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Between do-it-yourself investing and having an adviser is a small but growing niche of the brokerage world aimed at people willing to pay a middling level of fees for help with their portfolios.

The latest entrant is ShareOwner, a small online brokerage that focuses on investors who want to build quality long-term portfolios. The firm's new ETF Model Portfolio Service offers five different portfolios of low-cost exchange-traded funds. Invest any sum of money in one of these portfolios and ShareOwner will divide it proportionately into the various component funds for you and rebalance the mix on a monthly basis. The cost is 0.5 per cent of your balance on an annual basis for accounts with less than $100,000, and a flat $40 per month for larger accounts. These fees layer on top of those for the ETFs in the various portfolios. ShareOwner projects an all-in cost of about 0.79 per cent for its ETF portfolios.

ShareOwner provides no advice – you're on your own in choosing between portfolios that are categorized as aggressive growth, growth, balanced, conservative and income. What you get for the 0.5-per-cent fee is the convenience of handing money to ShareOwner on onetime, periodic or regular basis and having them handle everything for you. They buy the ETFs for you according to the blueprint in your chosen portfolio, and they do the buying and selling necessary to keep you in line with the asset mix you've chosen. This is far from rocket science, but it is time-consuming and, for newbies, a little intimidating.

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In fact, the ETF Model Portfolio Service has particular appeal for the rookie investor who wants the benefit of using low-cost ETFs, but doesn't know how to get started. A $15,000 account would be billed $6.25 on a monthly basis, which seems liveable. Later on, after an investor builds some expertise, he or she could move the account to one of the bigger online brokerage firms and save the 0.5 per cent fee.

ShareOwner's new ETF program is somewhat similar to the adviceDirect service run by BMO InvestorLine, where the fee starts at 1 per cent and investors are given help in choosing their own securities and monitoring them. Experienced DIY investors will scoff at the cost of this service and the cheaper ShareOwner ETF portfolios, but they're not the target market.

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