There are two primary methods you can use to invest your money. The first is the old way — through a traditional investment advisor, otherwise known as a financial advisor, your money guy or girl, or maybe even just Jerry. This is a person who will make all your investment decisions for you. He’ll pick the stocks he thinks will outperform other stocks, mutual and index funds he likes, and, if he’s on the ball, he’ll also periodically rebalance your portfolio, making sure you’re not too exposed in one sector or underexposed in another.
By and large, traditional advisors will make their money by charging all of their clients a small percentage of their entire investment every year as a fee for their investment-picking expertise. 1% is a common fee for clients with less than a million dollars invested. The mutual funds he buys will often assess fees of their own, so you could easily be looking at an annual fee of 2% on your investments.
The second method you may choose to use is called automated investing. Though the process might sound totally devoid of input from people, automated investing — using what’s often referred to as robo advisors — involves a great deal of human thought and input on the front end. People with investing expertise pick your investments, but unlike with a traditional advisor, they’ll often pick low-cost ETFs that directly mirror the ups and downs of the market, rather than managed funds that attempt to anticipate which investments will outperform the greater market.
And robo advisors like Wealthsimple will charge a fraction of management fees than the Jerrys of the world. But after you’re invested with an automated advisor, sophisticated technology will take care of all of the rest of the processes, including trading and periodic portfolio rebalancing. Unlike a traditional advisor, an automated advisor will always follow calculated principles and will not be subject to any human whims or emotion that often influence human decision-making. Though Jerry will probably vehemently disagree, history demonstrates that funds that track the major stock indices have performed better (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6261.2010.01598.x/full) over the long term than the vast majority of actively managed funds. The greatest advantage of automated investing is the fee structure. The best ones — and here we humbly suggest you take a good long look at Wealthsimple — will charge half or less than what traditional advisors assess.