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Susannah Snider, CFP

I am a retired veteran with no retirement accounts and I want to start investing with $30,000. I’d like some investing advice, but I’m finding advisors have minimum investment requirements, and I’m hesitant to work with a robo-advisor. Can you steer me in the right direction?

– Anonymous

The standard advice for individuals with modest accounts is to seek out a robo advisor. These digital investment advisors typically have lower fees and smaller minimum investment requirements, so even investors with just a few thousand dollars may access their services.

But given your discomfort with online advising, it makes sense that you’d want to look beyond the robo offerings. And fortunately, you have options. Here’s what to know about finding professional financial help when you have limited funds to invest.

How Much Does a Financial Advisor Cost?

Often, financial advisors charge a fee based on the amount of money, called assets under management (AUM), the client has invested with the firm.

The charge often hovers around 1% of AUM, but advisors may use a sliding scale, charging a higher percentage for smaller accounts. As you may have experienced on your hunt for professional advice, many of these advisors can’t take an account worth less than, say, $100,000.

Robo-advisors typically charge less. They may ask for somewhere between 0.25% and 0.5% of AUM. Additionally, they often carry smaller account minimums. You might be able to secure the services of a robo advisor with $3,000 or even less in investable assets.

While a robo-advisor may provide enough assistance for beginning investors, it sounds like you crave that human connection in your golden years.

Get Matched With a Financial Advisor

Image shows a senior man managing his investments. A financial advisor may assist him.On a platform such as SmartAdvisor Match, investors with $25,000 or more in investable assets can pair up with a financial advisor. The platform may link you with prescreened matches with whom you can chat at no obligation to you.

While some advisors on the platform do have robust account requirements, others don’t specify a minimum investment and may provide advice for a set rate. When interviewing financial advisors, make sure to ask about fees to ensure that they’re reasonable in relation to the amount you have to invest.

Consider a Hybrid Robo-Advisor

You may get the human factor at a lower cost with a hybrid robo-advisor. That service combines the automation of robo-investing with the personal touch of a human advisor.

For example, Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolios Premium offers the services of a certified financial planner (CFP) professional in addition to its robo-advisor services. It charges a one-time planning fee of $300. After that, users pay a $30 monthly advisory fee. The account minimum is $25,000.

Advisor Fee Structures

If you’re looking to avoid robo-advising altogether, consider searching for advisors with nontraditional fee structures. They may provide the advice you need for a one-time or hourly fee.

Be aware that these hourly rates will vary depending on the advisor, but they may be steep in comparison to the amount of money you have to invest. Do some comparison shopping first.

And a word to the wise: Some advisors are paid based on commission for selling you a product. That may be a cheaper way to gain advice upfront, but it’s typically wise to seek a fiduciary financial advisor. Fiduciaries must act in your best interest.

Finding Free Financial Advice

Image shows a financial advisor meeting with clients. A financial advisor who charges a flat hourly or project fee may work with small account holders.

As a senior and veteran, you may be eligible to access free financial advice.

Consider the Financial Planning Association (FPA). Right now, various FPA members provide short-term pro bono financial planning assistance to underserved individuals, including veterans, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a senior, you can also access the services of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. This free service answers tax-filing questions, which may relate to your investments and drawdown strategies.

What to Do Next

Financial advising services have a reputation for exclusively catering to wealthy individuals, but even investors with relatively modest accounts should be able to find financial advice if they know where to look.

Consider these resources:

  • Free financial advice for veterans, seniors and other underserved communities.
  • A robo or hybrid financial advisor service.
  • A human financial advisor who charges a reasonable hourly or project-based fee.

A fiduciary financial advisor must act in your best interest. Consider seeking out a certified financial planner professional. Find someone with expertise in retirement income planning and other areas specific to your financial situation.

Investing and Retirement Planning Tips

  • If you have questions specific to your investing and retirement situation, a financial advisor can help. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • As you plan for income in retirement, keep an eye on Social Security. Use SmartAsset’s Social Security calculator to get an idea of what your benefits could look like in retirement.

Susannah Snider, CFP® is SmartAsset’s financial planning columnist, and answers reader questions on personal finance topics. Got a question you’d like answered? Email AskAnAdvisor@smartasset.com and your question may be answered in a future column.

Please note that Susannah is not a participant in the SmartAdvisor Match platform.

Photo credit: ©Jen Barker Worley, ©iStock.com/seb_ra, ©iStock.com/katleho Seisa

Susannah Snider, CFP® Susannah Snider is the ​​Managing Editor of Financial Education at SmartAsset where she oversees the strategy and production of all expert-driven personal finance content, including commentary and columns from CFPs and other financial professionals. In addition, Susannah writes articles, newsletters, columns and commentary found on SmartAsset.com and syndication partner sites. She also serves as a spokesperson and quoted expert on a wide range of personal finance and financial planning topics, including retirement, investing, estate planning, mortgages, and more. Susannah earned her CFP designation in 2019 and leverages her expertise to easily explain complicated financial topics with an approachable tone. Prior to SmartAsset, Susannah was the Senior Editor for Financial Advisors at U.S. News & World Report. She also previously covered personal finance, careers, and college financing for U.S. News and worked as a staff writer for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. She is the recipient of the McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism program and won the 2018 RTDNA/NEFE Excellence in Personal Finance Reporting award in the digital category. Susannah holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Southern California. Susannah has appeared as a personal finance expert on Cheddar, Fox & Friends, The Tavis Smiley Show, Your Money on Wharton Business Radio, Fox Business News and more.
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