Wealthfront is one of the most popular robo-advisors in the United States. Unfortunately, it is not available to us in Belgium. But we show you two ways you can replicate investing with Wealthfront in Belgium. First, you can set up your own portfolio of ETFs to simulate their investment philosophy based on index funds. Secondly, Curvo was built to be the best equivalent to Wealthfront for Belgians. We'll look at both options to help you figure out which one suits you best to invest like with Wealthfront in Belgium.
Wealthfront was one of the first robo-advisors in the US. They have more than $33bn of assets under management and serve over 500,000 customers. With a robo-advisor, you answer a short questionnaire and it creates an investment plan personalised to you, your goals and your tolerance for risk. Wealthfront goes even further than the mechanics of investing and provides financial planning tools too. For example, it may develop an investment plan to buy your first home and will help you reach that specific goal. Over the years, they also added other financial products like a high-interest checking account or access to cryptocurrencies.
Wealthfront's investment thesis is index investing. Their portfolios are made up of low-cost ETFs. Highly diversified, they're designed to provide a good trade-off between risk and returns over the long-term.
Index investing is a tried and tested method for growing your wealth. It’s based on the observation that rather than picking individual stocks and trying to buy and sell at the right time, it’s usually more profitable to invest in the stock market as a whole. Instead of finding the needle in the haystack, you buy the entire haystack.
Why you can't use Wealthfront in Belgium
Only US residents can become Wealthfront customers. Wealthfront does not allow Europeans to use their service, and they have no plans to launch in Belgium. One reason is that their offering is centred around the American tax and pension system. For instance, there is no equivalent to the Roth IRA in Belgium, which is a fiscal envelope in the US to save for retirement. Tax-loss harvesting, another benefit of theirs, does not offer any advantages to Belgians. Furthermore, the regulatory framework in the European Union is different than in the US, requiring them to make many changes if they were to enter the European market.
Having said that, their proposition of allowing anyone to easily invest in index funds is very attractive. Fortunately, there are two ways Belgian investors can "replicate" investing with Wealthfront:
- Investing yourself in ETFs through a broker
- Investing through the Curvo app, where you investments managed by NNEK is the equivalent of Wealthfront in Belgium
Index investing through a broker
You can follow a similar investment philosophy to Wealthfront by setting up a portfolio of ETFs and investing through a broker. A broker is a middleman that gives you access to the stock markets and allows you to buy and sell the thousands of ETFs out there. This way of "do-it-yourself" investing gives you the most flexibility because you're in control of what you buy. But it also means you're fully responsible for the management of your investments.
For most, a single ETF is not enough to constitute a balanced portfolio that will bring you success over the long term. You must choose the right mix of indices to build a portfolio that fits you and your goals:
- What's your investment goal?
- How long are you investing for?
- What is your tolerance for risk?
- What is your capacity for taking risks?
There are thousands of ETFs to choose from and some are better than others. We listed the best ETFs for Belgians according to the criteria we think are most important.
Once you’ve set up your investment strategy, you need to choose a broker to buy the ETFs. There are lots of brokers Belgians can choose from. They differ on:
- Cost. Brokers charge a transaction fee every time you buy or sell an ETF, and some charge a higher fee than others.
- Available ETFs. It's possible an ETF is not available on a broker, depending on the stock exchanges they provide access to.
- How they handle taxes. In general, Belgian brokers take care of declaring and paying all taxes you owe. Foreign brokers tend to shift the responsibility (and fiscal risk!) to you.
- Ease of use. Some provide streamlined apps, whereas others only offer an outdated and clunky web application.
- Safety and trust. Some brokers have had issues with the regulators.
We suggest you take a look at our comparison of brokers in Belgium to help you decide on the best broker for you.
The challenges of DIY investing
Just like Wealthfront, we believe index investing is the best tool to improve our financial future. But when we started investing ourselves, we realised the difficulties of investing well through a broker:
- Asset allocation. You have to choose the ETFs and set up your portfolios of different funds to match your goals and level of risk. Are you just going to have stocks in your portfolio or allocate some space to bonds? How do you make that choice?
