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I am new to investing. Trying to understand difference between two firms Edward Jones and Betterment.

Bonus which one is better in your opinion: Edward Jones or Van Guard. Interested in non-retirement account.

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Instead of saying which one is better, which is too subjective, I think it is more important to understand what these institutions are. They are kind of different animals.

  • Edward Jones pretty much a full service wealth manager. They meet with you in person, advise you on what retirement and savings accounts to get, they talk to you to evaluate your risk preferences. They will talk to you about planning for your kids' college and about your insurance situation. They will probably attend your kids' bar mitzvahs and stuff too. Of course, this isn't free. With Edward Jones you will pay a fixed percentage of your managed wealth to them every year. And they will likely put your money in expensive mutual funds. And those mutual funds will charge a special 12b-1 fee, which is a kickback to the wealth manager. Plan on giving 2% or so of your total wealth to the manager per year, plus whatever the mutual funds charge.

  • I don't have experience with Betterment, but they appear to be a robo advisor. Robo advisors attempt to do the same kinds of things as wealth managers, but rely on computer algorithms and web pages to give you advice whenever possible. This makes some sense because most people aren't actually that special in terms of their financial situation. I don't know their cost structure, but presumably it will be significantly cheaper than Edward Jones. They will almost certainly put you in cheaper funds (index funds and ETF's). Think of it as a cost-conscious alternative to Edward Jones.

  • Vanguard is a discount broker and a mutual fund family. Their funds are among the biggest and cheapest in the world. Fees on many of these funds will be a fraction of the equivalent funds Edward Jones will put you in. They will charge you nothing at all to manage your money. They will give you some assistance and advice if you call them but don't expect any house calls. They aren't particularly in the business of giving advice. If you know what you want to invest in, this is the cheapest way to do it by far. Basically you won't have to pay anything at all except the actual cost of the assets you are investing in.

Which is the best? Depends on your own preferences and ability. If you do not want to learn about personal finance and don't particularly care about whether you are getting the best return--if you don't mind paying for a personal touch--Edward Jones might be a good choice.

For most people who are comfortable asking this type of question online and interested in learning about finance even a little bit, I'd expect that Betterment or Vanguard will be a better choice.

For people who are willing to learn a bit of finance and manage their own affairs, using Vanguard (or a close competitor, like Fidelity) will ultimately result in the most wealth generated (the least given away to the financial industry).

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  • Thanks now I have much clear picture, very good explanation l. – user206168 Apr 27 '17 at 1:05
  • Which one would you pick? Vanguard or Fidelity? – user206168 Apr 27 '17 at 19:55
  • I picked Fidelity. The two are almost perfect substitutes though. – farnsy Apr 28 '17 at 3:24

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