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How to Find Affordable Financial Advice

Professional financial advice can be expensive. We cover ways to get the help you need at a reduced cost or even free in certain cases.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what financial decisions to make to put you in the best possible position. For this reason, it’s common to seek the help of a trusted professional to avoid potential mistakes and make optimal choices. Unfortunately, financial advice can come at a high price, with many firms charging hundreds of dollars per hour or expensive advisory fees.

While hiring a dedicated advisor can be expensive, it’s still possible to find financial advice at a low or no cost. In this article, we’ll look at what you can do to receive affordable expertise, including using a robo-advisor, finding pro-bono professionals, or even considering a one-off free consultation.

Key Takeaways

  • Free consultations allow you to get surface-level questions answered and gauge whether you need a financial advisor.
  • Robo-advisors are a low-cost, low-barrier-to-entry method to receive investment advice and management.
  • Pro bono advisors may be able to help if you or someone you know are a financially vulnerable adult, such as a single parent or wounded veteran.
  • Public resources, such as online educational content and libraries, are effective methods of gaining basic financial knowledge.

1. Utilize Free Consultations

In-person financial advisors, albeit expensive, may be an avenue to receive free financial advice. It’s common practice among advisory firms to offer an initial consultation at no cost to the client. This is an opportunity to speak directly with a highly qualified professional without locking yourself into an advisory fee or long-term arrangement.

Consultations may be worthwhile if you have a simple financial question or need to be steered in the right direction. However, while this can be a helpful option, this isn’t an opportunity to cram as many questions into your appointment as possible. Rather, you should expect a professional to work with you on big-picture inquiries, including:

  • Determining what types of services would best fit your needs.
  • The types of professionals that would be most beneficial to you.
  • What you should consider regarding your finances, i.e., budgeting, investing, creating an emergency fund, etc.

Be aware that these free meetings with a financial advisor exist to get you in the door. While you aren’t under any obligation, the professional you visit will likely try to sign you up for an account or sell their services. At this point, it’ll be up to you to decide whether you want to proceed with them or decline.

2. Consider a Robo-Advisor

Robo-advisors are another way you can receive financial advice at an affordable cost. These are automated portfolio managers that help you invest your money in a way that aligns with your goals. Once you sign up for an account, it’s typical to fill out a short quiz regarding your objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Then, after funding the account, it’ll invest on your behalf.

Unlike an in-person financial professional, robo-advisors require a far smaller initial investment to sign up. For example, Wealthfront requires just $500 to open an account, with a fee equating to 0.10% of the fair market value of the account. Similarly, SoFi Wealth, another automated portfolio management solution, doesn’t charge clients an advisory fee or set account minimums. Rather, it charges for trading and brokerage costs.

It’s important to consider, however, that robo-advisors aren’t typically the best option if you’re seeking out a financial planning option. Some firms offer planning solutions, but they’re far less comprehensive than speaking with a person.

3. Go Through Your Employer

Many employers offer retirement plans, such as a 401(k), 457(b), or SEP IRA, which you may take advantage of. As part of this arrangement, many plan sponsors offer educational resources you may access and read. These typically center around:

  • Investment management
  • Saving for retirement
  • Budgeting
  • Performance monitoring of mutual funds

A prominent example of this is Edelman Financial Engines, a firm that almost exclusively offers its discretionary and non-discretionary advisory services via employer-sponsored retirement plans. Part of its services involves educational content that clients can access to understand their portfolio better and how their money is being used to plan for retirement.

4. Find a Pro Bono Financial Advisor

In some cases, financial advisors may offer their services pro bono, or on a free basis. The Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP) is a national organization that provides resources for non-profit organizations that offer pro bono financial advice. The purpose is to provide accessible assistance to “financially vulnerable” citizens, including:

  • Wounded veterans
  • Domestic violence victims
  • Single parents
  • Cancer patients

Members of the FFP, otherwise known as chapters, are most often certified financial planners (CFPs), with expertise in financial planning and investment management.

5. Access Public Resources

Publicly available information and content is a clever and accessible way to learn more about finance. While you’re not receiving personalized advice, it allows you to build a foundation of knowledge about money to make more informed decisions. And, if you do end up meeting with an advisor, you’ll be able to have a more meaningful discussion regarding your situation and goals, which will enable them to help you more easily.

There are many public avenues you can use to educate yourself on financial topics. These include government resources and other organizations, such as personal finance websites and non-profit organizations. Below are three prominent examples:

  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB is a U.S. government agency that protects Americans against financial institutions, including banks and lenders. It offers a library of educational resources on its website, which you can access freely and use to learn more about finance.
  • Public libraries. Your local library is another affordable way to learn about money. Here, you can check out a book about important topics, such as budgeting or investing. Then, once you’re finished, you can return it for no cost, provided you bring it back in time.
  • Personal finance websites. Websites that create content surrounding personal finance and investing are great ways to learn fundamentals. It’s important, however, to find objective, unbiased information.

Be aware that, especially when using online resources, organizations may not make specific investment recommendations unless registered with the SEC as a registered investment advisor (RIA) or their respective state (depending on the size). Most online resources will intentionally be vague or non-specific for this reason. While this may not help you select specific investments, it can help you gain a basic understanding of fundamental financial topics.

6. Try Your Bank or Credit Union

Your bank or credit union is another potential platform where you can find free or affordable financial resources. In many cases, these institutions offer a diverse amount of content and guides on their websites you can access. Additionally, you may be able to speak with a professional at a more favorable rate, especially since you’re already a customer with the bank. For instance, US Bank offers an automated portfolio management service exclusively available to its existing account holders.

7. Compare Financial Advisors

If you’re set on receiving one-on-one, personalized advice from an advisor, it’s smart to compare your options to find the right fit. Not only will you be able to find one that’s right for you price-wise, but you’ll also identify the ideal match for your needs. We recommend meeting with at least two to three advisors before deciding who to go with.

To find advisors in your area, you can use this free matching tool. After filling out a brief quiz that asks about your goals and current situation, it’ll present you with up to three vetted options near you. Then, you can meet with them and decide which is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there such a thing as a free financial advisor?

Pro bono financial advisors offer free services to vulnerable adults, such as wounded veterans, single parents, and domestic violence victims. Be wary, however, of advisors that advertise themselves as free but charge a commission. These individuals may not adhere to a fiduciary duty due to the conflict of interest that their fee structure causes.

Do I need a financial advisor if I’m not rich?

No matter your financial situation, it’s always helpful to have the guidance of a professional. Wealthier individuals may have more complex needs, but those who aren’t can also benefit from advice. For instance, you may need help planning for retirement or paying for your children’s education.

While financial advisors can be expensive, many firms offer tiered services that cater to a wide variety of wealth levels. Look out for companies with a small minimum investment requirement and reasonable fees. Robo-advisors, for example, have much smaller costs to enroll than traditional firms.

Are financial advisors through my bank free?

In most cases, advisors through your bank aren’t free. They’ll typically charge a flat-fee structure based on a percentage of assets under management (AUM) or per hour or project.