Robo-Advisors vs. Financial Advisors: How They Compare

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I'm Donny. I'm a world traveler, investor, entrepreneur, and online marketing aficionado who has a big appetite to compete and disrupt big markets. I thrive on being able to create things that impact change, difficult challenges, and being able to add value in negative situations.

We all turn to professionals for advice on managing our finances and estate planning, but the emergence of robo-advisors has disrupted the industry. It can be daunting to choose between robo-advisors and financial advisors.

Whether you need a robo-advisor or a financial advisor depends on your individual needs and preferences. You should consider the features and value for money that both offer.

Key Takeaways
  • A robo-advisor is an online investment management service that uses algorithms and technology for financial planning.
  • It is a platform that’s available 24/7, offers tax-loss harvesting and is diversified and inexpensive.
  • A financial advisor is a licensed brokerage offering practical financial advice to individuals and companies.
  • They offer a personalized plan with a minimized tax burden and accountability and provide financial advice.
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What are Robo-Advisors?

Robo-advisors are digital financial advisors that offer a range of investment, retirement, and insurance products. They are an automated way of getting professional investment advice and managing your portfolio without needing a human advisor.

These platforms utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze data and make investment decisions based on your age, time horizon and risk tolerance.

Robo-advisors also use algorithms and technology to provide automated investment advice and portfolio management.

Robo-Advisor Examples

Several robo-advisors are currently available, one of which is Betterment. Betterment uses a combination of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and personalized advice to help users reach their financial goals.

The company’s portfolio has historically returned an average of 8.43% annually. Wealthfront is an automated investment service that uses Modern Portfolio Theory to create personalized portfolios for users based on their risk profiles.

It considers your time horizon, risk tolerance and financial goals to create a custom portfolio that matches your needs. The company’s portfolio has historically returned an average of 6.79% annually.

Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is a type of advisor that uses a combination of ETFs, stocks and bonds to build portfolios for its users. The company’s portfolio has historically returned an average of 6.94% annually.

Robo-Advisor Benefits

Here are some advantages of using a robo-advisor in your investment plans.

  • Low fees: As robo-advisors use computer algorithms and AI technology, users don’t have to pay a human to manage their portfolio. This reduces human labor and operation costs, making investing more affordable for many individuals.
  • Automated rebalancing: Automatic rebalancing involves using algorithms to adjust asset allocation in real-time stock market movements. Rebalancing keeps the portfolio aligned with the investor’s risk tolerance and desired asset allocation, which reduces the risk of drifting away from the target allocation.
  • Available 24/7: Robo-advisors are available 24/7, and you can access them online or through mobile apps. Their availability makes it easy for investors to manage their portfolios whenever they want.
  • Efficient: Robo-advisors utilize technology to efficiently manage portfolios and automate most investing strategies. It reduces the time and effort required for investors to manage their portfolios and helps them make more informed and timely investment decisions.
  • Tax-loss harvesting: Tax-loss harvesting is a service that robo-advisors offer to help minimize the amount of taxes an investor has to pay. They do this by selling off losing stocks and replacing them with winning stocks to reduce the overall tax bill.
  • Diversification: Robo-advisors automatically diversify asset classes such as stocks, bonds, and ETFs to cover all your investment accounts. This helps investors to invest prudently across different asset classes, minimizing risk exposure while achieving better returns.

Robo-Advisor Drawbacks

Robo-advisors have several weaknesses, as discussed below.

  • Limited flexibility: Robo-advisors use pre-set algorithms to make investment decisions. This inflexibility limits the ability of investors to make changes or customize their portfolios based on their specific needs and goals.
  • Limited human interaction: As robo-advisors are automated, they are limited in their human interaction. This reduces the level of human guidance provided to clients.
  • No personalization: Robo-advisors use pre-set algorithms and models to make investment decisions. They do not consider an individual’s financial status, goals or risk tolerance.

What is a Financial Advisor?

A financial advisor is a professional brokerage that provides hands-on financial guidance and advice to individuals and small businesses. They advise on how to invest and save money to achieve specific financial goals, such as planning for retirement, buying a house, or growing a business.

Human advisors meet with clients to analyze their financial objectives and current financial status. Based on this information, the advisor will create a customized financial plan that outlines the steps the client can take to achieve their goals.

Financial Advisor Examples

One example of a financial advisor is Datalign Advisory. Datalign is a financial advisory firm that advises personal finance and institutional investments. The firm uses a quantitative approach to investment management and focuses on delivering long-term returns for its clients.

