.4% for balances over $500,000
  • $4.99/month fee for accounts under $25,000

There’s an additional average MER of 0.25%. You’re also protected up to $1 million through BBS Securities, Inc.

What we like:

  • Massive selection of ETFs and portfolio types
  • Straightforward pricing
  • Options for personalized advice
  • Young & Thrifty readers receive a cash bonus of up to $500 when they open a new Justwealth account.

What we don’t like:

  • Website and platform aren’t as intuitive as other robo advisors
  • Some may not want or need the personal advisor
  • Minimum investment of $5000 (except for RESP accounts where no minimum is required)

ModernAdvisor: Best Expert-Assembled Portfolio

ModernAdvisor combines low-cost ETFs with smart indexing and technology to develop an expert-advised portfolio to meet your investment needs. In one of their most unique features, ModernAdvisor uses CFA charterholders to design your portfolio.

For those of you who may not know, the CFA charter designation is one of, if not the, highest honour anyone in the investment field can have. It's a gruelling, three-level assessment taken over the course of a few years that develops some of the best minds in investing. The CFA Institute also focuses heavily on ethics.

Aside from having that kind of firepower behind your portfolio, ModernAdvisor has moderate fees – ranging from 0.35 to 0.50% (more on this below), but they place a deep focus on making things simple. For example, there are “no commissions, no hidden fees, no conflicts of interest.” ModernAdvisor says that they “have a fiduciary duty to our clients, that means we’ve got your best interest in mind with every decision we make.” Regarding MERs, their ETFs have an MER range anywhere from 0.06% to 0.56%.

There are two types of accounts you can create with ModernAdvisor:

  • ModernAdvisor Digital (Robo-advisor)
  • ModernAdvisor Personal

When you use the standard robo-advisor, ModernAdvisor will use their smart technology to invest your funds, like any other robo-advisor, and charge you a flat fee based on the amount you have invested. The fees are as follows:

  • Up to $10,000 – FREE
  • $10,000 to $100,000 – 0.50%
  • $100,000 to $500,000 – 0.40%
  • $500,000 to $1 million + – 0.35%

If you want a personal advisor, the fees are as follows:

  • First $500,000 – 0.89%
  • Next $2,000,000 – 0.79%
  • Next $2,500,000 – 0.69%
  • Over $5,000,000 – 0.49%
  • Minimum fee – $75/month

What we like:

  • Portfolio assembled by a CFA Charterholder
  • Heavy focus on Socially Responsible Investing
  • Ability to have a personal advisor if you’d like more attention
  • Young & Thrifty readers receive $50,000 managed for free for one year

What we don’t like:

  • You won’t get into a competitive pricing tier until you hit $500,000 in investments
  • Have a deep FAQ section that isn’t visually appealing, and it seems like they push you there versus contacting them directly
  • The blog content is just okay, and it’s not updated regularly.

Robo Advisor Comparison Chart

Here’s a quick comparison chart we’ve put together as well, so you can determine which path is best for you:

Brand Special FeaturesFees Minimum Balance
WealthsimpleSpecial perks for those who invest over $100,000; amazing interface.0.4 - 0.5%/year
+ average 0.20% MER
None
BMO SmartfolioOwned by BMO; high level of human interaction0.4 - 0.7%/year
+ average 0.24% MER
$1,000
Questwealth PortfoliosTakes a hybrid approach with its investments; rewards large deposits with lower fees0.20 – 0.25%/year
+ average 0.19% MER
$1,000
Nest WealthPricing and investments gear towards mature investors$20 - $80/month + average 0.13% MERNone
JustwealthPersonal advisor; large selection of ETFs0.4 - 0.5%/year
+ average 0.25% MER
$5,000
ModernAdvisorCFA charterholder-crafted portfolio; ability to get a personal advisor for an additional fee0.35 - 0.5%/year + average 0.25% MERNone

Other Recommended Robo Advisors in Canada

What to Look For in a Robo Advisor

Here are some important things to consider when choosing a robo advisor:

Fees

Probably the most important consideration is a robo advisor’s fees. In nearly every case, the company will charge you based the amount you have invested with them. The more you invest, the lower the fee you’ll pay. Some robo advisors, like Nest Wealth, have a different type of fee structure where you’ll pay a flat monthly fee.

In other cases, though, you’ll pay an annual fee based on a percentage, which is calculated on the amount you have invested. So, for example, if you have $100,000 invested and your annual fee is 0.5%, you’ll pay $500 (100,000 x .005), or about $42 a month. Note that the paying lower fees isn’t always better, as it may mean missing out on some critical features.

You’ll also want to be familiar with the management expense ratio, also called the MER. The MER is another fee added into a fund for its management. According to Cleverism, “The MER can simply be defined as the ratio between the sum of the fund’s operating costs and management fee divided by the total value of the fund’s assets under management. The MER is usually expressed as a percentage of the fund’s total AUM.”

They’ve also created a basic visual to understand the formula better:

And if you’re more of a visual learner, Cleverism also put together this video that explains the MER in a little more detail:

MER is nothing to be overly concerned with, but it is worth understanding as it's an additional fee that will be factored into your cost of owning the fund.

Features

Aside from low fees, you’ll want to make sure the robo advisor you choose has features that make sense for how you invest. For instance, if you are investing in a taxable account, you might be interested in tax-loss harvesting, which reduces your tax impact. Other features you might run into are in-depth calculator tools, budgeting tools, and goal-setting options to help you save more money. Make sure you check out the full list of features before signing up with a robo advisor.

Investment Options

While robo advisors can help reduce decision fatigue, you’ll still want to know what your options are for investing. For example, Socially Responsible Investing has become very popular, and more investors want funds that cater to companies that focus on SRI. Thus, many robo advisors have started including strategies to build a SRI portfolio.

You may also want to focus on specific countries, philosophies, or categories. Check to see what types of investment options your robo advisor offers before signing up. On the flip side, you may want as few options as possible to keep the decisions to a minimum. Either way, it’s your call.

Online Investing PlatformRecommended forFee StructureAccount minimumApply
Wealthsimple ReviewNovice investors· 0.50% up to $100K
· 0.40% above $100K
· + ~0.2 ETF MER
NoneWealthsimple
BMO SmartFolio ReviewLarge portfolios0.40% - 0.70%
· Average MER = 0.24% (ranges from 0.20% to 0.35% of the value of SmartFolio account)
$1,000BMO Smartfolio
Questwealth PortfoliosNovice investorsFor balances between $1,000 – $99,999: 0.25%
For balances $100,000 and above: 0.20%
Average MER = 0.19% (ranges from 0.17% to 0.22% of portfolio value)
$1,000Questwealth Portfolios
Nest Wealth ReviewLarge portfolios· $20/mo under $75K
· $40/mo up to $150K
· $80/mo above $150K
· + $100 trading fees
· + average ~0.13% ETF MER
None
Nest Wealth
Just Wealth ReviewNovice investors· 0.50% for every $500,000 invested
· 0.40% for more than $500,000 invested
· $4.99/month fee for accounts under $25,000
· Average MER = 0.25%
$5,000Just Wealth
Modern Advisor ReviewNovice investors· Free up to $10K
· 0.50% up to $100K
· 0.40% up to $500K
· 0.35% above $500K
· + ETFs MER ranges from 0.06% to 0.56%
$1,000*Modern Advisor
WealthBar ReviewPersonalized financial planning· 0.35% to 0.6%
· +average of 0.32% MER (ranges from 0.26% - 0.34% ETF MER)
$1,000*WealthBar
Planswell ReviewFinancial Planning· 0.5% up to $99,999
· 0.4% above $100K
· +average ~0.20% ETF MER
NonePlanswell
*Funds in account won’t be invested until account balance reaches $1,000.
*Funds in account won’t be invested until account balance reaches $1,000.

