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6 Robo-Advisors With Human Touch – Digital Investment Advice + Live Advisors

Let’s face it, the idea of turning one’s finances over to a robo-advisor is nerve-wracking for some. In fact, you might be skeptical about hiring a totally automated investment manager and would prefer a robo-advisor with human touch.

There’s no denying that robo-advisors are helping people make good investment choices as well as, if not better than, traditional financial planners. Often, robo-advisors are more affordable than their human counterparts, and offer 24/7 service for a fraction of the cost of a traditional advisor. Since they’re so effective, it may not be immediately clear why anyone would care about a robo-advisor with human financial advisor. to the robo-advisor experience.

Bonus: Lowest Fee Robo-Advisors

Yet, if you’re experiencing uncertainty or financial concerns there is just something comforting about having another person to talk to. And since financial markets fluctuate, these stressful, uncertain moments could come up a lot!

The solution: consider investing in one of these 5 robo-advisors with access to human advisors. Doing so combines the sophisticated investment algorithms of the robo-advisor with the human touch so many of us crave.

6 robo-advisors with access to human financial advisors. Includes Personal Capital, Betterment, Ellevest + more.


Robo-Advisors With a Human Touch

1. Personal Capital

Personal Capital helps long-term by offering advice based on users’ existing investments and other accounts. Although the basic level of financial service is free, Personal Capital offers access to a dedicated financial planner for paid accounts with a minimum balance of $25,000. Fees begin at .79% for the first $3 million, and drop in increments. For accounts over $10,000,000, fees are .49% AUM. Although this fee is higher charges of some robo-advisors, it’s lower than the 1.00% to 1.40% fees of many financial advisors.

Personal Capital helps clients by guiding them toward smart allocation and investment choices. The platform looks long-term and bases recommendations on all of a client’s portfolios, so users can expect to get customized advice.

Personal Capital provides tax-loss harvesting, retirement accounts and planning along with net worth calculations and spectacular free investment management reporting software. Clients using the free software have access to automated investment analysis, while paid clients have a dedicated financial advisor and investment management services. 

Click here to sign up for the Personal Capital free investment management dashboard (includes many cool financial reports, too)

2. Betterment

Betterment offers a few different account types, with their own fee structures. Betterment Digital, which is the basic account, charges only 0.25% AUM for accounts up to $2 million, and no fees for accounts over that amount. Betterment digital recently launched their advisor messaging service for all customers. This texting-based service allows all Betterement clients to message a human financial advisor.

The company recently rolled out a Betterment free portfolio review, for anyone, whether they’re a Betterment customer or not.

However, if you want to have a conversation with a human financial planner by phone or video chat then you’ll  need to go with Betterment Premium ($100,000 minimum, 0.40% AUM). The premium plan offers unlimited access to their human financial experts.

Betterment allows clients to set up multiple goals and seek investments that help them to reach these goals. They offer multiple types of investments, including Vanguard and iShares ETFs, international and domestic bonds, and market-cap stock ETFs. Clients can open IRAs, individual or joint accounts, and even allow Betterment to manage their workplace 401(k) plan. 

Click here for direct access to the Betterment Platform

3. Ellevest

Ellevest just rolled out 2 new service models; Ellevest Digital with a 0.25% AUM fee and Ellevest Premium which charges 0.50% AUM and includes access to both career and financial advisors. Although billed as a robo-advisor for women, the platform is competitive for any investor.

Ellevest is a goals based platform and even at the digital level, allows for texting with financial professionals. Their asset classes and available investment funds are among the most extensive with unique ETFs such as as value equity funds, global bond funds.

Additional Ellevest distinguishing features include conservative financial scenario projections that account for realities such as taxes and fees, down markets, and other factors, and builds layers of conservatism into their projections. Premium clients not only get help from certified financial planners, they can also speak with executive career consultants. The platform analyzes and considers all of your investment accounts, whether they are managed by Ellevest or not.

Click here for direct access to the Ellevest platform.

4. SigFig 

Like Personal Capital, SigFig focuses on helping clients make the best choices about their existing portfolios. SigFig provides investment tracking in Schwab, TD Ameritrade and Fidelity accounts. This robo-advisor works by analyzing data and science to track and analyze investments.

SigFig offers Asset Management Service to customers with a minimum $2,000 opening balance; this service is free up to $10,000. After that, they charge 0.25% AUM. There is also the Diversified Income service for customers with balances over $100,000. The Diversified Income portfolio option charges 0.50%. There are no transaction or trading fees, and no commission charges.

