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.
Of course, free financial advice won’t always cover your needs. Depending on the complexity of your situation, hiring a financial advisor might be the right call. But free advice can help, especially when you’re starting out or solving straightforward problems — and your wallet will thank you.
Here are five ways to find quality financial advice.
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, finding the best mortgage or many other money-management concerns. There are other popular blogs out there, as well — but at NerdWallet, 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.
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:
- 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? Our list of best brokers for beginners has many of these resources.
3. Consult the robots
If you need help getting started with investing, a robo-advisor may be a good solution. These online automated advisors use computer algorithms to build and manage your portfolio. While the service comes at a cost, fees are much cheaper than what you’d pay a human advisor. Among NerdWallet’s picks of best robo-advisors, management fees range from 0.25% to 0.50% of your account balance.
Many of these companies are expanding their educational resources to include retirement planning and short-term financial goals. They also may offer access to human advisors, so even customers with small accounts can get comprehensive advice.
Here are examples of the financial advice provided by various robo-advisors:
- Personal Capital offers free tools even to noncustomers (though you’ll need to create login credentials), including an investment checkup, 401(k) fee analyzer, spending tracker and retirement progress.
- Betterment’s RetireGuide tool offers comprehensive retirement planning advice, and the company also has other personalized goal-based services.
- Wealthfront’s Path tool has resources to help with planning for buying a house, retirement and college savings, for example.
- Charles Schwab’s Intelligent Advisory offers unlimited access to certified financial planners.
4. Find almost-free advice
Sure, some of the best things in life are free — but when it comes to your finances, you may find that paying for help from someone (an advisor), something (a robo-advisor) or someplace (a seminar) is a better fit. Thankfully, quality financial advice is more accessible than ever.
If you’re keen for in-your-pocket advice, these budgeting apps and personal finance tools will do the job. Costs and services vary, though most of NerdWallet’s picks are free.
There are many resources you may be able to tap for free financial advice, depending on your financial or life circumstances. Some examples:
- NerdWallet offers a list of alternatives to high-interest payday loans.
- 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 financial advisor
Many sources of free financial advice are online, but if you prefer human interaction, there’s good news: Many financial advisors offer a free consultation for prospective clients.
Of course, you won’t get all your financial questions addressed (and for free) 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