Betterment vs. Vanguard Personal Advisor – Which Robo-Advisor is Best for You?

Vanguard vs. Betterment Robo-advisors

Betterment vs Vanguard Personal Advisor Services – Robo-Advisor Comparison

Choosing between robo-advisors can be very hard when you’re stuck between two well-known, strong contenders. Betterment vs. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is a particularly difficult choice, as both robos have human financial professionals available to their clients.

Before you flip a coin, there are some crucial differences between these robo-advisors you should be aware of.

 BettermentVanguard Personal Advisor Services
OverviewA goals based automated investment advisor. Offers a variety of human financial planning options.Two robo-advisors. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services with digital and human advice. Vanguard Digital offers a computerized investment manager.
Minimum Investment AmountThere is no minimum investment amount required for Digital. $100,000 minimum for Premium.Vanguard Personal Advisor Services-$50,000
Vanguard Digital Advisor-$3,000
Fee StructureDigital-0.25% AUM up to $2 million.
Premium-0.40% AUM up to $2 million.
Reduced fees above $2 million.
Personal Advisor Services-Sliding Fees:
0.30% AUM on assets up to $5 million
0.20% AUM on assets between $5-10 million
0.10% AUM on assets between $10-25 million
0.05% AUM on assets over $25 million.
Digital Advisor-0.15% of AUM
Top FeaturesGoal-based ETF investment portfolio. Rebalancing. Tax-loss harvesting. Socially responsible, smart beta + income portfolios. Human financial advisor access available.Personal Advisor-The human financial advisor drives the entire process. Together, you & the advisor create a customized investment plan.
Digital-Low-fee Vanguard ETFs.
Rebalancing available in both.
Free ServicesFree investment review.N/A
Contact & Investing AdvicePhone + email support, 7 days per week. All users can text with a financial advisor.Available by phone Monday - Friday from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm EST

For Personal Advisor Services- Human financial advisor guides the process. Helps build portfolio with low fee funds & serves as investing coach.
Accounts below $500,000 get team of advisors & those above $500,000 get a dedicated personal financial advisor.
No financial advisors for Digital clients.
Investment FundsLow-fee, commission-free ETFs.Low-fee stock + bond mutual funds + ETFs selected from among the scores of Vanguard funds.
Accounts AvailableSingle + joint taxable investment accounts. Roth, traditional, rollover + SEP IRA. Trust.Individual + joint investment accounts. Roth, traditional, SEP, Simple + rollover IRAs. Trust. 

Betterment vs Vanguard Personal Advisor Services—Overview

Betterment is certainly a good robo-advisor for many reasons, one of which is its affordability (which makes it great for millennial investors!). This robo-advisor allows clients to track their progress toward multiple financial goals. Additionally, clients can speak with financial planners at any account level!

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is a heavy hitter in the robo-advising world. This robo gives all clients access to personal financial planners, but it comes at a price: clients need $50,000 to begin a relationship with Vanguard. In exchange, however, investors can expect a hands-on, personalized experience at every step in the investment process.

Betterment vs Vanguard Personal Advisor Services—Top Features

Betterment and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services each boast some of the most desirable robo-advisor features, including a human touch, reasonable fees, and portfolio review and rebalancing.

Betterment Retirement Goal


Betterment Top Features:

  • Different account levels for increased customization
  • Goals-based investing
  • Access to human financial planners and packages
  • Varied investment types to choose from including smart beta and income only
  • Impact, socially responsible investing

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Top Features:

  • Human financial planners lead investment advice
  • Customized investment plan
  • Ability to be hands-on or off as desired
  • Accounts monitored by human financial planners

The major differences in these top features are Vanguard’s commitment to keeping humans involved at every level of the process. While Betterment clients do have access to financial professionals, these professionals aren’t necessarily the ones analyzing, monitoring, and rebalancing portfolios.

When it comes to the cost of these robo-advisors, however, Betterment is certainly more customizable. Clients can choose between different types of accounts, with distinct services and fees. Betterment offers one-time financial planning sessions to ensure investors are spending money only on the features they really need. These savings are reflected in reduced fees on AUM.

Betterment vs Vanguard Personal Advisor Services—Who Benefits?

Investors who want to customize their investment experience might choose Betterment over Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. Because Betterment is a goals-based robo-advisor and offers various account types and a la carte financial planning sessions, clients have a lot of control over what they pay for.

Read: Betterment vs. Wealthfront vs. M1 Finance

Clients who want hands-on financial advice from a human professional throughout the entire investment process might prefer Vanguard. The flat fee of 0.30% of assets under management, provides clients with unlimited access to financial professionals who supplement the robo-advisor experience. As clients grow their accounts with Vanguard, they gain access to dedicated financial planners.

Of course, the minimum balance requirements are something to consider. Investors with more money available upfront can go right to Vanguard; investors who want to start investing with a small amount of money will appreciate Betterment’s no minimum investment requirement.

Betterment vs Vanguard Personal Advisor Services—Deep Dive

When it comes to Betterment vs. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, which one is the better robo-advisor? While the answer to that question might depend heavily on each individual client’s needs, there are a few defining features that set these robo-advisors apart.

