Q&A: Finding fee-only financial planners

Dear Liz: Every so often your column mentions an organization that lists financial planners that are fee-only. I cannot find this information on your site. Please keep mentioning this in your column.

Answer: You can get referrals to fee-only planners who charge by the hour at www.garrettplanningnetwork.com. If you’re looking for fee-only planners who charge a retainer or a percentage of assets, you’ll find those at

Q&A: How much does a fee-only financial planner cost?

Dear Liz: You frequently suggest consulting a fee-only financial planner, such as those who are members of the Garrett Planning Network, which seems like great advice. Can you provide any guidance on how much one should expect to pay for the services of this type of planner? We are a couple living in Los Angeles looking for a pre-retirement evaluation. That would probably include evaluation of existing investments, insurance needs, Social Security, long-term care, etc. How should we evaluate a quote of $3,000 for a full review estimated at 10 hours or $300 an hour?

Answer: The cost for a comprehensive financial plan varies depending on where you live and the planner’s experience level, among other factors. Nationally, the range is typically from $150 to $300 an hour, so $3,000 for 10 hours in Los Angeles is at the high (but not unreasonable) end of the scale, assuming the planner has several years’ experience.

Another way to get a feel for going rates is by interviewing a couple of other fee-only planners in your area. If the cost you’re quoted is dramatically lower, though, make sure the planner isn’t accepting commissions as well. Some planners are “fee based,” which means they accept both fees from clients and commissions on the products they recommend. You can ask for the planner’s Form ADV, a form filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Part II of this form contains information about how the planner is compensated.

Q&A: Fee-only financial planners

Dear Liz: When you recommend a “fee-only adviser,” do you mean an adviser that charges customers by the hour for advice or one that charges a percentage of the customer’s portfolio that the adviser manages?

Answer: Fee-only planners charge their clients in a number of different ways. What distinguishes them is the fact that they are only compensated by their clients; they don’t accept commissions from the products or services they recommend.

Some fee-only planners charge by the hour, which is helpful for people just starting out or those who need targeted help, such as advice on their retirement portfolios. You can get referrals to fee-only planners who charge by the hour from the Garrett Planning Network at www.garrettplanningnetwork.com.

Many fee-only planners charge a percentage of your assets that they manage or a percentage of your net worth. Another popular method is to charge a quarterly or annual retainer fee. You can get referrals to these types of planners from the National Assn. of Personal Financial Advisors at www.napfa.org.

It’s a good idea to interview a few planners to discuss what they can do for you and the expected costs before making a decision. In addition, the Financial Planning Assn. has tips on choosing a financial planner at www.plannersearch.org.