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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.
July 31, 2020
Advisors, Financial Planning, Investing, Personal Finance
free-financial-advice
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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 — advisors are increasingly inexpensive these days, with a wide variety of options.

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

Here’s how to find free financial advice

Everybody likes free stuff — and financial advice is no exception. There are plenty of excellent resources to help you better understand your finances.

Make the most of your existing financial provider

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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? The options on our list of the best brokers for beginners offer many of these resources.

Tap other free financial resources

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

  • If you’ve lost income as a result of COVID-19, XY Planning Network, an organization of fee-only financial advisors, is offering free emergency advice. The advisors on the platform are available to meet virtually.
  • 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.
  • Consider checking out some of our recommended personal finance books from your local library. 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.
  • Some in-person investment 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. Make the most of that first consultation by arriving prepared with questions to assess whether the advisor can address your current and future financial goals (here are 10 questions to ask a financial advisor if you need inspiration). Remember that you are under no obligation to begin working with the advisor after the meeting.

» Think you may want to work with an advisor in the future? Find out how much a financial advisor costs.

Explore NerdWallet’s free financial content

At NerdWallet, our mission is to provide clarity for all of life’s financial decisions — 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 makes you our first priority.

You can also 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.

Put your money in the right place

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.

Cheap financial advice

If you’re willing to spend a little money to get the financial advice you need, your options open up.

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 and are generally deducted directly from your investment account. There are even a few free financial advisors, like SoFi Automated Investing.

» 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.

» Read more: What is financial planning?

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 $1,200 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, Personal Capital’s free tools are also available to noncustomers (though you’ll need to create login credentials), and include an investment checkup, 401(k) fee analyzer, spending tracker and retirement progress tool.

Management Fee

$1,200 and up

$1,200 and up

Account Minimum

$0

$0

Promotion

No-cost

No-cost

No-cost financial evaluation with a CFP®

Management Fee

0.25%

0.25%

Account Minimum

$0

$0

Promotion

Up to 1 year

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

Management Fee

0.49% - 0.89%

0.49% - 0.89%

Account Minimum

$100,000

$100,000

Promotion

None

None

no promotion available at this time

Try an app

If you’re looking for budgeting advice online, there are a variety of apps that will do the job right from your phone. Here are a few of the financial services apps can offer:

  • Help you create and stick to a budget by providing a snapshot of where your money is going.
  • Find ways to cut back on expenses.
  • View and understand your credit score.
  • Keep an eye on your investment accounts.
  • Suggest better accounts and credit cards to help you get a higher interest rate or earn more benefits.

The costs and services vary by app, but most of NerdWallet’s picks for budgeting apps and personal finance tools are free — including the NerdWallet app.

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