Ameriprise Financial is an investment advisory firm that provides investment accounts and products to individual investors. It offers various financial products and services, including investment advice, wealth management, financial planning, and insurance.

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Financial Advisor Benefits

Let’s examine the pros of using a financial advisor.

  • Retirement planning: Financial advisors work with individual investors to help them create financial retirement plans. They help you to understand your specific needs and goals and then develop strategies to achieve them.
  • Personalized financial plan: Financial advisors make customized financial plans for each client. They will consider the client’s specific objectives and situations to create a tailor-made program.
  • Minimizing tax burden: Human advisors can help clients understand how to reduce their total tax burden by using various tax planning strategies and financial products.
  • Accountability: Financial advisors are held to a higher standard and must report any recommendations they make to their clients. This helps to hold both the financial planner and client accountable.
  • Providing financial advice: Financial advisors provide financial advice to their clients. This advice helps the clients understand how to manage their investment portfolios and achieve their goals.
  • Migrating risks: Human advisors help you understand how to move your investments between various vehicles to reduce the overall risk of your portfolios.

Financial Advisor Drawbacks

Here are some disadvantages of using a financial advisor.

  • Fee structure: Financial advisors charge their clients hourly fees and commissions. This can add up over time as the client’s portfolio grows and the value of investments increases.
  • Track record: It is difficult for clients to see how well a financial planner manages money and whether the advisor has met their expectations.
  • Conflicts of interest: Financial advisors often work on behalf of their clients and take a commission for the products or services they sell. This reduces their fidelity, as it conflicts with their fiduciary duty to act in their client’s best interests.
  • Finding a good financial advisor: Financial advisors are expensive to hire, and there is no standard qualification to become one. Finding the right advisor will cost you time and money.
  • Limited investment options: Traditional advisors help clients invest in specific investment assets. This limits the kinds of investments a client can make.

Robo-advisor vs. Financial Advisor: How do they compare?

Robo-advisors and financial advisors both have their own strengths and weaknesses. It is up to the investors to determine the best financial services provider for their needs.

Here are some similarities between financial advisors and robo-advisors. Both robo-advisors and traditional financial advisors manage portfolios on behalf of their clients and charge management fees for their services.

They also provide investment guidance to their clients and help them to optimize their tax situation. Let’s look at the differences between robo-advisors and financial advisors.

Robo-AdvisorsFinancial Advisors
No human interactionRetirement planning
Less feesHuman interaction
Less personalizationPersonalized financial plan
Portfolio rebalancingAccountability
Tax-loss harvestingHigher fees

Should I Use a Robo-Advisor or Financial Advisor?

When choosing between a robo-advisor and a financial advisor, the best option depends on your personal needs, goals, and preferences.

For example, for beginner investors, those looking for low-cost, automated investment management and those with little experience in the stock market, robo-advisors may be the better choice.

They offer low costs and automate portfolio management. Traditional financial advisors may be better for investors who want more personalized advice, more human interaction and more advanced tax planning.

They provide comprehensive financial plans and help investors with more complex financial goals and significant assets.

Choose a Robo-Advisor If:

  • You are looking for a convenient and easy-to-use advisor.
  • You are looking for an advisor with lower fees.
  • You are looking for an advisor who can offer diversified investment strategies.

Choose a Financial Advisor If:

  • You want more personalized advice and guidance.
  • You want access to a broader range of investment options.
  • You want accountability in your financial or investment plan.


Here are some frequently asked questions about robo-advisors and financial advisors.

Do robo-advisors outperform financial advisors?

Robo-advisors provide cost-effective, hands-off investment management. However, a financial advisor may be more suitable if you prefer a more interpersonal connection.

Can robo-advisors replace financial advisors?

Both financial advisors and robo-advisors can assist you in making profitable investments. However, the choice will depend on your unique financial situation.

Do robo-advisors beat the market?

No. You could never outperform the market because robo-advisors often invest in index funds.

M1 Finance

Invest, borrow, and spend on one intuitive platform. Customize your strategies, automate the big picture, and let The Finance Super App® take care of the day-to-day—commission-free.

We earn a commission if you create an account, at no additional cost to you.

I'm Donny. I'm a world traveler, investor, entrepreneur, and online marketing aficionado who has a big appetite to compete and disrupt big markets. I thrive on being able to create things that impact change, difficult challenges, and being able to add value in negative situations.

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