Humanizing Robo Advisors

There’s an exciting trend occurring in the robo advisor space. Years ago, robo advisors became a popular alternative to hiring a financial advisor, especially since they offer much lower fees. But some experts say that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction – making the entire process of investing robotic. Engaging with your money is an emotional experience to many, so having a “real person” within a company is essential to some investors.

Because of this, robo advisors are seeing the value in adding a human face to supplement the technology behind the robo advisor itself. For instance, Justwealth pairs you with a financial advisor. Ideally, this person will give you investment advice and talk to you about your finances, while the robo advisor continues to operate in the background and manage your portfolio.

This trend is going to continue to evolve. And you’ll start to see more and more robo advisors adding humanized components. Whether it’s the ability to call a live advisor, chat online with someone before changing your long-term financial plan, or meet a financial advisor face-to-face who simply uses robo advising technology – times are changing. You’ll have the option for more human interaction with the intent of improving the overall customer experience.

Now, many people love robo advisors because it’s hands-off and there is no need to interact with anyone. You’ll still have those options if they’re important to you, which provides an even further draw to robo advisors. For now, be on the lookout for how companies are changing and marketing their value proposition with the addition of human elements when using a robo advisor.

Are Robo Advisors Safe?

The short answer is yes. Robo advisors are just about as safe as any other investment broker, primarily because most are backed by the CIPF (Canadian Investment Protection Fund) or some derivative of it. When you choose a robo advisor, always look to see where your funds are being held and how you as a Canadian consumer are protected. Typically they offer some type of disclaimer at the bottom of their website.

If they don’t, dig through their disclaimers. If you still can’t find any statement of where your money is held and how it’s protected, call them to clarify or avoid the robo advisor. The CIPF and their subsidiaries are there to protect your balances, up to a specific dollar amount, in case your broker or bank go under. So you’ll want to make sure that protection is there.

Outside of financial protection, read through the robo advisor’s privacy statement as well. Some companies, especially low-cost ones, make up their money by selling your information. If it’s disclosed and you agree to it, they’re free to do so. So read the fine print and make sure you’re comfortable with the robo advisor you choose.

Robo Advisor vs. Financial Advisor vs. DIY

SituationWhich to ChooseWhy
You like doing your own researchDIY with an online brokerageIf you enjoy reading up on stocks, financials, and other information pertaining to investments, you’ll want to go DIY with an online broker. Robo advisors and financial advisors take care of this for you
You don’t want to rebalance your portfolio at least four times a yearRobo advisorRebalancing means you’re re-setting your portfolio to the original asset allocation in your plan. This is a manual process unless you go with a robo advisor that does it for you automatically.
You need a high level of personal interactionFinancial advisorA financial advisor’s job is to be the point person for your investment related questions. If you need someone to walk you through investing and be there for questions and advice, go with a financial advisor.
You are a new investorRobo or financial advisorIf you’re new to investing I’d recommend a financial advisor for the same reason above - but if you’re comfortable going at it alone, a robo advisor is just as easy to get started with.
You want to invest in individual stocksDIY with an online brokerageMost robo advisors won’t allow you to invest in individual stocks - they need to be a part of an ETF.
You want a hands-off approachRobo advisorIf you really want to set it and forget it, go with a robo advisor. They do everything for you and it’s well worth the cost.

Where does Robo Advisor Invest Your Money?

Any robo advisor will be transparent with where your money is being invested – you’ll see it in your portfolio. The main thing to think about is what your level of risk tolerance is, and what that portfolio looks like with each robo advisor. You will also want to consider any special investment requirements you have, such as Halal or Socially Responsible Investing. Once you determine your investment goals and preferences, your robo advisor will design a portfolio for you that matches those goals.

Take Questwealth Portfolios as an example: they have five different portfolios that have a different makeup of investments and corresponding risk levels. In theory, the riskiest portfolio would also generate the highest return. The lowest risk would be the safest but have a low-ceiling for possible returns.

After this is all figured out, your portfolio is put together with low-cost ETFs (exchange-traded funds). As a reminder, ETFs are essentially a basket of stocks, all rolled into one. So, for instance, a Socially Responsible ETF would contain a bunch of stocks that focus on Socially Responsible Investing.

By having several ETFs in your robo advisor portfolio, you’re instantly creating a broadly-diversified portfolio that will balance your risk and help you meet your financial objectives. You’ll also get things like automatic rebalancing with a robo advisor, which saves you from having to go in a few times a year and rebalance the stocks in your portfolio.

American Robo Advisors: Wealthfront vs. Betterment

If you arrived here looking to see if you could invest in Betterment or Wealthfront as a Canadian citizen or resident, the answer is: probably not.

Unfortunately, these two pioneering robo advisors are only available to USA residents at this time. This means that Wealthfront and Betterment cannot be used to open a TFSA, RRSP, or RESP.

While it might seem advantageous for these two prominent robo advisors to come to Canada, the reality is they’d have to go through regulatory burdens and face several regional companies that have shops already set up.

It’s too bad from a consumer’s point of view because these robo advisor giants would no doubt raise the competition bar throughout the industry and work to keep costs as low as possible.  On the other hand, perhaps there is something to be said for “Made in Canada” solutions.

Final Thoughts

I’m a little biased because I use a robo advisor, but I do so willingly. I have two degrees in finance, both with a specialty in investments. I know how to select a stock, but I’ve chosen not to go that path. For me to select the right portfolio and maintain it, it sucks up too much time. It’s just not worth it for me. So instead, I use a robo advisor that takes into account my preferred risk tolerance to construct and manage a portfolio that works for me.

But that's not for everyone. Do your due diligence and make a decision that’s right for you. The one thing I’d confidently advise you to do is start investing, whether it be through a robo advisor, a financial advisor or with a DIY approach. You’re wasting time and money by not putting your dollars to work for you right now.

The original article was written by Kyle Prevost. It was updated in 2019 by Chris Muller to reflect the latest changes in the robo advising world.

If this article interests you, you might also like:

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Chris Muller
Chris Muller is the founder of Money Mozart, where he blogs about personal finance, frugality, and living below your means. He's currently on the pursuit of early retirement while trying to figure out how to be a dad for the first time. You can connect with Chris on Twitter @moneymozartblog.
Chris Muller

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118 Comments

  1. Randy Cass on March 28, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Kyle,
    As the founder of Nest Wealth, I want to thank you for the great job you’ve done here of breaking down the new services available. Articles like this are hugely important when you realize the vast majority of Canadians are still unaware of the choices they have when it comes to investing their savings.
    Education is a huge part of change and the amount of work you clearly put into this article will go a long way to helping on that front.
    – Randy



  2. Kyle on March 29, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Hey Randy,

    Thanks for stopping by! We’ll keep on keepin on. You guys keep disrupting the traditional terrible deal that Canadians are getting when it comes to financial planning and investment options!



