New automated services

Here is a look at three robo-advisers introduced in the United States over the last year.

BETTERMENT

Its RetireGuide tool, introduced in August, factors in all of an individual's retirement accounts, including, say, a spouse's workplace savings retirement plan held elsewhere, expected benefits and where one wants to retire. Users can link all their other savings and investing accounts to see them in one place.

Then, the service's tool will estimate how much an individual may need to spend in retirement, how much he needs to save, which accounts to save in and how to improve tax efficiency.

A retirement income tool calculates how much retirees can safely spend each month, then automatically deposits that amount into a cheque account.

Users can adjust the investment mix but need to know themselves well enough to select a final allocation that will not feel too risky.

WEALTHFRONT

While the service builds and manages portfolios for the long term in all types of accounts, some of its most sophisticated automated services are tailored for investors with taxable money. Users with over US$100,000 (S$143,000) in taxable investments can sign up for its direct indexing service, enabling them to directly own stocks in a major index and harvest any losses to offset capital gains.

Withdrawing money is done in a tax-efficient manner, while the programs continuously seek opportunities in taxable accounts for so-called tax-loss harvesting.

Its newest tool, Portfolio Review, evaluates portfolios held elsewhere.

VANGUARD'S PERSONAL ADVISOR SERVICES

This is a bit of a hybrid, combining both a technology-driven programme with the guidance of a human adviser, who is reachable via phone or video conference.

With the human adviser's help, investors - who must have at least US$50,000 to invest - can create a comprehensive plan involving any number of goals. It also takes into account any money held outside of Vanguard and can build recommendations. The service shows how likely a user is to meet goals such as a certain retirement income. The portfolios are what one would expect from Vanguard: broad diversification across all asset classes.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2016, with the headline 'New automated services'. Print Edition | Subscribe