One of the biggest advantages with IRAs is that they’re self-directed plans. You not only choose the investments you want to make, but also the trustee that will hold the plan. But there are different trustees, many providing very different service levels.
What are the best IRA investment accounts? It really depends on how you plan to invest.
We’ve assembled a list of five investment platforms that will work for most IRA investors, including a couple for people who would rather let someone else handle the investment management for them.
Before we get to the list of the best IRA investment accounts, let’s first look at the basics of an IRA plan.
The best IRA investment accounts overview
IRA investment Account Best For Other Features
Personal Capital Professional management OR self-directed assistance Also provides budgeting and 401(k) management advice
E*TRADE Investors who want to mix self-directed and managed investment options
Very low management fee, also offering financial advice
Betterment Putting your IRA on auto pilot Very low trading fees for frequent traders; many additional financial services
J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing The self-directed investor Access to research materials and opportunity to use expert-managed portfolios for a small advisory fee.
Acorns People who can’t save money Provides investment advice, you do the actual investing
Stash IRA investor who just can’t get going All investment options, top customer service
Fidelity The self-directed investor All investment options, top customer service
Wealthfront New IRA investors
Complete investment management, and the first $5,000 is managed free
Bloom Inexpensive professional management You can also manage your 401k through Blooom
Best IRA Account for professional management OR self-directed assistance
Personal Capital has two plan options, one is free and the other is paid. The free version provides valuable retirement plan tools and can benefit self-directed IRA investors.
The paid version actually manages your IRA account for you, and is an excellent choice if you have no investment management experience, and prefer professional assistance.
Personal Capital Wealth Management is the paid version. Not only can it manage your IRA account, but it can also manage any other investment accounts you have. That will be a major advantage, since Personal Capital will be able to provide comprehensive investment management, recognizing your asset allocations in all accounts and plans.
The fee structure for Personal Capital is higher than what’s charged by robo-advisors, but well below the fees commonly paid to professional investment management services.
- $1 million or less, 0.89 percent per year
- $1 million to $3 million, 0.79 percent per year
- $3 million to $5 million, 0.69 percent per year
- $5 million to $10 million, 0.59 percent per year
- Above $10 million, 0.49 percent per year
If you’re a self-directed investor, you may prefer the free version. It offers several tools to help you better manage your IRA:
- Retirement Planner. This tool helps you determine how much money you will need to retire. It will set a target and let you know if you’re likely to reach your goal, based on your current contributions and investment returns. If not, you can make adjustments.
- 401(k) Fee Analizer. This tool analyze the fees associated with various investment funds you have and lets you know exactly what you’re paying. It can also make recommendations for lower cost options.
- Asset Allocation Target. This tool analyzes your asset allocation, and determines if you are either overweight or underweight in any of the major asset categories. It will help you to achieve better balance in your retirement portfolio.
Reasons to use Personal Capital
- If you have little or no investment experience, you will be interested in the wealth management version. It will handle all investment management of your IRA, as well as any other investment accounts you want to include in your plan.
- The free service offers valuable tools to self-directed investors, who may only be looking for investment management assistance.
The main reasons to not go with Personal Capital
If you’re looking for an IRA management service, Personal Capital is more expensive than other platforms on this list. The annual fee of 0.89 percent an a portfolio of less than $1 million is well above the fee charge by most robo-advisors.
The other major negative with Personal Capital is that the wealth management version requires a minimum account balance of $100,000. That will eliminate small investors.
Who is Personal Capital best for?
The free version of Personal Capital can help anyone do a better job of managing their IRAs.
If you want a higher level of investment service, Personal Capital is strong in this area as well. Though its advisory fee is higher than robo-advisors, it does provide a higher level of service.
The number of managed investment options – four in all – are the main reason that E*TRADE stands out as a good choice for your IRA account. That many options gives you plenty of choice as to the type of managed account you want. And within at least two of the options, there are additional variations.
E*TRADE is also one of the top platforms for options trading. Their Power E*TRADE platform is one of the best in the industry, providing interactive charts, technical pattern recognition, risk/reward analysis, and even the ability to run “what-if” scenarios. E*TRADE also gives you the ability to invest in futures, FOREX and certificates of deposit.
The basic trading fee is $0 per trade for stocks, options, and ETFs. What’s more, E*TRADE offers more than 250 commission-free ETFs, and more than 4,400 no-load, no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
The availability of both self-directed and managed investment programs, as well as a robust options trading platform, and commission-free funds – in combination with no regular IRA fees – make E*TRADE one of the very best brokers for your IRA account.
Reasons to open an account with E*TRADE
- You can open an IRA account with as little as $500.
