Is Sharebuilder an online broker you should look into? What, you’ve never heard of Sharebuilder? I’ve been investing with them for the better part of 2 years now and based on what I see, Sharebuilder is positioning itself to be a big player in the online discount broker world. Below is my review of Sharebuilder and why it should be on your short list when looking for a place to invest. Be sure to check out my online broker comparison chart are well as these other reviews too:
When it comes to investing, it’s important you choose the broker that meets your needs best.
My Sharebuilder Review
Sharebuilder History and Background
Sharebuilder began back in 1996 through NetStock Direct. It was created with the philosophy that to be successful, one should look at dollar cost averaging as opposed to day trading.
In 2005, Sharebuilder began to offer 401k plans to small businesses and in 2007 was purchased by ING Direct. After the housing bubble meltdown, ING sold off its US based banking business to Capital One and Sharebuilder was part of this deal. The deal was completed in 2012.
Today, Sharebuilder is still around and is better than ever. Capital One has certainly made some smart moves in making Sharebuilder more competitive and I hope that the trend continues.
Now on to the features that makes Sharebuilder so great for investors. I’ll highlight these in bullet points and then go into more detail:
- $6.95 online trades. This used to be higher, but Capital One knocked the price down to be more competitive.
- Tons of investment options for investors. Choose from stocks, bonds, exchange traded funds, mutual funds, and options. You can invest in non-retirement, retirement and educational accounts as well. (If you invest in mutual funds, be sure to understand how the management fees you pay are effecting your returns.)
- Automatic Investing Service. For $3.95 (per security) you can set up an automatic investing plan with any combination of stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.
- Easy to use website. There is a lot to be said when you find a website that is easy to navigate and find what you are looking for. I found this to be the case with Sharebuilder. I had no issues finding what I was looking for.
There are many benefits to using a firm like Sharebuilder. Very few other brokers allow for automatic investing plans to be used by an investor. With over 1,000 no load mutual funds, and 70 no fee mutual funds, you have a good mix to choose from.
Other benefits include:
No Account Opening Fee. You can start investing with as little as you like. The only exception to this is with mutual funds. Many mutual funds have initial minimums that need to be met. The good news is that the minimums are much less than if you invested with a fund family directly. For example, if you invest in American Century directly, the fund minimums are $2,500. But, if you invest through Sharebuilder, the minimum is $250.
Low Fees. There is no inactivity fee with Sharebuilder. The only fees you will encounter are the typical fees that most places charge – wires, returned checks, etc. There are fees though to transfer your account, either in full or partially to another broker.
Portfolio Builder Service. This service allows you to pick between 6-8 ETFs and build a portfolio. You can then invest a minimum of $200 to buy the entire portfolio on an ongoing basis for $18.95. More info on this service can be found here.
Easy Navigation. The website is easy to navigate and is very user friendly.
Good Research Tools. Another benefit to Capital One buying Sharebuilder was the introduction of more research and investment tools.
Downsides to Sharebuilder
Unfortunately there are downsides to Sharebuilder that you need to consider. Some are bigger than others, so you will have to decide which ones matter most to you.
- Automatic Investing on Tuesday. If you enroll in the auto investing feature, the trades are made on Tuesdays only. In the grand scheme of things, this shouldn’t matter to a long-term investor. But for those that are looking at a shorter time horizon, not getting to buy on any day of the week can be an issue. Also, the $3.95 fee is on each security you buy, not on the automatic investment as a whole. So if you set up an automatic investment for 4 securities, you are looking at close to $16 in commissions. Of course, this is still much less than if you buy them separately with Sharebuilder or any other online broker. But in the past, it used to be a fee on the total automatic investment.
- Basic Options. If you are looking to get involved with options, Sharebuilder doesn’t allow for the advanced trading strategies that E*Trade or TradeKing offer.
- High Portfolio Builder Cost. At $18.95 per portfolio, the fee is a little steep when you could buy a handful of ETFs through Schwab or Betterment for no fee at all.
Who Is Sharebuilder For?
The ideal clients for Sharebuilder are investors without a lot of money. If you are just getting started with investing and only have $100 or so to invest each month, Sharebuilder is a consideration for you. You can create an automatic investing plan or use the ETF Portfolio Builder and call it a day.
Of course, you should first check out the other online brokers first. I say this because you might find comparable ETFs with Schwab for no fee at all, or even at Betterment. While Schwab does not offer an automatic ETF investing service yet, word is they will be soon.
Overall, Sharebuilder is a work in progress at this point. It has good and bad features. For me, I would look to the other online brokers I reviewed first and if they don’t meet your needs, then consider Sharebuilder. Here is a link to their site to do more research or to sign up.
[Editors Note: This post was updated to reflect new offerings and pricing from Sharebuilder.]