  3. Larry on March 30, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Great post Kyle. I especially liked:
    ” I



  4. Kyle on March 30, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    I like that idea Larry. Just out of curiosity, are you thinking about recommending the robos in this situation?



  5. Larry on March 30, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    I haven’t thrown in the towel yet with pushing them toward DIY. It’s just so easy to do once you get over the initial resistance.

    I think I’d encounter the same trouble with follow through for getting people to use a robo advisor that I find with going the DIY route.

    My other concern is the future of robo. At one time, index funds were plain and cheap. Now, many have morphed into expensive trading monsters. Will the robos change over time to boost sales and margins?



  6. Yash on March 30, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Do any RoboAdvisors support RDSP accounts? Complexities aside I would think that could be some significant business for RAs given it doesn’t appear there are many (if any?) really good, no/low-maintenance RDSP investments.



  7. Kyle on March 30, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    I think competition will keep sales and margins in check Larry. There are still some really solid index fund options – just have to keep it plain and vanilla – look how much fees have come down on basic index ETFs over time right?



  8. Kyle on April 1, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Hey Yash, we’ve posed your question to the robos and we’ll toss the answers up into the main post.



  9. christopher wicks on April 1, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Just wondering….do any robo advisers offer RESPs yet?



  10. Rob on April 2, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Great article and totally on board.
    I’ve been with Wealthsimple for over a year now, and it’s been the best financial decision I’ve ever made.
    I was “managing” my own money, refusing to give 2-4% for a mutual fund at my bank. I was glued to BNN, CNBC, and my stock app on my phone. It was time consuming and emotionally exhausting, not to mention (in my case) money losing!



  11. Oliver on April 2, 2016 at 10:57 am

    I’ve been using a robo-advisor (Invisor) for almost a year now, and have had far more human interaction with them than I ever did with my bank.

    It’s also refreshing to feel like I’m getting objective investing advice rather than being sold whatever mutual funds my bank is trying to push on people at a given moment.

    Interested to see the longer term impact these organizations will have on how people invest in the future!



  12. Kyle on April 2, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Thanks Oliver! Tell the folks from Invisor to get in contact with us if they want to let readers know why they are awesome!



  13. Kyle on April 2, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    You’re not alone Rob. IF you look at the statistical averages, it’s very difficult for individual investors to outperform their benchmark index. Glad to hear that you’ve been so happy at Wealthsimple!



  14. Kyle on April 2, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    Hello Christopher, I’ll add your answer to the main article as soon as I hear back from the robos.



  15. Brian on April 5, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Great article. While I agree with the general premise that regular investing in lost cost ETFs is better than doing nothing or investing in mutual funds I still think that there is an additional layer of complexity that is rarely discussed when comparing robo-advisors. I have compared the portfolios between companies at similar risk levels and they are widely divergent with respect to asset allocation. I think over the long term these differences will lead to performance differences that will trump fees. This is the main reason I am still sitting on the fence.

    I would be interested to see a comparison of portfolios between companies. Any thoughts on which most closely approximates the ideal asset allocation. Or is it too early too tell? I feel longer term performance is still a huge wildcard.



  16. Kyle on April 6, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Hi Brian,

    I think it’s very difficult to compare the portfolios of each of the robos without actually owning an account and having them assess your risk tolerance and overall financial situation. I mean a couple do completely customized portfolios, so without talking to them how could you compare portfolios right? Also tough to say what the “ideal asset allocation” actually is, is it not? I’ve read dozens of books by really smart people that completely disagree on what the optimal allocation level is – heck, the Ph.Ds can’t even agree on if gold/precious metals should have any place at all in a portfolio! In my opinion, all the major robos allow you diversify your dollars across a pretty wide spectrum.



  17. Ben on May 5, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Any updated promo codes for the ones that expired at the end of April? (specifically ModernAdvisor but others too!)



  18. Kyle on May 8, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Sorry Ben, feel free to mention you’re a Young and Thrifty reader and they might toss something in!



  19. Dany G on May 30, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks



  20. Dean on June 6, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Great article and very helpful. Have you done any reviews on steadyhand.com out of Van,BC ?



  21. Kyle on June 8, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Thanks Dean, appreciate the feedback. I read about Steadyhand when writing this article, but they aren’t really a comparable option as they offer mainly mutual funds as investment vehicles. If you really think that anyone out there can pick mutual funds that outperform, Steadyhand might not be a bad choice – I just don’t think this is possible.



  22. Sedan on July 17, 2016 at 11:04 am

    Great Content . Love it . I am new to Canada and was not familiar with Canadian Robo Investors. Thanks for the breakdown!



  23. Kyle on July 17, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Thanks for stopping by Sedan! Glad you found the info worthwhile.



  24. Paris on August 15, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Great article Kyle, thanks for doing it. Just spoke with ModernAdvisor, they are now offering RRIFs and willupdate their FAQs shortly, and if asked will also extend the youngnthrifty promo until the end of Aug., they also mentioned an additional 3 months using the promo code ‘Signup’, I haven’t as yet, would like to interview the other 3 Robos to see if they will match or beat the $50K MA is offering or an extended ‘free’ period. If y’er interested will update y’all later.



  25. Kyle on August 16, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for the update Paris. Appreciate it! Would you mind stopping back here after you’re done checking out everyone and giving us a quick rundown on why you ultimately chose the one that you did?



  26. Jean-Fran on August 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Great article. I am old enough to remember when ING came to Canada to change the rules of big banking and ended up being a ScotiaBank subsidiary. Bummer. Choosing an advisor is a long term decision, be it traditional or robo and transferring accounts is usually painful and costly, so you do want to choose wisely upfront. Do you think these startups will eventually consolidate or worse, become “hip” subsidiaries to the big firms/banks? That usually means a pressure for higher revenues and profits from shareholders, as well as quasi-monopolistic practices. Let’s hope not.



  27. Kyle on August 26, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    I share these worries JF. Here’s my hope: that all of these companies push each other to snag as much market share from traditional wealth management in Canada. They can do this by having great customer service, better platforms, and more innovative ideas. Then, I sort of think the best long-term outlook sees 3-4 main robos breaking away and buying out the rest. The question then becomes do they in turn take the sweet sweet offer that will no doubt come their way from our banking oligopoly? That I don’t know…



  28. Hyacinthe on August 30, 2016 at 8:17 am

    I remember reading that RESP opened at some discount brokerage would not always support every grant available (Federal and Provincial, if applicable). Do you know what’s the situation on this specific point with Wealthsimple an other robos?



  29. Kyle on August 30, 2016 at 10:11 am

    I’ve never read that before Hyacinthe. I couldn’t find anything about it when I did a quick Google search. I would have to think that because your RESP would officially be placed under the large umbrella that handles the actual accounts on behalf of these robos, that it would qualify for all of the grants available.



  30. Potato on September 1, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Not all discount brokerages offer offer the provincial grants (or the low-income bonds), and many of the robos don’t, either. It looks like ~4 of them do, and that’s going to be a selection criteria in the next version of the comparison tool (spoilers!).



  31. Kyle on September 2, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Wow… very interesting. That’s a massive massive advantage. When you update the tool, I will add that to this article John.



  32. Ben on September 2, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Potato – which four DO offer all the provincial grants you’re talking about?



