Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 questions when shopping for a brokerage account. Also in the news: Is a robo-advisor right for you, why higher prices are squeezing both buyers and renters, and how a wife got her family out of $40,000 in debt.

5 Questions When Shopping for a Brokerage Account
What you need to know.

What Is a Robo-Advisor and Is One Right for You?
A different type of financial advisor.

Higher prices squeezing both renters and would-be homeowners
A housing shortage in parts of America is leading to higher prices.

A ‘good wife’ who secretly got her family $40,000 in debt shares how she climbed back to even
You can climb back, too.

Vanguard–the new robo-advisor?

IiStock_000014977164Medium‘ve written a lot recently about digital advisors (including the piece I wrote for AARP, “Do-it-yourself made easy“). Wealthfront, one of the leaders in this space, now has $1.7 billion under management.

That seemed pretty impressive, until I saw a recent piece in InvestmentNews about Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services. Although still basically a pilot program, the “human-augmented online advice platform,” as IN termed it, now has $4.2 billion under management.

For all that’s been written about the start-ups who use powerful algorithms to manage your portfolio while you sleep, it’s the the Vanguard offering that may be the game changer. Vanguard can offer everything the start-ups do–asset allocation, automatic rebalancing, ultra-low-cost investment choices–in the mantle of a trusted firm known for its integrity and thrift. The cost? Three-tenths of one percentage point, or $300 a year for a $100,000 portfolio. That’s only slightly more than the .25 percent the newcomers typically charge.

Advisors charging more certainly will argue they’re adding value. But if you’re paying much more for financial management, you might want to at least take a look at what you can get for less.