M1 Review 2023: A Robo Advisor & Brokerage Hybrid
M1 Finance can perhaps be described best as a hybrid robo advisor and traditional investment brokerage firm. However, we're going to classify it as the former, since we think this may well be the future of the robo advisor sector.
But this platform also offers the ability to borrow and spend your money alongside investing tools. Our M1 Finance review is covering how all of these features work, the pros and cons, and how to ultimately decide if this hybrid robo advisor is right for you.
Commissions & Fees - 10
Customer Service - 7
Ease of Use - 9
Tools & Resources - 7.5
Investment Options - 9.5
Asset Allocation - 9
Pros & Cons
What Is M1 Finance?
M1 Finance is a versatile financial services company that began in 2015. It offers both a robo advisor but elements of an online broker, plus the ability to borrow money and use a credit card. The fact you can customize your portfolio but also rely on prebuilt M1 portfolios also makes it one of the more flexible robo advisors out there.
Overall, M1 Finance caters to both hands-off and active investors. And with its low fees and a $100 investing minimum, it's also very beginner-friendly.
|Tax Loss Harvesting|
Daily, Weekly, and Monthly
|Customer Service||Phone: M-F 9A-5P CT; Email|
- Dividends — All dividend income will be reinvested in your portfolio once it reaches at least $10.
- Tax reporting — M1 integrates directly with H&R Block and TurboTax.
- Margin account status — Since M1 doesn’t hold any of your portfolios in cash, your account is established as a margin account if it has a balance of over $2,000. The margin account status enables you to withdraw money quickly from your account without having to liquidate asset positions.
- Free consultation — You can schedule a free consultation with a product specialist who will show you around the platform and discuss how it will benefit you.
- Possible ETFs and stocks used — M1 has over 6,000 ETFs and stocks available for you to choose from, with individual stocks that are available on either the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq (preferred stocks are excluded).
- Account protection — The SIPC covers up to $500,000, including $250,000 in cash, against broker failure.
How Does M1 Finance Work?
M1 departs from other robo advisors in that it gives you complete control over the investment process in your portfolio. That even includes security selection. M1 manages your ongoing investment flow. But you are in complete control of how your money is invested. You can even make changes after the fact.
M1 Investment Portfolio Templates
M1's robo investing element provides investment portfolio templates, referred to as “Pies.” The Pies are based on Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT). Most robo advisors use MPT in their algorithms. But unlike other robo advisors, with M1, there’s no questionnaire used to determine your investment risk tolerance.
You can invest all of your money in one of these prebuilt templates or customize it in any way that you want. M1 then automatically manages your account by maintaining your allocations within the Pie through rebalancing and allocating your new contributions.
But M1 works more like a traditional investment brokerage platform in that you can choose your own investments for your Pies. You can even purchase individual stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) within your account — as well as the prebuilt Pies.
M1 Pie Investing
As mentioned above, “Pies” are the basis of investing with M1. During the signup process, you will be offered a suggested Pie with preselected investment categories. Each Pie is a collection of as many as 100 “slices.” Each slice represents an investment — be it a stock, an ETF or even another pie.
The Pie then becomes the tool that you will use to manage your portfolio. M1 has more than 60 pre-built pies for you to choose from. You can also customize them by adding any stocks or ETFs that trade on either the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq.
Once you've made your Pie selections, M1 will automatically buy your investments in the correct proportions, both when you initially fund your account and when you add additional funds.
Available Investment Categories
M1 has Pies available from all of the following categories:
- General Investing — a diversified portfolio based on your own risk tolerance
- Plan for Retirement — invest for your target retirement date
- Responsible Investing — options for the socially responsible investor
- Income Earners — builds a portfolio based on dividends and income returns
- Hedge Fund Followers — mimics investment strategies from some of the most successful investors and reputable hedge funds
- Industries and Sectors — enables you to invest in specific sectors
- Just Stocks and Bonds — builds a diversified portfolio with two ETFs, focused on stocks and bonds
- Other Strategies — additional investment strategies to help you find what works best for you
Each of these general Pie categories also offers variations. For example, the Just Stocks & Bonds Pie offers nine different Pies. You can choose a mix of 10% stocks and 90% bonds, 20% stocks and 80% bonds, and all the variations up to and including 90% stocks and 10% bonds.