Betterment vs Vanguard Personal Advisor Services—Fees and Minimums

Betterment and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services are vastly different in terms of minimum investment amounts: Betterment clients can open accounts with no minimum balance, while Vanguard clients will need $50,000 to start using their services.

In terms of fees, however, the two robo-advisors are relatively well-matched! Vanguard charges a flat 0.30% AUM regardless of balance, although additional transaction fees or commissions may be charged. For investors with over $5 million invested with Vanguard, management fees decline.

On the other hand, Betterment fees have two different account levels:

  • Betterment Digital clients pay 0.25% AUM, which drops to 0.15% AUM on accounts over $2 million.
  • Betterment Premium clients pay 0.40% AUM or 0.30% AUM when accounts go over $2 million.
  • Specific Betterment Financial Planning Packages range in price from $149 to $399.

Betterment vs Vanguard Personal Advisor Services—Personal (Human!) Advising

With both of these robo-advisors, clients can expect access to human financial advisors. This is a huge selling point in the robo-advisor market, where autonomy is the name of the game.


However, these robos differ in how much human interaction they provide and the cost of the personalized advice. For Betterment, human financial planners are available via text message at all levels, including the Digital level (which costs 0.25% of AUM). Betterment Premium customers qualify for in-person meetings with financial advisors. Their a la carte financial planning services, however, might be the best solution for many clients who need some short-term face-to-face advice.

betterment vs. vanguard personal advisors

Vanguard Personal Advisors

For Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, human financial planners are just part of the package. Clients have unlimited access to human financial planners who are hands-on throughout the entire process. For investors with at least $50,000, the 0.30% annual fee of assets under management (AUM), however, this might just be a better value than Betterment; Betterment Premium clients will need over $2 million in investments in order to have a 0.30% AUM fee.

Check out all the Robo-Advisor Comparison Posts

Betterment Investments vs. Vanguard Investments

Betterment delves into diverse corners of the investment universe to capture various U.S. and international stock and bond funds. While Vanguard lists its core funds the only way to know the other investment funds they use is to open an account. Since Vanguard uses best practices investing and is known for low-fee funds, I would be confident in their fund offerings.

I don’t consider the available fund choices to be an issue for either provider. You’ll get a diversified and balanced portfolio from either Betterment or Vanguard Personal Advisor robo-advisors.

Betterment Investments:

Stock Funds

  • Total U.S. Stock Market ETF (VIT, SCHB, ITOT)
  • U.S. Large-Cap Value ETF (IVTV, SCHV, IVE)
  • U.S. Mid-Cap Value ETF (VOE, IWS, IJJ)
  • U.S. Small-Cap Value ETF (VBR, IWN, IJS)
  • International Developed Market Stock ETF (VEA, SCHF, IEFA)
  • International Emerging Market ETF (VWO, IEMG, SCHE)

Bond Funds

Betterment offers 8 bond ETFs spanning U.S. corporate, high yield, short term, municipal and treasury bonds. Additional bond categories include both developed and emerging market bond funds.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Core Investments:

  • Total U.S. Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX)
  • Total International Stock Index Fund (VTIAX)
  • Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBTLX)
  • Total International Bond Index Fund (VTABX)
  • Intermediate-Term Investment Grade Fund (VFIDX)
  • Short-term Investment Grade Fund (VFSUX)
  • Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt Fund (VWIUX) (for taxable accounts only)

Betterment vs Vanguard Personal Advisor Services—Assets Under Management

Knowing the Assets Under Management (AUM) of your robo-advisor options can be important! Both Betterment and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services have high AUM, coming in the top five of all robo-advisors for AUM.

Clients might be comforted to know that Vanguard has $115 billion (yes, billion) AUM, which demonstrates the robo-advisor’s strength. While Betterment isn’t very close to that number, coming in at “only” $16 billion AUM, this is still a sign that Betterment is a trusted robo-advisor!

Betterment vs Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Robo-Advisors — The Takeaway

Is Vanguard Personal Advisor Services worth it? Absolutely.

Is Betterment worth it? Yes it is.

Each robo-advisor is a good choice, for the right investor.

Both Betterment and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services are robo-advisor powerhouses. These robos demonstrate stability through their AUM numbers. They also stand out among other robo-advisors because they offer access to human financial planners as part of their packages.

In terms of fees, these robo-advisors are well-matched; investors can expect to pay between 0.15-0.40% AUM depending on account type and access to premium features.

Although investors who want to use Vanguard’s services will need to have a larger minimum investment amount, clients of either robo-advisor will have access to the basic features of any good robo, including, portfolio rebalancing, diverse investment options, and multiple account types.

Read the Complete Betterment Review

Direct Access: Betterment Website

Read the Complete Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Review

Direct Access: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

Visit the Robo-Advisor Selection Wizard, take a quick quiz, and find out which robo-advisor is the right one for you.

Disclosure: Please note that this article may contain affiliate links which means that – at zero cost to you – I might earn a commission if you sign up or buy through the affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t believe is valuable.

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