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Motif Investing Gives Power to the People

Innovative offerings level playing field for mom-and-pop investors


I don’t know about you, but I can count on a single hand investing developments from the past 85 years helped Americans invest more easily: the mutual fund, the index mutual fund, the target date fund and most recently the exchange-traded fund.

That’s hardly anything to write home about when you consider how much money we invest. As of 2010, the household sector had $8.5 trillion — or 36% of the total amount — invested in U.S. equities, according to the U.S. Census. In addition, mutual funds and ETFs invested another $5.2 trillion in stocks.

For that kind of fire power, you would think the investment industry would do a better job meeting the needs of mom and pop.

Really, that’s hardly been the case … until now. Enter another game-changer: Motif Investing. The company comes with two great features that set it apart: a focus on real-world ideas and the ability to concoct your own fund.

Real-World Ideas

Motif Investing was created in Silicon Valley by folks who believed in a simple concept: investing in real-world ideas. More specifically, CEO Hardeep Walia launched Motif in 2010 as a way to let folks find and support themes they believe in.

One simple example: Many agree with Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg’s belief that more women need to be in charge of corporate America … but there are only 19 companies in the Fortune 500 led by women. Motif Investing allows you to plow your money into the No Glass Ceilings portfolio, which invests in 19 U.S.-listed companies run by women.

The best part is that it costs just $9.95 to invest, you can start with as little as $250 and there is no management fee.

Make Your Own Fund

It doesn’t end there, though. One of my biggest complaints about the ETF business is that smaller funds can’t survive against BlackRock (NYSE:BLK), State Street (NYSE:STT) and Vanguard.

As our choices diminish, the biggest firms further dominate … and this can’t be good for retail investors. According to Cerulli Associates, U.S. ETF assets under management in December totaled $1.33 trillion. Although figures vary, if you assume the average annual management expense ratio for U.S. ETFs is 0.4%, investors will pay approximately $5.3 billion in management fees in 2013.

But now, you can avoid those fees entirely by creating your own portfolios with Motif Investing.

The company’s website nicely summarizes the process: Start with an investing idea; analyze and filter stocks for the idea; weight up to 30 stocks in a motif; and buy that motif — your new, personalized fund — for just $9.95 with one click.

My Motifs

I know what you’re probably thinking: I’m a paid hack for the company. Really, I’ve never spoken or written to anyone at Motif Investing … and I live in Canada. As a non-resident, I am unable to open an account with them.

However, I am able to create as many motifs as I want — and I have, as you can see, become a huge fan. I’ve only done two so far but I plan to add more. 

My first is the U.S. All-Cap Portfolio that brings together a collection of 16 companies invested equally among micro-, small-, mid- and large-cap stocks. I created it on March 3 and it’s up 4% as I write this — 70 basis points higher than the S&P 500.

I use 16 stocks because I personally think more than that is simply overkill. Of course, there are many who argue quite the opposite, but the beauty of Motif investing is that I’m in charge … and that, if you wanted, you could take my portfolio and make it your own for less than a trip to McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD).

It’s the democratization of investing. It took 85 years, but it’s better late than never.

As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities. 

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media,

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