Each Pie listed also includes the dividend yield, historical performance and risk level.
Outlining all of these options helps you pick the Pie composition that best fits your investing goals and level of risk tolerance.
Filling Your Pie
You can also customize your Pie. M1 offers nearly 2,000 ETFs that you can use in its construction. You can just check off the fund from the list and add it to your Pie. You can also add individual stocks from a similar display.
I chose the 70/30 Pie, which accounted for 50% of my custom Pie, and then added three stocks and one bond ETF. The Pie looked like this:
Once you have constructed your Pie, you save the changes, and it forms the basis of your investment portfolio going forward. You can also create different Pies for various investment goals. There’s no limit to how many Pies you can own in your account (yet another departure from other robo advisors).
Other M1 Finance Features
Automated investing with M1's Pie system is what this robo advisor is known for. However, there are several other banking features you can take advantage of.
Another feature M1 Finance provides is a free rewards checking account. This account pays 1% cash back and 3.30% APY if you're an M1 Plus member, which is the platform's $125 premium annual plan.
This APY is competitive with many high-yield savings accounts, so it's a nice option for parking idle cash before investing.
You use a Visa debit card for transactions, and you get other perks like:
- Early direct deposit up to two days early
- $0 balance requirement
- One free ATM withdrawal per month (four for M1 Plus members)
- No foreign transaction fees for M1 Plus members
- Up to $250,000 in FDIC-insurance
The Owner's Rewards Card by M1
With The Owner's Rewards Card by M1 you can earn up to 10% cash back on popular brands. The Owner's Card pays a base rate of 1.5% on all eligible purchases. But M1 Plus clients can earn even more cash back on 70+ brands that are organized into three different reward tiers:
- Tier One (10% Cash Back): Includes companies like AMC, Dollar General, Netflix, Spotify, and Tesla.
- Tier Two (5% Cash Back): Includes companies like American Airlines, BP, Etsy, Nike, Starbucks, and Wayfair.
- Tier Three (2.5% Cash Back): Includes companies like Apple, Airbnb, Amazon, DoorDash, and Target.
Note that the 2.5%, 5%, and 10% cash back tiers are only available to M1 Plus members.
The main downside of this card is that it caps rewards at $200 per month. But you can automatically reinvest cash back into your M1 portfolio, putting your money to work faster. And you also get perks from Visa, like Visa Zero Liability and access to its Signature Luxury Hotel Collection.
Customers can borrow money against their investments, with a line of credit equal to 40% of portfolio value. Rates depend on if you're a regular M1 customer or an M1 Plus customer. You can enjoy rates as low as 6.75% with M1 Plus.
You also get a flexible payment schedule; there isn't a minimum monthly loan repayment amount. You can also create an automated payback schedule to gradually pay off your loan.
Note that M1 Borrow is only available for margin accounts with at least $2,000 invested. It's not available for retirement, custodial, or trust accounts.
M1 doesn't offer tax-loss harvesting (TLH). But they do offer a new feature called “Tax Minimization” standard on all accounts. This feature enables you to sell asset positions in the most tax-favorable way.
Whenever you sell an investment, M1 prioritizes the sale in a way that will minimize your taxes. The order of assets sold looks like this:
- Lots that don’t result in a tax liability
- Lots that result in long-term gains
- Lots that result in short-term gains
While it’s likely that this strategy will, in fact, minimize your taxes, it doesn’t seem likely to have the same consistent benefit that’s provided by TLH.
M1 Crypto Investing
In July 2022, M1 Finance announced that cryptocurrency investing is coming to the platform. If you have a funded M1 Invest account, you can apply sign up for early access to a M1 Crypto account when it becomes available. This account will offer:
- Expert Crypto Pies: Create M1 Pies based on different strategies like DeFi, Web3, and various large-cap cryptocurrencies. You can also set target percentages for different pies in your M1 Crypto portfolio.
- Automated Trading: Since crypto trades 24/7, M1 Crypto users will be able to place their own orders and create automated trading rules to run their portfolio.
- Dynamic Rebalancing: M1 can rebalance your portfolio when you make a deposit to help keep you on target with your goals.