  33. JH on September 12, 2016 at 7:49 am

    Not sure if anyone’s come across this but do any of these Canadian robos provide services for Canadian expats?
    I’m not a resident of Canada anymore but would like to move my funds over to a robos.

    I guess I could also do the DIY option but just curious.
    Thanks!



  34. Kyle on September 12, 2016 at 8:52 am

    I would assume all of the robos could answer your questions JH. Personally, I’d just send them a quick email as they’ve all been great at responding ASAP. Then come back here and let us know of course!



  35. Jonathan Ho on September 12, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks Kyle – I did just that and emailed 2 robo firms:

    1) WealthSimple is currently unable to support non-residents or create accounts for Canadian expats who are non-residents. So that’s out of the question for me.

    2) WealthBar can provide services and open accounts for non-residents but requires min. investment amount of $25,000 CAD and a Canadian bank account.



  36. Kyle on September 15, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Ok good to know. Thanks Jonathan. It be worth checking out the other options as I’m sure they are competing hard for market share right now.



  37. OC on September 22, 2016 at 7:23 am

    Thanks for the article! I’m a complete novice at this and would like your advice: For someone looking to invest about $10,000 (with monthly top ups of maybe $500) for the next 5 years or so, do you suggest opening a TD e-series account or finding a Robo Advisor? And what if there isn’t a 5 year contingency (i.e. the money would stay in there for a long time)? Thank you.



  38. Olivier Bougie on September 23, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Hello Kyle,

    i am 25 YO just graduated and started a new job, i want to start investing via a ROBO advisor BUT I live in Quebec and I would really really really much like to know if there is a ROBO advisor that offer FRENCH services?! Could you adisve me on which ROBO adivsor i should take?!



  39. Kyle on September 24, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Hello Olivier,

    Congratuations on graduation and the new job! I would recommend simply going to each of the Robo’s sites and asking them if they have a French person on staff that you could work with. I would think several of them do! If you wouldn’t mind, let us all know who you decided to go with and why – so I can answer the question for any future Quebecois!



  40. Kyle on September 24, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Hi OC, glad you liked the article (don’t be shy about sharing it so that more Canadians can benefit). I’d definitely go with a Robo for the simple reason that you’re so much more likely to stay with something because the ease of use. They’ll also be a lot of help in answering any “novice” questions whereas the eSeries won’t be. Congrats on amassing a great little nest egg to get started!



  41. Mirs on September 25, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Hello, great article, it’s easy to understand. I’m a student, a beginner investor, and I only have $100 to play with (to learn about investing). I learned about penny stocks and then read about how risky they were, so I steered clear of them. I was thinking of acorns since it uses very little investment (no idea if it’s open to Canadians). I was wondering if there are any Canadian robo companies that used the concept of using spare change /low min investments?



  42. Kyle on September 26, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Most of the robos don’t have minimum deposits Mirs, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to transfer money to them on whatever basis you wanted with free transactions.



  43. Olivier Bougie on September 26, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Hello Kyle,

    its more a personnal finance question.

    currently 25yo, M, 0$ saving atm, but starting this month with a robo advisor.

    i currently have 3 goals:
    1-go in appartment next summer
    2-buy a house 3-5years
    3-retirement

    Q: should I save 100% toward my house to have a higher downpayment?! OR should i open 2 differents saving account (1 for house, 1 for retirement) with 2 different risk profile?

    Also is it worth investing if my horizon is only 3-5years?! or should i jsut use my bank account?!



  44. Paris on September 26, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Mirs
    For what it’s worth, I did a trial funding of a whole $5.00 (I wanted to see if I could set up Wealthsimple as a ‘Biller’ from EQ bank) and they accepted it, so you should be able to start with the $100. Advise again for what it’s worth, put in the hundred and don’t watch every day, there will be fluctuations, sit back and let it grow.
    As an aside, if you have any friends interested in investing, if you invite them to check out Wealthsimple, W/S will bonus you with an additional $5000 managed free (unfortunately not $5000 cash, huge grin), don’t forget to mention Y&S when or if you sign up. If you are stuck for a ‘friend’ Kyle can probably forward my email address.
    I’m doing a comparison on three Robo’s and am forwarding the info to Kyle to pass on to the blog. Good luck ! ! !



  45. Kyle on September 26, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks for that update Paris. Seems pretty conclusive to me.



  46. Kyle on September 26, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    In that case Paris I’d save for both at the same it were me. I’d also keep it simple and look at saving for your house in a high-interest savings account with an online bank like the ones I wrote about here. The Home Buyers Plan is certainly the quickest route in this regard. Cheers.



  47. Mirs on September 27, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Thank you Kyle and Paris! I’ll look into it.



  48. EC on September 28, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    You mention monthly contributions a few times in this article. Would you still advise using a robo advisor for a one-time investment of 100,000? I am no longer working but still have 20 years to invest. In other words, I no longer have the income to support monthly payments but I could transfer money in from a shitty RRSP.



  49. Lynn on September 28, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    You might want to mention that WealthSimple’s offer only lasts two years (perhaps NestWealth too). It’s not noted in article or on their link, I only found out after I went through the lengthly process of opening an account for my small business.



  50. Kyle on September 28, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    While I cannot recommend a specific security to you EC, I can say with certainty that in a vacuum, using a robo advisor to invest a lump sum is a great idea. It will keep your costs super low and their “light advice” would be more than enough to explain what your options were and why they would make their eventual recommendation.



  51. Brandon Jones on October 1, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Thought-provoking article.

    We are a retired couple who have a total of $750,000 in two RRIFs. We depend on that money (in combination with CPP and OAS) to provide a steady monthly income. Can a robo-advisor help in our case?



  52. geo on October 2, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    If I am a high net worth individual near retirement do you see the other aspects of full service (retirement planning, RIF’s…) outweighing the low fees of robo investing.



  53. Kyle on October 3, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    That’s a great question Geo, and to be honest I’d say it depends on your needs. What I would do is contact a fee-based financial planner and see what they would quote you for the exact services you want. At that point you can compare to the percentage savings on your investments. I really like fee-only combined with robo package.



  54. Kyle on October 3, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    I can’t see why a robo advisor wouldn’t work just fine for you Brandon. It really depends on what sort of fees your current advisor/investments are charging you if you want to make a comparison.



  55. Bob on October 6, 2016 at 10:42 am

    So if you put your money into the markets in 2007, you are just climbing out of your deep dark hole many found themselves in who were buy and hold ivestors. How do Robo Advisor’s protect your capital other than by basic diversification through a group of ETF’s? I know, I know, everyone loves to say it’s impossible to time the markets! I’m wondering how popular these new services will be if/when we have another meltdown of the markets?