- Tax implications. It's vital to get a good understanding the Belgian tax system because you don’t want to pay unnecessary taxes or having to pay a fine.
- Learn how to rebalance. Over time, your portfolio may no longer be suited to your financial situation or time horizon. It's your responsibility to make sure your portfolio is aligned with your goals at all times.
- Brokers aren't aligned to your goals. Brokers earn money per trade. This means they make more from customers who trade often. So as an ETF investor with a buy-and-hold strategy, you're a bad customer for them. Their incentives are conflicting with yours.
These are issues that Wealthfront takes care of. So we started Curvo to do the same for Belgians.
Curvo: the equivalent of Wealthfront in Belgium
We built Curvo to solve the challenges of investing through a broker. Inspired by Wealthfront, all the work is done for you so you don't have to worry. Our goal is to make good investing easy and accessible to all!
Investing through the Curvo app offers some benefits:
- Portfolio of index funds tailored to you. You are asked a few questions at the start to learn about you and your goals. Based on your answers, you are matched with the best portfolio of index funds for you. No need to choose which ETFs to buy.
- Overseen by European financial regulators. Your investments are secure and managed by NNEK, a Dutch investment firm supervised by the Dutch regulator (AFM).
- Proven investment strategies. The portfolios, managed by NNEK, are built to stand the test of time. Each portfolio invests only in assets that are widely understood and that, through decades of research and usage, are predicted to earn significant returns over the decades to come. Concretely, this means index funds of stocks and bonds!
- Diversification. We firmly believe in the power of diversification to lower risk and seek better investment returns. Each portfolio consists of over 7,500 companies, diversified across many sectors and countries.
- Invest sustainably. Your investments focus on one guiding principle: don’t invest in companies that are considered destructive to the planet. This means that sectors like non-renewable energy, vice products, weapons and controversial companies are all excluded.
- Taxes are taken care of. We make sure all taxes and administration are handled properly. Plus, the funds in the portfolios aren’t liable for the Belgian transaction tax (also known as the "TOB"). This saves you between 0.12% and 1.32% every time you buy or sell.
- Rebalancing done for you. No need to worry about keeping your portfolio in balance, this is handled for you.
- Fractional shares. All your money is invested. There’s no cash left sitting on the side.
- Automated investments. Using direct debit, you can set up a savings plan where an amount you choose is automatically debited from your bank account and invested for you. Saving becomes easy when it's automated!
- Project your savings into the future. Through Curvo you can see how much your portfolio is expected to be worth in the future. You can answer questions like “how will increasing my monthly contribution by €50, €100 or €200 affect my long-term savings?” to give a concrete idea for the “future you”.
- Withdraw anytime. There’s no long-term contract or exit fees if you wish to stop investing.
- Start from €50. No need for a large amount to start.
- Partnership with itsme. Security is vital and that's why we work with itsme to keep your data secure.
Find out more about how Curvo works if this piques your interest!
Although Wealthfront isn’t available to Belgians, it's possible to invest your money according to the same investment principles. We showed you two ways: index investing through a broker, or using an app like Curvo where all the work is done for you. As we have seen, managing your own portfolios of ETFs through a broker can be challenging, especially if you're new to investing. This is why we built Curvo as the best alternative to Wealthfront. Through the Curvo app, we make good investing easy and accessible to all Belgians, so you can start growing your wealth smartly for your future.
Questions you may have
Is Wealthfront available elsewhere in Europe?
Wealthfront isn't available in any European country. It's just for US residents.
How can I buy ETFs in Belgium?
ETFs must be bought on stock exchanges. To get access, you need to open an account with a broker. But since there are thousands of ETFs to choose from, you need to make a careful selection. Some considerations are:
- Distribution of dividends (accumulating vs distributing)
We suggest you read our guide on buying ETFs which explains these criteria in more detail.
Is Betterment available to Belgians?
Betterment is a service very similar to Wealthfront. But just like Wealthfront, it's available only in the US.