- Commission-Free Trading: M1 Crypto doesn't charge any trading fees. However, Apex Crypto, the custodian that actually securely holds your crypto, charges a 1% or 100 basis points fee to all crypto transactions.
Once you sign up for early access to M1 Crypto, you get notified via the app and email when you're eligible to start investing.
Branching into crypto alongside stock and ETF trading is a massive improvement for M1 Finance. FTX is leading the charge at the moment for stock and crypto investing under one platform alongside investment apps like Robinhood and Public. But M1 Finance is one of the first hybrid brokers and robo advisors to branch into cryptocurrency trading.
M1 Finance Fees: M1 Basic vs. M1 Plus
M1 Finance doesn't charge portfolio management fees or trading fees. This is one of its main competitive advantages since most robo advisors charge annual fees.
The main fee you can pay is for M1 Plus, which costs $125 per year. M1 Plus customers get perks like cash-back with their Visa debit card, 3.30% APY on the checking account, and better borrowing rates.
Additionally, M1 Plus customers can use its Smart Transfer feature. This lets you set rules to manage your various accounts so you have the right amount of money when you need it. For example, you can create a rule to deposit a specific amount of money in your checking account to cover monthly expenses but to automatically invest the rest so you're not over-saving.
Here's how M1 Basic and M1 Plus compare against one another:
Other potential M1 fees you can encounter include:
- Inactivity Fee: $20 for accounts with up to $20 and no activity for at least 90 days.
- IRA Termination: $100.
- Outgoing Account Transfers: $100.
- Wire Transfer: $25.
Right now, M1 Finance is giving customers a free year of Plus, so it's the perfect time to maximize the rewards you can get.
Opening an M1 Account
In order to sign up for an account with M1, you first need to create a password. Once you do, you’ll be directed into the first part of a three-step process:
- Build Portfolio
- Create Brokerage Account
- Fund Your Account
The Build Portfolio part introduces you to the M1 Pie concept. At that phase of the signup, you will determine your portfolio as described above. Once you have created your portfolio, you then complete the application process and fund your account.
How to Contact M1 Finance
You can reach M1 Finance customer support by using the live chat widget or submitting an email support ticket on its website. You can also call M1 Finance at 312-600-2883. Customer support hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 4:00pm ET unless there's a market holiday.
Is M1 Finance Safe?
M1 Finance is a safe, and the company is a registered broker/dealer with FINRA and a member of the SIPC. This means you get up to $500,000 in SIPC insurance for your investments and up to $250,000 in FDIC insurance for cash in your M1 Spend account.
Furthermore, M1 Finance says all data is encrypted to protect your privacy. Users can also enable extra security features like two-factor authentication to keep their accounts safe.
We think M1 Finance is one of the best robo advisors on the market because of its lack of fees and the control it gives you to pick your investments.
However, other robo advisors and wealth management companies might be superior depending on the types of portfolios you want to invest in or if you want human advice. Here's how M1 Finance compares to Betterment and Empower, two other popular options for investing and building wealth.
|Minimum to Open Account||$100,000||$10||$0|
|Advice Options||Automated, Human Assisted||Automated, Human Assisted||Automated|
|Socially Responsible Investing|
As for Empower, it offers professional wealth management services for clients with over $100,000 to invest. If you want human advice and a tailored portfolio, this is your best option. Plus, Empower also has a host of free tools like an investment fee analyzer, retirement planner, and budgeting software.
The Bottom Line
M1 is one of the more interesting of the automated investment platforms that have been coming out in the last few years. You choose the investments that go into your portfolio.
The platform then performs all of the day-to-day management of your account, including regular rebalancing. Plus, it's now free. That's right — there are no longer any broker fees or commissions.
Since you select your own investments (though you could simply default to the pre-built pies), it isn’t quite the fire-and-forget platform that pure robo advisors, such as Betterment and Wealthfront are.
M1 is primarily for buy-and-hold investors who prefer to select their own investments. At the same time, it can enable you to have control over your investments, without having the day-to-day responsibility of managing the portfolio.
If M1 allowed investment in mutual funds, offered tax-loss harvesting, and retirement planning tools, we’d be giving this platform a higher rating. But apart from those three missing pieces, M1 is very much worthy of consideration.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is M1 Finance Free?
How Does M1 Finance Make Money?
Is M1 Finance Legit?