  56. Kyle on October 7, 2016 at 10:23 am

    The short answer is that they won’t protect it all Bob. That being said, I’m not sure your overall views of the market are correct. You mention that people who were in the market in 2007 are “just climbing out”, but in fact if they stayed fully invested throughout the “Great Recession” then they long ago climbed out and are now flying pretty high. The average annual return over the last 20 years (which included the crash you mention and the tech crash of 99/2000) is just slightly lower than the overall average for the last 100+ years. Your question is a logical one though, basically the real question is can Robos help mitigate our “lizard brains” (check out guys like Daniel Kahneman and Robert Thaler on this) that want to cut and run when we see stock markets go down? The answer is I’m not really sure. I hope that people will listen to the humans on the other end of the computer when they show them the math behind buy and hold, but I’m not really sure they will. I guess probably about as many listened to their “in-person advisors” when the last crash happened/



  57. Jay on October 19, 2016 at 2:18 am

    Hi Kyle. Is there any plan to update this guide? Your list appears incomplete when compared to the recent globe and mail article from Oct. 12 titled “The 2016 robo-adviser guide” (www.theglobeandmail.com/globe…e32302639/). Thx – just wanted to ensure you were aware you were missing some! Jay



  58. Kyle on October 19, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Jay, we will be updating the guide for sure. The problem at this point is honestly that I don’t think a lot of those Globe and Mail options are going to get off the ground very far, and I don’t want to overwhelm people with options. The ones that we’ve reviewed have been in the market for a while and we’re confident in their ability over the long haul. I’m keeping track of what the Globe reports though!



  59. Matthew Boyd on November 7, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Hi kyle, great read, thanks. Im new to all of this and i think the robo investing may be best for me. You certainly endorse them strongly but im very paranoid given the books ive read so far about investing (hidden fees in mutual funds etc). For that reason i have a somewhat awkward question. Do you receive an affiliate commision from any of the companies you have recommended above? If so would you mind commenting on why you would still stand by your recommendations?

    I hope these questions dont cause offence im just really paranoid about choosing the right strategy (i literally have no investment experience).

    Thanks again for an interesting article im looking forward to reading your ebook. All the best,
    Mat



  60. Kyle on November 8, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Hey Matt,

    No offence taken. You are certainly right to be paranoid about investing fees (I have been labelled this way myself multiple times).

    When I wrote this article I was not getting any commission fees from the robos. Two robos have since offered me a commission which I have accepted. While I’m not sure legally if I can disclose the amount in each case due to some wording in the contracts, it is closer to one digit than three digits per account opened.

    Here’s why I would argue you can still trust the integrity of the information:

    1) If it’s not apparent which robos gave me a commission and which haven’t, then that speaks pretty well I would think.
    2) I know that I could make much much more convincing people to purchase mutual funds (as you noted) so if my main goal were to become rich I wouldn’t be writing this.
    3) I freely admit that I personally choose to invest in a way that actually minimizes fees to the bare minimum – but requires more work. Again, if my goal was to convince you that robos were the only way to invest I doubt that I’d include that comparison.
    4) Feel free to search out the robos on your own, and that way I actually don’t get any referral fee (you also don’t get our special bonuses either). I don’t ethically mind taking compensation from robos if they offer because I know that I’m helping to grow the overall market for a product that I support and recommend to my students and friends – so if I get a small amount of the overall money flowing into a growing industry I sleep well at night.



  61. Jordan on November 25, 2016 at 11:33 am

    New to Robo-Advisors….and new to ETFs…
    I have some funds to invest…anywhere from $50k to $250k..
    but am a bit fuzzy on the value of Robo-Advisors over either using my own brokerage account that does NOT charge any commissions on ETFs investing or using a commission based Financial Advisor (not associated with a bank, they would mostly put my money in Mutual funds though.. Is the value simply that ROBOs will invest in ETFs and automatically adjust the portfolio based on my risk assessment? So on a $100k portfolio I would be paying roughly $650-$1000 per year so the ROBO can automatically adjust the portfolio? If I choose some ETfs myself, some of the fees are far less than what ROBOs are charging. Is it the time needed to follow the investment that is the true value? Did I understand this correctly? What else am I missing? I am sure I echo many other passive investors. Many thanks



  62. Kyle on November 26, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Take a look at my section comparing Robos to DIY Jordan. Basically what you are paying for is the advice that comes with a Robo (ie TFSA vs RRSP), the easy with which you can invest (no worrying about buying and selling), and the automatic re balancing. Also, if you use our offers, you’ll be paying quite a bit less than $650 on your first $100K.



  63. Alicia on December 1, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Hi Kyle,

    Loved the article as it was exactly what I was looking for- an overview of the different Canadian options. A bonus that there are perks when mentioning young and thrifty, I will continue to follow! I am thinking Robo is the way to go for me but as I am hoping to use some (in all honesty most) of the money made towards a home in the next few years & I had a novice question:

    I know that the general recommendation is to invest your money for longer term to see greater returns… Do you know if there are any penalties or fees associated with pulling your money out/ planning for shorter investments? (I am leaning towards wealthsimple but am not set on this yet).

    This was always a barrier for me with RRSP ect. I was hesitant to put anything of substance in, knowing that if I need the money or if the perfect home came up I would ultimately be penalized for touching it.

    Thanks,

    Alicia



  64. Kyle on December 2, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Hi Alica, your big question is actually several little questions rolled into one. You will have to ask the specific robo that you talk to about specific penalties associated with pulling money out. I’m pretty sure most of them are almost fee-free at this point – however robos are not the CRA. If you withdrawn RRSP money it counts as income – unless (and this is key) – it is to buy your first home or to go to post-secondary education. If that’s the case check out our articles on the Home Buyer’s Plan and Life Long Learner’s Plan. Ultimately what you need to do is come up with a plan (maybe with an advisor, maybe just do your own homework) on what your short-term and long-term financial goals are – and then plan accordingly.

    Cheers,
    Kyle



  65. Ryan Rego on December 28, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Hi Kyle, great article! I am a millennial who has been doing some DIY investing using Questrade (buying only ETFs). Currently, I have the time and enjoy doing it myself, but I will probably use Wealthsimple when it becomes too much work. However, I had a question that I thought maybe you could answer. I know ETFs follow a more passive strategy, but when looking at their portfolio turnover, some were as high as 30-40% (e.g, iShares Core S&P/TSX – XIC, quote.morningstar.ca/Quick…ture=en-CA). Any thoughts on why its so high?



  66. Kyle on December 28, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    It simply reflects the automatic rebalancing necessary to reflect the underlying index.

    Cheers,
    Kyle



  67. elwood on January 2, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Are there robo advisors that specialize on ‘ethical’ investment? I am only interested in investing in ways that I know where the money is going and that no people or the earth are being exploited.

    I would be happy to use a robo advisor, please let me know if one or more have ethical investment options.

    Thanks!



  68. Kyle on January 2, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Elwood – thanks for dropping by as always.

    Judging by this Globe and Mail article, it looks like Modern Advisor and Wealthsimple would be your best bets. Let me know what you think of the offerings. I’m curious to see if their definition of “ethical” meets your standards.



  69. Potato on January 2, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Hi Elwood, just to add to what Kyle has said, ethical investing can be a tricky thing to nail down. To some people, bitumen mining in Alberta is a more ethical way of producing oil than drilling in third world countries. To others, it’s worse because of the carbon footprint. Others don’t want anything to do with petroleum production. Some don’t want to invest in nuclear energy, while others would prefer that over fossil fuels.

    For both Modern Advisor and Wealthsimple, the Jantzi social index is used for the Canadian portion. Odds are there will still be some component in there that you’ll disagree with, and this imperfect ethical approach will cost you in the neighbourhood of 0.4%. While it’s admirable to use every action in your life to support your beliefs, socially responsible investing may not have much of an impact.

