Merrill Guided Investing Review 2024 (2024)

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Our Verdict

Our Verdict

Bank of America’s robo-advisor Merrill Guided Investing takes a unique approach, offering portfolios that are actively designed and managed by the investing experts at the firm’s legendary wealth management arm, Merrill. When users meet the higher minimum balance requirement, they also get access to Merrill financial advisors. This investing acumen, however, comes at a cost: Merrill Guided Investing charges higher-than-average annual fees.


  • Active and ESG portfolio management
  • Clear reporting and advice regarding goal progress
  • Good customer service options


  • High annual management fees
  • No tax-loss harvesting
  • Separate accounts required for different goals
  • High account minimum for access to financial advisors

Merrill Guided Investing Review 2024 (1)


Merrill Guided Investing Review 2024 (2)

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Table of Contents

  • Who Should Choose Merrill Guided Investing
  • How Merrill Guided Investing Works
  • Merrill Guided Investing Fees and Costs
  • How Merrill Guided Investing Invests Your Money
  • Other Merrill Guided Investing Features
  • Merrill Guided Investing Advantages
  • Merrill Guided Investing Disadvantages

Show more

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Who Should Choose Merrill Guided Investing

Merrill Guided Investing may appeal to those looking for a sophisticated, premium robo-advisor experience. For starters, it’s one of the only robos out there to offer some level of active management, providing investment portfolios designed and managed by the experts at Merrill (formerly known as Merrill Lynch). This means you’ll have the vast experience of a prestigious Wall Street stalwart put to work managing your robo portfolio.

If you have an existing account with Merrill or Bank of America, you might also take a closer look at Merrill Guided Investing. Opening different accounts under one banner can make managing your finances more convenient.

In addition, the platform might be worth it for investors who have at least $20,000 to deposit and would like to also get access to a financial advisor. Though you’ll pay a premium above the base product, you’ll be able to consult with the financial experts at Merrill to keep you on track in saving for retirement goals, a college fund or general investment planning. The platform will even consider any linked external accounts when designing your portfolio’s asset allocation.

Despite these unique advantages, Merrill Guided Investing charges uncompetitive annual management fees and has high minimums that may deter true beginners. While the $1,000 minimum balance isn’t the highest among similar robos, the 0.45% management fee is pretty rich. Financial advisor access requires a balance of $20,000 and an annual fee of 0.85%, which is among the most expensive fees charged by robo-advisors we have reviewed.

How Merrill Guided Investing Works

Like most robos, Merrill Guided Investing begins with a questionnaire that asks you for personal information regarding your age, investing time horizon and risk tolerance. You also choose an investing goal for your portfolio, plus a target dollar amount to guide asset allocation. Goal options include:

  • Retirement
  • General investing
  • Home
  • Family support
  • Education
  • Travel
  • Special occasion
  • Other large purchase

Unfortunately, with Merrill Guided Investing, you can only choose a single goal for one account. If you want to pursue multiple goals, you’d need to set up additional accounts, unlike rivals like Betterment that allow you to allocate your balance to as many different investing goals as you like.

The platform offers two service tiers: A basic “online” service and an “online with an advisor” service. Whichever you choose, you’ll get to see your recommended asset allocation but not the specific funds that make up your portfolio.

If you choose the basic service, the platform generates a recommended portfolio tailored to your situation and goals. You’ll also get details about the likelihood of reaching your goal and the contributions you need to make to reach your goal.

The more expensive service tier gives you direct access to a Merrill investment advisor. After filling out the questionnaire and choosing a goal, you’ll meet with an advisor to refine your investing goal, discuss your recommended portfolio and adjust your asset allocation.

Available account types include:

  • Individual and joint taxable brokerage accounts
  • Traditional IRA and Roth IRA and rollovers
  • UGMA/UTMA custodial accounts

Merrill Guided Investing doesn’t offer trust accounts, although you have the option to transfer an existing trust to Merrill.

Merrill Guided Investing Fees and Costs

Merrill Guided Investing’s annual management fees and minimum balances are above average:

  • The basic “online” service has a $1,000 minimum balance requirement and charges a 0.45% annual management fee
  • The “online with an advisor” service has a $20,000 balance requirement and charges a 0.85% annual fee.

In either case, you’re charged the annualized fee on a monthly basis. If you have an existing account with Bank of America or Merrill, you may be eligible for a discount on the annual management fee via the Bank of America Preferred Rewards Program.

