The number of personal finance tools on the market has exploded in recent years. Overall, this has carried positive impacts because it created new avenues for banking, saving, and investing. However, having so many options can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to understanding the advantages (and disadvantages) of one app over another. To help out everyday investors and savers, Financial Professional has put together a review of one of the newer tools: M1 Finance.
Before we continue, Financial Professional wants to remind you that this review is informational in nature and does not constitute investing advice. Although we may receive financial compensation (at no cost to you) from affiliate links in our reviews, our opinions are our own.
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What is M1 Finance?
First up in our M1 Finance Review, let’s cover the basics.
M1 Finance, or “The Finance Super App” as they refer to themselves, is an app and website that lets their users invest, borrow, and spend money. M1 Finance centers their offering around newer investors and aims to appeal to the masses. They describe the process of building wealth as a “marathon,” and thus make it their mission to help as many people cross the finish line as possible “regardless of where you are starting from.”
M1’s investing philosophy is to follow a committed approach of buying stocks regularly and holding a diverse and balanced portfolio for a long period of time. They consider the long-term approach to be one of the best ways to build sustainable wealth. As a result, they discourage day trading stocks on their platform.
M1 Finance was founded in 2015 after CEO Brian Barnes, an investing aficionado was unable to find an adequate tool for his needs. Since then, the company has focused on challenging the status quo in personal finance. They meet this goal by putting the power to invest and control finances back in their user’s hands.
In total, M1 Finances boasts about 500,000 users – not to mention 20,000 5-start ratings on the App Store.
M1 Finance’s platform, when compared to other investment apps, is fairly straightforward. They offer users the ability to do three things: invest, borrow, and spend money.
- M1 Finance allows you to choose your own stocks and ETFs for your investment portfolio. They also have 80 “expert portfolios” that you can mimic your own investments after if you are not sure where to start.
- They support four types of accounts: individual, joint, IRA, trust.
- You can borrow money (margin) at 3.5% interest (2% for Plus members) if your portfolio is worth more than $10,000.
- Spending accounts let you to keep all of your finances in one place. They have no required minimum balance or fees.
- M1 Finance also issue a debit card.
The regular version of M1 Finance is free; however, they also offer a premium version called M1 Plus for $125 per year.
- Access longer trading hours when your account is over $25,000.
- 1% APY and 1% cashback on your checking account.
M1 Finance Fees and Pricing
The regular version of M1 Finance is completely free for all users. This free version includes access to their investing platform, the ability to borrow money at 3.5% (if your account is over $10,000), and the ability to access your cash with a debit card.
M1 Plus costs $125 per year and gives you access to longer trading hours, the ability to borrow at 2% (with a $10,000 minimum), as well as 1% APY and cash-back on their debit card.
Review of M1 Finance Pros and Cons
Every finance and investing platform is going to have pros and cons. Most of the time, whether a service is positive or negative depends on your needs. That said, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of using M1 Finance’s platform.
M1 Finance Pros
- Borrowing Ability: This is one of the best features from M1 Finance. Even if you use the free version, you can borrow money at a competitive 3.5% rate. The process requires no paperwork and they claim it can be done in less than 10 seconds. You can borrow up to 35% of your portfolio so long as you have a minimum account balance of $10,000.
- Robust platform: M1 Finance offers the Toyota Camry of investing tools. It gets the job done with minimal issues and doesn’t do anything flashy. If you do not currently use any financial tools, then M1 Finance may be a good place to start.
- Ease of use: The M1 Finance platform and app are designed with the user in mind. Since they’re built for the average person, you don’t need any technological or financial knowledge.
- Expert advice: They break down their portfolios into what they call “Pies.” From here, you can choose which stocks or ETFs you want to invest in based on your own knowledge and research. Alternatively, you can mirror one of their existing expert-designed portfolios.
- Freedom: Some apps will try to automate your investing or force you to use their entire ecosystem of services. M1 Finance is a breath of fresh air, as it doesn’t try to strong-arm you into using any additional features.
- Transparency: As opposed to some financial tools, M1 Finance’s website is remarkably empty of lofty promises or guaranteed returns. They strive to keep their users’ interests in mind and clearly highlight the risks associated with investing.
- Minimal fees: M1 Finance is completely free unless you choose to use their paid version. There is also no minimum balance or fees for using their debit card.
M1 Finance Cons
- Not very sophisticated: Since their platform was designed for the common investor, it falls short in terms of advanced features. As we said, it’s the Toyota Camry of investing. It’s good for the average beginning investor, but if you have specific needs then you should probably go with a pickup truck or sportscar.
- Their spending feature doesn’t offer much: Apart from the ease of having all your services on one platform, there isn’t much benefit to using their spending feature.
- Lack of personal finance and investing information: Although they do have a blog and some articles covering the basics of personal finance, there is little in terms of up-to-date market information.
- Not built for day trading: M1 specifically advertises that their platform is not for day traders. Their mentality is that building wealth is best done over the long-term, rather than by rapid trades.
- Lack of investment options: They only advertise the ability to invest in stocks or ETFs. This means that if you want to buy cryptocurrency, options, commodities, bonds, or other assets then you will need to search elsewhere.
- M1 Plus is incredibly pricey for what you get: M1 Plus really only offers the ability to borrow money at 2% instead of 3.5%, as well as get 1% APY on your debit card. If you do not want to borrow money, then there is not much reason to opt for M1 Plus over their free account.
M1 Finance advocates that their platform is made for the self-directed investor. In other words, you are on your own in terms of what type of return you earn. To their credit, it is a little refreshing that they do not fall into the stereotype of claiming higher than average returns in an attempt to lure users. Their website is free of any guarantees or promises of potential returns. However, this does mean that each user is on their own in terms of doing proper research and committing to their due diligence.
A Review of M1 Finance Investment Risks
M1 Finance gives you the keys to the car and offers a few driving lessons, but leaves it entirely up to you to get to your destination. This gives you the freedom to drive as fast as you want – but also leaves you responsible if you crash. That said, their platform is no riskier than other platforms on the market. After all, there is always risk inherent with investing.
When you invest, you are using your money to buy something that fluctuates in value (like the price of a stock). Any positive or negative news about a company can lead to investors rushing to buy or divest from the stock, which leads to price fluctuations. Since it’s impossible to be 100% certain whether a stock price will go up or down, it is always risky to buy into the market. However, you can make the decision to invest in stocks that are deemed more or less risky than others. Just make sure that you’re not buying into more risk than you can tolerate!
As a general rule of thumb, the riskier the stock, the higher the potential return and vice versa.
M1 Finance does a good job of highlighting the risks and you can read their full statement of risks here.
A Final Word in Our M1 Finance Review
Overall, M1 Finance offers a robust platform for beginning investors. They do a good job of educating you on the basics and offer you options for investing, spending, and borrowing money. By far their best feature is the ability to borrow money at a very low rate with almost no questions asked. However, if you are a more sophisticated investor who needs a more powerful tool, there are definitely better options out there.
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