Motif Impact Portfolios Review: Sold To Charles Schwab

Motif Investing company information

Motif Impact Portfolios was finally sold to Charles Schwab in 2020 and is no longer available. Sorry! Check out Personal Capital instead. They have the best free tools on the internet today.

Motif Investing was founded in 2010 as a way for retail investors to invest in ideas at a low cost. For only $9.95, an investor can build a basked of 30 individual securities (stocks, bonds, ETFs) in order to invest in a trend. That's a great value proposition compared to having to individually spend $7.95 per trade, or $238.50 to buy the same 30 position basket.

After spending 13 years working in finance, and 25 years investing in stocks and bonds, the biggest error I see investors making is not managing their risk. They'll concentrate their portfolio by going “all-in” on just a handful of names. More often than not, they'll end up hurting their returns in the process. Motif Investing helps save investors from themselves by allowing investors to more appropriately manage their portfolio.

In March 2017, Motif introduced Motif Impact Portfolios, a way for retail investors to invest more responsibly in values they believe in. This is a fantastic product offering that allows investors to invest more responsibly. Below are three impact portfolio examples.

Motif Impact Portfolios

In addition to allow investors to invest more responsibly, the cost to invest is just $9.95/month, no matter the size of your portfolio. This cost structure compares favorably to other robo-advisors who charge a percentage of assets under management. For example, even though a Wealthfront or Betterment might charge only 0.25% a year in fees, that's $250 a year versus just $119.40 in fees with Motif Investing. Of course, as the amount of your assets grow, the more you save with Motif Investing.

Impact Portfolios adds personal values into the digital on-boarding process. In addition, the usual digital questionnaire, Motif asks new users to select one of three causes – sustainable planet, fair labor, and good corporate behavior – they would like to support. Impact then removes individual securities that are in conflict with the user’s stated values.

This is where Impact Portfolios hopes to differentiate from other robos. Rather than assign investors a collection of ETFs or other pooled investment funds, the tool puts investors into “motifs,” a weighted group of stocks based around themes. While the motifs functional the same as an ETF, it gives the investor direct, fractional ownership of the individual securities and eliminates the need to buy a product from an investment manager like Vanguard.

It also lists every single security that, in addition to increasing transparency, allows Impact Portfolios investors to eliminate or replace any stock they choose with a couple of clicks. So if a company gets embroiled in a scandal that offends the investor’s personal convictions, they can remove it from their portfolio and get a recommendation from Impact Portfolios on a security to replace it.

Motif Impact Portfolio Benefits

Below is an example of the benefits of the Motif Impact Portfolio versus other competitors.

Motif Impact Portfolio Benefits

My biggest worry about Motif Investing is whether they will be able to earn enough revenue to cover their operating costs with fees so low. They are the lowest cost DIY financial investment platform today. Let's hope they continue to receive a healthy amount of funding to provide more great investment solutions.

Below is a general snapshot of Motif Investing. I consulted with them for two years starting in December 2014 to December 2016. They've got a great team.

Motif Investing Company Snapshot

Headquarters: 400 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94402

Description: Motif allows individuals and investment advisors to invest in stock and bond portfolios built around everyday ideas and economic trends.

Founders: Tariq Hilaly, Hardeep Walia (current CEO)

Founded: June 1, 2010

Number of employees: ~95

Contact info:  | +1 855-856-6843

Categories: Internet, Financial Services, Finance

Special sign-up link with $150 trading credit: Motif Investing

Motif Investing Management Team

Motif Investing Management Team 2017

Motif Investing Funding Rounds History

Motif Investing Funding Rounds History

Motif Impact Portfolios Detailed Review

Lower Investing Cost

Let's say you've got $50,000 to invest. You could buy a bunch of low cost ETFs for $7.95/trade via E*TRADE to create your ideal portfolio. Or you could buy an expensive target date retirement fund that might cost over 1% in fees if you're not buying from a low-cost shop like Vanguard. Or you could buy individual stocks at $7.95/trade to create your own portfolio.

Instead, what you could do is buy a motif of up to 30 stocks for a one-time fee of $9.95, instead of spending $238.50 in commissions to buy 30 individual stocks. Obviously if you have a larger portfolio, the commissions matter less. But most retail investors have less than $100,000 in their after-tax investment portfolios and should be cognizant of their trading fees.

