If you want money advice you can trust, your best bet is to hire a fee-only financial planner. The trick is finding a planner who’s willing to be hired for a reasonable fee.
If you’re looking for financial advice that’s not based on the size of your portfolio, here are a few places to check and what you can expect to pay.
XY PLANNING NETWORK
This is a network of financial planners who typically focus on clients in Generations X and Y, or millennials, who don’t have a lot of assets to invest. There’s no age limit, though, and some of the planners specialize in helping baby boomers as well. Advisers must be certified financial planners, or CFPs; swear to uphold a fiduciary client-first standard, which means they put their clients’ interests first; and offer flat monthly fees (although they may offer other options, including hourly or assets-under-management fees). Monthly fees are typically $100-$200, with some planners requiring an initial or setup fee of $1,000 to $2,000.
GARRETT PLANNING NETWORK
Planner Sheryl Garrett’s network represents planners willing to charge by the hour, although many also manage assets for a fee. Members are either certified financial planners or they are on track to get the designation, or they’re certified public accountants who have the personal financial specialist credential, which is similar to the CFP. Garrett also requires its planners to be fiduciaries. Hourly fees usually range from $150 to $300. A consultation focused on one subject, such as a portfolio review, may take two or three hours. A comprehensive financial plan that covers taxes, insurance, estate planning, college planning and other relevant topics could require 20 hours or more.
—ADVICE-ONLY FINANCIAL. Financial blogger Harry Sit started his service to connect people with fee-only advisers who just charge for advice and don’t accept asset management fees. Sit’s concern is that advisers who do both will be tempted to push people toward asset management, since it’s more lucrative. Sit charges $200 to help people find fiduciary CFPs who are either local or, if none are available, willing to work remotely. The planners typically charge $100 to $400 an hour.
—ASSOCIATION FOR FINANCIAL COUNSELING & EDUCATION. Not every tax return requires a CPA and not every financial situation requires a CFP. An accredited financial counselor or financial fitness coach can be a more affordable alternative. Coaches and counselors in private practice typically charge $100 to $150 an hour, although many work on a sliding scale, says Rebecca Wiggins, executive director of the association, which grants both credentials. Others are employed by the military, credit unions or other organizations and offer their services for free or at reduced charge, she says. These counselors or coaches focus on issues relevant to middle- and lower-income Americans, including budgeting, debt management and retirement planning.
“The main thing is that these professionals are affordable, unbiased, and highly trained,” Wiggins says. “Their focus is on the needs of the clients and establishing healthy financial management.”
Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.”