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Merriman Wealth Management Review

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Merriman Wealth Management

Merriman

Merriman Wealth Management, LLC, or Merriman for short, is a financial advisor firm that operates three total offices in Seattle, Washington; Spokane, Washington; and Eugene, Oregon. This is a rather large firm, as it manages over $2.7 billion in client assets. Merriman also holds a spot on SmartAsset’s list of the top financial advisor firms in Seattle.

As a fee-only firm, all of Merriman's compensation comes from client-paid fees. On the other hand, a fee-based firm would earn compensation from client fees and third-party commissions.

Merriman Background

Merriman opened in 1983. Fast forward to 2012, and Merriman joined Focus Financial Partners, LLC, the largest network of wealth management firms in the U.S. As a result, Focus Financial became the principal owner of Merriman, making the firm a subsidiary in the process.

There are 16 certified financial planners (CFPs) working at Merriman, but its team’s certifications don’t stop there. In addition to CFPs, the firm employs three chartered financial analysts (CFAs), two certified public accountants (CPAs), one chartered financial consultant (ChFC), one accredited investment fiduciary (AIF), one accredited estate planner (AEP) and one certified retirement plans specialist (CRPS).

Merriman Client Types and Minimum Account Sizes

Merriman specifies in its SEC-filed Form ADV that most of its clients are either individuals and families saving for retirement or retirees. The firm’s typical client base also consists of high-net-worth individuals, estates, trusts, charitable organizations and pooled investment vehicles.

Although Merriman reserves the right to waive its minimum investable asset requirements, the firm institutes a minimum for two of its three major programs:

  • MarketWise: No set minimum
  • TrendWise: $350,000
  • Leveraged Global Opportunity Fund (LGO): $250,000

Services Offered by Merriman

Merriman is unique in that it has created a few advisory programs that offer services within the investment advisory vertical. The firm also provides financial planning, though. Take a look over Merriman’s offerings below:

  • Holistic financial planning
    • Retirement planning
    • Retirement income management
    • Investment planning
    • Estate planning
    • Insurance analysis and planning
    • Charitable gift planning
  • Investment services
    • MarketWise program
    • TrendWise program
      • Active management
      • Asset allocations throughout global asset classes and exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
    • Leveraged Global Opportunity Fund
      • Goal of achieving capital appreciation through a market-timing approach

Financial planning clients will traverse through a preplanned process with their Merriman advisor. This is done to ensure that their final plan is satisfactory for their personal needs. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Discovery meeting: This consists of a conversation about your financial resources, goals for the future, health and any other factors.
  • Strategy meeting: During this consultation, your advisor will present a custom investment plan just for you.
  • Implementation meeting: If you have any leftover concerns about your investment plan, you can ask your advisor now.
  • Progress meetings: You and your advisor will get together every 90 days to discuss the performance of your plan and how well you’re progressing toward your goals.

Merriman Investment Philosophy

Most clients of Merriman are subscribed to one of the firm’s two main advisory programs: MarketWise and TrendWise. MarketWise utilizes a globally diversified portfolio that primarily consists of low-cost mutual funds. These securities are mostly made of value, small-cap and profitable stocks. MarketWise employs a passive investing strategy, meaning it avoids consistent trading to try and beat benchmarks.

TrendWise, on the other hand, uses a much more active management style. Merriman has created a “trend-following timing system” that will track major movements in the market and adjust your holdings to match them. ETFs, exchange-traded notes (ETNs) and mutual funds are the most common investment types in this program. The trend-following timing system is applied to a totally different set of securities, such as domestic and international stocks, bonds, real estate investment trusts (REITs), commodities and more.

Fees Under Merriman

Wealth and investment management clients at Merriman must follow an annual, asset-based fee schedule. In contrast to other firms that require quarterly fee payments, Merriman charges fees on a monthly basis, in arrears. The average daily balance of the previous month is the value that these rates will be calculated based on. Clients can choose to either have their fees deducted from their account balance, in arrears, or have an invoice sent to them.

MarketWise Fees for Wealth Management Clients
Assets Under Management Annual Fee
Up to $1MM 1.00%
$1MM - $3MM 0.80%
$3MM - $5MM 0.60%
Over $5MM 0.40%

 

TrendWise Fees for Wealth Management Clients
Assets Under Management Annual Fee
Up to $500K 1.35%
Over $500K 0.90%

 

Fees for Investment Management Clients
Assets Under Management Annual Fee
All assets 1.25% ($5,000 maximum)

Check out the table below to see how Merriman’s fees for its management services compare to those at similar financial advisor firms. Note that these fees are only estimates and actual costs may vary.

*Fee estimates only consider the maximum base fees for the services each firm provides. You may also pay manager fees and other fees, which can vary in amount. **All figures are based on median fee levels according to Bob Veres' 2017 Planning Profession Fee Survey. The above estimates solely take into account AUM-only fees. Total costs will likely be higher due to additional expenses.
Estimated Fee Comparison*
Your Assets Merriman MarketWise Wealth Management Fees
National Median Advisory Fees**
$500K $5,000 $5,000
$1MM $10,000 $8,500 - $10,000
$5MM $38,000 $25,000 - $32,500
$10MM $58,000 $50,000

What to Watch Out For

Merriman has no legal or regulatory disclosures listed on its Form ADV.

Opening an Account With Merriman

Calling Merriman Wealth Management is the easiest way to become a client. However, the contact page on Merriman’s website includes a form that asks for your name, email, number and a short overview of your situation. If you fill this out, one of the firm’s advisors with reach out to you.

Merriman has three branches that can be found at the following addresses:

  • 800 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2900, Seattle, WA
  • 111 South Post Street, Suite 2250, Spokane, WA
  • 871 Country Club Road, Eugene, OR

All information is accurate as of the writing of this article.

How to Make the Jump Into Investing

  • Financial advisors often have ample experience dealing with investments and the management of portfolios. In turn, they make great partners for anyone who wants some help investing. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard, as SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area. Get started now.
  • Building your first investment portfolio can be a nerve-racking endeavor, as many Americans are using money they’ve saved over a long period of time. If this describes you, passive investing is a great way to get started. A passively-managed portfolio essentially abides by a “buy and hold” strategy and typically features long-term investments like mutual funds, ETFs and index funds. There’s never a guarantee that you’ll make money in investing, but a passive portfolio is about as safe an option as there is.

How Many Years $1 Million Lasts in Retirement

SmartAsset's interactive map highlights places where $1 million will last the longest in retirement. Zoom between states and the national map to see the top spots in each region. Also, scroll over any city to learn about the cost of living in retirement for that location.

Least
Most
Rank City Housing Expenses Food Expenses Healthcare Expenses Utilities Expenses Transportation Expenses

Methodology To determine how long a $1 million nest egg would cover retirement costs in cities across America, we analyzed data on average expenditures for seniors, cost of living and investment returns.

First, we looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the average annual expenditures of seniors. We then applied cost of living data from the Council for Community and Economic Research to adjust those national average spending levels based on the costs of each expense category (housing, food, healthcare, utilities, transportation and other) in each city. Using this data, SmartAsset calculated the average cost of living for retirees in the largest U.S. cities.

We assumed the $1 million would grow at a real return (interest minus inflation) of 2%. This reflects the typical return on a conservative investment portfolio. Then, we divided $1 million by the sum of each of those annual numbers to determine how long $1 million would cover retirement expenses in each of the cities in our study. Cities where $1 million lasted the longest ranked the highest in the study.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Council for Community and Economic Research