How Much Does A Financial Advisor Cost?

This can be a complicated question because the Advisor business has several different business models that all charge you money in a slightly different manner.

In order to truly understand how much you are paying and what you are getting for that cost, you need to at least be familiar with the four main options available to you.

So, let me explain the 4 different business models, how they charge, and then specifically how much I charge to work with you and why it’s a bit different. Let us begin.

The Four Financial Advisor Business Models And How They Charge You.  

The Stock Broker: The Stock Broker business model is one where the Advisor does not charge you ANY fees at all and simply gets paid a commission for selling you a particular investment.

Some Examples:

  • Mutual Fund / A Shares: Product may charge a Front end load of 3.75% to 5.75% on Average* as an upfront off the top charge in addition to annual management fees of about 1.44% per year**
  • Variable Annuities: Typically don’t carry a front end charge but in addition to annual management fees usually around 1% they may also charge a Surrender Charge of 6% or higher decreasing over a period of years if you take all of your money out.
  • Mortality and Expense Fees: Most Variable annuities also charge a fee for Life Insurance that can tack on an additional 1% per year or more on top of the other mentioned fees.

The higher these product fees are the more the companies who issue them can afford to pay the Stock Broker to sell them to you.

But with these fees also come certain benefits like professional money management, life insurance benefits, and even guaranteed income that would not be available without these fees.

We talk about some of the pros and cons of using this business model in my How Pre-Retirees can Avoid The One Big Retirement Mistake That Could Keep them from Retiring Stress-FREE!

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The Insurance Agent: The Insurance agent business model works very similarly to the Stock Broker Model above. The Insurance agent Advisor does not charge you ANY fees at all and simply gets paid a commission for selling you a particular Insurance Product.

Some Examples:

Fixed Annuities: Most have a back-end surrender charge that decreases over a period of years. You only pay this charge if you take all of your money out early or withdraw more than the allowed percentage in a given year. Typically you have access to 10% without a fee.

  • NOTE: Unlike Variable Annuities Fixed Annuities typically don’t have ANY front end or ongoing annual management fees or life insurance costs built in.
  • Life Insurance: Most life insurance plans charge Front end fees and back-end fees as well as ongoing costs to cover the charge for the death benefits.

Much like the Stock Broker model, the higher these product fees are the more the companies who issue them can afford to pay the Insurance Agent to sell them to you.

But with these fees also come certain benefits like, the safety of principal, leveraged insurance benefits if you pass away early or end up in a nursing home, as well as some tax advantages that are just not available in non-insurance products.

The Fee-Only Advisor: A Fee-only Advisor business model is one where the Advisor charges a fee for advice or for managing money.

Some Fee-Only Advisors charge a planning fee or an upfront lump sum charge ranging on average from about $1,500 to $2,500 or more to develop a Full Financial Plan.***

In addition to an upfront planning fee, most Fee-Only Advisors also charge a money management fee of about 1.00% to 1.75% of the total assets managed.

The management fee would be deducted from your investment balance on a monthly or quarterly basis.

While this could sound expensive to some keep in mind the Fee-Only Advisor is NOT getting paid ANY commissions for selling you products and this fee is often being split with a professional money management team that is all working to optimize results.

Is Fee-Only Advice More Objective Advice?   

Some people assume that because a Fee-Only advisor does not get paid any commissions or finders fee their advice must be more objective. In reality, their advice can be equally swayed.

Here is an example of a potential conflict of interest: If you asked your Fee-Only Advisor about purchasing a Fixed or Indexed Annuity from an Insurance Agent Advisor you would expect to get objective advice. Or would you?  

For you to purchase that Annuity would require that you remove money from your assets that the Fee-Only Advisor is getting paid to manage. Might they prefer that you continue to leave your money in their care so they can continue to charge you their ongoing fee on that money?

In my opinion, there is the SAME room for conflicts of interest no matter how someone is getting paid so you really need to understand all of your options and do what you feel is right for you.

The Hybrid Advisor:  A Hybrid Advisor is a business model that is a blend of two or more of the business models above. (as if this wasn’t confusing enough!)