- There are no monthly or annual fees for your IRA account.
- E*TRADE may be the very best platform for options trading, if you want to include that in your IRA investing activity.
- Four managed portfolio options, offer you plenty of choices if you decide you want your account to be fully or even partially professionally managed.
- Lower commission fee schedule for frequent traders on options.
Who is E*TRADE best for?
IRA investors who are looking for complete investment choices, from self-directed investing to managed portfolio options. Most other brokers offer managed investment options, but usually in the form of a single robo-advisor. E*TRADE has four different managed options, and two of them have multiple variations.
Best IRA account for putting your IRA on autopilot
Just because an IRA is self-directed, doesn’t mean you have to get your hands dirty managing it. There are dozens of robo-advisors available today, that can handle 100 percent of the investment management for you. All you need to do is fund the account, and get on with the rest of your life.
Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and Ally Invest each have their own robo-advisor platforms. But the first robo-advisor—and the largest independent robo—is Betterment, and there are all kinds of reasons why that’s true.
You begin by completing a brief questionnaire that establishes your investment goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. From there, Betterment designs a portfolio comprised of 12 index-based ETF’s, that invest in stocks and bonds. They handle portfolio set up, rebalancing, and dividend reinvesting as necessary.
They do it all for a very low fee of just 0.25 percent of your IRA balance. That means you can have a $50,000 IRA managed for just $125 per year. That will hardly make a dent in your long-term return on investment.
You can open an IRA at Betterment with $0, and fund it with monthly contributions. This can easily be done through payroll contributions, the same way you would with your checking or savings account.
Reasons to open an account with Betterment
- Ability to invest money, without needing to get involved in the details of investment management. It’s automatic pilot investing at its finest.
- You’re provided with a fully diversified portfolio, that’s invested in virtually thousands of individual securities, including stocks and bonds.
- No minimum initial investment required.
- Betterment’s RetireGuide can provide assistance in helping you to plan your retirement.
- Your entire portfolio can be managed for a very low annual fee.
The main reason to not go with Betterment
Betterment is not a good choice if you want to be a self-directed investor. It offers complete hands-off investing, giving no choice over the types of investments you will hold, or the ability to trade them.
Who is Betterment best for?
Betterment is an outstanding choice if you prefer automatic pilot investing. All you need to do is fund your account, and Betterment handles every detail of management.
Best IRA account for frequent traders
J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing – Get up to $625 when you open and fund with $250,000 or more.
If you’re ready to be more hands-on with your portfolio, J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing is worth considering. There’s no fee to trade, provided you use the do-it-yourself option. J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing offers both traditional and Roth IRAs, with no fees for trading if you use J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing. You’ll pay minimal fees if you choose J.P. Morgan Automated Investing.
With J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing, you can get started with as little as $1, investing without fees. You set up your own portfolio when you go this route, choosing from a wide range of stocks, exchange-traded funds, options, fixed income, or mutual funds. Once you’ve set up your portfolio, you can monitor its progress and make changes at any time.
If you prefer a more guided approach to investing, J.P. Morgan Automated Investing will be a better option. You’ll provide information about your retirement savings goals, select a timeline, and choose the level of risk.
Although J.P. Morgan Automated Investing is fee-free, it does come with a 0.35% annual advisory fee. It’s also important to note that there may be third-party fees charged by the funds you choose, depending on how you set up your portfolio.
By using J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing, you get access to the expertise that comes from more than a century in banking. The free option sets you up to research various trade options to make fully informed decisions. You can also use the simulation tool to gauge the likelihood of earnings with various investment choices.
Reasons to open an account with J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing
- Trade with no fees.
- Access the expertise of one of the top financial institutions in the country.
- Easy to set up and manage your portfolio.
The main reason to not go with J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing
If you need expert guidance, you may prefer the one-on-one consultation you get with an individual broker. J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing is best for those who want to familiarize themselves with investing or manage things on their own.
Who is J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing best for?
J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing is best for those who like to be in control of their own investing. If you’re ready to start saving for retirement, setting up your IRA through J. P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing is quick and easy, and you can get started with as little as $1.Disclosure – INVESTMENT AND INSURANCE PRODUCTS ARE: NOT A DEPOSIT • NOT FDIC INSURED • NO BANK GUARANTEE • MAY LOSE VALUE
Best IRA account for people who can’t save money
Millions of people have no retirement savings at all. Probably the single biggest reason for this is the inability to save money. For some, saving money comes naturally, but for others it’s a constant struggle. If that describes you, then you can open an IRA account with Acorns. It’s a micro-savings app that allows you to invest—literally—with spare change.
