A financial advisor’s cost depends on the fee structure that they use. No one wants to pay excessive fees or costs in connection with financial advice and planning, but it can be hard to pin down what you’re actually paying for, even if you have a good grasp of your quarterly statements. It all comes down to whether you have a financial advisor you can trust — or someone who is merely doing business with you for their own gain.
There’s nothing wrong with asking what a financial advisor does and what they charge for their work. Asking these questions will help you determine whether financial advisor fees are worth the cost.
What Are the Average Fees for a Financial Advisor?
Financial advisors offer a range of services, including financial planning and investment management. According to AdvisoryHQ, here are the average fees charged for the most common fee structures:
- Assets under management: 0.59% to 1.18%
- Annual retainer: $6,000 to $11,000
- Fixed/flat rates: $7,500 to $55,000
- Hourly rates: $120 to $300
- Package fees: $275 to $4,500
What Are the Different Types of Financial Advisors and Their Fees?
When it comes to financial advising, you have several options: traditional, robo-advisor and hybrid robo-advisor. With traditional financial advisors, a variety of fee structures exist — from AUM to package fees — while robo-advisor and hybrid models have less variations. Here’s a look at each type of financial advisor and their fees.
Traditional Financial Advisor: Percentage of Assets Under Management
The percentage of assets under management fees make up the most common fee structure today. Under AUM, financial advisors charge clients an annual percentage of the assets being managed. The smaller the number of your assets, the higher the fees.
For example, a client with a $100,000 investment would incur an average AUM fee of 1.12% or $1,120 per year, whereas the average annual fee for a client with a $2 million investment would be 0.91% percent or $18,200. Fees can range from $590-$177,000 per year, depending on the amount of AUM. According to AdvisoryHQ, these average fees include record keeping, accounting services, trading, due diligence, financial planning, investment advice, tax management, portfolio rebalancing and monitoring.
In addition to AUM, financial advisors may use other fee structures to charge for their services. This includes flat annual fees based on investment amounts, hourly rates for individuals who need specific services and per-plan fees that combine several services. These financial advisor fees can vary depending on the part of the country you’re in and factors like active or passive management.
Traditional Financial Advisor: Annual Retainer
The annual retainer fee is partially based on your assets under management, but it also factors in the complexity of your finances. The advantage of paying an annual retainer is having access to the financial services you need when you need them. This fee structure is well suited for people who are looking to build a long-term relationship with their financial advisor with the goal of increasing their wealth over time.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to $11,000 annually for a retainer; the actual cost will depend on the financial advisor you choose and location, as well as your specific needs.
Traditional Financial Advisor: Fixed/Flat Rate
The fixed/flat rate fee is also based on AUM, but instead of the fee structure being based on the percentage of AUM, the fee structure will be based on a fixed-fee bracket. The fixed/flat rate fee structure may be more or less expensive than a fee based on the percentage of assets based on management, so make sure to compare the two.
You can expect to pay an average annual fee of $7,500-$55,000 for fixed/flat-rate services. The average fixed/flat fee for AUM of up to $499,999 is $7,500.
Traditional Financial Advisor: Hourly Rate
Hiring a financial advisor with an hourly rate makes sense in certain situations when you need a one-time service, such as a review of your 401(k) or assistance with estate planning. Average hourly fees for a financial advisor range from $120-$300 per hour. If you need ongoing services, however, finding a financial advisor who charges offers a fixed/flat rate or percentage fee structure would be more cost-effective.
Traditional Financial Advisor: Package Fee
Some financial advisors offer package fees to clients for advice on specific topics, such as retirement, taxes, college and assets. There is no data available on an average package fee; the actual fee will depend on the specific financial advisor offering the service. Depending on what you need help with, a package fee may be more affordable than an hourly rate for the same services.
A robo-advisor is a virtual platform that uses computer software to manage money and investments. Robo-advisors work by collecting information from the client and using an algorithm to match the client with products. These automated services cost less than human financial advisors and may be worth the savings if you don’t need customized service and unlimited access to your advisor. You can expect to pay 0.25%-0.50% of your account balance in robo-advisor fees each year.
Another type of financial advising is the hybrid robo-advisor model. With this service, you’ll have access to a virtual robo-advisor platform and a real-life financial advisor. Meetings with the human financial advisor often take place by phone or video conferencing, which is typically less costly than meeting in person with a traditional financial advisor. Fees will depend on the particular firm you use and can be based on AUM or a flat monthly fee.
What Else To Consider Regarding Financial Advisor Fees
Financial advisors can be split into two groups: fee-only and commission-based. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors requires all of its members to use a fee-only pay structure. This pay structure provides greater transparency and reduces conflicts of interest that can interfere with the fiduciary role. Since fee-only financial advisors don’t earn a commission on their work, like commission-based financial advisors do, they have an incentive to do what’s best for each client’s personal situation. You can find a fee-only fiduciary financial advisor through NAPFA.
Are Financial Advisor Fees Worth the Cost?
Determining whether a financial advisor is worth the cost is a personal decision that depends on your financial goals and needs. Yes, you have to pay for their services, but you’re paying for their expertise and understanding of the financial industry. They have the ability to objectively review your financial plans and offer advice that can potentially save you money and build wealth over your lifetime. Ultimately, you have to decide how much that’s worth to you.
Choose the Right Advisor for Your Personal Goals
The right advisor can save you time and money. When you have clearly defined goals, it’s easier to identify the best products and services. For example, if you have a financial plan in place and need someone to review it, you may not need to pay for full-service management. On the other hand, paying an hourly rate may not make sense if you like the ability to pick up the phone and call your advisor every time you have a question.
This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.