• Michael DiBartolomeo

What Is a Reasonable Percentage to Pay a Financial Advisor?

Updated: Feb 24

Your financial consultants in Pittsburgh are one of the most essential pillars in your planning and investment journey. You are getting qualified expertise in various areas, such as investment management and recommendations, estate planning, tax planning, budgeting, etc.


It's a lot to digest, and there is an undeniable value to the client. As someone new to the whole industry, you may find yourself asking, “what is a reasonable percentage to pay a financial advisor?”


Reasonable percentage to pay your Financial Advisor

Reasonable percentage to pay your Financial Advisor


The short answer is there is no hard and fast rule to how this is calculated. First, you need to remember that not all advisors are paid in the same way. You find that their compensation schemes fall under one of three broad categories, which are:


  • Fee-based – Fee-based advisors are incredibly common, and they are the most relevant to the question you're trying to answer here. There is no commission or base to speak of here, as those who fall under this group exclusively earn through the assets that they manage for their clients.

There is typically an agreed percentage that the client turns over to the advisor as compensation for service. Additionally, you may find that an hourly or per project charge is affixed to the fee.


  • Commission-based - This is exactly what it sounds like. When advisors get clients to buy into the various products that the business may offer, they receive a commission for each sale based on their recommendations.

  • Hybrid - These financial advisors have some mixture of the two models described above. You find that fee-only advisors do not accept commissions, but persons who get paid under this scheme have more reliable income than others.


You may wish to ask your advisor how compensation is provided, which should give you some more insights on planning accordingly.


Assets Under Management (AUM) Fee Structure


The assets under management are exactly what the term sounds like. Typically, your financial advisor has responsibility for some or all the assets that make up your portfolio. The percentage that is charged to the client often depends on the total dollar value of the assets managed. Persons with a higher net worth or a greater number of AUM pay a lower percentage.


So, on a $1 million portfolio, it's very typical for investment advisors to charge a 1% annual fee. It may sound small, but remember that this equates to $10,000. If an advisor should manage ten such portfolios, it results in a huge payday.


As the asset value increases, you may find the percentage going as low as even 0.25%. On the flip side, a smaller portfolio is likely going to require a greater percentage. So, beyond acquiring a greater number of assets for your financial freedom and security, you contribute to a less impactful fee structure.


Online Advisors


It's important to highlight that all the fees mentioned above are based on human advisors. Now, you may ask what other kind of financial advisor is there? Well, robo-advisors have been gaining traction for some time.


Some of the online alternatives are mostly automated, while others only seem to function on an AI structure. Whatever the case may be, the fee structure here is typically more attractive than going the traditional advisor route.


It would not be uncommon for you to have an annual payment of 0.30%. Even when there are flat fees in the mix, they are never super expensive. However, the prices can change dramatically depending on the extent to which you need financial advice.


Don’t Forget Other Fees


Remember that investments are total packages, meaning the fees that your advisor may charge are not the only ones you must deal with. In determining the feasibility of working with a certain provider, you may want to tally up these fees first.


For example, custodial fees, brokerage, and other third-party charges can creep in, making the total package a little bit more unattractive. Some asset types generate specific costs. Mutual funds are a perfect example, as they tend to run between 1% and 2% off your asset value annually.


Remember that the advisor you're working with typically understands how the fee structure works and what the total picture is going to look like. As you initiate discussions to start taking advantage of this service, you may want to raise whatever questions are swirling around in your mind about the extent of the costs you may incur.

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