To get a discount, you need to maintain a combined three-month average balance of a given amount in your Bank of America and Merrill accounts:

  • 0.05% discount: Average balance of $20K < $50K
  • 0.10% discount: Average balance of $50K < $100K
  • 0.15% discount: Average balance of $100K < $10 million

So even with a combined balance of $100,000 across your accounts, the annual fee for users who opt for consulting with an investment advisor is an uncompetitive 0.70%—though the basic online service becomes a more reasonable 0.30%.

The exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds in your Merrill Guided Investing portfolio are diversified, low expense ratio funds. The fund fees for a market tracking portfolio range from 0.05% to 0.11% while fees for the sustainability focused portfolio range from 0.15% to 0.19%.

Though these fees are all but unavoidable whether you invest with a robo or on your own, they’re still important to keep in mind as they can drag down your portfolio performance.

There are no commissions or trading fees, but there are several other miscellaneous charges:

  • Returned check fee: $30.00
  • Full account transfer fee: $49.94

How Merrill Guided Investing Invests Your Money

Merrill Guided Investing takes a unique approach to the robo-advisor game. Unlike nearly all of its competitors, investment managers are involved in designing your initial asset allocation and making ongoing tactical shifts to your investments.

Portfolios are not rebalanced on a regular schedule. Instead, they are actively managed by Merrill experts, who rebalance your allocation as needed, based on overall market conditions and potential opportunities.

Rebalancing also occurs when money is added or withdrawn from the account or your allocation percentages drift from the preferred range. Users complete a periodic review to confirm that their portfolio is still aligned with their goals. If your recommended portfolio shifts, you’re asked to accept the changes and your allocation is automatically adjusted.

There are two investment strategies to choose from: a market tracking strategy or a sustainability strategy. The market strategy puts your money to work in passive ETFs that track broad market indexes. Similar market ETFs make up most of a sustainability portfolio, which also adds a few ESG-focused mutual funds.

There is no tax-loss harvesting feature available. Users who would prefer a robo-advisor that harvests tax losses might consider Personal Capital or Wealthfront.

Other Merrill Guided Investing Features

Invest with an Advisor

Merrill Guided Investing users with at least $20,000 to invest might consider its advisor service tier for personalized guidance regarding your investing goals, retirement and other financial matters. The fee for this option is 0.85% but can be reduced with discounts if you have other Bank of America or Merrill accounts.

These “Merrill Financial Solutions Advisers” typically have at least five years experience. Their qualifications include at minimum Series 7 and Series 66 licenses.

If you’ve got a large balance to invest in a robo-advisor and would like to have access to a financial advisor, there are less pricey options available. With a minimum balance requirement of $50,000, Vanguard Personal Advisor Services gives you a team of financial advisors for an annual management fee of 0.30%. This fee is even lower for larger balances.

Access to Other Bank of America, Merrill Edge and Merrill Lynch Services

When you sign up for Merrill Edge Guided Investing, it might make sense to take advantage of other Bank of America, Merrill Edge and Merrill products and services. Handling other parts of your financial life through these financial institutions might help streamline management, and the discount program discussed above could lower the fees you pay for other banking and investing services.

Customer Service Options

Merrill Guided Investing has decent customer service options, including 24/7 access to phone and chat assistance. If you’d like to learn more about Merrill Guided Investing or other services offered by the company, you can schedule an appointment with an advisor.

Merrill Guided Investing Advantages

Merrill Guided Investing’s unique take on investment management is a big advantage. We like the flexibility provided by having Merrill experts guiding your portfolio allocation to take into account changes in the market at large as well as changes in your personal financial situation.

For users who already have accounts with Bank of America or Merrill, you can’t discount the convenience offered by Merrill Guided Investing. It’s a strong advantage to know that you can meet all of your financial needs in one financial ecosystem. In addition, the discounts available to some users with higher balances are nice, although they only somewhat reduce the premium you’d pay for this robo-advisor.

For the Merrill Guided Investing with advisors option, your portfolios includes external assets when creating an asset allocation and reporting goal progress. This is a plus for holistic investment management, especially when paired with the platform’s strong goal progress tracking. All users can add a number to their goal and then access data explaining how you are progressing to that goal and if you run the risk of over- or underfunding it.

