I put $600 into a roboadviser invented by a 25-year old Stanford grad and I’m beating the market — so far

caption
Brian Barnes, M1 Finance.
source
M1

Do-it-yourself investing can be scary for a lot of people, especially young wanna-be investors.

The financial markets are complicated and so most people prefer to give their money to someone else to manage.

When Brian Barnes graduated from Stanford in 2012, he had a hard time finding a tool with which he could invest in the stock market on his own. This prompted him to start his own online brokerage site, M1 Finance, at 25 years old.

“What I was trying to do seemed relatively basic,” Barnes penned in a recent post on M1’s site. “I wanted to be able to pick my investments, and have recurring deposits automatically added to those allocations.”

And that’s exactly what M1, which has $60 million under management, allows users to do. M1 users can pick the stocks they want to invest in and then they can determine what percentage of their portfolio they want each position to make up. M1 automatically updates as you put in more money and as stock prices fluctuate to maintain your preferred portfolio allocation. So if you want Apple to make up 25% of your portfolio, M1 will balance your portfolio as such. That means you can’t buy one Apple share, or one Amazon share. It’s all about the portfolio.

Unlike most brokerage sites, M1 doesn’t charge a fee for users to buy a stock. It does, however, charge users an annual percentage-based fee on their assets.

Last Monday, I opened up an M1 account to try my hand at the markets. Business Insider rules prohibit trading in and out of securities, and I plan to hold these investments for the long term.

Here’s what it’s like to have an M1 account based off of my experience.


This is what the M1 Finance icon looks like on an iPhone.

source
M1 Finance

Before you fund your account on M1 you can start building a “pie.” Clicking the turquoise plus sign allows you to add up to 100 “slices” to your pie. Slices can range from stocks, ETFs, or M1’s pre-built pies.

source
M1 Finance

Using the Discover feature you can find the slices you want for your pie.

source
M1 Finance

Since M1 allows you to purchase partial stocks, you can invest in a blue chip company like Amazon, which trades at over $1,000 per share, with just $100. To add a stock to your pie you just click the check button to the right of the company’s name.

source
M1 Finance

When you add a slice to your pie you select a target allocation. If you wanted, you could have a whole pie of just Amazon stock.

source
M1Finance

My target allocation for Amazon is 15%, meaning regardless of how much money is on my account, or what the stock is trading at, M1 will work towards ensuring the position makes up 15% of my account.

source
M1 Finance

In the “Expert Pie” section of the app, you can find pre-made pies that you can add to your portfolio. For instance, you can incorporate the investment strategies of some well-known Wall Street firms such as Berkshire Hathaway and Pershing Square Capital.

source
M1 Finance

The Berkshire Hathaway pie, which mimics the holdings of famed investor Warren Buffett, makes up 4% of my portfolio.

source
M1 Finance

Basically, 4% of my portfolio is made up of another 25 holdings.

source
M1 Finance

You can also add industry specific pies to your portfolio. Such pies are made up of numerous companies from the same industry.

source
M1 Finance

The financials pie, for instance, is made up of 30 of the largest financial firms such as UBS Group and JPMorgan.

source
M1 Finance

Perhaps you’re not interested in building your own investment pie, but you still want to invest. Under the general investing tab in the Discover section, you can pick from 6 of M1 pre-made and managed portfolios. Options range from Ultra Aggressive to Ultra Conservative.

source
M1 Finance

If you’re planning for retirement, M1 has an option for you. Under the “Expert Pie” section you can pick from a number of retirement portfolios based on your risk and retirement year preference. You could make a separate pie entirely made up purely of this portfolio.

source
M1 Finance

Once you’re done building a pie, you can fund it.

source
M1 Finance

Once you link with your bank, you can start making deposits. That deposit will be allocated into your pie based on your target allocations. Thus, if you put in $100, and your target allocation for Amazon stock is 15%, then $15 will go into Amazon.

source
M1 Finance

Linking your bank account is as easy as entering your mobile banking password and username. No need to bust out that pesky routing number.

source
M1 Finance

You can schedule deposits, too. I have it take out $100 right after my first paycheck of the month.

source
M1 Finance

Once your account is funded, M1 will start making trades based on your pre-set target allocation. It’ll do its best to hit those targets, but it’s not perfect. As you can see Facebook makes up 4% of my portfolio, despite its 7% target. Not complaining, my portfolio is up 1.52% since last Monday. That’s triple the performance of the S&P 500.

source
M1