M1 Finance: Best Online Broker For 2019? Our Full Review!

M1 FINANCE full review


As an Investor, you are probably looking for a platform that gives you a chance to make great returns, but you are also looking for low costs, and an easy way to manage your money. M1 Finance is among the best investing platforms on the market

As a new brokerage house, they are built on innovation. M1 Finance has learned from the mistakes of the competition.

After researching low cost brokerages, we decided that M1 Finance was the best way to manage our investment account. The combination of robo investing and free trades got us in the door, but the way M1 approaches investing will keep you invested in your investments.

It’s not all coming up roses though. M1 does have some disadvantages, and we will definitely address those below. We have found that all of the platforms out there have an issue or two, but M1 Finance pulled together the most important factors of investing that mattered to us.

Here is our full review of M1 Finance. All of the factors that will help you decide whether this trading platform is right for you.

Free Trading, A New Paradigm

m1 finance pin

Here is the hook that snagged me and gave me the incentive to check out M1, free trading for individual investors. How neat is that?

M1 Finance allows individual investors to trade shares or invest in ETFs for literally nothing. A lot of brokerages will advertise their low cost trades of $7.95, but M1 changes this to zero.

M1 claims that they make money on the back end of the process and with institutional investors, and they also have a loan program that feeds them interest.

Not that we are too concerned how they make their money, the important factor is that they allow you to trade stocks for free.

The lower the costs of investing will hopefully lead to higher returns in the long run. Fees or expenses that you incur while trading or investing will drag your returns down.

Luckily, with M1 Finance the only expenses you will incur are the expenses associated with ETFs that you may choose to invest in. For example, M1 offers almost all of Vanguard’s ETF funds and their extremely low expense ratios.

If you choose to invest in companies directly, there are no transaction fees. Growth has no related expenses. Here are our last few trades: 

account activity

Above you can see our transaction history, where M1 has executed our monthly deposit with no trade fees or transaction costs. On top of our trade is the dividends that we have earned in our portfolio.

Pies Everywhere!

M1 Finance uses a visualization system or pies to represent your holdings within your investment account. Here is an example of our pie:

our portfolio

Each section of the pie represents a holding. When you first sign up for M1 Finance, you are prompted to assemble your pie by hand, or choose from the many different expertly created pies that they have on hand. The expert pies are pre built based on different 

expert pie examples

This is just a small sampling of the pies that they have on offer. Find the pie that fits your investing style and set it and forget it. M1 will automatically rebalance the portfolio when the individual holding become out of alignment with your original request.

The robo investing part of M1 is this rebalancing of your pie. Whether you choose a pre made pie or build your own portfolio, the percentage of the pie that you assign to an investment is maintained automatically by M1.

pie slice examples

As you can see here, our portfolio is constructed of Vanguard ETFs at certain percentages. If the S&P crashes 16% one day, M1 will rebalance the account with new money as you invest.

M1 will buy more of that S&P fund after the crash to make up the percentage of the pie lost. This is done automatically, and your pies are maintained for you.

M1 Finance is helping you to buy low and maintain your pie!

We personally think this visual representation of your portfolio makes investing a lot more visceral, as you can see your pie change regularly with market fluctuations.

Fun To Invest

It takes a certain kind of investor to say that investing is fun. We think M1 turns this concept on its ear, and makes investing kind of fun for everyone.

Picking your investments and building a pie makes for an enlightening and enjoyable experience. M1 has a research section where you can follow the news and invest right away when big news hits.

The only caveat to this is one disadvantage to M1’s free platform. They will only trade for you once per trading day. This is an issue if you were planning on timing the market or were in a hurry for a trade, but is perfectly acceptable for us long term investors. This policy keeps M1’s trading costs down.

That doesn’t change the fact that you can trade at will, for free.

If you aren’t worried about research or having fun while investing, M1 will let you pick from their expert created pies and set it and forget it.

You choose how often to invest automatically and how much. With other platforms you may run into a situation where you only want to invest once a month because of the transaction fee of the trades.

M1 gives you the freedom to trade often and deposit your cash as needed. It takes a lot of the stress of investing away, which can lead to a little bit of fun.

M1 Recommended Portfolios

So what does M1 Finance offer that you can just pick and go?

Turns out they have an entire army of pies to choose from, so it may take awhile for you to determine which one fits your investing style, risk tolerance, or goals.

more expert pie examples

Here are the basic portfolios that M1 offers based on your risk tolerance. If you click into each of these, you can see the underlying funds that make up these portfolios.

The majority of these are made up of low cost ETFs that will minimize the drag of expenses on your account.

This is just a small sampling of the portfolios that you can choose from. It gives you a great idea of what to expect when looking to start your investment with M1 Finance.

Some more examples of their portfolios include:

  • Sector Funds
  • Green Funds
  • Growth Investing
  • Value Investing
  • Hedge Fund Strategies
  • And More

These are just examples of what is pre made for you to choose from. Creating your own pie can be even more rewarding if you enjoy the research aspect of investing.

