Motif Investing Review - The Next Generation of Investments
Motif Investing has been around long enough that you probably already know a thing or two about it. But a few things have changed, and we need to give you an update. This Motif review is up to date as of June 9, 2017.
At its core, Motif is still a magnificently affordable way to buy stocks, but they’ve expanded into retirement fund planning and IPO access. We’ll dig into these and more in the Motif Investing Review to come.

At its core, Motif is still a magnificently affordable way to buy stocks, but they’ve expanded into retirement fund planning and IPO access. We’ll dig into these and more in the Motif Investing Review to come.

Motif Investing in a Nutshell

Motif is named after its chief value proposition: the “Motif” bundle of stocks that can be bought at a commission of just $9.95.

Motifs can be built around any industry or concept (Solar Power, Natural Gas, Craft Beer…you name it). This creative portfolio-building element makes Motif fun, with the potential for big profits. Every single month, user-made Motifs in the Motif catalog boast 30%+ returns, and many YTD returns of well over 100%.

Motif Impact is a new program the company offers. It’s values-based investment combined with Betterment-style portfolio building automation based on Modern Portfolio Theory. Many investors are disturbed that their stake in certain companies is also a stake in global warming, child labor, or pollution. Motif Impact lets users identify their personal values alongside their investment goals. Motif removes any companies that have a negative impact on the values described, and “good” companies are put in their place. It’s a cool idea if indiscriminate value investing makes you queasy.

>See Motif Details and Pricing

Now in its sixth year, Motif is constantly adding new features according to industry trends and user request. Motif was listed in the CNBC Distributor 50 in 2014 and 2015. For all the details you could ever want, read the rest of our Motif review below.

The Motif Story

Motif was founded in 2010 by Hardeep Walia, former Microsoft executive and budding investment entrepreneur. Goldman Sachs pitched in early investments, and the company really started to come into its own in 2013. Today Motif is one of the most recognizable names in cutting edge investment platforms.

Motif’s Unique Methods

Motif investing is built around the crazy-low price they charge for ETFs and stocks. ETFs and stocks are grouped together in bundles of up to 30. These are known as “Motifs”, and they buy and sell for just $9.95 (a $250 minimum account deposit is necessary for first-timers).

Through many other online brokers, buying a single Exchange-traded Fund (ETF) might cost you $9.95. You can trade single stocks and ETFs at Motif for $4.95, but in most cases users opt for the larger Motif bundles.

Motifs are so-called because the stocks and indexes they contain are grouped around ideas, sectors, industries, or trends. You’ll find Motifs built around just about anything you can think of: Businesses With Lots of Facebook Likes, Bio-Tech Innovations, Cancer, 3D Printing, High-Performing Dividend stocks, etc. There are more than 9,000 ready-made motifs currently available, each with their own perks and performance histories to explore before purchase.

You’d think that with 9,000 options to choose from, you’d have no trouble finding a Motif that works for you. But you’re a special snowflake with unique demands.

Motif has two customization options for you. 1) You could customize an existing Motif. That’s $4.95 to replace a single security, or $9.95 for unlimited shuffling. All users can also customize the allocation balance of any Motif securities for free. 2) You could build your own Motif from scratch. This costs $9.95, just like buying one of Motif’s ready-made offerings.

Motif also allows fractional share buying, which is fairly unusual among large brokers. This way, you can put every dollar in your portfolio to work.

Motifs you design are made available to the general user base. Anytime someone buys, rebalances, or adjusts a Motif you created, you get royalties. With low trading costs, the best social interaction in modern brokerage, royalties, and endless customization, Motif has something for every investor.

Review the Motif investing benefits

Digging Deeper into the Motif Investing Review

By now, you understand the basics of how Motif works. But there are tons of other details you’ll experience when you make your account. I’ll try to lay these out now as clearly as possible.

So let’s say you’ve just started your account. You deposit $900 to be spread equally between three Motifs ($300 minimum for each one). You choose one built around high-growth Vanguard ETFs, one built around High-dividend stocks, and another that gives you holdings in the High-Speed Transit industry. Motif will automatically rebalance your Motifs once a quarter for $9.95, or you can do it yourself.

Later on, you decide to start your own Motif based on your knowledge of Medical Technology companies in Austin, Texas. You handpick 25 company stocks and package them together in a Motif. Before you buy, you can “Backtest” your selected securities, to see how they would have performed together over the past months or years.

If you are satisfied, you can complete your order, and even make the Motif available to other users, using Motif’s Creator Royalty program.

Motif’s Creator Royalty Program and Social Media System

The Creator Royalty program is pretty simple. Your custom Motifs become available on the general Brokerage Catalog. The program gives you a visual dashboard where you can see every time someone watches, buys, adjusts, or sells your Motif. Most of these actions cost $9.95 for the user performing the action, and Motif gives you some of that money as a royalty.

