When it comes to best managing your finances, there’s no replacement for professional advice. Financial advisors are trained, experienced, and — if they’re good — have your best interests in mind. But some professionals could charge you thousands of dollars just to get a suitable financial plan set up.
Isn’t there a more affordable option? Fortunately, with online financial advisors, there is.
While their offerings are a bit different from those you’d get with a face-to-face advisor, they’re generally within the price range of a much larger group of people. But is it worth hiring one? Is it risky to get your financial advice online? Here’s what you need to know.
The Cost of Financial Advice
This is going to be the question on many people’s minds: just how much are we talking about here? Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is an exceedingly difficult question to answer.
Stone Steps Financial gives a range between $400 and $5,000 for various financial services, and mentions ongoing plans that could run you up to $300 per month. Of course, this depends greatly on how much of the work you’re willing to do yourself, the exact certification of the financial professional, and how complicated your situation is.
When Hull Financial Planning was in business, it charged $150 an hour and stated that you should plan on paying between $1,800 and $2,400 to get your plan set up. So if your situation is relatively simple and you don’t want an ongoing plan, you can probably expect to pay in the $750 to $1,000 range.
Obviously this varies a lot, but it’ll work for the purposes of comparison.
So how much money might you be able to save by getting your financial advice online? LearnVest, a financial services website and a great online money management tool, charges a $299 setup fee and then $19 per month from there on out.
If you decide to go with Personal Capital, you’ll need at least $25,000 in assets, and you’ll pay 0.89% of the value of those assets up to $1 million in assets (the percentage goes down from there). In comparison, Vanguard charges 0.3% of your assets… but requires a $50,000 minimum to get started.
As you can see, figuring out exactly how much you’ll pay is rather complicated, and it’s worth your time to do some research to see where you can get the best deal. Of course, it’s not only about price: there are many other factors you want to take into consideration, too. But it’s a good place to start.
What Your Money Gets You
When you choose a financial advisor, you’re generally looking for one thing: financial advice. You want to know if you’re saving enough for retirement, where you should be investing, the best way to use your money to your advantage, how to meet your financial goals, and so on.
Hiring a financial advisor from a big-name firm like Charles Schwab, Vanguard, or Morgan Stanley means you get to sit down with a certified professional and talk about anything related to your finances.
They’ll take into account your goals, your current financial situation, the condition of the market, your potential investments, and put together a solid financial plan for you. It’s exactly what you’d expect of a financial advisor.
Exactly what you get online is a little bit more difficult to pin down. For example, LearnVest offers email access to a certified financial planner, emailed reminders from your planner for what you need to do, “planner-recommended” financial products, and a host of articles, videos, and classes.
The “planner-recommended” products may or may not actually be from your planner, and it’s likely that they’re either algorithmically chosen or simply sponsored products from partners. It’s also important to note that LearnVest does not manage any of your assets, as the big-name offline firms do.
Personal Capital’s advisors are available via email, phone, web conference, or chat, though only customers with over $1 million invested get “personalized service.” Many of the other benefits offered by this service look like they could be from automated systems, like “smart indexing,” “smart portfolio management strategy,” and “custom investing strategies.”
Online financial advising sites do usually provide high-quality tools that will help you monitor your current financial situation, see where your money is, and look at the progress you’ve made on your goals. These are accomplished through online dashboards as well as mobile apps.
Is a Financial Advisor Worth It?
Obviously, whether you decide to hire an online financial advisor has to take many things into account, including your age, current financial situation, how much money you have invested, and many other factors. So it’s a good idea to do some research on your own and ask questions of potential financial advisors.
That being said, from what we’ve reviewed so far, it looks like an online financial advisor is a good way to go if you’re not investing a huge amount of money.
If you’re investing upwards of $750,000 or $1 million, you’re probably going to benefit from a very detailed look at your investments and you’ll want to entrust that investment to someone you can meet with on a regular basis to make sure it’s going to meet your goals.
On the other hand, if you’re like most people and aren’t investing that much, an online financial advisor might be a really good way to save some money and still get the benefits of professional financial planning. You’ll still be working with a certified professional, but the amount of time that they’ll have dedicated to you will be a little less, which will save you money.
Despite the financial industry being hesitant to embrace the internet as a vehicle for advising, some companies are ahead of the curve and have already started offering their services online.
Whether or not they’re a good fit for you depends largely on your circumstances, but don’t discount them solely because they don’t come with a storied name and a big price tag!
Would you consider using an online financial advisor? Why or why not? What appeals to you about online or face-to-face financial advising? Share your thoughts below!