April 13, 2021

Liz Weston: How to find a fee-only financial planner

Dear Liz: You often recommend in your column to seek the advice of a fee-only financial planner. Where…

Dear Liz: You often recommend in your column to seek the advice of a fee-only financial planner. Where would I find such a financial planner? Our understanding is that a person has to have at least $1 million of savings to invest before a “fee-only” financial planner will consult with you. Can you be more specific?

Answer: Once upon a time, it was difficult to find fee-only financial planners if you didn’t have a lot of money to invest. Many required you to invest at least $250,000 and charged 1% of those assets annually.

Today you have many more options. There are now fee-only planners who work on an hourly basis (such as those affiliated with Garrett Planning Network) or who charge monthly retainer fees (the XY Planning Network).

There are also accredited financial counselors and accredited financial coaches (Assn. for Financial Counseling & Planning Education) who often work on a sliding scale. The National Assn. of Personal Financial Advisors and the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners are two other organizations that represent fee-only planners.

One positive outcome of the pandemic is that many more planners now work virtually, which widens your potential options.

Also, many discount brokerages and robo-advisors now offer more affordable ways to get fiduciary advice. (“Fiduciary” means that the advisor is required to put your best interests first.)

Many use a hybrid model, with computer algorithms directing your investments plus access to a human advisor by phone, email or video call. The cost is typically 0.3% to 0.5% of the assets you have invested with the company, which is significantly cheaper than the 1% traditionally charged by financial planners.The traditional approach could still be a good fit if you meet the planner’s minimums and need a lot of ongoing services. If your needs aren’t extensive or you just need an occasional second opinion, one of the other approaches could make more sense.

Liz Weston, a certified financial planner, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at asklizweston.com.