Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. Finance
  3. Financial Advisors

Find the Best Financial Advisors

by Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance Contributing Editor

If you want to make smart decisions with your money but don’t know much about finances, finding a financial advisor is a good first step. Our research team vetted 11 financial advisors rated by more than 1,760 consumers. Read our guide to research the best financial advisor for you by comparing credentials and services provided.

Get advice from finance professionals.

Find a financial advisor near you on SmartAsset

Get Started

Compare Top Financial Advisor Reviews

Sort

Our top picks for financial advisors

Financial advisors might specialize in any of a variety of services, from wealth management to retirement planning. Direct your search toward advisors who have experience with the services you’re interested in.

Methodology

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 at least a 3.5 rating on ConsumerAffairs and a minimum of 150 reviews.

How to choose a financial advisor

Choosing a financial advisor doesn’t have to be complicated. Before picking a financial advisor, make sure you:

1. Consider your budget
As you begin looking for a financial planner, make sure you take some time to evaluate your financial status and how much you want to spend on working with a financial advisor. Financial advisors have different specialties and prices, so their services aren’t limited to consumers with high net worths.

Ask potential financial advisors about their pay structure and any fees they charge. Financial advisors typically charge a management fee based on your account size. This percentage can range from 0.25% to more than 1%, depending on the advisor you choose to work with and the assets they handle on your behalf.

Annual advisory fees are also common. If they’re too high based on your assets, however, they can lower the benefit of working with an advisor.

2. Decide what services you’re interested in
Not all financial advisors offer the same services. Before deciding to work with a financial advisor, it’s important to make sure they have experience in the areas that matter the most to you. Some financial advisors gear their services toward a specific type of client, whether that’s new investors or those with high net worths. Working with a financial advisor that gets your life situation has benefits, but don’t feel like you have to work with an advisor that markets itself as a niche provider.
3. Choose between in-person and online services
While in-person financial advisors have many positives and their services are very flexible, they may not be right for you. If you’re just starting out or love the idea of managing your finances on the go, you might be better suited to work with a robo-advisor.
Our pick for online financial advisorsVanguard
  • Minimum investment of $50,000
  • Annual fees range from 0.05% to 0.3% of AUM
  • Work with an advisor completely online
  • Develops personal financial plans

Vanguard’s online financial advisory program gives you ongoing access to your portfolio and advisor. While Vanguard’s financial advisors conduct business completely over the internet, the firm avoids a one-size-fits-all approach to financial portfolio management. Vanguard’s financial advisors start the process by getting to know you and asking questions about your financial goals. Then, they help you develop a personalized financial plan, providing you with practical ways to implement and maintain your goals.

Once you’ve landed on a financial plan that fits your goals, Vanguard’s advisors turn their focus to the more meticulous details, like balancing your portfolio, asset allocation and maintaining stability through market ebbs and flows.

Vanguard’s annual fees are percentage-based, ranging from 0.05% to 0.3%, depending on your assets under management. In comparison to other financial advisor firms, Vanguard’s fees are low. However, Vanguard does have a minimum investment amount of $50,000.

Our pick for in-person servicesMerrill Lynch
  • Minimum investment of $5,000 to $20,000
  • Annual fees up to 2% of AUM
  • Local agents available
  • Prioritizes ongoing communication

Merrill Lynch has more than 14,000 financial advisors nationwide, making its services a great option for people who want to work with a financial advisor in person. Your first meeting with a Merrill Lynch financial advisor centers on discovering your investment mindset and determining what your priorities are. Merrill Lynch’s advisors then use this information to help you create a personalized financial plan that’s built around your long-term goals.

Merrill Lynch’s financial advisors prioritize ongoing communication and adapting to market changes, which is great for consumers who value connecting with their financial advisors. Merrill Lynch’s advisors will also meet with you annually to review your progress or make any adjustments.

Merrill Lynch’s annual fees are percentage-based, going up to 2% of your total assets under management. Merrill Lynch also charges an investment manager’s fee that ranges from 0.065% to 0.10%. Investment minimums depend on the type of account you have.

Our pick for retirement planningAmeriprise Financial
  • Investment minimum of $2,000 to $100,000
  • Fees vary
  • Get one-on-one financial advice
  • Confident Retirement approach

Ameriprise sets itself apart from other financial advisory firms with its Confident Retirement approach, which addresses four principal retirement needs:

  • Covering essentials, like monthly costs of living
  • Ensuring lifestyle by accounting for things you want to do and the way you want to live your life in retirement
  • Preparing for the unexpected, like medical costs that could complicate your plans
  • Leaving a legacy by helping you plan for charitable giving and other funds-based decisions

Ameriprise’s financial advisors start by getting to know you and asking about your goals and plans for retirement. Based on this, your advisor will give you an estimated cost of service and work with you to develop a financial plan. Ameriprise’s website gives you access to your portfolio at any time as well as a place to share secure information with your advisor.

