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Best Financial Advisors

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Whether you want to get started with investing or have retirement savings goals that need managing, a financial advisor can help. Financial advisors work with you to build long-term wealth by managing your investment portfolios, including your 401(k) and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Advisors can also minimize tax implications so that all of your investing doesn’t come with a huge bill at the end of the year.

Whether you are investing a few thousand dollars or over $1 million, the right financial advisor can help you maximize your efforts.

Choosing a financial advisor doesn’t have to be complicated. We compared the top financial advisor companies’ assets under management (AUM) fees, range of services and whether they offer in-person or online advising.

Our picks may be Authorized Partners who compensate us. This does not affect our recommendations or evaluations but may impact the order in which companies appear.

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Vanguard logoVanguardMerrill Lynch logoMerrill LynchAmeriprise Financial logoAmeriprise FinancialFidelity Investments logoFidelity Investments
# of reviews336367402716
Our pick for Online financial advisor In-person services Retirement planning Wealth management
Types of accounts managed Eligible 401(k)s, traditional IRAs, rollover IRAs, Roth IRAs, individual or joint taxable accounts Individual and small business 401(k)s, traditional IRAs, rollover IRAs, individual or joint taxable accounts, 529 college plans, HSAs 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs, rollover IRAs, 529 college plans, real estate and alternative investments, unit investment trusts (UITs) Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, rollover IRAs, 529 college plans, HSAs
Minimum investment requirements $3,000 - $50,000 $1,000 - $20,000 $25,000 - $500,000 $0 - $250,000
Annual fees 0.20% - 0.30% AUM fees + $20 0.45% - 0.85% AUM fees 0.80% - 1.0% wrap fees 0.35% - 1.50% gross advisory fees
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All information accurate as of time of publication.

Compare our top 4 choices for financial advisors

Our top financial advisors offer both self-directed investment accounts and advisor-managed accounts with varying account minimums and fees.

Best online financial advisor Vanguard
  • Types of accounts managed: Eligible 401(k)s, traditional IRAs, rollover IRAs, Roth IRAs, individual or joint taxable accounts
  • Minimum investment requirements: $3,000 - $50,000
  • Annual fees: 0.20% - 0.30% AUM fees + $20

Vanguard offers two types of financial advising: a robo-advisor and a personal advisor. Both offer personalized management of eligible 401(k)s and IRAs. Depending on the type of advising you choose, different minimum investments and fees apply. Most accounts will also have a $20 yearly account service fee on top of advisory fees, though this fee can be eliminated by signing up for e-delivery of statements and other Vanguard notices.

Vanguard’s robo-advisor is a 100% digital advisor account and is managed through a Vanguard Brokerage Account. You need a minimum of $3,000 to open an account. The service costs 0.20% in advisory fees on the assets you authorize Vanguard to manage on your behalf. New customers will pay no advisory fees during their first 90 days.

For the personal advisor services, investors will need at least $50,000 to enroll. Advisory fees cost 0.30% annually. With the personal advisor services, you receive access to an advisor and investment coaching. Additionally, you receive real-time goal tracking and automated tax-loss harvesting, which is the selling of an underperforming investment to reduce your taxable capital gains.

Vanguard’s personal advisor services won’t work with every type of investment, though. Non-Vanguard mutual funds, individual bonds, securities traded on international exchanges, preferred stocks, penny stocks and illiquid stocks will need to either be held in a separate account or sold and reinvested in eligible Vanguard investments.

While both accounts have advisory fees, Vanguard clients pay $0 commission to trade exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and stocks online. Vanguard gives access to more than 160 no-transaction-fee mutual funds and more than 3,000 funds from other companies.

  • No advisory fees for 90 days with robo-advisor
  • $0 commission for ETF and stock trades
  • Low account minimum for robo-advisor
  • High account minimum for personal advisor
  • Some investments excluded
  • $20 account service fee for most accounts
Customers chose Vanguard because it was easy to roll over their 401(k)s or switch from a competitor’s account to Vanguard. Many are happy with the options of ETFs and stocks and how well their portfolios have performed. One Georgia customer in their 70s felt comfortable using Vanguard for their retirement account, saying: “We have a live advisor versus a robo-advisor. … After answering his questionnaire he put us in 60/40 stocks/bonds. After one year we are up 15%.”

Many complained about the website being too clunky and not intuitive. Others felt that the customer service department had gone downhill since they first became customers, saying that they used to be able to connect to knowledgeable advisors quickly but now are redirected to a hotline of unknowledgeable service reps.

