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How to Get Cheap or Free Financial Advice

Quality financial advice is more accessible than ever — and much of it is free or inexpensive. Here are five ways to get the advice you need.
Aug. 8, 2019
Advisors, Financial Planning, Investing, Personal Finance
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The saying “you get what you pay for” doesn’t always apply. When it comes to financial advice, you can find a wealth of valuable information for free or very cheap.

Of course, free financial advice won’t always cover your needs. Depending on the complexity of your situation, working with a financial advisor might be the right call — but even financial advisors are increasingly inexpensive these days, with a wide variety of options available online. (If that’s what you’re after, we detail several options below.)

Here are five ways to find quality financial advice at every budget.

1. Ahem, let us introduce ourselves

At NerdWallet, our mission is to provide clarity for all of life’s financial decisions — all for free. Thousands of articles by NerdWallet experts cover a broad range of financial topics with the aim of making sometimes-complex topics understandable.

We’ve got you covered, whether it’s finding a credit card, comparing banking accounts, navigating the investing world or finding the best mortgage. There are other popular blogs out there, as well — but our editorial independence policy makes you our first priority.

You also can get tools tailored to your specific goals by signing up for a free NerdWallet account below. It’ll give you a personalized dashboard, where you can view all your accounts in one place, set and track goals, monitor your credit score and lower your bills.

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Based on your savings and lifestyle, we'll help you understand where to invest your money — the accounts you need and how to use them — so you can get to where you want to be.

2. Make the most of your financial providers

If you have an account with a financial institution, chances are it has free tools for customers — make sure you’re taking advantage of the features. Here’s where to check:

  1. Your bank or credit union. The amount of financial advice offered varies widely, so if this aspect is important, prioritize it when shopping for new accounts. Among NerdWallet’s picks for best banks and credit unions, Ally Bank and Simple are standouts for their budgeting and financial planning tools.
  2. Your workplace and your 401(k) provider. Have a workplace retirement plan? Two-thirds of companies with a defined contribution plan offer tools to help workers determine how much they’ll have in retirement, according to a 2018 survey by Alight Solutions covering 187 employers and more than 8 million workers. The survey also found that nearly 80% of employers have or are in the process of implementing a financial well-being program on topics such as investing and budgeting.
  3. Your online broker. Many brokerages have educational resources to help you learn how to invest. TD Ameritrade is a standout, offering an entire investing curriculum on its website, with everything from videos to quizzes. In the market for a broker? Our list of best brokers for beginners has many of these resources.

3. Use online advice services

If you need help getting started with investing, a robo-advisor may be a good solution. These online automated services use computer algorithms to manage your investments. While the service typically comes at a cost, fees can be as low as 0.25% of your account balance. There are even a few advisors, including SoFi Automated Investing, that are free.

» Check out NerdWallet’s list of best robo-advisors.

There are also several online financial planning services that offer complete, holistic financial planning in addition to investment management. These companies typically charge either a flat fee or a percentage of your account balance, and the cost includes managing your portfolio and access to financial advisors who can help you create a plan to reach your financial goals.

An online financial planning service will generally be more expensive than a robo-advisor, but considerably less expensive than working with a traditional in-person financial advisor.

Here are examples of the financial advice provided by these services:

  • Facet Wealth offers financial planning and investment management starting at $480 per year. The company’s fee increases based on the complexity of the advice you need, but for simple situations, it’s an affordable option. There is no minimum investment requirement and each client works with a dedicated CFP.
  • Betterment offers investment management for 0.25% of your account balance and no minimum investment. Once you’re a Betterment customer, you’re eligible to purchase one of the company’s financial-planning packages, which charge between $199 and $299 for an hour of one-on-one guidance from a CFP.
  • Personal Capital‘s paid service includes investment management and access to a financial planner for 0.89%, but requires a $100,000 account balance. However, the company offers free tools to noncustomers (though you’ll need to create login credentials), including an investment checkup, 401(k) fee analyzer, spending tracker and retirement progress tool.
  • Charles Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolios offers free portfolio management for account balances of $5,000 or more. The company also has an online-planning offering, called Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium, which gives clients unlimited access to CFPs, a full financial plan and investment management for $30 a month. There is a one-time onboarding charge of $300, and the service requires a minimum balance of $25,000.

» Read more: What financial planning is — and why it’s important

If you’re looking for budgeting advice online, there are a variety of websites and apps that will do the job — including these budgeting apps and personal finance tools. Costs and services vary, though most of NerdWallet’s picks are free.

4. Tap local resources

There are many resources you may be able to turn to for financial advice, depending on your financial or life circumstances. Some examples:

  • Credit counseling agencies offer help with issues ranging from bankruptcy to student loan debt to a review of your overall budget and finances. Some services are free.
  • Seeking tax advice? A number of organizations offer tax help for people older than 60 and those with low incomes or tax problems or in need of specific advice. We’ve rounded up nine options for free tax help.
  • The Foundation for Financial Planning offers pro bono financial planning services for people who are financially vulnerable, including wounded veterans, domestic violence survivors and cancer patients.
  • An accredited financial counselor or financial coach can be an affordable way to address money challenges and work toward stability. The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education has a find-a-counselor tool.

Finally, consider buying (or checking out from your library) some of our recommended personal finance books. You may also want to enroll in an online class or find a community-based program in your area that offers low-cost financial advice from a reputable source.

5. Meet with a traditional in-person financial advisor

Many sources of inexpensive financial advice are online, but if you prefer to meet with someone in person interaction, there’s good news: Many local financial advisors offer a free consultation for prospective clients.

Of course, you won’t get all your financial questions addressed in one meeting. The consultation generally focuses on your goals and what it would be like to work together. But the meeting can help determine whether hiring an advisor makes sense for your needs.

If you’re concerned about the expense, check out our guide to how much a financial advisor costs. There are more options than you might imagine.

Here’s how to make the most of that first consultation:

  • Confirm that the consultation is free of charge.
  • Come prepared with questions to assess whether the advisor can address your current and future financial goals.
  • Don’t feel any obligation to begin working with the advisor after this meeting.

» Prepare for the meeting: 10 questions to ask a financial advisor

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