Financial advisors: Are they worth the cost?

As with any relationship, the scope and depth of engaging with a financial advisor can vary significantly from one person to the next. One person may seek a financial advisor for education or one specific need while someone else desires to have more comprehensive assistance with managing multiple aspects of their finances.

To help you to decide if working with a financial advisor makes sense for you, this article has information about:

  • Some key reasons people work with financial advisors
  • How these advisors typically get paid
  • Ways to determine if the services a particular advisor offers are the right fit for you

In general, financial advisors can help their clients to define their financial goals, prioritize them and develop a plan to achieve them.

An advisor can also provide financially based education, which can help their clients identify whether they’re on track for achieving their goals. They can also help clients determine whether their habits are causing problems for their overall financial wellness.

Quality financial advisors can guide their clients through paying off debt, saving for the future, investing in a diversified portfolio, and aligning an investment approach with specific goals, timelines, and risk-tolerance levels.

What are the Typical Financial Advisor Fees?

When discussing financial advisor cost, it can be helpful to first look at the ways in which advisors can get paid.


When advisors are compensated on a commission basis, they receive pay based on the products they sell. The amount of commission paid can vary widely depending upon the product and the company.  notes that multiple arrangements can exist for advisors paid on commission, including receiving a percentage of a client’s assets before money is invested or being paid by the financial institution involved after a transaction takes place. The client might be also be charged each time that stocks are bought or sold.

The article cited above notes that, sometimes, this financial advisor may also sell life insurance, disability insurance, annuities and so forth. If a client wants those products, then it can streamline the process to have one advisor handle multiple offerings.

On the downside, an advisor paid on commission may be “incentivized to churn accounts to generate additional commission, and there is potential for conflicts of interest when it comes to directing clients toward higher-commission products,” according to Kiplinger.

Note that commission-paid advisors are held to what’s called a suitability standard. This means that recommendations they make to you must be suited to your financial needs, goals and circumstances.

And while they are not held to the higher fiduciary standard, they have an ethical and legal obligation to put their client’s interest ahead of their own), they are required to follow certain standards under FINRA Rule 2090 – The KYC Rule. This rule requires reasonable diligence on the part of the advisor to understand each customer and act on their behalf.

Advisory Fee

When an advisory fee is charged by the advisor, the general charge for the client is a percentage of the assets they manage. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average financial advisor fee, annually, is 1% of the assets being managed.

It’s reasonable to expect that an advisor can explain the reasoning behind the fee being charged, given a client’s specific circumstances—and if it’s higher than expected, it’s also reasonable to ask what added value the client is receiving.

Perhaps, for example, the advisor also helps with tax planning, or estate planning. They may be investigating a client’s financial vulnerabilities or otherwise going beyond standard money management services.

Actively managed portfolios may come with a higher fee because the advisor may charge more for putting more effort into getting the best value for their client.

Advisors using any fee-based model have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients, which is the higher standard.

With an advisory fee-based model, the more assets the client has to be managed, the more the advisor makes, which can be an incentive for your advisor to work harder for you. Under this model, there isn’t a readily seen benefit for advisors to steer clients to products with higher commissions because the advisor doesn’t get paid that way.

Planning Fee

With this type of fee, the advisor would charge an upfront fee, or a subscription-based one, to provide either a financial plan or ongoing advice. Prices vary, but on average, a financial advisor will charge between $1,000 and $2,000  for developing a comprehensive financial plan. cites a report by Cerulli Associates that revealed that although asset-based fees are still the primary method (58%) of charging clients, the number of advisors who are going to a fixed planning fee for the actual financial planning they do is increasing.

Approximately 36% of advisors surveyed charge a fixed planning fee for financial planning, the article continues, with 62% of millennial-aged advisors charging these fees.

So, as a potential client considers financial advisors, they may find themselves talking to someone who charges a fixed planning fee to create an initial plan and then uses a different fee structure to actually manage the portfolio. What’s most important is to be clear about what will be charged, and how.

For clarity on how a particular advisor charges for services, a client can review the appropriate Form ADV, provided by the SEC where, among other things, the advisor must provide information about how they charge clients.

Hourly Fee

In this case, the financial advisor charges a straight hourly fee for their services. On the one hand, having an advisor charge an annual fee means that a client may not need to worry as much that their advisor is recommending products because of the income the advisor would earn off of that recommendation.

Choosing a financial advisor that charges per hour can be costly, though, especially if more investigation needs to be done to find a product that fits a client’s needs. This may or may not be a huge concern, but if resources are limited these fees can potentially be hefty.

Factors to Consider with Financial Advisors

As clients make their decision about whether to use a financial advisor or not— and, if so, which one will offer what they want and need. Here are some items they could consider:

  • What type of help is needed from an advisor? Education? Coaching? Management?
  • What services can the financial advisors provide?
  • How well does this match up with your specific needs?
  • How does the advisor charge? In other words, how does your advisor get paid?
  • What context can be provided about fees? How does a percentage translate into real dollars, both today and in the future?

Active Versus Automated Investing

The term active investing typically means investing with a consistent, hands-on approach— whether done by the individual investor or a portfolio manager. With this method, a portfolio is actively managed, with the goal of outperforming the stock market’s current average returns. 

Automated investing takes a hands-off, or “passive” approach, which seeks to maximize returns by minimizing costs associated with buying and selling. With this model, a portfolio is automatically built and managed based on specific investment goals, then diversified and rebalanced.

The post Financial advisors: Are they worth the cost? appeared first on and is written by Kelly Sagert 

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