Here’s an overview of how it went and how Motif Investing is different than the other online discount brokers we’ve reviewed.
Motif Investing Review
What is a Motif? A Motif is a portfolio of stocks (and ETFs). Trades are based on buying a Motif (or a portion of a motif) which can include up to 30 stocks. The trading commission covers all stocks in the motif.
Motif Account Details
- Account Minimum: None
- Account Fees: None
- Trading Fees: $9.95 per Motif or $4.95 per Stock/ETF within a motif.
- Minimum Investment: $250 per Motif.
Opening a Motif Investing Account
Application Process. The Motif application process was simple, but did have a few hurdles. After I opened my account, I had to wait for approval, which they said typically takes 1-2 business days. My account was approved 2 hours later, which was faster than promised. I got around to logging back in and funding my account a week later. However, in order to set up the ACH it takes 1-2 business days for the deposits for you to verify. While minor, it was another delay in being able to fund my account. It would be nice to streamline the process and set up the account completely in one sitting and transfer the money immediately to get the ball rolling.
Security. I also ran into a few problems every time I’d login; their security code system only gave me the option to call home for a security code. In the summer I spend a lot of time at the pool while the kids are at swim practice. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my code to login while away from home. (The Motif Investing app is only available for iTunes, not Android.)
Funding the account. Originally I was worried my $150 sign up bonus could be in jeopardy because of each of the delays. The terms originally stated: “New funds must be posted to the account within 10 calendar days.” This was hard to meet if you have other things going on in your life. Luckily, I see they’ve changed the terms to “The new funds must be posted to the account within 30 calendar days.” That’s a relief since it took me almost 10 days to fund my account!
Overall, opening and funding the account is easy, but you should be aware it will take a few days.
Once I was ready to trade, buying the Motifs was quick and easy. I planned to buy 5 Motifs to qualify for the bonus. (4 x $350 and 1 x $500). You can’t invest it all due to the buffer they require on market fluctuations.
I wanted to get this done quickly, so I started with the asset allocation motifs under investing classics. I bought the Classic 60 / 40 since it’s basically a mirror of our current asset allocation. Once you pick the motif, you can customize it before buying by changing the percentage of each stock or removing ones you don’t want.
I picked some other rather boring investments. They don’t fit very well together or integrate into our overall asset allocation, but I needed 5 trades.
The next two motifs I picked were:
- Lazy 3 portfolio
- Index Fans: I customized this one to remove the precious metals component (which actually ended up similar to the Lazy 3).
In addition, I wanted to give some commissions to others who created their own motifs and get referral money when people use their motif under the community created motifs. The last two motifs I selected were:
- Passive Portfolio: Boglehead type portfolio with a 60/40 small cap value tilt.
- Rick Ferri’s 60/40 Updated 2014
Motif Investing Details
Taxes. I’ll be interested to see how the statements come in. Because each motif contains various stocks, and I had to use a taxable account to get the bonus, I’m sure this will create a small headache at tax time.
Positions. You can download an excel spreadsheet of all your positions in your account for easier analysis.
Quicken. I track all of our investments in Quicken. However, there isn’t an automatic download. It will take awhile to enter all of these by hand! The transaction history does list each purchase with the ticker though, so once we pass the hurdle of buying 5, going forward it should be easier.
Referrals: You can refer your friends once you sign up. Referrals are $100 for you and $100 for your friends.
Motifs. I’d like to see some additional asset allocation based motifs similar to the 60/40 in other stock/bond ratios. Although, it’s very easy to customize the 60/40 motif and change the percentage.
Maximizing the Bonus
To meet your five trade bonus requirement, you could incorporate some sells. However, when I tried, I got a notice that “We are unable to process your order at this time. Your order for this transaction would classify you as a Pattern Day Trader. ” So it looks like you could use some sells if you spread out your buys and sells over multiple days. I wanted to finish up the requirements, so I just settled on 5 buys. To maximize your bonus with the least amount of money spent on commissions it would make sense to incorporate some buys and sells as you go and end up with just one motif to sell at the end.
Just don’t do what I did to get the five trades done. I now own 5 motifs and 18 stocks with lots of overlap. Luckily, it’s not a significant part of our portfolio, so I won’t need to bother rebalancing, and I’ll probably just let it sit there. Otherwise, I would have to shell out some extra money on commissions to unwind it.
Motif has an interesting model. Since I’m a passive index investor, it’s not too exciting to use. But if you just want to buy one motif at your desired asset allocation, it works.
Going forward I’d like to see Motif offer a way to consolidate across motifs and give us the ability to sell stocks that are in multiple motifs. In the fees, it looks like the options are limited to selling by motif, or by stock in a motif. I can’t find anything about selling the same stock across multiple motifs.
When I have some spare time, I’d also like to explore the royalty creator program.