- According to AdvisoryHQ, the average cost of a financial planner is 0.59% to 1.18% of your assets.
- Not every planner charges by assets under management, though — they might charge fees or commission.
- A robo-advisor or online planning tool will cost less than a traditional, in-person planner.
A financial planner is an expert, usually a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® (CFP), who helps you create a financial plan to reach various goals.
“They’ll really try to get to know the client they’re working with, try to get to know their goals, both short- and long-term, as well as understanding their risk tolerance,” says Maggie Gomez, CFP® professional and owner of Money with Maggie. “Then they will help to get their money invested in a way that gets them to their goals in the most efficient way.”
While you may think of a financial planner as someone who helps with your investments, their responsibilities go beyond looking at the stock market.
“Think about, do I need help creating a budget? Do I need a plan for my student loan debt? Am I trying to buy my first house?” says Lauryn Williams, CFP® professional and founder of Worth Winning Financial Planning. A financial planner can help you create a strategy to reach those goals.
The cost of a financial planner will depend on their services — for example, maybe you want a one-time meeting or ongoing financial planning sessions — and their fee structure.
How financial planner fees work
Not every financial planner has the same method for charging clients. Here are the types of fee structures you might encounter:
- Assets under management (AUM): The planner charges a percentage of the assets they manage. For example, if they charge 0.25% annually and you have $100,000 in your IRAs, you’d pay $250 for the year. If the planner has a tiered AUM structure, they’ll charge you a lower percentage the higher your asset value is.
- Fee-only: A financial planner might charge a set fee by the hour, month, or project. For instance, you may pay $500 per hour for a planner to work with you once or twice. A planner could charge $1,500 for a project, regardless of how long it takes them. Another could charge $2,000 to $4,000 annually to work with you on an ongoing basis, depending on your needs.
- Commissions: The planner earns a commission based on the investing products you buy, including mutual funds and annuities. They also might earn a commission if you buy insurance policies through them. They could charge a stock commission, which is a fee each time they trade a stock for you. (Other planners might show you how to trade stocks so you don’t have to pay them each time.)
- Fee-based: The planner mostly earns money through fees, but a small part is also earned through commissions.
How do you choose which fee structure is best for you? Gomez says that if you’re busy and just want some guidance to get started, an hourly rate might be best. If you want an ongoing relationship with a planner, an annual fee or percentage of AUM could be a good fit.
It’s also important to consider whether you’re comfortable with a commission structure.
“Commissions in and of themselves are not a bad thing — realtors make money that way, and that’s a common profession that people are okay with,” says Williams. “You just need to be mindful that if you’re working with someone who charges commissions, there could be an innate conflict of interest. So it may be that they don’t pick what’s in your best interest because they’re feeling motivated to sell in general, as opposed to doing what’s best for you as the client.”
The cost of a financial planner doesn’t just depend on their fee structure. It also depends on which type of planner you use.
Average cost of an in-person financial planner
A traditional, in-person financial planner usually manages your investments, but they also work on a financial plan with you that includes retirement planning, debt payoff, and insurance policies. You may meet with them face-to-face, but many will also work with you by phone or video conference.
According to 2021 data from AdvisoryHQ, the average cost of a financial planner who charges based on AUM is 0.59% to 1.18%. AdvisoryHQ collected data from CFPs, wealth advisors, and asset management firms. Here are the average percentages charged annually, based on assets under management:
Average cost of a robo-advisor
A robo-advisor is an automated system that helps you create an investment portfolio. As the name suggests, it’s more of an advisor than a planner, but it can be useful for certain people.
is a great way for someone just starting out, who doesn’t have a huge budget, who wants to keep costs low, and really likes the set-it-and-forget-it method,” says Gomez.
To find the average cost of a robo-advisor, we looked at 23 robo-advisors. Then we split the costs into two categories: those that charged a percentage of your assets, and those that charged a flat fee. For robo-advisors with more than one payment option, we included each fee option as a separate data point.
According to our research, the average cost for a robo-advisor that charges by AUM is 0.40% annually. (Keep in mind, we included 111 data points, and 85 were from just one company that had multiple fee options.)
Of robo-advisors that charged flat fees, the average cost was $4.09 monthly, or $49.08 annually.
Average cost of online financial planning
Online financial planning is similar to robo-advising, but a bit more robust. You have some access to live experts and may be able to talk through live chat or video chat.
The difference may seem confusing, so here’s an example: Fidelity Go is an automated platform that charges up to 0.35% per year. Fidelity Personalized Planning & Advice is similar but has added personalized advice from an expert, and it charges 0.50% annually. (And you always have the option to go the traditional, in-person route with Fidelity Wealth Services.)
To look at the average cost of online financial planning, we looked at the same list of 23 robo-advisors. We narrowed the list down to 11 companies that offer online financial planning.
The average cost charged by companies that use AUM is 0.53% annually. The average cost for those that charge flat fees is $12.64 per month, or $151.66 per year. This data does not include Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium’s one-time fee of $300 when you sign up.
Not everyone needs a financial planner
A general rule of thumb is that the more complicated your situation is and the more assets you have, the more likely you are to benefit from a financial planner.
For example, you might want one if you want to invest and conduct a debt payoff strategy. But if you are just opening your first savings account and working on building your credit, you might not need professional financial help yet.