Ameriprise’s investment minimums start at $2,000 but vary based on the type of account you have. Its annual fees also depend on your account, but its advisors do offer a complimentary first meeting.

Our pick for wealth managementFidelity Investments
  • Investment minimum of $250,000 for a dedicated advisor
  • Annual fee ranges from 0.2% to 1.5% of AUM
  • Work with a dedicated advisor
  • Offers proactive investing advice

Fidelity offers five types of advisory and investment accounts, including two options designed specifically for wealth management. If you sign up for wealth management, Fidelity’s financial advisors work with you to give advice on both your funds managed by Fidelity and those managed by other firms. Fidelity’s financial advisors meet with you annually to discuss any adjustments or improvements while actively working with you to discover investment options.

Fidelity’s annual fee is percentage-based and ranges from 0.2% to 1.5%, depending on your assets under management. Fidelity also charges a gross advisory fee on wealth management accounts that ranges from 0.5% to 1.04%.

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: Often included in one of the above services, financial advisors can help you determine whether you have the right insurance coverage based on your assets.

How much does a financial advisor 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 fee when they buy or sell securities on behalf of their clients. Commission fees tend to be higher than traditional assets under management (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 (AUM) fees: Financial advisors who manage your complete financial portfolio generally charge a fee that is a percentage of your total assets under management (AUM). 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 also qualify for lower fees. Some advisors might even charge a different rate on your first $1 million of assets then adjust the percentage for the rest of your portfolio.
Payment structureAverage cost
Commission3% to 6%
Flat fee$1,500 to $7,500
Hourly fee$100 to $400 per hour
Assets under management (AUM) fee0.5% to 2%

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:

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 and/or estate planning.
Registered representatives
Registered representatives buy and sell securities. They typically work for major investment brokerage firms or serve people looking for help with investing.
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
Certified financial planners (CFPs) 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.
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.

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 new 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.

Who are the best financial advisors near me?

Financial advisors have the experience and qualifications to guide people with a variety of needs and budgets. We compared our favorite financial advisors nationwide so you can get help achieving your monetary goals.

Financial advisor FAQ

When should you get a financial advisor?
While many people can benefit from working with a financial advisor, you should seriously consider working with a financial professional if:
  • You’re new to the financial industry
  • You’re going through major family or household changes
  • You recently inherited or won a large amount of money
  • You own a business
Is it worth having a financial advisor?
Having a financial advisor doesn’t guarantee that your finances will be perfect, but it can help you better manage money and save for the future, especially if you don’t have much financial knowledge.
Do banks offer free financial advice?
Some banks do offer free or discounted financial advice for members and account holders. If you’re a member of a bank, try asking a representative if there are any financial services available for you to take advantage of.
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 schedule 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.
How much should you pay an investment advisor?
Costs vary, and advisors use a number of different payment structures. Some advisors charge a percentage of your overall portfolio, while others may charge a flat fee. Make sure you ask your advisor about their payment structure before committing to working with them.

Not sure how to choose?

Get buying tips about Financial Advisors delivered to your inbox.

    By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter!

    Financial advisor company reviews

    Edward Jones

    Edward Jones, a Fortune 500 company, is one of the largest financial services firms in the country. With 11,000 offices, Edward Jones has served nearly seven million clients for over 90 years.​

    Read 151 Reviews
    Merrill Lynch

    Merrill Lynch is owned by Bank of America, one of the world’s leading financial institutions. The company serves approximately 47 million consumers and small businesses and has 4,700 retail financial centers.

    Read 338 Reviews
    Wells Fargo Advisors

    Wells Fargo Advisors handles $1.4 trillion in client assets and is one of the country's leading financial services firms. The Wells Fargo Advisors serve their clientele in person, over-the-phone or online. The company brings Wall Street vision and Main Street values to their client relationships.

    Read 85 Reviews
    BNY Mellon Wealth Management

    BNY Mellon Wealth Management was founded by Alexander Hamilton in the late 18th Century and has been managing wealth since America began creating it. The company serves individuals, families, family offices, planned giving programs, endowments and foundations, professionals and institutions. In 2015, BNY Mellon Wealth Management was named “Best U.S. Private Bank” by Global Finance magazine. The company serves clients across the globe.

    Read 9 Reviews
    Franklin Templeton Investments

    Franklin Templeton Investments was founded in the 1940s by Rupert H. Johnson Sr. and named after Benjamin Franklin. The company serves individual investors, institutional investors, financial advisors and registered investment advisors. The company has separate websites for the institutional investor and the registered investment advisor. Franklin Templeton serves clients across the globe.​

    Read more about Franklin Templeton Investments

    Compare Top Financial Advisor Reviews

    by Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance Contributing Editor

    Barbara Friedberg, MBA, MS is a former investment portfolio manager with decades of financial experience. Friedberg taught Finance and Investments at several universities. Her work has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, Investopedia, Yahoo!Finance and many more publications.

    Comparing

    ×