Create Your Own Pie

Let’s say that you want to create your own pie from the ground up by picking individual stocks. M1 will give you a full listing of every stock available on the NYSE and let you pick til your heart’s content.

stock choices

If you want 20% in Apple and 30% in Amazon to compliment one of the sector funds available, then you can do that.

If you want 10% in Google and 90% in Microsoft, you can do that.

The freedom is truly amazing and let’s you build exactly what you want with any mix. You can even create multiple pies if you have different goals for different accounts.

Your options are almost endless.

Let’s say you are interested in Amazon.

amazon stock price

M1 Finance makes this stock accessible to you even if you only have $100 to spend. Even if you choose Amazon as the first piece of your pie, M1 will allow you to buy partial shares of individual stocks.

You don’t need to buy entire shares and add them to your portfolio!

M1 will put fractional shares of stocks into your account and as your account grows, will rebalance these fractional shares just like with the stock or bond funds.

If you have $100 to invest and you want 50% in Amazon and 50% in Apple, then M1 will give you that proportional amount of each stock.

So test the platform and build a sample pie until you are ready to invest, because your pie can be your own hybrid creation of any mix.

Is M1 Right For You?

M1 Finance will be right for you if you need a low cost investment platform that gives you the freedom to do more for less.

Even as a beginning investor, you can find the tools within the platform to create an account that can help you reach your goals.

Here are our pros and cons:


  • Commission Free Trading for individual investors.
  • Pies help you visualize your investment strategy.
  • Easy and fun app to use.
  • Expert pies are easy ways to get started with a balanced portfolio.
  • Buy individual stocks and partial shares.
  • Auto rebalances your account to keep you in line with original goals.
  • Minimizes long term expenses and fees.
  • Reinvest dividends automatically with no transaction cost.
  • Loan program allows you to take a loan on your account and not remove the funds from the market.


  • $100 minimum balance to start trading.
  • Only one trade window per day, usually 10:00 am CT.
  • Free trading may cause you to trade more than you should.
  • The news section is a little light on relevant information.

M1 Finance gives you the most robust brokerage platform we have found with as little total cost associated with that platform. If that sounds exciting, it should, because M1 is the only platform that operates this way.

The Competition

There are metric tons of brokerage houses out there that will love to assist you in your financial journey, but they all have a disadvantage or two compared to what M1 offers. Here are some examples of other brokerages and how they work:

Betterment: This is one of the original robo advisor firms and they have compelling features like auto rebalancing and tax advantaged rebalancing. Their biggest problem is cost, they charge .25% on top of any funds you select just for using their platform.

Charles Schwab: This nationwide chain of investment advisors offers a more “full service” approach to investing. They still charge for equity trades, but do offer some robo advising and funds.

Edward Jones: This firm hearkens back to the days of an advisor that goes through all of your finances with you in person and step by step. Only go this way if you are ready to pay for that kind of attention.

While these three examples give you an idea of what is out there, this is not an exhaustive list of who competes with M1 Finance for your investment dollars.

Take the time to research the one that fits you best, and then come back to let us know if M1 was the best fit for you.

Why We Chose M1

We scoured the internet and YouTube looking for a certain type of brokerage. One that would support our unique qualifications and situation.

Actually, I’m kidding. We were looking for what most people look for, a low cost, easy to use investing platform that gave us the freedom to trade stocks and ETFs.

What drove the nail into the decision, was the free trades. There are other platforms that offer free trades, like Robin Hood, but the ease of use isn’t there. That brokerage almost seems like an open source, direct access kind of software. It didn’t fit the ease of use and it didn’t offer the expert portfolios M1 has.

Another app we considered was Acorns and this app came in a close second to M1 Finance.The cost of using the platform is really low(starting at $1 a month), but what drove me to consider them, was the concept of planting your acorns.

This means that any leftover money from transactions can be deposited into your Acorns account. An extremely easy way to keep a steady flow of funds into your investment account. This novel idea didn’t sell us fully on the app though.

Ultimately, M1 allows me to build my own portfolio and then gives me the freedom to trade at will with no commissions or fees. That kind of flexibility and sensible investing won us over.

Get Started

By now you have a pretty good idea of what M1 Finance is about and why we are always raving about them. There aren’t many investment platforms that can get you salivating at the chance to invest your money.

Once you fund your account with $100, you’ll be ready to jump into the market and get started on an investing journey. 

M1 offers more features, more investing options, and lower costs than any other platform out there. I’m glad you stopped by to see what M1 Finance is all about, but please let us know below if you are a fan like we are.

Feel free to use our link to see what M1 Finance can do for your investing future! 

Disclaimer: Always keep in mind that we are not financial advisers and that we are recommending an investing platform and not giving you investing advice. Do not accept advice from blogs alone. Research your investment choices thoroughly. Choose investment advice wisely from professional sources.

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