All SigFig clients get unlimited access to human financial advisors, who can be reached by email, live chat, phone, or through appointment. These financial experts can help provide investment advice, which complements SigFig’s access to portfolios with diversified ETFs, retirement accounts, and stock and bond funds.

5. TDAmeritrade Essential Portfolios

TDAmeritrade offers in-branch assistance with representatives when necessary; the robo-advisor is still mainly automated (which means low fees!), but having additional human assistance is a great comfort for many investors. Fees are only 0.30% AUM, and the minimum opening balance is $5,000.

This robo-advisor is goals-oriented, and aims to help investors plan for their future. Whether you are comfortable with more conservative investments or prefer to invest aggressively, TDAmeritrade has portfolios for you. These portfolios rebalance annually, although they can be rebalanced more frequently if needed.

Investment options include low-fee ETF portfolios. Clients can open various retirement funds, including IRAs, Trusts, and 401ks; there is also the option to open business accounts and UTMA accounts.

6. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

Vanguard really hits it out of the park here with its combination of robo-advisor and human elements. This robo-advisor with human touch platform is actually led by a human financial planner. The financial professionals partner with their clients to design, manage and rebalance unique investment portfolios based on each client’s needs and situation.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services acknowledge that people make emotional decisions regarding their finances, and promise to help clients work around these emotions by providing consistent support and advice. If that means that you want to be as hands off as possible, that’s fine! You can also choose to be more involved in the process. This balance makes Vanguard Personal Advisor Services accessible for all types of investors.

The drawback of Vanguard’s Robo-Advisor with a human touch is that the minimum account size is $50,000. The 0.30% AUM fee is reasonable, although there may be additional commissions and other fees. For all accounts under $500,000, clients have access to a team of advisors. This ensures that clients’ needs are met and investments are taken care of. As your account value increases, the service gets more personal: accounts over $500,000 have a dedicated financial planner.

Which Robo-Advisor Plus Human Financial Advisor is Best?

For the most part, robo-advisors are designed to be self-run; however, having a robo-advisor with human touch can certainly add value to an already impressive investment platform. While some of these advisors – such as Betterment – offer unlimited access to financial planners, the additional fees may not be worth it based on your personal financial situation. If you prefer to invest with a standard robo-advisor or one with an automated financial advisor such as Wealthfront’s Path, you can always hire a fee-only financial planner by the hour.

There’s never a perfect solution to investment management, compare the options and choose the robo-advisor plus human financial advisor that’s best 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.

Updated; December 26, 2017

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Barbara A. Friedberg, MBA, MS

Barbara A. Friedberg, MBA, MS


  1. Steveark
    July 7, 2017 at 11:31 am — Reply

    Nice comparison, I’ve got a portfolio under management with Personal Capital and unless they’ve changed the fee schedule it used to start at 0.89% for up to one million and only drops to 0.79% for accounts larger than one million and less than three million. I’ve got money with Vanguard investment services, Betterment and Personal Capital and am waiting to see who handles the inevitable correction/bear market/recession when it finally happens again to decide who I want to consolidate my funds with.

    • July 20, 2017 at 3:04 pm — Reply

      Steveark, That’s an interesting experiment, keeping monies with a variety of advisors. Are your asset allocations the same across the various platforms? Please keep us posted as to your long-term results. In the meantime, you might be interested in this article:

      • Steveark
        July 20, 2017 at 5:40 pm — Reply

        I should have had them set up that way but Betterment and PC are both aggressive and Vanguard is kind of set up medium risk. I’m pretty much going to look at the equity portion and the bond portions separately since I could control the split on each with how I respond to the risk questions. That was a good article, thanks!

        • July 30, 2017 at 2:46 pm — Reply

          That’s a good idea to compare the equity and fixed allocations separately. Keep us posted on your returns and results.

  2. Arjun Laud
    July 11, 2017 at 10:11 pm — Reply

    Great article! Definitely agree that handing over finances to an automated service can be daunting. For a Robo Advisor, it seems balancing an automated service with the ability to interact with live advisors is a way to offer investors better sleep at night. However, it will likely be difficult for firms to offer high quality human advisory services to all clients on top of their automated services, and for this reason perhaps artificial intelligence may play a greater role in processing client data effectively…

    • July 20, 2017 at 3:01 pm — Reply

      Hi Arjun,
      The automated investing landscape is evolving very quickly. In fact, many financial advisors are white-labeling robo-advisors to manage their client portfolios. Most investors should be able to find the right robo and/or human advisor to help with their investment portfolios. And, as you mentioned AI will certainly play a part in the future of investing.

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