If you’re looking for someone to help you set and achieve your financial goals, you may have done enough research to identify a fee-only financial planner. If you’re not familiar with that term, a fee-only financial planner is someone who receives compensation for their advisory services only in the form of fees paid by clients. He or she is not paid in commissions received by recommending specific products or investments. This means the fee-only structure is free of financial incentives regarding investment product recommendations that might conflict with the best interests of the client. You can learn more about the differences between fee-only and other cost structures in our article: What is Fee-Only vs Fee-Based Financial Planning?

However, just understanding incentives and fee structures will not give you a complete picture of how much you can expect to pay when working with a fee-only wealth manager or financial planner. There are several different ways a fee-only financial planner may charge for services. Below we outline the different styles of cost structures and provide some examples to give you an idea of what you may pay.

How Much Does a Fee-Only Financial Planner Charge?

As a general industry standard, it is common for a fee-only financial planner to charge approximately 1% of the total amount of assets managed per year. This model is known as an Assets Under Management (AUM) fee structure, meaning that the advisory fees are equal to a percentage of the client’s assets being managed. For example, if you have $2 million in assets managed, your annual advisory fee would be $20,000. The AUM model is very common. However, this is not the only fee structure you may encounter when searching for a fee-only financial planner.

Different Fee Structures

Below we outline the four advisory fee structures you’ll generally find when searching for a fee-only financial planner. It’s important to determine the advisory fee structure that is best for you because different structures may be suitable for different situations. You should inquire about the total fee structure when talking to prospective financial planners.

Assets Under Management (AUM)

As mentioned earlier, an AUM percentage is a typical advisory fee structure among fee-only financial advisers. Expect to pay about 1% per year. The firm or planner may also have tiered AUM fees, meaning you’ll pay smaller percentages as you invest more total asset value.

Retainer

Financial advisers may charge a set monthly fee or an annual retainer. As with the AUM model, even though the financial planner is working with you on a regular basis, advisory fees are not determined by the amount of time spent. 

Hourly

A fee-only financial planner may also offer you an hourly rate. This might be a good fit for you if your needs are infrequent, and you don’t need guidance as regularly as a monthly retainer or AUM model would generally include.

Flat-Rate Financial Plan

In the models described above, the financial planner assumes the client will need ongoing support with the planning and/or execution of their financial plan. For customers who wish to receive one-time financial plan development, it’s possible to pay a one-time or hourly fee. The planner collects the fee but is not typically involved in moving forward with any implementation of the plan. Fees can range from $1,000 to $5,000 for a complete financial plan.

Less Common Fees

While unlikely, it is possible you may find a registered investment adviser who offers to work for a performance fee. This is more common among hedge funds and private equity firms.

Financial Planner Fee Structures

Fee Type Description
Assets Under Management (AUM) Common structure. Advisory fees are equal to a percentage of the client’s assets being managed.
Retainer Clients pay a monthly fee or an annual retainer fee.
Hourly Clients pay by the hour as needed.
Flat-Rate Financial Plan Clients pay a one-time fee for a financial plan that the client executes themselves.

Finding the Right Fee Structure for You

Which fee structure is right for you is a personal decision and the client experience may differ depending on the adviser or firm. We recommend you find an arrangement that provides the appropriate amount of support and frequency of meetings you need.

About Modera Financial Planners

We are proudly a fee-only, independently-owned financial planning firm that acts as a fiduciary for our clients. We have built our organization to put our customers’ interests first, as evidenced by our fee-only fee structure and fiduciary responsibility.

If you’re interested in our services, please contact us. If you would like to learn more about financial planning, wealth management, and finding a financial adviser, please visit other areas of our education section.

Modera Wealth Management., LLC is an SEC registered investment adviser with places of business in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida. SEC registration does not imply any level of skill or training. Modera may only transact business in those states in which it is registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements.

For additional information about Modera, including its registration status, fees and services and/or a copy of our Form ADV Disclosure Brochure, please contact us or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure web site (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov). A full description of the firm’s business operations and service offerings is contained in our Disclosure Brochure which appears as Part 2A of Form ADV. Please read the Disclosure Brochure carefully before you invest or send money.

This article is limited to the dissemination of general information about Modera’s investment advisory and financial planning services that is not suitable for everyone. Nothing herein should be interpreted or construed as investment advice nor as legal, tax or accounting advice nor as personalized financial planning, tax planning or wealth management advice. For legal, tax and accounting-related matters, we recommend you seek the advice of a qualified attorney or accountant. This article is not a substitute for personalized investment or financial planning from Modera. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed herein will come to pass, and the information herein should not be considered a solicitation to engage in a particular investment or financial planning strategy. The statements and opinions expressed in this article are subject to change without notice based on changes in the law and other conditions.