Best for in-person services Merrill Lynch
  • Types of accounts managed: Individual and small business 401(k)s, traditional IRAs, rollover IRAs, individual or joint taxable accounts, 529 college plans, HSAs
  • Minimum investment requirements: $1,000 - $20,000
  • Annual fees: 0.45% - 0.85% AUM fees

Merrill is an investment management company under Bank of America. It offers four different levels of investing: self-directed through Merrill Edge, two levels of Merrill Guided Investing and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

The self-directed investment program, Merrill Edge, is the easiest to qualify for, since there are no account minimums, and it comes with unlimited $0 stock, ETF and option trades. It does not offer futures, options on futures, foreign currency or crypto investing and trading, though. With this account, you are able to access online and mobile investing tools, but you will not have access to advisors or online goal-setting.

The first level of Merrill Guided Investing is done online. You set the goals, and your portfolio will be professionally managed for you. For this account, you will need a minimum of $1,000 invested and will pay 0.45% in AUM fees. The second level of Merrill Guided Investing requires a $20,000 minimum account balance and has a 0.85% AUM fee. This level allows you to work one-on-one with an advisor to set goals and periodically review performance. Discounts on Merrill Guided Investing fees may be available to members of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, depending on your average account balance.

With investment specialists available 24/7 and over 3,500 advisors to connect with nationwide, it is easy to connect with someone. Additionally, you can make trades and monitor your portfolio wherever you are. To set up an investment account, you can apply online, call to speak to an advisor, set up an online appointment or visit a local branch with a Merrill Financial Solutions Advisor.

While Merrill does not charge a commission fee for trading stocks or ETFs, there are miscellaneous account charges you should be aware of. Options trades are subject to a 65-cent-per-contract fee, and sales of ETFs have transaction fees of between 1 cent and 3 cents per $1,000 of principal. Broker-assisted trades can cost $29.95, and short-term redemption of mutual funds costs $39.95.

  • Fee discounts may be available for high account balances
  • Unlimited $0 stock, ETF and options trades with self-directed investing account
  • High AUM fees on advisor accounts
  • Limited investment products
Many chose Merrill because of the free trades, saying that they saved a lot of money over competing investing sites. Others who gave positive reviews have had a Merrill account for years and felt that the reporting was simple to understand and guidance from the advisors was helpful. A reviewer from Georgia said: “My financial advisor has been with me for over 10 years. He is attentive, responsive and always puts my needs first with an excellent plan. I trust him completely.”

A common complaint is that the customer service wait times are long, and oftentimes customer service is not helpful. Others struggled to have money transferred out, like through a 401(k) hardship withdrawal, mentioning that Merrill made the process of moving funds frustrating and long.

Best for retirement planning Ameriprise Financial
  • Types of accounts managed: 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs, rollover IRAs, 529 college plans, real estate and alternative investments, unit investment trusts (UITs)
  • Minimum investment requirements: $25,000 - $500,000
  • Annual fees: 0.80% - 1.0% wrap fees

Ameriprise Financial has been helping individuals with investing for over 125 years. With approximately 10,000 Ameriprise advisors to choose from, it is one of the largest financial advising services we have reviewed. Ameriprise manages a variety of different accounts, including 401(k)s, 403(b)s and traditional and Roth IRAs. It also manages a few investment types that many other competitors don’t, such as real estate investments and UITs.

Ameriprise offers different advisory solutions, starting with its SPS Advantage account, which requires a minimum investment of $25,000 and for which an advisor recommends products to invest in. Minimum investment requirements change depending on your account type/the level of management, but the fee structure stays consistent for each account. The wrap fee (AUM fee combined with other annual fees) for these accounts starts at 1% for investments up to $100,000. Investments from $100,000 to $200,000 have a 0.90% wrap fee, and investments above $200,000 have a 0.80% wrap fee.

The fees for these accounts are not clearly disclosed on Ameriprise Financial’s website, and finding the information took some digging. This gives the impression that Ameriprise lacks transparency.

Ameriprise is well known for its retirement savings advising. It helps clients set and reach goals through its Confident Retirement approach. The approach is designed to help individuals have enough finances to cover essentials, live the lifestyle they want, prepare for the unexpected and build enough wealth to leave a legacy. Ameriprise says that 96% of its clients felt that this program addressed their needs, based on an in-house survey conducted from July 2018 to August 2020.

One thing to note is that not all Ameriprise advisors are fiduciaries, which is a designation indicating that an advisor is legally required to work with your best interest in mind. If you work with Ameriprise, you might want to choose an advisor who is legally held to a fiduciary standard, like a certified financial planner (CFP).