How Acorns works
The savings process works like this…You buy a Big Mac combo meal at McDonald’s for $7.25. Acorns deduct $8.00 from your checking account, paying $7.25 the McDonald’s, and allocating the remaining $.75 for savings.
The app connects to your checking account, and performs this function each time you make a purchase through the account. They refer to the process as Round-ups, literally rounding up each purchase to the nearest whole dollar, and allocating the difference to savings. Once the savings amount reaches $5, it’s transferred from your checking account to your Acorns account. There it’s invested in robo-advisor fashion.
That means you’re saving for retirement by spending money. It’s perfectly suited to those who, for whatever reason, are unable to save money intentionally.
But it doesn’t stop there. Though you can rely on savings spare change to steadily fund your account, you can also make one-time contributions anytime you like. The combination of the two sources of contributions can make your account grow faster than you ever thought possible.
Reasons to open an account with Acorns
- No minimum initial investment required.
- It’s an investment platform specifically for people who are unable to save and invest—passive savings through ordinary spending activity.
- Your account is fully managed for you—all you need to do is fund it.
The main reason to not go with Acorns
If you do have the ability to save and invest money on a regular basis, there’ll be no need to use a service like Acorns. Also, Acorns is not a platform for self-directed investors.
Who is Acorns best for?
If the main reason you haven’t been saving for retirement is because you haven’t been able to save money at all, Acorns is the go-to choice for an IRA investment account. You go about your regular business, spending as you normally do, and small amounts of money find their way into your IRA account.
Best IRA account for the investor who just can’t get going
Stash is part micro-savings app, part robo-advisor. It’s actually an app you download on your smartphone that gives you an opportunity to save money. As you do, the money is moved over to an investment account, where if you choose to, you can start investing using Stash recommendations. The investment platform can accommodate both taxable accounts and IRAs.¹
The micro-savings app connects your bank account to Stash, where you can transfer money into your Stash account. Transfers can be scheduled to make deposits on a regular basis, known as Auto-Stash², allowing you build your account at your own pace. You can transfer any amount, up to $10,000 per day.
Stash offers 3 subscription plans: you can spend as little as $1/month for the beginner plan, $3/month for the growth plan, and $9/month for the Stash+ plan.³
Reasons to use Stash
Stash can be a great IRA starter account. Even if you’ve never been able to save and invest money in the past, you can use this application to begin saving small amounts.
You need no more than 1 cent to start investing.⁴ Stash provides financial education, which can be a benefit to anyone who is not familiar with the investing process.
The main reasons to not go with Stash
Stash may be more ideal for new and small IRA investors. In terms of the specific management of your IRA account, Stash only makes investment recommendations, but they don’t actually manage the account for you. In that respect, Stash falls short of being a full robo-advisor.
Who is Stash best for?
Stash is well worth using for anyone who has had difficulty beginning the IRA savings process. You can start with very little money, begin investing, and build your account gradually through small but regular deposits.
You can begin your IRA account with Stash, then roll it over to one of the other platforms on this list as the account balance grows.
Open a Stash account today. Promotion: Sign up and add $5 to your investment account and get $5 added to your Stash banking account!⁵
Terms and conditions apply*
Best IRA account for the self-directed investor
Fidelity is the perfect choice for the self-directed investor who wants to choose his or her own investments. Not only is it one of the largest brokerage firms in the world, but it also offers one of the most advanced trading platforms in the industry.
There are abundant trading tools and educational resources, and you can get as little or as much investment advice as you want. Customer service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They even have more than 140 brick-and-mortar branches across the country, if you like face-to-face contact with your investing activities.
You can invest in stocks, bonds, options, mutual funds, and exchange traded funds (ETFs). In fact, if you like funds, Fidelity is one of the very best brokers. They provide hundreds of Fidelity funds in virtually every possible fund category there is. That can enable you to create a portfolio balanced between funds and individual securities as you see fit.
Despite the fact that they’re a full-service broker, they charge discount fees for trading. You can trade stocks, options or ETF’s for just $4.95 per trade. And though the fee for mutual fund trades is $49.95 per trade, they offer hundreds of funds commission-free.
As a full-service broker, they offer their own robo-advisor service. Fidelity Go provides professional investment management at a fee of just 0.35 percent per year. If you want, you can choose the managed option in addition to your mix of funds in individual securities.
Reasons to open an account with Fidelity
- Fidelity is a full-service broker, with all the trading tools and educational resources you’ll need.
- The commission structure of $4.95 per trade is one of the best among the major brokerages.
- They offer investing and trading in virtually every type of investment.