    So another way to go is to invest in plain vanilla, broadly diversified funds with minimal fees, and then take that 0.4% difference and donate it to charities and advocacy groups that will help have a more direct impact on the areas you’re concerned with.



  70. Kyle on January 3, 2017 at 10:47 am

    I never thought of that before John – it’s like buying carbon offsets. Interesting idea.



  71. Elwood on January 3, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for the info. I looked at Modern Advisor, but it seems it becomes hundreds of different stocks in each ETF and that is impossible to investigate. As you said, ‘ethical’ is defined by each person, and no doubt someone finds one way of gas production as more environmentally conscious than another, so it ends up in the ‘socially responsible’ category because it is the least worst option. Certainly not my definition of ethical or socially responsible.

    Which always leads me back to just investing in land or real estate – the problem is that I sit with the money in a bank account until I have enough to purchase a property or land.

    Thanks for your help and suggestions.

    As for the recommendation to take from one area and give to another – this is exactly what creates the problem; greed before ethics.

    Its like saying if one was a pedophile to continue with exploitative activities in a country where it is legal, but then donate money to a specific charity locally to make a difference. It makes no sense and continues to perpetuate the problems.



  72. Steve on February 9, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    Great blog guys. With NestWealth, it says the assets are under a Chartered Bank. Which bank are the asset held under?



  73. Kyle on February 10, 2017 at 9:20 am

    National Bank Steve.



  74. AbsNovice on March 5, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    just because of lowest fee over 15 year period I’m very inclined to go with JustWealth but there seem to be so little reviews available online that it makes me nervous. You did say that all these autoinvest companies are safe but because all my savings will be in their hands, it scares the hell out of me compared to a bank and that’s the reason my cash has been lying in a bank and not in any stocks though I realize that with advancing age, I must start investing right now. What’s your thoughts



  75. Kyle on March 6, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Hey AbN. Without knowing the rest of your financial details it’s impossible to tell what you should be doing – but if you’re reaching an “advanced age” a robo should recommend a very cautious portfolio with a health dose of bonds.



  76. Paris on March 7, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Hi AbsNovice
    In my view you are correct, there has not been a lot of reviews on JustWealth (or at least ones I’ve seen), but I can tell you from experience J/W do offer great CUSTOMER SERVICE & SUPPORT, to the point their CFO answered my email questions, on the weekend, while attending his parents (50th ?) anniversary.
    Kyle’s advise is solid, however, if a person in not tooooo risk adverse, another suggestion might be to open accounts with 2 or 3 Robos, as well, open different accounts within each Robo (Investment, TFSA, RRSP, RRIF accounts). You could have different risk levels assigned to an TFSA than to an RRSP, etc.
    As an aside this is exactly what I did with JustWealth, ModernAdvisor, & WealthSimple, the result is exposure to 20+ ETFs within my portfolios only 1 ETF duplicated.
    All three have great websites, JustWealth maybe not quite as polished but is certainly transparent and easy to follow.
    Kyle has negotiated a good starter package(s), take advantage of the reduced fees offered, discuss your timing (retirement ?) with the Robo staff and ask for their portfolio recommendations. Good luck and maybe let Kyle know your experience?
    P



  77. Kyle on March 7, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks Paris!



  78. Ken West on March 10, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Kyle
    Great article!
    I am currently looking to change over my whole portfolio from RBC to BMO (robo), a fee reduction of 1.75% on ALL
    holdings to less than >.7% (BMO) on the LIFF and RIFF portions and 0% on the TSFAs. I chose BMO as I like many of the etfs they have as well I can go to the local branch to see a “face” my human advisor attached to the account. I also like being able to select what funds I want in my accounts.

    Again Thanks

    Ken



  79. Kyle on March 11, 2017 at 10:02 am

    That’s a massive reduction Ken – Congrats!



  80. Phil on March 28, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    My wife (42 years old) and I (59 years old) currently have about $800,000 in Tangerine Investment Funds (locked and unlocked RRSPs, non-registered, TFSAs), mostly Balance and a couple Balance Growth portfolios. I am generally happy with their performance but as our investments increase over time, I find their MER a bit high. Would you recommend going with a robo-investor at my age. Thank you for any guidance.



  81. Kyle on March 30, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    I really would Phil. As you get a bigger pie, those percentages take away some pretty big bucks right? Specifically I’d check out Nest Wealth and Wealthsimple’s offerings for high networth investors – BTW, congrats on building a solid nest egg!



  82. Kate Lazier on April 3, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Hi there,
    Great review. Do you know which companies offer corporate accounts? I know Wealth Simple does and BMO doesn’t but how about the others?
    Kate



  83. Kyle on April 3, 2017 at 9:50 am

    I am not sure off the top of my head Kate. I would definitely check with NestWealth, Modern Advisor and Just Wealth though.



  84. Andrew Bradley on April 27, 2017 at 10:05 am

    This guide is a great way to understand what are Robo advisors. I really like the decision tree info-graphic on how to decide what is the right choice for you.



  85. Peter on June 12, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    Where can I find a chart comparing the real past net returns on the top 10 Canadian robo advisors? I’d like to see past 6 months/1 year/2 years/5 years/max.



  86. Kyle on June 13, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Hi Peter, there is no such chart that can exist due to the fact they all have different underlying baskets of securities. While they all subscribe to passive investing through broad index ETFs to some degree, there are some differences in how they approach this goal. These baskets have all changed over the relatively short time they have been around – and I don’t believe any of them have been around for five years. The key question you need to be asking though is why would real past net returns matter at all? Past performance is a very poor indicator of future returns!



  87. Potato on June 13, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Hi Peter, to add to Kyle’s comment, the oldest robos are not yet 3 years old, so going back any further isn’t really possible.

    Then how do you compare them? A conservative/balanced/aggressive archetype? That might be possible, but some of the firms will complain that their service creates individual portfolios so any archetype isn’t really applicable to them, anyway.

    Plus as Kyle noted, their portfolios change over time, so how useful will looking back be? To give an anecdotal example, without naming names, one firm when they launched was building portfolios with relatively higher-cost actively managed ETFs. They noticeably underperformed a plain vanilla index portfolio that year, and switched up their portfolios to use more passive, lower-cost ETFs — indeed, just like mutual funds face pressure to become closet indexers, we’ll likely see pressure on the robos to be more passive and low cost (CCP/VoS-esque). So if you looked back and saw the poor historical return, should that affect your decision to use them now given that your portfolio won’t have those expensive, exotic funds of yesteryear?

    Similarly, while they’re all based on the general idea of building you a broadly diversified, low-cost portfolio, they all have minor differences in how that portfolio looks. Some might use currency-hedged funds while others don’t, or have an even split of US to other international markets, while others have a slight tilt one way or the other. There isn’t really a right answer to any of those minor decisions, but looking back someone will have had some performance edge because of the decisions they happened to make — which very well might reverse in the next period.

    Anyway, it’s not an uncommon request. But there are challenges to build such a comparison. I ballparked the cost of setting one such comparison up at around $5k/yr, and there hasn’t been any interest to pay that kind of cost for a tool with limited ability to help make a decision. Maybe one of the groups with more resources (like the G&M, MoneySense, or PWL) will build it if you ask (and maybe they can get it done for less).



