I have $950,000 invested with a large financial firm, but they are charging me $1,100 a month in management fees. Is this reasonable?

Is your financial planner charging you too much?


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Question: I am currently a customer with a large bank and have about $950,000 invested in the markets through them. I am being charged over $1,100.00 per month for management fees. Is this a reasonable amount?

Answer:  Paying $1,100 in monthly fees on a managed portfolio of $950,000 amounts to an annual investment management fee of about 1.4% of assets. And pros say that’s higher than it needs to be, although it’s in line with what large banks often charge. “A standard full-service broker-dealer typically charges anywhere between 1% and 2% in management fees, on top of any fund-specific expenses, trading fees and commissions,” explains certified financial planner Jay Abolofia of Lyon Financial Planning. (Looking for a financial adviser too? You can use this tool to get matched with an adviser who may meet your needs.)

That said, while you may be paying towards the higher end of the scale for investment management only, you’ll want to consider all of the services you’re receiving for that amount. “Does the bank pay for your annual tax return filing? Do they help you with cash flow planning, retirement projections and valuable non-investment management services? If not, you could get investment management only through Vanguard, Schwab or Fidelity for a fraction of the price and save over $10,000 annually for just investment management,” says Kaleb Paddock, certified financial planner at Ten Talents Financial Planning. 

If you like your bank, but want to pay less, open a line of communication with them. “If it feels high, you can talk to them about lowering your fee before considering looking for a new relationship working with an adviser that charges a flat fee or lower asset management fee,” says certified financial planner Jacob Milder at Oak Street Investments. (Looking for a financial adviser too? You can use this tool to get matched with an adviser who may meet your needs.)

If saving money is your goal, you can likely do better than the 1.4% you’re currently paying. “It’s unlikely that the manager is significantly outperforming the markets or providing thoughtful advice on important topics. You can get well-designed portfolios and sensible financial advice from many other financial advisers for a lower fee and you might even pay flat fees instead of a percentage of your assets, or you can explore hourly advice if that appeals to you,” says Pritchard.

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You can also significantly reduce the cost of managing your investments by utilizing a robo adviser or a human adviser that charges less; just keep in mind that you’ll likely be receiving fewer services as a result. “If the bank is helping with financial planning topics such as cash flow advice, tax advice, estate planning, insurance advice and more, the fee may be well worth it. Every adviser and corresponding fee schedule should align with the value they’re providing,” says certified financial planner Levi Sanchez at Millennial Wealth.

Furthermore, a growing number of fee-only certified financial planner professionals charge a flat fee for retirement planning, investment management and tax planning, says certified financial planner Brian Tegtmeyer of Truly Prosper Financial Planning. Flat fees commonly range from $2,000 to $10,000 per year depending on a financial adviser’s skills and the client’s needs and hourly fees often range from $200 to $500 per hour for those with less complex financial cases.

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The Advicer questions are edited for brevity and clarity.

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