- They’re second only to Vanguard in the mutual fund category, with many funds being commission free.
- Availability of local branches.
The main reasons to not go with Fidelity
Fidelity is high on both their commissions for many mutual funds (though they do offer a large number of commission free funds), and the annual advisory fee for their robo-advisor is on the high end of the industry. If these are your investment preferences, you may want to choose another broker.
Who is Fidelity best for?
Fidelity is an excellent choice for an IRA, due to the fact that they offer a very wide range of investment options, have a low trading fee structure, and offer all the tools and resources you’ll need to invest, regardless of your current skill level.
Best IRA account for new investors
Betterment may be the largest and best-known independent robo-advisor in the industry, but Wealthfront is a very close second. But if you’re new IRA investor, that second-place status shouldn’t scare you off.
Wealthfront works much the same way Betterment and all other robo-advisors do, providing automated investment management at a very low fee. But Wealthfront goes a step farther than the competition, offering to manage the first $5,000 in your IRA for free. That’s an absolutely perfect arrangement for an upstart IRA account.
But where Wealthfront also shines is in their portfolio mix. Most other robo-advisors invest your portfolio with US and foreign stocks and bonds. But Wealthfront gives you even greater diversification. They add real estate, natural resources, and dividend stocks to the mix.
You can also choose your own ETFs to include in your IRA portfolio, giving you a little more room for customization if you opt for Wealthfront. For instance, you can browse ETFs that are vetted by their research team, then either add or remove them from your investments. If you’re interested in investing in a specific industry, you can also choose from Wealthfront’s categorized ETFs, like technology, healthcare, and socially responsible investing.
These are three important investment categories. Real estate has historically provided returns similar to stocks, but often performs well when stocks don’t. Natural resources offer a degree of protection against inflation. And dividend stocks can offer the perfect combination of growth and income that will help any IRA account grow over time.
Reasons to open an account with Wealthfront
- You can open an IRA account with as little as $500.
- Your account is professionally managed for a very low fee of 0.25% of your account balance.
- The first $5,000 in your account is managed free.
- Only $500 is needed to open an account.
- Wealthfront offers more diversified investment categories than other robo-advisors, including real estate, natural resources, and dividend stocks.
- Automate your IRA investments by opening a Wealthfront Cash Account. The Self-Driving Money™ features routes leftover cash to your chosen investment account, as it’s available.
The main reason to not go with Wealthfront
This is really a perfect investment platform for new investors. The only limitation is if you can’t meet the minimum initial investment of $500. If not, you may want to try and work out a payroll deduction into a savings account, to help you reach the minimum requirement. Once you save $500, you can simply switch the payroll deduction to go into your Wealthfront account. That will give you a perfect combination of passive investing with passive savings.
Who is Wealthfront best for?
This is really the perfect investment option for a new IRA investor. Since you can have the first $5,000 managed free, you’ll receive 100% of your investment income. And even once you pass the $5,000 mark, it’s still a bargain.
Since the first $5,000 will still be managed free, the 0.25% advisory fee will only apply to the next $5,000. That means you can have a $10,000 IRA managed for just $12.50 per year.
Best IRA account for inexpensive professional management
Blooom is a 401k and IRA management tool. When you sign-up, you tell them your financial goals and they will make sure your retirement investments align with those goals.
They’ll rebalance your portfolio when needed, and you’ll even have access to a financial advisor.
To get your 401k or IRA analyzed, it’s completely free! If you want to use Blooom on a regular basis, you’ll pay $120 per year. But considering you have access to professional management and a financial advisor, this price is remarkably cheap.
Reasons to use Blooom
If you don’t have the time, or simply don’t want to manage your own IRA, then you should use blooom. They take the difficult out of investment management, and do so at a reasonable price.
Reasons you shouldn’t use Blooom
It’s important to note that Blooom isn’t an investing platform like some of the other companies on this list.
In fact, you won’t even move your money over to Blooom, you’ll keep it where it is, and Blooom will manage it from there.
Who is Blooom best for?
Blooom is best for anyone who is looking for professional retirement account management. So if you’re a new investor, and you’ve just opened up your first IRA account, but have no idea what to do now, Blooom is the perfect solution.
Additional Brokerage Accounts
What is an IRA?
When we talk about an IRA, we’re referring to a traditional IRA (as opposed to a Roth IRA). It is the simplest type of retirement plan, and virtually anyone with earned income is eligible to have one.
Your contribution to an IRA is generally tax-deductible, but it will be limited if you or your spouse are covered by an employer plan (see FAQs at the end of this article). The investment income in the account will accumulate on a tax-deferred basis. You can begin taking withdrawals from the plan at age 59 ½. When you do, the withdrawals will be subject to ordinary income tax.
