M1 Finance


I was sorely disappointed when the Loyal3 investing platform was absorbed into FolioFirst last year.  Sure it had disadvantages and limitations (limited number of stocks, only batch trade) but as in life, you get what you pay for.  A transaction fee of $0 for a buy, $0 for a sale was nothing to sneeze at. With the monthly service fee FolioFirst wanted I figured I’d be ahead in the game by just transferring my shares to my regular broker and paying their $4.95 fee as needed (which isn’t monthly purchases with this group of stocks).  I did look at other alternatives (RobinHood, Stockpile, WiseBanyan) but each had their own drawbacks to my way of thinking.

Loyal3 served no purpose other than to be a personal store of value.  My personal piggy bank. My monthly surplus went into the account. $10 here, $20 there.  Rarely a deposit greater than $50. The point being made (to a handful of observers) was that spare change adds up.  From December 2014 to April 2017 this amounted to the tidy sum of about $5,000. No pain, no strain and didn’t miss it.  The result – and step by step process map – of this experiment were shared with the subjects and all were impressed. However, not one felt they could afford to part with their spare change though each grasped the concept of compounding.  Not one even attempted to replicate the experiment. As Loyal3 closed so did the experiment albeit with an interesting observation regarding human nature.

Recently, my web travels introduced me to a platform similar to the old Loyal3.  At least similar in that there are no transaction fees. As a robo-advisor, they do provide portfolios created by ‘experts’ as well as the latitude to build your own.  As the consummate do-it-yourself type of guy, I chose the latter. The portfolio structure requires a little bit of a mindset adjustment in that portfolios are referred to as ‘pies’.  I created two pies and combined them together into one big pie representing my total portfolio on this platform. My ‘pies’ are called ETFs and Stocks with a current allocation of 50% towards each.  These allocations can be changed at any time. Yes, I wandered over to the dark side with my first ETFs ever. Fractional shares are also standard fare with M1.

Generally, if a stock or ETF is traded on the NYSE, BATS or Nasdaq markets it is available on  M1 Finance. Prior to funding my account I provided customer service with three potential additions to their company listing.  One was a semi-obscure ETF, a stock listed on the NASDAQ-CM and a stock listed on the NASDAQ-GM. Within two days, the NASDAQ-CM listing was added to their group.  I have to admit they are at least responsive. The only visible downsides I see are their outbound $100 ACATS transfer fee (but this would likely not apply to most) and US investors only.

Each deposit made is allocated based on the target allocations with an emphasis on bringing the targets back in line.  Sales (triggering a possible tax event) will not be performed on this type of rebalance.  Purchases are made once per day starting at market open and ending around noon (Central time).  Since a purchase price can not be dictated (market orders only), I set my account auto-invest flag to off. On May 1st the futures indicated a down open so I set the flag to on at 4am. At open, my request began processing.  After processing I reset the flag to off. Orders are automatically executed once the cash balance in the account is greater than $10 unless the auto-invest flag is off.

As always, I have an underlying strategy – at least with the ETF portion of the pie.  On the stock side, not so much. Most stocks I care to own I do already. But if one catches my eye, I may add it as equal weight within the stock pie.   The two added as a trial were Greene County Bancorp (GCBC-recent conversion) and  Principal Financial Group (PFG).  The ETF pie is different in that I identified all the foreign stocks on my watch list and determined which ETFs held the security and weighted based on quantity.  As I generally buy foreign stocks in larger quantities and with limit orders, I may sell a respective ETF as I buy the security that interests me. As such, these weightings will  probably be modified going forward. At least I now have additional exposure to select foreign markets as a hedge against further weakening in the US dollar.


Vanguard FTSE Europe VGK 25%  CCHGY, CS, EQN.L
iShares MSCI-Australia EWA 17% BOALY, LLESY, CSLLY
PowerShares Gl Timber CUT 8%  ORRAF
iShares MSCI Mexico EWW 8%  EMBVF

The beauty of this platform is as a low cost entry for no-frills or starter investors.  For a $100 minimum there’s little downside. Particularly when using the referral link which nets both of us $10.  My intention is to use M1 as my ‘spare change’ piggy bank. Newer investors could conceivably use it this as a primary vehicle.  The only cautionary note I would provide would be to start small. If it goes the same way as Loyal3, (and I’m not intimating it would), only full shares would be transferable to another broker.  Many newer Loyal3 investors had portfolios so broad they had minimal full shares and many fractionals – which were ultimately liquidated (becoming a taxable event). My recommendation would be to acquire full shares in a few companies prior to expanding into more issues.

Note: Using the referral link embedded in the M1 logo above nets both of us $10 if you choose to open an account.

Do you use M1 or other low cost firms?

4 thoughts on “M1 Finance

  1. Hello SR. Usually when I come here on Sunday evening, I get some thought provoking meanderings to wrap my brain around. Which I really like and you are really good at.

    Not so tonight, you are jumping into minimizing investment costs. Which is great. It is a critical element to building one’s wealth as you and I both know.

    I can’t add much on the topic since I’m not that familiar with the service providers you highlight. I’m sure those you recommend are quite good and you provide a balanced view point for other readers to consider.

    Happy Mothers Day to all of the Moms in your life!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry to disappoint tonight 🙂 Other than others recommendations I can’t say for sure one way or the other – yet. Which is why I’m giving them a spin. Perhaps I should have elaborated a little further on the ‘experiment’ which is the reason for my testing this platform. About once per year I accept an invitation to participate in a round table discussion on potential business impacts of current issues/events. One year was community banking (which translated to my being overweight in financials), another year addressed impacts on healthcare (which is why I’m weak on healthcare REITs). Usually some concepts discussed bleed into my personal investing.Though I can no longer speak to an audience, I’ve been asked to participate in a small break-out session of which the aforementioned ‘experiment’ will be discussed with the possibility of a new experiment being conducted. Perhaps more to come mid-June. (I’ll try for more mental stimulation next week).


  2. You guys in the US are way ahead when it comes to these innovative investment platforms. We have a couple of decent companies here in Australian in their early stages, but most are focused on ETFs only (will be interesting to hear how your adventures on the ‘dark side’ of ETFs go!). Nice to see an Australian ETF in your selection!

    These platforms seem like a great way for beginners to get into investing easily, or to use as a ‘spare change’ piggy bank – I’d happily set one of these up in the background and let it keep accumulating loose change.

    Cheers, Frankie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your take was precisely my view when Loyal3 came on the scene. Perhaps they were too limited in their selection. The spare change concept resonates with me but obviously not with others – evidenced by their absorption into Folio1. I suspect a portion of this summer’s discussion points to be on the psychology underlying people’s reticence to invest – even small sums – to improve their financial well being.

      Even rounding up, my investment is less than .0001% of my portfolio so it’s a toy of sorts – but one I can test some theories on with minimal downside. 🙂 Appreciate the comment!


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