Now let's say you want to buy or sell an individual stock within a motif that you've purchased. You can do that by paying $4.95 in commission for the trade. So again, the transaction cost is lower, and I'm sure the transaction cost will continuously adjust to the market rate, as low cost is one of Motif's value propositions.

Further customization within a motif is also possible and affordable if you want to buy or sell multiple stocks. That's no problem too. Motif Investing gives you 2 cost-efficient options. You can add, delete or change the weightings as you like, then buy the entire customized motif for a commission of just $9.95, regardless of how many stocks you've changed. Alternatively, you can buy or sell each individual stock in a motif you own for just $4.95 in commission per stock.

As your investment performance changes over time, rebalancing can occur to ensure the motif stays true to a specific idea or trend. The creator of the motif will adjust stocks, segments, and weights accordingly. If you decide you want to participate in those rebalance changes, it costs $9.95 to follow suit with one click of a button. In an ideal world, you hope to never pay any fees after purchase ever again. But let's say your Apple stock is up 100% and has gone from 25% to 50% of your entire Silicon Valley motif, and your Netflix stock is down 40% and only has a 6% weighting from a 10% weighting; you might want to rebalance for your own good as one never knows.

Asset Allocation Ease

Motif impact portfolios also offers Strategic Asset Allocation Models through their motifs for those of you who don't want to select stocks and pick ideas. There are no monthly fees once you buy the motif. The idea is just like buying a target date fund based on the age you wish to retire.

Below are three examples of asset allocation motifs for those who plan to retire in 1-2 years, 5-10 years, and 10-20 years.

Motif Investing Strategic Allocation Model

Endless Variety Of Ideas

What's probably the most exciting about Motif Investing is the endless amount of ideas you can invest in. There are so many ideas to choose from, which can be sorted by popularity, performance, industry, brands you know, megatrends, current events, cultural, fixed income, target date, dividends, and asset allocation. It's incredible. The risk is that the investor gets overwhelmed and wants to buy everything.

Here is a snapshot.

Different Types Of Motif Investments

Comparison Chart Between Motifs, ETFs, Mutual Funds, Stocks 

Motif Investing Comparison To ETFs, Stocks, Mutual Funds, Review
Motif Investing Comparison To ETFs, Stocks, Mutual Funds, Review

Building Your Own Motif

If you have a great idea and can identify a long-term trend, you can easily build your own motif.  By buying a basket of stocks to associate around an idea, you de-risk. Concentration risk is the #1 reason why retail investors underperform.

Users have currently built over 100,000 motifs already, more than all the mutual funds and ETFs combined plus the 150+ built motifs by the Motif Investing investment professionals.

Here's my 30 stock, ETF motif that consists of familiar stocks that have corrected by more than 20% from their highs and are beneficiaries in a low interest rate and low oil environment. I invested $10,000 to take advantage of the market volatility starting on 1/30/2015 and have seen a 10% total performance as of 1Q2017.

Motif Investment Portfolio Financial Samurai
My Motif portfolio

Investment More Efficiently

Motif Investing will never fully supplant the enormous ETF and index fund industry. But I do believe Motif Investing can create its own asset class that will become popular with the DIY investing crowd. The combination of low cost, flexibility, social, and idea generation is attractive. The Motif Investing platform is incredibly simple to use as well. There's no need to pay expensive recurring active management fees when you can build your own 30 stock portfolio for only $9.95.

As more and more savvy and experienced investors go on the Motif platform and Motif impact portfolios, one can theoretically just piggy back off of the most successful investors who you can follow in real-time as well. There's definitely a place for investors to carve out a slice of their investment allocation pie to Motif. You can get up to $150 for free when you first sign up here.

About the Author: Sam began investing his own money ever since he opened an online brokerage account in 1995. Sam loved investing so much that he decided to make a career out of investing by spending the next 13 years after college working at two of the leading financial service firms in the world. During this time, Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley with a focus on finance and real estate. He also became Series 7 and Series 63 registered. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $200,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, consulting for leading fintech companies and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom. was started in 2009 and is one of the most trusted personal finance sites today with over 1 million pageviews a month. Financial Samurai has been featured in top publications such as the LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.