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Best Financial Advisors: Find the Right One for You

Sept. 14, 2018
Advisors, Investing
find-a-financial-advisor
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

The best financial advisor is one that helps you set and achieve financial goals in a way that fits your needs and budget.

You have options that range from online services called robo-advisors to a variety of human specialists. You can even have it both ways: Get started on long-term goals like saving for retirement with a low-cost robo-advisor, then consider hiring a human advisor later for comprehensive planning.

Here’s a quick look at the types of help you can choose from. Or, jump ahead to find a financial advisor from among our top picks.

Pick the best type of financial advisor for you

If you’re not sure which type of advisor suits you, take a look at the highlights:

Robo-advisors

These online services pick and maintain an investment portfolio for you using computers, which lowers their overhead. Some offer access to human advisors for when you have questions.

  • Low cost, easy entry: Fees start as low as 0.25% of your balance and most charge 0.50% or less. Many have no or low account minimums, so you can start investing with a small amount of money.
  • Good when: You want to get started working on financial goals like retirement but don’t want to pay a lot.

Human financial advisors

Many different types of specialists focus on helping you reach financial goals. Finding a fee-only certified financial planner gives you a good combination of specialized training and no conflicts of interest.

  • Higher cost, minimums: The median financial advisor fee is about 1% of the assets managed for you, although some charge by the hour or have a set rate per service. Some require a minimum balance, such as $250,000 in assets to manage.
  • Good when: You want specialized services like estate planning; you’re about to make a big life change, like retiring or getting married; your situation is complex.

Best robo-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 top overall robo-advisors, or you can view our full roundup of the best robo-advisors.

NerdWallet rating

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to 1 year

of 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
NerdWallet rating

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account minimum

$500

Promotion

$5,000

amount of assets managed for free

The bottom line

Wealthfront has built client trust by offering free management on the first $5,000 — 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 $5,000 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

0.40%-0.50%

management fee

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $1,000

cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Wealthsimple’s $0 minimum balance requirement, hands on human help and its no-fuss, streamlined design make it an attractive place for beginners to start their investing journey. But the company’s real standout feature among the robo-advisor competition is its lineup of socially responsible investment (SRI) portfolios, a refreshing addition for values-based investors. Another unusual offering that customers with taxable investment accounts will appreciate is free free tax-loss harvesting, no minimum account balance required.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Free access to human advisers

  • Free portfolio analysis

  • Free tax-loss harvesting

  • Socially-responsible investment options

  • No account minimum

Reader favorite

Cons

  • Higher account management fees

  • Limited free-management promotion

  • Limited personal finance tools

Read full review
NerdWallet rating

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $750

cash bonus with qualifying deposit

The bottom line

This advisor markets itself to women and takes a goal-focused approach that factors in women’s lower incomes, lifetime earnings and longer lifespans. With its $0 account minimum, competitive advisory fees (ranging from 0.25% - 0.5% of assets) and unlimited access to financial advisors (Premium clients can talk to CFPs), Ellevest is an appealing choice for investors of any gender.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low account minimum and fees

  • Goal-focused investing approach

  • Portfolio mix that factors women’s needs

Reader favorite

Cons

  • Few accounts supported

  • No tax-loss harvesting

Read full review

Best human financial advisors

If a human financial advisor fits your needs, consider these factors:

Costs: Understand how the advisor is compensated, and by whom. Look for a fee-only planner, not someone who earns commissions for selling you products. (Read more about the difference between fee-only and fee-based planners.)

Standards: Ask if the advisor follows a fiduciary standard, which requires acting in the best interest of the client.

Qualifications and background: Check out the person or firm’s qualifications and background using Form ADV.

Ready to get started? NerdWallet suggests these organizations as sources of fee-only, fiduciary planners. All of them have a “find an advisor” tool on their sites:

About the authors