The Best Broker for a Small Portfolio

Mar 18, 2019
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In recent years, broker news has focused on the so-called “race to the bottom,” with several of the brokers recommended by Sound Mind Investing announcing fee cut after fee cut. What’s been overshadowed in that battle has been another move favorable to SMI members with smaller portfolios: The lowering of minimum amounts required in order to invest in mutual funds used in the Fund Upgrading and Sector Rotation strategies.

The result? It’s never been easier to get started with SMI!

The change is especially noticeable at Schwab. When we last wrote about starting to invest with SMI if your portfolio is small — back in 2015 — Schwab’s minimum for many mutual funds was $1,000. Today, it’s just $100. In fact, of the 21 funds recommended for use in Fund Upgrading over the past six months, Schwab offers 18 for an initial investment of $100.

E-Trade, which also features low initial investment amounts, offers 15 of the funds for $0-$100.

Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and Vanguard are not nearly as competitive when it comes to low minimums. At Fidelity, none of the 21 funds referred to a minute ago are available for less than $2,500. At TDA, several of the funds are available for $1,000, but many others require $2,000 or more. At Vanguard, four of the 21 funds are not even available. Most of the rest require an initial investment of $3,000.

Schwab’s low entry point is also a benefit for investors interested in Sector Rotation. Of the last six funds used in the strategy, five were traditional mutual funds. Three of those funds require initial investments of $15,000 at Fidelity, whereas Schwab offers all three for just $100. (Two of the other funds were Fidelity funds, which are available through Fidelity with no minimum, whereas Schwab requires $1,000.)

It wasn’t that long ago that an investor needed at least $25,000 to follow all of SMI’s Fund Upgrading recommendations (if owning all of the recommended funds in each category). More recently, a couple of our strategies — Just-the-Basics and Dynamic Asset Allocation — could be implemented with $500-$600. Today, at least with Schwab, an investor could implement any SMI strategy with that amount.

With significant changes rapidly sweeping through the discount broker arena, we’ll update our comprehensive broker review and strategy-by-strategy ratings soon. In the meantime, Fidelity, E-Trade, and Schwab continue to be our top recommended brokers overall. But for those just getting started with a small portfolio and wanting access to all SMI strategies, Schwab is our top recommendation.

Written by

Matt Bell

Matt Bell

Matt Bell is Sound Mind Investing's Managing Editor. He is the author of five biblical money management books and the teacher or co-teacher on three video-based small group resources. His latest book, Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money Management, was published by Focus on the Family in 2023. Matt has spoken at churches, universities, and conferences throughout the country and has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News & World Report, and many other media outlets.

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