Wealth Advisors: Where the Affluent Go for Advice
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If your personal fortune includes millions of dollars and a yacht or two, you may be the ideal candidate for working with a wealth advisor. Wealth advisors are the financial professionals whom affluent individuals often turn to when they need assistance managing their fortunes.
Wealth advisors: What do they do?
Wealth advisors are a type of financial advisor who typically work with very wealthy clients and offer holistic financial planning, including services such as estate planning, tax help and legal guidance, in addition to investment management. Wealth advisors tend to work with clients who have more expansive financial needs than simple portfolio management, and they often require a minimum investment in the millions of dollars.
The title “wealth advisor,” like many other types of financial advisors, is just a label; an advisor who calls themselves a wealth advisor requires no education or certification, though many wealth advisors do hold various licenses and certifications (more on this below).
Wealth advisory services
Wealth advisors help their clients with just about everything connected to their financial world and may even offer a few services that don’t seem financially related. Here are some services that wealth advisors can offer:
Concierge health care.
Stock options and RSUs.
And though wealth advisors tend to offer more services than other advisors, they still do a lot of the same types of counseling that other types of financial advisors do, says Laila Pence, a certified financial planner and president of Pence Wealth Management in Newport Beach, California.
“The biggest problem investors have is that their emotions get in the way,” Pence says. “And the biggest job whether you’re a financial advisor or a wealth advisor is to navigate the clients through these very, very volatile times.”
How do I find a wealth advisor?
Many online financial planning services offer wealth management. Here are a few options:
1. Zoe Financial
Zoe Financial is not an advisory firm. Instead, Zoe matches clients with an advisor (professionals with at least a CPA, CFP or CFA designation) they claim is in the top 5% of their field. Zoe’s advisors typically charge between 0.50% and 1.50% depending on how much you have managed, though some advisors charge flat fees. Zoe itself does not charge clients any fees. Zoe’s advisors can also help with tax planning, and some will prepare your taxes for you.
» Learn more about Zoe Financial
2. Harness Wealth
Like Zoe Financial, Harness Wealth is not an advisory firm. The service connects clients with advisors and charges the client no fee. All of the financial advisory firms on the Harness Wealth platform are fiduciaries, and network advisors include CFPs, CFAs, CPAs and tax attorneys. Fees are typically 1% of assets under management. Particular services, such as estate planning, can carry flat fees of $1,000 to $5,000. Some Harness advisors offer specialty investment strategies such as index-based or near-index investment vehicles, private placements (an alternative to an initial public offering for a company, and an opportunity for qualified purchasers to invest away from the open market) and Shariah-compliant investments.
» Learn more about Harness Wealth
3. Facet Wealth
Facet Wealth charges $1,200 to $6,000 annually for holistic financial planning. Membership includes unlimited access to a dedicated CFP who can help with investment management, retirement planning, college planning, debt management and reduction, insurance planning, and legacy and estate planning. Facet offers free tax-loss harvesting on all taxable accounts.
» Learn more about Facet Wealth
Empower (formerly Personal Capital) charges a fee of 0.89% on your first $1 million, dropping to as low as 0.49% as additional assets are added. New clients will be assigned an advisor or advisory team and given a direct line to that advisor. Clients with $200,000 or more have two dedicated advisors, and CFPs are available upon request. Empower can help with wealth planning, private equity, hedge fund review, finding access to private banking resources and tax-loss harvesting.
» Learn more about Empower
All wealth advisors listed offer access to a dedicated CFP and score four stars or more for tax strategy in NerdWallet’s evaluation. Wealth advisors listed all also offer estate and legacy planning. Advisors are listed in order of their NerdWallet star rating.
When comparing wealth advisors, think about what types of services you would need most, and make sure any potential advisors offer, or better yet specialize, in those areas.
» Want more options? Check out the top picks for wealth advisors
What to look for when interviewing wealth advisors
If you have a hefty amount of money and you’d like to hire a wealth advisor, there are some important things to consider. Charles Zhang, a CFP and founder and CEO of Zhang Financial in Portage, Michigan, says that an advisor should have at least one of the four following designations: certified financial planner (CFP), chartered financial analyst (CFA), certified public accountant (CPA) or chartered financial consultant (ChFC).
Zhang also emphasizes the benefits of working with a group of advisors who each specialize in a particular area, such as having one member who works in estate planning and another in taxes.
“It’s important that the team has some different expertise,” Zhang says.
What is the difference between a financial advisor and a wealth advisor?
A wealth advisor is one of many types of financial advisors, but the term “wealth advisor” refers to an advisor who specializes in financial planning for extremely wealthy clients. “Financial advisor” is a more general term for a professional who offers financial advice.
However, neither title requires any level of accreditation. If you're looking for advice on investing, use the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's BrokerCheck tool to verify that your advisor is registered as an investment advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission or their state, regardless of what title they use. If you’re looking for a personal financial advisor, it’s a good idea to make sure they have at least one of the four credentials Zhang highlights, and that their particular credential aligns with your needs.
For example, if you need only financial planning assistance and not tax help, you may prefer to work with a CFP over a CPA. You’ll need to check each certifying body’s particular site to verify an advisor’s specific certifications, such as the CFP Board’s site to verify a CFP’s certification.
Is a wealth advisor worth it?
It is unlikely that you’ll need a wealth advisor’s level of expertise unless you’re a high net worth individual. Private wealth advisor fees are likely higher than those you’d pay for pure investment management or other less comprehensive forms of financial guidance, and the costs and available services vary depending on your provider.
If you’re looking for some financial planning help that isn’t as all-encompassing as private wealth management services, there are many options to choose from. The services below all offer financial guidance in a digital form, which can help keep costs down relative to most traditional advisory services.
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