  • Retirement-centered program
  • Approximately 10,000 financial advisors
  • High fees
  • Not all advisors are fiduciaries
Customers chose Ameriprise because it is a trusted name, and many felt that its advisors were knowledgeable and caring. Some who transferred their investments from a competitor to Ameriprise felt that they made the right decision. One customer from Maryland said: “When I joined Ameriprise Financial and turned over my portfolio to them; they reinvested my dividends,  which in turn bought me more stock so that when I needed money to buy my car it was there. The people at Ameriprise are very nice, professional, willing to answer any and all questions that you may have.”

Many reviewers complained about the high fees and felt that their portfolios were set up to underperform. One reviewer from Virginia summed up their experience by saying: “The end result was poor returns. While their site stated 10% to 12%, I wound up with much lower when looking at what I had given and what I ended up with. In addition, a 1% AUM fee is just the beginning. When you add their fees and the fund fees, it's over 2%.”

Best for wealth management Fidelity Investments
  • Types of accounts managed: Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, rollover IRAs, 529 college plans, HSAs
  • Minimum investment requirements: $0 - $250,000
  • Annual fees: 0.35% - 1.50% gross advisory fees

Established in 1946, Fidelity offers several different investment accounts, ranging from DIY investor accounts with low fees to robo-advisor accounts and advisor-managed accounts with competitive fees.

Fidelity’s robo-advisor account, Fidelity Go, has no account minimum to open and no advisory fees until your balance reaches $25,000. At that point, advisory fees cost 0.35% per year. While there are no account minimums, you need at least $10 in your account to start investing. Clients who have over $25,000 invested in this account are able to access live advisors via telephone for unlimited 30-minute coaching calls.

To work with a dedicated financial advisor, you need to have an account minimum of $250,000 with Fidelity’s Wealth Management program. This account can be accessed with a minimum of $50,000, but you won’t get a one-on-one advisor working on your account until you hit the $250,000 threshold. The gross advisory fees for a wealth management account range from 0.50% to 1.50%. This price does not include other fees, such as trading costs, transfer taxes, exchange fees, regulatory fees and more.

Fidelity will soon allow account holders to partake in Fidelity Crypto, which allows you to trade and secure bitcoin and ethereum with as little as $1. Once cryptocurrency trading is available, only U.S. residents will be able to access it, but it will not be available in all states.

  • No fees for some robo-advisor accounts
  • Unlimited 30-minute coaching sessions with minimum account balance
  • Crypto possibilities
  • High fees for wealth management account
  • High minimum investment requirement for dedicated financial advisor
Reviewers loved how easy Fidelity’s platform is to use and that its research tools and educational resources helped them to be better investors. Many also love that there are hundreds of no-fee mutual funds that can be added to their portfolio. A California customer who has been with Fidelity for over 13 years said, “My favorite thing about Fidelity is that they allow an unlimited number of price alerts, which can be set up 10 at a time.”

Dissatisfied customers felt that the customer service wait times were too long and that it took too much effort to get simple questions answered. Others had difficulties transferring their accounts out of Fidelity.

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What does a financial advisor do?

Financial advisors give advice and help you create strategies to achieve your short- and long-term money goals. A financial advisor can help you with many different aspects of your finances, but they often have specializations that can help you determine whether they’re a good fit for your needs.

Some financial advisor services you can expect to see include:

  • Tax strategizing: Some financial advisors are well-versed in tax laws and can provide you with tax advice.
  • Financial planning: Financial planning is useful, especially if you have goals like retiring early or putting your children through college. Working with a financial advisor to create a plan gives you a good idea of what steps you need to take to hit your goals.
  • Investing: Investing is a common service offered by financial advisors. Whether you’re working on building your portfolio, buying stocks or preparing for retirement, a financial advisor can help you distribute your assets and invest based on your desired results.
  • Wealth management: Wealth management is an all-encompassing service offered by financial advisors. It features general handling of your finances, including security selection and complete financial management.
  • Insurance services: Financial advisors can help you determine whether you have the right insurance coverage based on your assets.

How much do financial advisors cost?

The cost of a financial advisor depends on the size of your account, the services you need and the company you choose to work with. Financial advisors can charge you in a few different ways.