The Owner's Rewards Card by M1 Disclosure - To review the current list of Cash Back brands and tiers, please visit https://m1.com/owners-rewards
M1 Plus DIsclosure: M1 Plus is a $125 annual subscription offering products and services from M1 Spend LLC and M1 Finance LLC, both wholly-owned, separate but affiliated subsidiaries of M1 Holdings Inc.
1. M1 is a simple platform that makes it affordable to invest in stocks with the fractional shares feature. Otherwise investing in stocks is too expensive for many people including myself.
2. M1 stands out from other options with a low initial investment of $100, fractional shares, and auto rebalance of the portfolio (pie). You deposit a quantity of money and the rest is done automatically. That deposit is distributed accordingly into the pie or portfolio shares.
1. M1 lacks customer support, its none existent. Good and fast customer service is key to everyone investing their hard earned money.
2. M1 lacks information. You have to look elsewhere to find good info. I have to use Yahoo Finance, Morningstar, Schwab, Fidelity, ETF.com and other sites to use M1 as an investing platform.
3. Expert pies specifically the ones called Plan for Retirement and General Investing, their return and performance is subpar compared to Schwab or Fidelity robo-advisor portfolios.
4. Hedge Fund Followers pies aren’t bad but can be more diversified to include more hedge funds.
5. In general Expert Pies lack diversity in each theme.
6. For novice investors (like myself) to invest with M1 you have to have good knowledge of investing.. What I mean is you have to be very sure of what you are investing in to be certain its the right choice because there is no guidance or support from anyone. Compared to other investing platforms M1 is really lagging in this area.
7. There is no market information, just the basic 3 major indexes to follow and some headlines.
8. These headlines when you click with your mouse over them, many of them request for you to have a subscription to that News outlet to read the complete article. Seeking alpha is one of them. So there’s no point in using them.
9. $125/year subscription to use Spend and M1Plus is a lot of money for just a few trivial perks.
10. Trading times are only once per day, or twice depending if you have M1 Plus. I am sure this is to keep costs down. I could care less at what time M1 trades.
11. Haven’t use M1 Borrow because you have to be invested with $10,000 or more to use it. Investing $10,000 or more with M1 can be risky specially in a platform where there is no investing guidance or customer support.
12. One of the worst parts of M1: when transferring money from Invest to Spend or vice versa (they call that Smart Transfers), it takes forever, like 4 days to move your money from one account to another. I would call that Slow Transfers.
13. And the cherry on top:
Requesting an account liquidation and moving that money to your external bank account could take like a week or maybe more. Why is that?
14. There are no articles about investing guidance. and no investment blog to follow.
15. The few info available for many stocks and ETFs its not correct. Specifically P/E and yield. That’s worrisome because it misguides clients to believe what its not true and to make the wrong investment decisions. The SEC should look into this item specifically.
When you compare so few trivial advantages versus so many critical disadvantages you start thinking do I want to continue investing with M1? Myself? I terminated my account a month ago..
You forgot an important category in your review: how easy is it to close down your account and move your money out in the event that you decide their services are not for you. M1 is happy to take your money in but if you want to close your account, their system blocks you by telling you that you have to log in again and then tells you that you can’t, giving some sort of invalid token error. In short, as far as I can tell they are THIEVES trying to STEAL your money under the guise of “managing it.” I’ve contacted them numerous times, yet still no resolution, and as far as I can tell no interest. I’m certain that I’m not the only one that’s tried to close my account there. How many others have had their funds stolen by M1? How many more will? If you can’t get your money out, why would you ever put your money in?
Can you do the follow up on this. What you are saying is like the Bank won give you back your deposited money!
Worst customer service from a company that plays custodian to your money I have ever dealt with. Even better, they don’t care when brought to their attention and purposely turn the other way when imposing customer harm based on their lack of customer service and inefficiencies in the platform. I have directly lost significant money based on both of those factors and there was no effort to make it right.
M1 Finance has been very slow to respond client
service requests . They cut off phone support during Covid-19 and it could take weeks to transfer funds to your bank account. I don’t recommend them at all for now
M1 finance is terrible in communicating with clients. It is also the worst I’ve been experienced when dealing account statements and transfer activities. You all need to be careful when put lots of money on this start-up. It is good for a small investment amount (<5k). I was first really impressed with free trading and no fee things. However, it creates lot of frustration to communicate with them for a simple thing such as asking for a statement when closing an account. When closing an account they charged you a fee $200 and next days you cannot access any statements in your closed accounts.