  88. Paris on June 13, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Peter,
    Kyle is of course correct.
    As there are multiple criteria it would be extremely difficult to compare net returns even if they were available, here are a few things to consider and how they might impact an account(s):
    – what are the Client’s risk levels per account
    – what are the Client’s time lines (retirement, saving for a house, kid’s education, etc.)
    – Clients’s comfort level of being “in the market”
    – what are the exit fees if and when, (both the Robos – most don’t have any and the Custodian’s – most do . . . but some of the Robos will cover them
    – What are the fees if you transfer $$$ in from another Financial Institution . . . most Robos will cover them up to a set limit +/- $150 . . . usually though there is a minimum amount needed to be transferred in 25K comes to mind but check with each Robo
    – Are there minimum account size . . . per account (RRSP, TFSA, RRIF, Cash) or is it cumulative
    – Are there joint accounts available and do they count towards the minimums
    – Does the Robo offer any additional ‘perks’ such as Financial Planning
    – What is the response time to questions
    – Is there a blog, news letter, generic financial advise
    – What are the qualifications of the adviser/contact (CFA, CA, CRA, and I think there are probably a couple more).
    Whew, all these questions eh ! ! !

    Depending on the amount of $$$ you are looking to invest, and your time line, have you thought of using the promotions that Kyle aka Young and Thrifty has set up to try a couple of Robos ? ? ? It should give you a ‘flavor’ for the cost vs. service vs. return vs. . . . vs. . . .vs . . . . . . . .
    And on that happy note, hope that give you a couple of things to ponder . . .



  89. Max on June 25, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Kyle,

    I’m 22 years old, still in university for 2 more years. I don’t have a lot of funds to invest and would be looking at around 1000 with irregular contributions, based on how much I can afford to invest as a student. I have no previous experience with investing, so this is a very new topic area for me. I want to look at different options available and get my feet wet, so when I graduate and start working full-time, I will have the knowledge of where to invest.
    Since I already have a TFSA account with Tangerine, I was looking into their tax-free funds. After reading this article I’m now wondering, would a robo-advisor be a better option?

    Also, is it not possible to use a US robo-advisor in Canada?



  90. Kyle on June 26, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Hey Max,

    First of all – Awesome job planning for the future while still in university!

    Secondly, I’m not sure exactly what “tax-free” funds would be from Tangerine? Perhaps you mean their turn-key funds which they then put inside a TFSA? Or just a high-interest savings account. If you’re simply saving for a housing downpayment or a short term goal, a basic GIC or high-interest savings account would work just fine.

    If you’re looking for something more long term though, I definitely suggest looking at a robo. Check out our calculator here that shows how much fees you’ll be saving vs the Tangerine option (not to mention the advice component robos provide. And to answer your question – at the current time Betterment and Wealthfront etc, cannot provide service to Canadians (they are not set up for RRSPs etc).



  91. Max on June 29, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Hi Kyle,

    Thanks for the response. Tangerine refers to them as Tax-Free Investment Funds.
    Since I don’t have a lot of funds available to invest long-term, I would only set up an account and put in a little bit to get some experience in investing. Would that be beneficial at all or should I just wait until I graduate and have enough set aside to invest over a long period of time?

    Regarding the US robos, I assume there are some legal issues with them operating in Canada?!



  92. Kyle on June 29, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    That’s a bit of a different thing entirely Max. Before doing anything else I’d honestly just read a bit more on this site to get a feel for what different investment options are out there, and what risks are appropriate for you to be taking.



  93. Bill Silverberg on July 21, 2017 at 11:35 am

    You keep referring to young investors etc
    I am 80 yrs old and my wife is 75
    I Plan to retire In 2 years
    Robo Advisors are relatively new. They have not experienced a market turn down as yet. Who knows how they will perform ?
    For a person our ages would Robo Advisors make sense?
    We are with a bank wealth management firm now
    Thanks



  94. Robert Ross on July 21, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Nest Wealth charges a flat fee no matter how many different accounts you have with them, not per account as you stated in your article.

    I asked Nest Wealth to clarify this. So in my case, I would pay $80 per month for an RRSP, TFSA and non-registered account in total. Plus a maximum of $100 per year in trading fees for all three account types above.



  95. Kyle on July 31, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    This not true Robert – Nest Wealth gives people that click through from Young and Thrifty or AutoInvest.ca a bit of a break, but here is what it clearly states on their website: “For each account you have open, NBCN Inc. charges a custodian fee. We cover the custodian fee for your first account, and NBCN Inc. will charge you annually for any additional accounts you have open—$100 a year per registered account (e.g. RRSP, TFSA) and $75 a year per non-registered account (e.g. Cash).”



  96. Kyle on July 31, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Hello Bill. I know exactly how the robo advisors will perform – they will get hit by the market down turn almost exactly as much as the average of the overall market. The reason we know this is that robos don’t rely on active management (they don’t pick “winners” and “losers”) but instead use broad index ETFs.

    In terms of a person your age, here is what I would recommend Bill – use a robo advisor along with a fee-only advisor. This will give you high quality advice on intricate matters such as RRIF drawdowns and tax planning, decoupled from your investment decisions (no one trying to put you into certain investments just to get a commission).



  97. Louise on October 19, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Great article! Im a rookie at this investment stuff, but dismayed by the banks fees and the impact they can take on my investments…. so strongly looking at the robo options. What penalties/fees do they generally charge, if say I want to move my investments again, away from them?? If I get spooked, I mean!



  98. Kyle on November 1, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Hi Louise. In general they charge a couple hundred bucks BUT you can almost always negotiate with wherever you move your money to, in order to have the new company cover the old company’s fees! If you use our promos you can try several robos for absolutely free.



  99. Yao on January 6, 2018 at 12:09 am

    Hi Kyle,

    Thank you for the great info on the robo-advisors and keeping the article up to date. I checked the sites of some of them but none of them has mentioned how or if them give the consideration for withholding tax of US Foreign ETFs in different type of registered accounts. Would they automatically convert cnd to us dollar when they are buying us etf to make it more tax efficient? Have you asked them about this topic?

    Thank you



  100. Kyle on January 6, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Hey Yao, it would all be baked into the ETFs that they already use. See this post for more details: youngandthrifty.ca/ultim…f-returns/



  101. Lalitha P on February 14, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    Hi, Why am I not able to use the link on this page to get promotional offer for WealthBar (20K managed free for 1 year)? It is taking me to WealthBar login page, but I don’t have an account yet. Please let me know how can I avail your promotional offer with WealthBar?

    Thanks,
    Lalitha P



  102. Kyle on February 15, 2018 at 9:12 am

    join.wealthbar.com/youngandthrifty/ That link works just fine Lalitha? Simply go there and get set up! Cheers.



  103. Maggie on February 24, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Great article. In addition to cost, I would like to see a comparison on performance. Do you have that information available?



  104. Stéphane on March 1, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    Hi Kyle,

    First, thanks to keep up keeping up for 2 years on this blog.

    So today is March 1st. Yeah, that day (for those who wonder: last day to contribute to RRSPs). For the first time in my life, I turned over 22K of my hard earned cash from my TFSA to my RRSP account, which now hold 29K and plan putting 15K/year as long as I work/can. I then looked at my bank’s brokerage arm to constitute a DIY All-Weather-ish portfolio, but the fees are outrageous (i expected this). Comparing fees of other discount brokers, one table showed Robo Advisor as a comparing criteria. Of course, I thought “hum… robots? Sound interesting”, and I wanted to know more. Google landed me here. I’ve eagerly read every words of this blog and… here I am, less ignorant, but still having two questions.

