Financial advisors are quite common in this day and age, as many people value the wisdom and hard work that a good advisor can provide.
But do you really need a financial advisor?
Let's find out.
What Do Financial Advisors Do?
“Financial advisor” is a broad term that can apply to many different people in many different professions. But when we think about financial advisors, we are talking specifically about financial professionals who help their clients save, invest, and plan for their financial future.
A financial advisor considers your specific situation and helps you develop a plan to reach your goals.
The advisor will consider your age, net worth, income, risk tolerance, number of dependents, and desired retirement age, among other things.
As far as investing, a financial advisor might give clients advice on what types of stocks, bonds, or funds they should be buying. For example, if you’re closer to retirement, your advisor will have you invest in bonds and large-cap equity funds so that you aren’t taking on too much risk right before you start taking withdrawals from your retirement savings.
If you’re young and still have a lot of time left before retirement, your advisor will tell you to take on riskier investments such as small-cap or foreign stocks.
Some financial advisors might also be certified to invest on your behalf. With your consent, your advisor can buy and sell stocks for you.
Your advisor can also help you develop a budget so that you can save an appropriate amount of money for retirement while still being able to cover your own expenses.
Your advisor’s company might have a special platform to help you develop a budget digitally, or you might have to keep track of the budget on your own.
How Much Do Financial Advisors Cost?
The amount of money you’ll end up paying your financial advisor depends on what services you’re receiving and your advisor’s fee structure.
For financial advisors that actually manage your portfolio, it’s common to see fees charged in the form of a percentage of assets under management, or AUM. AUM is just a fancy way to refer to the amount of money you have invested.
It’s not uncommon to see a fee of around 1% of AUM; so if you have $100,000 in a portfolio being managed by your advisor, you will pay around $1000 per year.
Some financial advisors charge a flat fee rather than basing it off of AUM.
You might have to pay this fee monthly and, on average, it comes out to several thousand dollars a year.
When you pay a flat fee, you’ll still get access to the services your advisor offers: you can call them for advice, ask them to help you make a budget or financial plan, and still have your investments managed (if your advisor does offer investment management). This fee structure is similar to having your advisor “on retainer.”
You might also see advisors that charge by the hour, especially if they offer specific “one-time” services.
Rather than continually managing your investments or helping you carry out a financial plan, the advisor will simply help you create a budget or plan, which will then be your responsibility to carry out. You can expect to pay several hundred dollars per hour for an appointment with a financial advisor that charges hourly.
Are Financial Advisors Worth It?
After reading the Cost section, you might be thinking that hiring a financial advisor is completely out of the question for you. And we can’t blame you; that stuff is expensive!
But before you write it off completely, let’s talk about it.
The reality of the situation is that some people need a financial advisor and some do not.
If your financial situation is very simple, you don’t have a lot of money to invest, or you have a decent amount of financial knowledge, you most likely do not need a financial advisor.
For example, if you’re a 25-year-old, full-time employee with no children and $10,000 to invest, a financial advisor wouldn’t make much sense for you. You don’t have any complicated tax considerations to worry about, you’re working with a smaller amount of money, and you are young enough to take on a lot of risk with the money you have.
Chances are, you’ll be better off throwing your money into an ETF or investing it in individual equities in hopes of making a better return. Unless you have a dire need for a professionally-designed budget and financial plan that’s tailored to your needs, the services offered by a financial advisor would simply not be worth it.
If you do need someone to help you make a plan, however, you can always make a one-time appointment with an advisor that charges by the hour.
On the other hand, if you’re older and closer to retirement, you own your own business, you have a spouse and children to take care of, you own multiple properties and investment accounts, or you have hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to invest, then it might be worth it to look into hiring a financial advisor.
Even if you’re skilled in finance, it can be a huge hassle to manage all of the different assets and accounts you have.
There are tons of tax laws you have to make sure you’re following and mountains of paperwork you have to keep track of.
This is why a financial advisor can be a great idea for some; a good advisor with a holistic approach can help you create and maintain a plan, make sure you’re obeying the law, and take care of your paperwork for you.
What Are the Alternatives?
If you don’t think you need a financial advisor (or you don’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars that some advisors require you to have in your portfolio), then there are plenty of other options available to help you invest and plan for your financial future.
Many of them are quite a bit cheaper, too!
Robo-advisors are digital advising platforms that use algorithms to help you invest and create a financial plan for you. You’ll fill out a questionnaire with information like your income, net worth, and retirement goals and the platform will give you a portfolio of ETFs that matches your risk tolerance and your goals.
Some robo-advisors offer budgeting and planning tools or even a cash management account to help you save for retirement.
Our favorite robo-advisor is Acorns, a platform that is famous for its unique feature called “round-ups.”
Every time you make a purchase with a linked card, Acorns will automatically round the purchase up to the next dollar and invest the spare change in your portfolio.
They offer budgeting and planning tools, as well as a cash management account that helps you earn rewards on your purchases.
Personal Finance Platforms
There are some platforms that act as holistic tools you can use to manage just about every aspect of your financial life.
Personal Capital, for example, is a platform that has tools for everything from budgeting to portfolio analysis to retirement planning, all for free.
They also offer a free cash management account and a paid wealth management program.
As you can see, hiring a financial advisor is not the right choice for everyone, as some people's financial situations are simple or small enough to be managed without a professional advisor.
But if you have a more complicated financial situation or you truly feel that you will benefit from the services offered by a financial advisor, then it may be worth looking into!