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Best Financial Advisors: Find the Right One for You

Advisors, Investing
find-a-financial-advisor

Financial advisors — also called financial planners — are like doctors for your money: They help you understand complex issues, diagnose potential problems and help you take steps to plan for the future. But these doctors can be costly, charging you fees for help you might not need. For many people, robo-advisors are another option, managing your investment portfolio for you and offering financial planning recommendations at lower costs.

You want to find the right type of provider for your situation — and we’re here to help.

Jump ahead to our picks for best financial advisors.

Pick the best financial advisor for you

If your situation is complex or you want highly personalized planning, you may need a human advisor. But many people will find that robo-advisors, also called digital advisors, are a powerful alternative. Most importantly, they can help you avoid paying high fees for services you don’t need.

Digital advisors help you choose from a handful of investment portfolios, based on your financial goals and how much risk you’re willing to take. The best robo-advisors then maintain that portfolio for you, even working to lower your tax bill when possible. Since robo-advisors use computers to reduce overhead, they can take on smaller accounts and manage your investments for less than the cost of a human advisor.

If the digital advisors are too, well, digital, for your taste, some robo-advisors offer a hybrid solution, combining their services with access to human advisors. Some hybrid advisors cost more than a typical robo; others are low-cost but require a higher account minimum. Still, hybrid advisors are typically cheaper than a human advisor.

So which type of advisor is best for you?

Digital Advisor
Hybrid Advisor
Human Advisor
Fees: 0.25% to 0.50%
Fees: 0.3% to 0.89%
Fees: 1% to 2%
Perfect for those just starting out (<$25K)
Perfect for those with some wealth built ($25K-$250K)
Perfect for those with established wealth and/or complex situations ($250K+)
Most human advisors won't take on clients who have less than about $250,000 in assets. You could hire an hourly or flat-rate financial advisor, but at this stage, it makes sense to start with a low-cost digital advisor.
Robo-advisors can be a solid fit at this stage, but if you want a human expert to weigh in, a hybrid advisor might provide the direction you need. Keep in mind that some have higher account minimums than typical digital advisors.
Your options for personalized financial services increase when your investments run north of $250,000. If you’re not deterred by the management fee, a human advisor might be the right solution for you.

Best digital advisors

We reviewed the top robo-advisors to find the ones that offer the most robust tools and management for the lowest cost and lowest account minimums. Here are our picks for best overall robo-advisors:

NerdWallet rating
Fees
0.25%
management fee
Account minimum
$500
Promotion
$15,000amount of assets managed with no fee

The bottom line

Wealthfront has built client trust by offering free management on the first $10,000 invested — $15,000 with NerdWallet’s promotion — but the company’s direct indexing service really shines, adding as much as 2% to annual investment performance for eligible accounts.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • First $15,000 managed free (NerdWallet promotion).
  • Low ETF expense ratios.
  • Daily tax-loss harvesting.
  • Direct indexing on accounts over $100,000.
  • Automatic rebalancing.
Reader favorite

Cons

  • No fractional shares.
  • No large-balance discounts.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
0.25%
management fee
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
Up to 1 yearof free management with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Betterment has maintained its status as the largest independent robo-advisor for a reason: The company offers a powerful combination of goal-based tools, affordable management fees and no account minimum.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • No account minimum.
  • Fractional shares limit uninvested cash.
  • Robust goal-based tools.
Reader favorite

Cons

  • No direct indexing.
Read full review

Best hybrid advisors

Hybrid robo-advisors use computer algorithms to manage portfolios but also provide clients direct access to human financial advisors. Here are our picks for the best hybrid advisors:

NerdWallet rating
Fees
0.28%
management fee
Account minimum
$25K
Promotion
Noneno promotion available at this time

The bottom line

Charles Schwab brought some heat to the online advisor battle with its Schwab Intelligent Advisory, a hybrid service designed to be a middle ground between the online broker’s financial consultants and its existing robo-advisor, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Access to financial advisors
  • Wide ETF selection
  • Automatic rebalancing

Cons

  • $50,000 account minimum
  • High cash allocation
  • Tax-loss harvesting only available on $50,000 or more
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
0.3%
management fee
Account minimum
$50K
Promotion
Noneno promotion currently offered

The bottom line

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is an excellent choice for investors who can meet the $50,000 account minimum and want to use the computer algorithms of a robo-advisor while maintaining access to a human touch.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low management fee for a hybrid advisor
  • Larger investment selection
  • Comprehensive management
  • Access to financial advisors

Cons

  • High account minimum
  • Some clients may incur transaction fees
Read full review

Best human financial advisors

If you’re set on a human financial advisor, your best shot is one who charges by the hour or by the plan. Generally you want to avoid advisors who earn commissions, because unless they’re fiduciaries, they may not have your best interests at heart.

If you work with a financial advisor who charges a fee based on assets under management, you can expect to pay the highest fee if you have about $250,000 — at that level, advisors charge a median of 1% of assets under management per year. It’s not until you hit $1 million or more that the median fee drops to 0.85%.

To search for an advisor, check out organizations like National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, Financial Planning Association, XY Planning Network, Alliance of Comprehensive Planners and Garrett Planning Network.

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» Still not sure which kind of financial advisor is right for you? Read our guide on what you need know to choose a financial advisor.

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