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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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Compare our top 4 picks for financial advisors

VanguardVanguardMerrillMerrillAmeriprise FinancialAmeriprise FinancialFidelity InvestmentsFidelity Investments
# of reviews349371403725
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
Min. investment requirements $3,000 - $50,000 $1,000 - $20,000 $2,000 - $500,000 $0 - $250,000
Annual fees 0.2% - 0.4% AUM fees + $25 0.45% - 0.85% AUM fees 0.80% - 1.0% wrap fees 0.35% - 1.50% gross advisory fees
Read reviews Read reviews Read reviews Read reviews
All information accurate as of time of publication.

More info on our top choices for financial advisors

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.

Each one offers both self-directed investment accounts and advisor-managed accounts with varying account minimums and fees.

Best online financial advisor
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
0.2% - 0.4% AUM fees + $25

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. However, 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. But these advisors won’t work with every type of investment, such as non-Vanguard mutual funds or individual bonds. Advisory fees cost 0.35% annually for an all-ETF account and 0.4% for an ETF/mutual fund mix. With personal advisor services, you receive access to financial advisors 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.

We appreciate these factors of Vanguard financial advisor accounts:

  • There are no advisory fees for 90 days with the robo-advisor.
  • The robo-advisor has a low account minimum.
  • There are environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment options.
We recommend considering the following before proceeding:
  • There’s a high account minimum for the personal advisor services.
  • Some investment typess are excluded.
  • There’s a $25 account service fee for most accounts, though it can be waived.

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
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, has no account minimums, so it’s the easiest to qualify for. And it comes with unlimited $0 online stock, ETF and option trades. While Merrill does not charge a commission fee for trading stocks or ETFs, there are miscellaneous account and transaction charges you should be aware of. It does not offer futures, options on futures, foreign currency or crypto investing and trading. The first level of Merrill Guided Investing requires a $1,000 minimum investment.

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 a Merrill Edge advisor by phone. 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.

Things we like about Merrill include:

  • Fee discounts may be available for high account balances
  • Unlimited $0 stock, ETF and options trades with self-directed investing account

The following should be considered before moving forward with Merrill:

  • 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
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
$2,000 - $500,000
Annual fees
0.80% - 1.0% wrap fees

Ameriprise Financial has been helping individuals with investing for over 125 years, and it offers over 10,000 Ameriprise advisors to choose from. 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 opening investment of $2,000 and for which an advisor recommends securities to invest in. Minimum investment requirements change depending on your account type/the level of management. Not all fees are disclosed, but Ameriprise does impose a wrap fee (an AUM fee combined with other annual fees) for these accounts. This fee is negotiable with your advisor, but it usually works out to about 1%.

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.

Ameriprise Financial offers:

  • Retirement-centered program
  • Approximately 10,000 financial advisors

Make sure to pay attention to these factors:

  • High fees
  • Wrap fees vary by advisor

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
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.

While Fidelity’s robo-advisor account, Fidelity Go, has no account minimum to open and no advisory fees until your balance reaches $25,000, Fidelity has our top pick for its Wealth Management program. You can access this account with a minimum $50,000 investment, but your one-on-one advisor benefits start when your account hits 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’s newest offering, Fidelity Crypto, allows you to trade bitcoin and ethereum with as little as $1. This option is currently only available in 36 states.

Features we like for Fidelity include:

  • No fees for some robo-advisor accounts
  • Unlimited 30-minute coaching sessions with minimum account balance
  • Crypto possibilities

Be mindful of the following with Fidelity:

  • 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.

Compare Top Financial Advisor Reviews

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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.

 » MORE: Best online stockbrokers for beginners

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 (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 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 oversee investment decisions for a financial portfolio. They generally work for wealthy individuals, mutual funds or pension plans.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.

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.

Financial advisor pros and cons

Hiring a financial advisor can help take your investments to the next level, especially if your money is currently only earning interest in a savings account or certificate of deposit (CD).

However, using a financial advisor does not guarantee that you will earn a profit or that your funds are shielded from market risks.


  • Saves time: Managing your finances and investments takes time and is complex, so having an advisor watch the market and rebalance portfolios could be worth it.
  • Financial planning: Advisors can help you create a comprehensive financial plan that considers your short- and long-term goals.
  • Tax planning: Advisors can provide guidance on estate planning, tax-efficient investment strategies and minimizing tax liabilities.
  • Diversification: Advisors can assist you in creating a diversified investment portfolio that aligns with your risk tolerance and goals.


  • Fees: Expect to pay management fees and transaction costs. Fees will vary by company and your advisor’s level of involvement.
  • Account minimum: Some advisors require a minimum investment before they agree to work with you.
  • No guarantees: Market fluctuations and other external factors can impact investment returns.
  • Possible lack of transparency: Not all advisors have the same certifications or are equally transparent about their fee structures and potential conflicts of interest.

Should I use 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.

How to choose a financial advisor

“Choosing a financial advisor is a personal process that should not be taken lightly. Done well, it can result in establishing a long-lasting professional relationship,” said Eric Unger, president and chief compliance officer of Affiance Financial. “When choosing an advisor, look for one who is committed to earning your trust. Recognize that trust is not a commodity and cannot be shopped for at lowest cost.”

He also recommends finding an advisor who fits your specific needs and goals. A financial advisor should take the time to understand your unique financial situation, aspirations, risk tolerance and time frame.

“Look for a financial advisor that offers clients of similar ages and backgrounds customized planning services. A good financial advisor will not offer a one-size-fits-all financial plan.”

Ultimately, the relationship with a financial advisor is built on trust and collaboration. Taking the time to research and select an advisor who listens to your concerns, educates you about your options and helps you make informed decisions can greatly contribute to your financial success.


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

There are many types of financial advisors with different specializations. A financial planner is a specific type of advisor focused on creating financial plans that cover various aspects of your life, from budgeting to retirement and estate planning.

What is a fiduciary financial advisor?

A fiduciary financial advisor is legally bound to act in your best interest and prioritize your financial success over their own. They must disclose any potential conflicts of interest and provide recommendations that align with your financial goals. Advisors might offer a free consultation to assess your needs before you have to commit.

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.

What credentials should a financial advisor have?

There are many different credentials and certifications for different types of financial advisors, but these three are the most notable: certified financial planner (CFP), chartered financial analyst (CFA) and certified public accountant (CPA). Attaining any of those designations requires a rigorous process of education, experience and examinations.


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.

Not sure how to choose?

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