It’s true that many financial advisors have minimum net worth requirements, but there are plenty who work with low-income clients, too. Financial advisors can be costly, so it’s important to determine if you truly need professional advice. If not, less-expensive options such as credit counseling or a “robo advisor” — depending on your needs — may be a better fit.
Should I hire a financial advisor if I don’t earn much?
It depends. If you need help investing a sum of money (for example, you just received an inheritance), hiring an advisor to develop an investment strategy and set up investment accounts makes sense. Or, if you are beginning to accrue some savings and want to create a comprehensive financial plan to help reach your goals, an advisor could help.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for general money management advice, you’re better off looking into a financial counseling association or a financial coach. Counselors can provide low-cost or free financial advice on topics like making the most of a limited budget, managing debt, or saving an emergency fund. Financial coaches are costlier, but provide more personalized advice over a longer period of time.
Where to find a financial advisor or counselor
These are some services that can help you find free or low-cost financial advice:
- The National Foundation for Credit Counseling
- Non-profit financial planning organizations
- Your bank or credit union
- The Paladin Registry
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling provides debt management advice and teaches money management skills to clients who are struggling with debt and budgeting.
Non-profit financial planning organizations
To find free or pro bono financial planning, you’ll need to look to local non-profit organizations. Both the Financial Planning Association and Foundation for Financial Planning provide grants to nonprofits nationwide to deliver pro bono services. Unfortunately, these services usually don’t advertise their services widely. Asking around at your library or local community center is a good way to get connected to these services.
Your bank or credit union
Some — but not all — financial institutions offer financial planning services to bank customers. If your bank offers free financial advising, keep in mind it may not be unbiased financial advice. The bank will often have an incentive to sign you up for new accounts or loans.
The Paladin Registry
The Paladin Registry is a free service that matches you with a financial advisor. The service vets the financial advisors you meet in advance. They also rate the advisors and document essential information you should know about them, such as education, experience, and certifications.
Paladin Registry is a free directory of financial planners and registered investment advisors (RIAs). The registry has the highest standards for its advisors, and it works with your requirements to find the perfect match.
- Free to use
- Narrowed and vetted pool
- No obligation to move forward
- Requires at least $100,000 in investable assets
You do have to share how much money you have invested (or available to invest). You’ll also be asked to share your name, email address, zip code, and phone number. After you do this, The Paladin Registry matches you with one to three potential financial advisors within 24 to 48 hours that fit your profile that would be willing to work with you.
Once you get your financial advisor matches, you get to interview the advisors to see if they’ll be a good fit. You can also discuss how they’ll be compensated and how they can help you with your specific financial needs. You’re under no obligation to move forward with any of the advisors. If they aren’t a good fit or don’t fit your budget, you can move on to other options.
How much do financial advisors cost?
Most financial advisors charge a flat fee for their services that ranges between many hundreds of dollars and several thousand dollars per year.
Financial advisory fees may be a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of the investments the advisor manages for you, usually around 1% per year. So if the advisor managed $100,000, you would pay them $1,000 per year.
The cost to get a comprehensive financial plan ranges is typically around a couple thousand dollars. Hourly, a financial advisor may charge anywhere from about $150 to $500 or more an hour.
Read more about how much financial advisors cost.
What are some low cost alternatives to a financial advisor?
Unless you’re lucky enough to find free financial advice via a non-profit organization, you’ll have to pay a financial professional’s hourly fee or go it alone. In addition to free financial advice websites like this one, some resources that can help include:
- Budget apps
- Personal finance books
The best robo-advisors are a great tool for new investors who can’t afford a human advisor. Robo-advisors use technology to provide some of the investment picking services a financial advisor would offer at a much lower cost.
One key aspect that makes robo-advisors accessible to those with low incomes over financial advisors are the low minimums to get started investing. Some robo-advisors have no minimums while others have small minimums that are within reach, such as $100 or $500.
Acorns provides investing services for fees as low as $3 per month. This service could be especially useful to those with low incomes because it helps you start investing without directly feeling the pain.