Merrill Guided Investing Disadvantages

Merrill Guided Investing’s uncompetitive fees stand out as a major disadvantage. Even taking into account potential discounts, there’s no question that you can get similar automated investment management at a lower annual cost.

The platform’s 0.85% annual fee to get access to a financial advisor stands in stark contrast to SoFi Invest’s low-cost platform, which includes access to certified financial planners (CFPs).

The lack of tax-loss harvesting is another disadvantage for anyone with a taxable account. Tax-loss harvesting can reduce overall payments to the IRS and lead to lower cost investing.

Goal-based investing is a big benefit of investing with any kind of advisor, automated or not. Merrill Guided Investing is limited in this regard: It’s great if you only have one goal. But let’s face it, who only has one financial goal? The requirement to open additional accounts for additional goals doesn’t make things easy.

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Merrill Guided Investing Review 2024 (2024)


How is Merrill Guided investing? ›

Like most robos, Merrill Guided Investing begins with a questionnaire that asks you for personal information regarding your age, investing time horizon and risk tolerance. You also choose an investing goal for your portfolio, plus a target dollar amount to guide asset allocation. Goal options include: Retirement.

Why are so many people leaving Merrill Lynch? ›

Oftentimes when advisors speak with consultants, they are so exhausted with all the red tape that they simply want a way out as fast as can be arranged. Clients are advised to brace for a shift towards automation and interactions with artificial intelligence as the firm embarks on a digital trajectory.

What is the average return on Merrill investments? ›

In the last 30 Years, the Merrill Lynch Edge Select Moderately Aggressive Portfolio obtained a 7.98% compound annual return, with a 11.13% standard deviation.

What is the minimum investment for a Merrill Guided investing account? ›

All at a low cost and a $1,000 minimum investment. You'll find it easy to open a Merrill Guided Investing account. Or, if you prefer to work with an advisor one on one, we also have Merrill Financial Solutions Advisors. Then you can discuss your financial needs and get help sorting your investing priorities.

What is the APY for Merrill Guided investing? ›

There is an annual program fee of 0.45% based on the assets held in the account for the Merrill Guided Investing Program and there is an annual program fee of 0.85% based on the assets held in the account for the Merrill Guided Investing with Advisor Program.

Is it safe to invest with Merrill? ›

Merrill Edge is a good choice for long-term investors, especially those who already have an account with Bank of America. The Preferred Rewards program offers discounts and perks that increase with your balance—so you could benefit by having deposit and investment accounts under the same roof.

What is a good return on a $500000 investment? ›

Average Rate of Return: This is more difficult to calculate because by their nature private equity firms and hedge don't always report their losses and earnings. However, most estimates suggest that you can expect average returns of up to 14%.

Is Merrill managed worth it? ›

Merrill Guided Investing fees are higher than those of its competitors, but the company is banking on its reputation as a storied wealth management firm to justify the premium. However, users can reduce costs through the Preferred Rewards program with Bank of America and Merrill.

What is the average return on $1000000 investment? ›

Stocks are a popular investing choice; historically, they have delivered an average yearly return of about 10%. This means that a $1 million investment in the stock market could potentially earn you around $100,000 per year in interest.

Is Merrill good for beginners? ›

These days, most people open an online brokerage account and do their stock trading from the comfort of their home. Many investors consider Merrill Edge® Self-Directed vs. Fidelity -- two popular choices -- when picking a broker. They both rank highly among the best brokers for beginners and with experienced investors.

Who is the most trustworthy financial advisor? ›

You have money questions.
  • Top financial advisor firms.
  • Vanguard.
  • Charles Schwab.
  • Fidelity Investments.
  • Facet.
  • J.P. Morgan Private Client Advisor.
  • Edward Jones.
  • Alternative option: Robo-advisors.

How do Merrill Advisors make money? ›

Advisors are compensated from the revenue generated from transactions in your brokerage account. Please see the Merrill Best Interest Disclosure Statement. If you work with an MFSA, under our current policies, you will be limited in the types of investment products you can purchase in your brokerage account.

Is Merrill Lynch a good company to invest with? ›

Merrill is a good company if you're looking for an established financial advisor to help create and implement a plan to meet your financial goals. Whether you're looking for guidance on investing or selling a business, Merrill can help with various levels of service and options for both in-person and online advising.

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