    You mention DIY many times. I have yet to see how this can be cheaper than a Robo Advisor. There’s annual fees and trading fees ranging from 5$ to 10$ PER TRADE! Say my portfolio has 10 ETFs in it and re-balance it every 6 months. In the best scenario, that is 2x 10x 5$ = 100$/y plus the cents per share, the annual fees, and what not on top of that. Worst case sound to be in the range of 400$/y. That’s 1.3% on a 29K portfolio. Is this still cheaper than a Robo Advisor?

    What service would you recommend for self-manage ETF based portfolio to keep fees to a minimum (or even 0 if I can dream)?

    Any advice, errr… I mean “opinions” are more than welcome.

    Thanks.



  105. Kyle on March 10, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Check out our Questrade and/or discount brokerage comparisons Stephane. You’ll see there are a few different ways of cutting your total portfolio cost down to nearly to an MER of .15%, with nearly $0 in transaction fees if you use a couch potato portfolio of ETFs. It’s more work than a robo though!



  106. Kyle on March 10, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Hi Maggie,

    We don’t have this data for two reasons: 1) Robos haven’t been around long enough for this to be statistically significant. 2) All of these companies use some variation of a couch potato portfolio with very broad ETFs. When you adjust for your risk tolerance they will all come out very similar, and any outperformance will almost assuredly be luck as opposed to skill. I wouldn’t priortize performance at all!



  107. Sat on May 3, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    Im 19 years old. I dont know much about trading but I have 10000 dollars on the side. Can beginners like myself use these services? Thankyou



  108. Kyle on May 6, 2018 at 11:41 am

    You’re a perfect demographic for these services Sat.



  109. Judy Stevens on May 20, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    I am 73 years old and my RRSP’s are now RIF’s. Could I transfer my investments into the ROBO system? I would like to talk to an advisor if possible how do I sign up for a telephone conversation? I also have a few home based businesses so would like to invest some money in a regular market as I can no longer purchase RRSP’s.



  110. Kyle on June 3, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Hi Judy,

    You can definitely get these folks on the phone. What I’d do is send them a quick email, or go to their websites and use the instant messaging feature and just ask for a phone call. While I have not talked firsthand to anyone investing within an RRIF I know that several of the robo advisors offer this feature. It would almost certainly be a cheaper bet the full service mutual fund advice model that many Canadians use.



  111. Christine on July 22, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Hi! Thanks for the article, very informative.
    I am not a millennial per se, I am I guess what they call an Xennial, born in 1978. I only have abut 85k in money market accounts right now with my husband, earning basically nothing. I feel like I’m not where I should be given I’m almost 40. I’ve been wanting to invest but don’t even know where to start and robo advisors now sound like an option.
    However, I am relatively risk averse, and would “like” to start winding down work in about 15 years, to focus on stuff we really want, which would probably still involve earning money, but not at the daily office grind which while we are comfortable, are not our dream. We earn about 150k between us with no kids so we are not poor, but we aren’t rich either. We have about 2-3k per month disposable income to invest. We will work on paying off our mortgage (220k remaining) within the next 7-8 year to free up the 1500 per month for other purposes including investing.



  112. Christine on July 22, 2018 at 11:59 am

    I am *especially* concerned about jumping into any market at this time, but also know I’ve really entirely missed out on the run up for the past 10 years. But I also know that by the next 1-1.5 years the market will seriously downturn as it always will, especially after such a long bull run. Maybe the pain will be worse this time than 2008. Either way, I’m sorry I waited this long to think about getting in, but it’s too late to worry about that now. But I’m also worried about getting in now because the downturn will come soon, just don’t know when. But I don’t want to sit on the sidelines much longer, and not risk too much while starting out, waiting for the downturn.
    Can I ask what you might suggest with robo advisors for us considering this? We have a good 150k RRSP room we also need to look at using up between us. 2-3k per month I hope is a good start for investing, just don’t know how to get started with a robo advisor, nor at this time in the market cycle and the wariness of that.
    Considering that robo advisors are based on ETF indexes, and the indexes are bound to go way down in the next 1-1.5 years, if not sooner, I don’t know if I should stay on the sidelines for now and just build my base investment in the money market account and wait for the downturn dropout to jump in so I don’t jump in right when it goes down and lose my base investment to that?
    Thanks so much, your site is a great resource!
    Sorry had to split this comment in two.



  113. Kyle on July 22, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Trying to time the market cycle is incredible difficult Christine. There are always reasons not to invest. If you’re in it for the long haul I wouldn’t be worried too much about trying to pick the specific date!



  114. Kyle on July 22, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Sounds like you’re in a pretty great spot to start investing Christine!



  115. Victor on December 12, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for the article. Are you affiliated in any means with any of these Robo Adviser companies that might make this review biased?



  116. Mike on January 2, 2019 at 4:21 am

    Kyle, can you tell me if any of these Robo Advisors are available for Canadian Non- Residents? As far as I have read, Wealthbar does offer this. Any others?



  117. Howard on January 27, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    I am 74, manage my own money,Post Grad Economics, DIY and I really understand the markets.
    There is No Investment for all seasons, but there is a season for all investments, and no one can time the market, the key is correct asset allocation.
    Your Mix should be based upon needs Senior Citizen with a couple of million does not need stock, Bond Income would suffice.
    I am looking at Robos because if/when I croak, my portfolio must be on cruise control, my wife has no interest of experience.
    I own Cannabis stocks, deal in Options, it is an interest, and I hate golf.
    Learn the basics of investing, it makes you a much more knowledgable person, and if you own a home with a large mortgage, when rates hit 6-8%,which they will, then you are on a highway of future hurt.
    People will borrow $500K +++ to buy a pile of bricks and sticks whose value is totally arbitrary, will need to gain at least 10% to break even when they sell, the interest is not deductible, but to buy financial products whose value is clearly defines with deductability of interest, that’s too risky???



  118. Josephine_M on January 30, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    I had my bank “looking after it” for years. The advisers drove some nice cars, while my funds did not grow that much, and there was always a great reason why the market did better than me, and “”fees are tax deductible””. Yawn. So I cashed out, 100%. No fees in past (almost) 3 years.

    I’m going through gyrations with my bank and a credit union right now, and of course the expected action is that they want to manage all my money, and keep my money in their shop under all scenarios. I’m about to mention Robo investing to them, and observe the answers I’m getting.
    ETF, index and ROBO are suddenly on my radar.

    Comment on impossibility of market timing: every investment adviser says this, and in the next sentence they promise to beat the market because if their ‘expertise’. Now, beating the market HAS to include buy low-sell high, in my book. Everthing else can be done my ROBO. So I guess I subscribe to market timing, NOT in a short term, i.e. ‘timing’ week to week, BUT in the sense of riding the longer (10-year?) waves – like “CHRISTINE” alluded to. After the crash. If the market is down 50%, it has to go up 100% to break even … I think I can wait for that, and of course I know I won’t buy at the perfect bottom and sell at the perfect top. But I’ll ride the index back up in style. I’ll understand if people don’t agree.