For example, some Fee-Only Advisors chose to also offer products only available through a Stock Broker arrangement. If this is the case they will normally refer to themselves as a Fee-Based Advisor instead of a Fee-Only advisor.

Because these terms sound so closely linked it is very easy for a layperson to get confused as to who they are actually dealing with.

If a Hybrid Advisor does sell you a product he or she is getting paid a commission on they are supposed to disclose this to you in advance of the sale as this could be a conflict of interest.  

We talk about some of the pros and cons of using this business model in my How Pre-Retirees can Avoid The One Big Retirement Mistake That Could Keep them from Retiring Stress-FREE!

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How Much Does it Cost To Work With Me?

I operate as a Fee-Based Advisor under a Hybrid business model.

My particular model blends what I believe to be the best of two worlds. On one hand, I operate as a Fee-Based Advisor offering investment advice for a Fee, but on the other hand, I am also licensed to represent Insurance companies and collect a finder's fee.

I do not currently charge an upfront planning fee. In fact, there is no charge to meet with me and nothing to buy at this point. If we both decide after a few meetings that we are a fit to work together and you really love the direction we are heading in for you, then I get paid in two ways depending on what was recommended for your particular situation: 

  • For the money that belongs in the stock market, I get paid a % to help you manage that money. Typically we charge around 1.10 to 1.65% per year collected on a monthly basis out of the account being managed. You never write a check to me personally or to my business.
  • For money better suited for an insurance company solution I get paid a finders fee from the insurance company and no ongoing money management fees are charged.

This Model Could Save You Money If It’s a Fit.

In the long run, this can typically save my clients thousands of dollars.

How? You only pay management fees on the portion of the money that is invested in the market.

For example, it would cost a lot less per year to pay 1.5% on only the 75% of your assets that are invested in the Stock Market (as an example, Percentages vary per client's needs) instead of paying a 1.5% management fee on 100% of your investments. 

Of course, there are pros and cons to every approach.

Some would argue that fixed insurance products don’t grow as fast so that is a hidden cost.

I would refute that by saying not all of your money should have the goal of fast growth and that insurance companies can offer a layer of protection and security that can be crucial for many pre-retirees.

Did that help?

I know all this talk of fees can be confusing but making sure you are not paying more than necessary for good financial advice is important.

Hopefully learning about these different business models will help you to better discern which type of advisor is going to be the best fit to work with you. 

For more information on the different ways, How Pre-Retirees can Avoid The One Big Retirement Mistake That Could Keep them from Retiring Stress-FREE! Click Here.

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Disclosure: Investment Advisory Services offered through Retirement Wealth Advisors, LLC. (RWA) a Registered Investment Advisor. Rockford Retirement Planning, Inc. (RRP,Inc.) and RWA are not affiliated. Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.

This information is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered, it is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice and cannot be used to avoid tax penalties or to promote, market, or recommend any tax plan or arrangement. Please note that RRP,Inc. and its affiliates do not give legal or tax advice. You are encouraged to consult your tax advisor or attorney.

Annuity guarantees rely on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer. Any references to protection benefits or lifetime income generally refer to fixed insurance products. They do not refer, in any way to securities or investment advisory products or services. Fixed Insurance and Annuity product guarantees are subject to the claims‐paying ability of the issuing company and are not offered by Retirement Wealth Advisors, LLC.

Social Security/Government Program Disclosure: Antonio Filippone of Rockford Retirement Planning, Inc and Retirement Wealth Advisors, LLC are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government agency

MDRT Disclosure: The Million Dollar Round Table is a trade association to help insurance brokers and financial advisors establish best business practices and develop ethical and effective ways to increase client interest in financial products, specifically risk-based products like life insurance, disability, and long-term care. Annual qualification requirements include demonstrating a set annual production requirement and agreeing to a code of ethics but are not based on client experience or performance. For more information regarding the Million Dollar Round Table eligibility, please see Membership in no way constitutes an endorsement from Million Dollar Round table or any client.

Top of the Table:To qualify for top of the table a member must demonstrate an annual commission of six times the base requirement.

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