I have experienced similar issues with them
I would totally switch my portfolio to M1 if they knew what an ‘iPad’ was. Having an iPhone only app (like Robin Hood) is NOT going to cut it in 2020.
Maybe charge for the iPad version if they need to, since everything else is free?
I would assume that I’m not the only one in feeling that there will undoubtedly be significant M&A activity with robo-advisors in the next few years as the unprofitable ones are acquired or close down. I’m not sure I want to put a large sum with a robo advisor versus a long established firm like Schwab or Vanguard that aren’t going away anytime soon and have most the mentioned shortcomings of the robo-advisors covered.
It might make any real differences involving the robo-advisor you select moot if you’re only there two years and it’s suddenly acquired and moves on to being something else. A short-timer with a smaller portfolio…yes…but some of these 100K minimum requirements “to be eligible for our low-vol, factor mutual fund” things kind of ring hollow to me. Will Wealthfront merge with or be acquired by Betterment or another player or vice versa?? Or will there be a whole new landscape and should I care??
If you know a thing or two about investing, then M1 is the best way to go for building a portfolio for your retirement accounts. In fact, I don’t even recommend their brokerage account since there are no fees, why add taxes on top of it? However, their customer service needs work. When there is a mix up on their end, they are limited on what they can do to help rectify the problem. Also, there is no direct way to reach someone via phone, it’s a voicemail if no one can answer, and though they do call you back, it lacks a white glove approach to investors.
For long term investing, M1 has a huge opportunity to steal business with its low fees and a wide range of ETFs and stocks to choose from. Even some great professionally built ones such as the Berkshire Hathway A shares (you may have to build the B shares yourself).
Remember, many brokerages, and advisors and 401k’s steal your money and diminish your returns dramatically. Spend a weekend reading HIGH quality investing books such as value investing, etc and you will be far better off than throwing money at a modern theory portfolio, which sounds good in theory, but that’s not what drives the market.
Do you have any books on value investing to recommend?
What are your recs for high quality books?
How does betterment get a 9 if this has an 8.5. If this is an 8.5 betterment should have a 1. The investment opitions on betterment are terrible. You return will be less than the s and p 500 every year and the total all in cost on there cheapest porfolio is 0.37 . A s and p 500 index fund costs 0.03 and any vanguard retirement date mutual fund with vertually the same holdings has a total expense ratio of less than half at 0.15. With m1 the expense ratio is 0 and you get to chose your investments. It’s not hard to beat the s and p 500 with m1. You need to change m1 to a 10/10 and betterment and Wealthfront to a 1/10
Would something like this be better for a traditional IRA since there are no commissions or brockerage fees v something like betterment or wealthfront? I figure since I need an IRA before I get a taxable investment account, this would be the way to go?
This seems to be what I’ve been looking for. I am currently with Capital One Investing and have their advantage plan. But with the recent takeover by E*trade, it’s unclear if they will be maintaining the same price plan for those of us who were grandfathered in. At least with M1 Finance, I save on commissions and still get access to fractional shares,l and automatic investing in stocks. Plus the automatic reinvesting of dividends is important to me which other firms like Robinhood doesn’t offer.
So I will definitely look into the possibility of giving M1 Finance a try.
Would you recommend M1 or Wealthfront for a beginner investor?
If you are looking for something that is hands-off Wealthfront would be better. M1 Finance requires some knowledge of investing.
M1 Finance is terrific for those who wish to customize their portfolio. They transfer money very quickly and invest it very quickly. They offer many excellent off the shelf portfolios and they are truly conscious of the ETF expense ratios. Even showing you what they total for your custom portfolios.
Tax loss harvesting is kind of a gimmick. It may work it may hurt your portfolio. I think I prefer always having the low cost fund and being in control of when or whether a sale is made.
None of these services are for people who wish to actively trade. But if you want to build a portfolio that balances itself, this is a great one. It does not balance by automating sales but rather does so by investing new deposits and dividends according to your plan. If you want to manually rebalance without adding new money you can do that by pressing the scales icon.