One of the basic advantages of an IRA is that is a completely self-directed account. You can choose the trustee who will hold the account, as well as the investments you will make. In fact, the list of permitted investments is almost limitless. The IRS only has a very short list of prohibited transactions, and they’re not the type of investments most people make anyway.
You can contribute to an IRA as long as you have earned income. But IRAs are subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs) beginning at age 70 ½. The IRS requires these distributions to be based on your remaining life expectancy each year
How I came up with this list
We want to make sure we’re objective when it comes to our financial advice, so we simply chose platforms that met a few key standards, including:
- Low fees
- Low minimum balance to open an account
- Investment options
- Availability of advice and customer service
- Managed account options
- A strong history of good business practices
Here at Money Under 30, we want everyone—especially, young folks who may not have a large investing portfolio or a ton of money, to be able to get into the investing game. These platforms are great for experienced and inexperienced investors alike!
The difference between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA
Roth IRAs and Traditional IRAs have a lot of similarities, but a few key differences. Here are the major differences outlined in a table below. Also, here’s a round-up of the differences between a IRA and 401(k).
Roth IRA Traditional IRA
Tax incentives Earnings and withdrawals are tax-free. Tax-deductible; withdrawals in retirement are taxed at ordinary income tax rates.
RMDs Not required. Required.
Contribution limites $6,000; $7,000, if age 50 or older. $6,000; $7,000, if age 50 or older.
How much can I contribute to an IRA?
You can contribute the $5,500 per year, or $6,500 if you are 50 or older
Can I open an IRA and another retirement account?
Yes! You can contribute to a Roth IRA, 401(k), traditional IRA, and as many other accounts a you want—in fact, we encourage you to.
But, you should understand the different tax rules associated with each. Tax-deferred accounts include: 401(k)s, 403bs, traditional IRAs, solo 401(k)s, and SEPs. Post-tax accounts include: Roth 401(k)s and Roth IRAs.
Are there any limits on the deductibility of my IRA contributions?
You can deduct the full amount of your IRA contribution as long as you are not covered by another retirement plan. If you are covered by another plan, income limits do apply.
The limits are as follows:
- Single: Contributions are fully deductible up to an income of $63,000. The deduction phases out between $63,000 and $73,000. If your income exceeds $73,000, you can still make a contribution, but it won’t be tax-deductible.
- Married filing jointly: Contributions are fully deductible up to an income of $101,000. The deduction phases out between $101,000 and $121,000. If your income exceeds $121,000, you can still make a contribution, but it won’t be tax-deductible.
- Married filing separately: The news here isn’t good. Contributions phase out for an income up to $10,000. If your income exceeds $10,000, you can still make a contribution, but it won’t be tax-deductible.
There are different income limits if you are not covered by a plan at work, but your spouse is.
How do I open an IRA?
Opening an IRA is incredibly simple, especially with the above platforms. All you have to do is apply online (the application typically takes a few minutes), choose your investments, and fund your account.
How do I choose investments for my IRA?
This, of course, depends on your level of understanding when it comes to investing. When in doubt, stay simple. Choose a popular mutual fund. These have a history of offering great returns. The platforms above can also help you choose your investments!
There’s no one best IRA investment account, at least not for everyone. It comes down to choosing which will be the best IRA investment account for you. Carefully decide what type of investor you are, and open an IRA with one of the five platforms above.
*Terms and conditions apply – Stash legal disclosures
This material is not intended as investment advice and is not meant to suggest that any securities are suitable investments for any particular investor. Investment advice is only provided to Stash customers. All investments are subject to risk and may lose value.
¹Stash does not monitor whether a customer is eligible for a particular type of IRA, or a tax deduction, or if a reduced contribution limit applies to a customer. These are based on a customer’s individual circumstances. You should consult with a tax advisor.
² The recurring transfers feature is offered by Stash Investments LLC and is not sponsored or endorsed by Green Dot Bank.
³You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.
⁴For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.
⁵Promotion is subject to terms and conditions.
Money Under 30 is a paid Affiliate/partner of Stash. Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser.
Recommended Investing Partners
- Recommended M1 Finance gives you the benefits of a robo-advisor with the control of a traditional brokerage. M1 charges no commissions or management fees, and their minimum starting balance is just $100. Visit Site
- No Minimum Low-fee robo-advisor with no minimum investment. Creates fully-automated portfolios based upon your desired allocation. Visit Site
- $500 Minimum Wealthfront requires a $500 minimum investment and charges a very competitive fee of 0.25% per year on portfolios over $10,000. Visit Site