Acorns offers a tool called Round-Ups. This rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar. Then, it invests the change once it hits $5. There are certainly pros and cons to spare-change investment apps like Acorns, but overall it’s an attractive way to start investing.
It won’t necessarily build your assets quickly, for instance. That said, it’s a great way to get started with the habit of investing. You can also make automatic purchases. These purchases can be scheduled on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
» MORE: Read our full Acorns review.
Wealthfront is another option for those without a lot of money to invest. You can get started with just a $500 deposit, and Wealthfront charges 0.25% of assets under management each year, which is much lower than a traditional financial advisor’s 1% assets under management fee.
Wealthfront uses technology to match you with a portfolio that meets your needs and investment goals. They also offer strategies to help you minimize the amount of taxes you pay on your investments and portfolio rebalancing to keep your investments on track.
Also, Wealthfront is a fiduciary, which means they must keep your best interest in mind when making financial recommendations.
» MORE: Read our full Wealthfront review.
Personal finance books
Personal finance books provide a vast amount of knowledge for the extremely low cost of buying a book. If you borrow the book from the library, it can even be free.
Many financial advisors have written books about managing your money and building wealth. The advice won’t be tailored to your specific situation, but you can pick up plenty of great tips to help you get started.
You may have to read a few books to get a good idea of different strategies. That way, you can pick the one that’s best for you. Make sure to read reviews of the books, as well. Some get outdated and others may offer controversial advice. Reviews may point out areas where you should be cautious following the advice given in a book.
Here are our 10 favorite personal finance books to get you started.
What does a financial planner do?
A financial planner creates a plan to meet your financial goals. They may also help you manage investments.
Planners help you with retirement planning and ensuring that your spending now won’t harm your financial future.
For instance, financial planners can help you understand the tax advantages of different ways of investing. They can also make you aware of tax planning opportunities to help you keep more of the money you work so hard to earn.
Another key benefit of using a financial planner is getting direct advice about your situation. They can share the results of the potential impacts of making a specific financial decision. These financial professionals may advise you whether there are better options available, too.
Financial planners and advisors often earn their fees when markets are facing a downturn. People understandably get concerned they may lose a significant amount of money during an economic downturn.
I know first hand that it can be tempting to sell and lock in your losses. These professionals can talk you off the ledge and help you stick to your strategy which is set to work for the long-term.
Can a financial advisor help me if I don’t have a lot of money?
Even if you don’t have a lot of money, financial advisors can be beneficial. If they’re tax-savvy, they can suggest tax credits and other tax advantages you may qualify for as a low-income individual. These could include the saver’s tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and more.
Advisors can help you build a plan to start growing your income and your assets. This type of strategic planning can often benefit from a second set of eyes. Advisors can help from an accountability partner standpoint, too. They can check-in to make sure you’re sticking to the activities you need to complete in order to reach your goals.
Why it is important for people on a low income to have a financial advisor?
If you’re a self-starter and educate yourself about personal finance, you may not need a financial advisor right away. In fact, I’ve never had one. That said, people that don’t have the time or don’t care to learn may benefit enormously from the knowledge financial advisors have learned through education and through experience over their careers.
A fiduciary financial advisor, one that must keep your best interests in mind, can help you avoid making costly financial mistakes. Avoiding mistakes is half of the battle of growing wealth.
You don’t have to pay a financial advisor on a recurring basis. You can pay some advisors a flat fee or an hourly rate to develop a financial plan for you. Once you have the plan, you may be able to enact it on your own. You can then hire a financial advisor on an ongoing basis after you’ve started to grow your assets.
Can you get a financial advisor for free?
You might be able to find financial advice for free, but chances are you won’t find a free financial advisor. The exception is if you’re lucky enough (and needy enough) to get pro bono financial advice from a local nonprofit.
You can hire a financial advisor, even on a low income. But you’ll have to weigh the benefits and the cost — which could be several thousand dollars. Credit counseling is a better alternative to financial planning if you have credit issues. And if you meet strict criteria, pro bono financial planning may be available from local non-profit organizations.