  • Commission-based payments: Financial advisors who work on commission receive a payment when they buy or sell securities on behalf of their clients. Commission fees tend to be higher than traditional AUM fees, generally ranging from 3% to 6% of your investment.
  • Flat fees: Some financial advisors charge a set fee for specific services so clients know how much they can expect to pay in advance. For example, some financial advisors charge fees ranging from $1,500 to $7,500 to create a brand-new financial plan.
  • Hourly payments: Many financial advisors bill by the hour and may request a retainer fee prior to providing services. Hourly charges vary depending on the financial advisor, but they often start at $100 an hour and go up to $400 an hour.
  • Assets under management fees: Financial advisors who manage your complete financial portfolio generally charge a fee that is a percentage of your total assets under management. AUM fees, also called percentage-based fees, are the most common payment structure for financial advisors and generally range from 0.5% to 2% of your total assets under management. Accounts with more assets may qualify for lower fees. Some advisors might even charge a different rate on your first $1 million of assets and then adjust the percentage for the rest of your portfolio.

When you’re comparing financial advisor costs, make sure you look for advisors with reasonable fees. Higher fees aren’t proof of better investment results.

Types of financial advisors

Financial advisors can specialize in a variety of areas. A few popular financial advisor credentials and titles include the following:

  • CPAs. CPAs (certified public accountants) are accountants with additional education and work experience who have passed a certification exam. CPAs serving as financial advisors typically have additional training and handle a range of financial services, including tax preparation.
  • Financial planners. Financial planners help individuals and corporations meet their financial and life goals. They may specialize in tax planning, asset allocation, investing, risk management or estate planning.
  • Money managers. Money managers oversee investment decisions for a financial portfolio. They generally work for wealthy individuals, mutual funds or pension plans.
  • Registered investment advisors. Registered investment advisors (RIAs) are either individuals or firms registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state securities authorities. They are charged with providing advice and recommendations or writing reports about securities.
  • Registered representatives. Registered representatives are also licensed by the SEC. They must pass the Series 7 and Series 63 securities examinations and be registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). These individuals typically work for investment brokerage companies and may also be called stockbrokers or account executives.
  • Certified financial planners. A CFP must meet requirements set by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. These requirements include holding at least a bachelor’s degree, completing coursework in financial planning and successfully completing a comprehensive exam. They have a fiduciary obligation to work in your best interest.
  • Chartered financial analysts. This designation is issued by the CFA Institute, which has extensive education, experience and examination requirements. CFA holders demonstrate high levels of competence in investment research and portfolio management.
  • Personal financial specialists. The PFS designation is given by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Professionals with this title are CPAs with additional training in financial and wealth management.


What’s the difference between a financial advisor and a financial planner?

“Financial advisor” is the umbrella term for anyone who helps people with their finances. A financial planner specializes in helping people sort out their personal finances and set their financial goals.

Can you trust financial advisors?

It depends on the advisor, which is why it’s important to thoroughly research a financial advisor before agreeing to work with them. Make sure you read reviews and check your advisor’s certifications before letting them manage your money.

Can I talk to a financial advisor for free?

You might be able to talk to a financial advisor for free through your bank or another financial institution. Visit a local branch or call a customer service representative to find out if the services of a financial advisor are available to you.

How do you know if a financial advisor is legit?

You can make sure a financial advisor is legit by asking them questions about their experience and reading reviews from past or current clients. More specific guidelines for identifying trustworthy financial advisors include professional certifications, fiduciary status and fee-based payment structures. It’s important to make sure you’re working with a reputable financial advisor before giving them access to your finances.

Do I need a financial advisor?

Many people can benefit from working with a financial advisor, but you should seriously consider working with a financial advisor if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You’re a beginning investor. People who are just starting out in their financial journey can benefit from working with a financial advisor. A financial advisor can provide personal finance advice and education to help new investors accomplish their short- and long-term financial goals.
  • You’re going through family and household changes. People who are experiencing changes in household income can benefit from professional financial planning. Changes that may call for financial advice include having a baby, getting divorced, getting a new job or losing a job.
  • You’re newly wealthy. If you’ve recently inherited or won a large sum of money, a financial advisor can help you understand and manage your new financial situation.
  • You’re a business owner. People who own a business or are thinking of starting one can benefit from using a financial advisor with experience in both personal and business finances.


To determine our top picks for financial advisors, we examined 12 popular financial advisory firms, comparing their minimum investment requirements, minimum asset requirements and overall satisfaction ratings and reviews on ConsumerAffairs.

To be a top pick, a firm has to have transparent investment minimums listed on its website and clear documentation for commission rates or associated fees. Our picks also need to have a star rating of at least a 3.5 stars on ConsumerAffairs and a minimum of 150 reviews.

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