This is a good time to bring up Motif’s social media aspect. When your Motif goes live, you might start to see people leaving comments about it and giving it ratings. It’s possible to do this with all Motifs, and you may be surprised how insightful user comments are. I’ve made spontaneous purchase decisions on more than one occasion just because another user had something interesting to say about a Motif.

You can make friends with other users, or bring over your own from your friends on Facebook. These friends can be grouped into Circles, a la Google+. You and your circles can have private conversations. At all points of Motif social, you’ll have the ability to decide who gets to see your investment behaviors and comments, and who does not.

Impact and Trading Accounts

What used to be called “Horizon Motifs” have been reworked into a new category called “Impact Accounts”. Impact accounts can be for retirement (tax-advantaged IRAs) or general investment accounts. We’ll start by explaining the retirement Impact Accounts

Retirement Impact Accounts are made in the “Set it and forget it” mold pioneered by Betterment and other internet brokers. But there are major differences. For one, Motif creates “values based” portfolios, where investors put their money toward automated investments related to “Sustainable Planet”, “Fair Labor”, or “Good Corporate Behavior”.

Tax advantages are automatically exploited by Motif’s algorithms, earning you stronger returns in the long run. If your portfolio underperforms, Motif even guarantees to return 100% of your fees. The monthly fee is a flat $9.95 (for the first $100,000 invested). This is more expensive for most portfolio values than some immediate competitors, but Motif users may find that the ethical investment aspect is worth the extra cost.

Regular trading accounts (not tax-advantaged) offer more user control. You can subscribe for automated trading as described above, for $9.95 per month. Or you can blissfully build your own Motifs and larger portfolios at regular Motif prices ($9.95 per Motif trade, $4.95 per ETF and stock trade).


Motif Frequently Asked Questions

Before we get into the meat of the review, let’s look at some of the most commonly asked questions about Motif from the web.

How Much Does Motif Cost?

No Motif investing review would be complete without costs:

  • $9.95 for most purchases and sales.
  • $9.95 for Impact Account and Trading Account monthly subscriptions (discounts after $100,000 invested)
  • $4.95 for individual stocks. No fee for withdrawal.

How Does Motif Make Money?
Motif charges commissions on various investment behaviors, like buying or selling Motifs ($9.95), buying or selling individual stocks ($4.95).

How Many Users Does Motif Have?
About 250,000.

How to Use Motif.
Make an account, deposit your $250 minimum balance, and go to town.

Pro-Tips and Details for Getting the Best Value Out of Motif

  • Fractional Shares: Motif users will have them after trading even a few times. This won’t be a big deal for most people, but we had to mention it.
  • The Motif App: Sexy little trading app for Android, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
  • Trading Alerts: Get notified when market conditions are in your favor, through the Motif app and general platform.
  • Dividends: Motif offers no automatic dividend reinvestment (DRIP). While this bums some people out, it’s likely that this feature will be added soon. Currently, Motif helps users get around this most of the way by making dividend withdrawals free. If you reinvest those funds in new Horizon ETFs, you won’t have spent any extra money reallocating those funds.
  • Diversification: Just because a Motif contains 30 securities doesn’t mean the user is diversified. 30 stocks in the High-Speed transit industry represent a very niche investment. Motif won’t automatically make you diversified. That’s up to the user. Choose Index Funds and broad ETFs to achieve real portfolio diversity.

>See Motif Details and Pricing

Final Thoughts on Motif

This concludes our Motif Investing review. Motif rides the line between robo-investor and traditional broker very nicely. Whereas robo-brokers like Betterment make investment truly automated and idiot-proof, Motif gives a lot more control to the user.Their new Motif Impact portfolio builder is unique to the industry and will be attractive to values-minded investors.

On the other hand, Motif doesn’t offer the exhaustive options of old-school brokerage houses. The features that make up the Motif platform were chosen to offer the most value to both new and experienced investors, without providing a bunch of confusing options that almost nobody uses. We think they made great choices is almost every case.

Motif can work for new investors as a primary trading method. It’s also useful for experienced investors for secondary trading, as Motif’s cost model is truly mind-blowing. For any kind of investor, the concept of grouping securities by concept or industry is really interesting.

Motif is a great place to test hunches and watch as market trends unfold before your eyes. With some research and care, a Motif user should be able to achieve amazing returns for less money than they’d spend elsewhere. We recommend it wholeheartedly.

Motif Review

Rating: 4.7 / 5
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Read our Motif Investing Review to learn more about themed, idea investments.
Motif Investing Review
Written by: Andrew Black
Date Published: 06/19/2017
4.7 / 5 stars