Investing is a staple of any well-rounded financial plan. When you need investment advice on which stocks to pick or how to grow wealth for retirement, there are different places you can look to find it. Where you seek out advice about investing can depend on how well-versed you are on how the market works, your overall investment objectives and your personal preferences.
A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan for your investment needs and goals.
What Is Investment Advice?
Investment advice is any advice given with regard to an individual’s investment portfolio. Depending on the nature of the advice given, the intent may be to inform, educate or guide an investor in their investment decision-making. Investment advice can be general and inform a broad group of people, or it can be personalized specifically to one person’s situation.
Investment advice is just that — advice, not an absolute directive on what an investor should or shouldn’t do when managing their portfolio. While investors may seek out advice about how to manage investments from multiple sources, it’s ultimately up to them to decide whether to follow that guidance or not.
Where to Find Free and Low-Cost Investment Advice
There are several places you can look to for investment advice. Some of the options are free; others require you to pay a fee. Whether it makes sense to choose free or paid financial advice can depend on your situation. And cost itself doesn’t necessarily dictate the quality of the advice you receive.
If you’re looking for general investment advice or spending a lot of money to obtain professional financial advice isn’t in your budget at the moment, here are six common places that you might consider for free and low-cost help:
- Banks. Many banks offer free investment advice and tools to existing customers. For example, you may have access to investment calculators or educational resources, or your bank may offer free financial coaching and mentoring.
- Your employer. If you’re contributing to a 401(k) or similar tax-advantaged retirement plan at work, your plan may also provide free investment or financial advice. You can contact your plan administrator to ask whether any type of advisory services are offered to participants.
- Robo-advisors. Robo-advisors can help you to invest and build wealth on autopilot in exchange for a low advisory fee. Some, though not all, robo-advisors also offer access to human advisors for investors who need investment guidance.
- Brokerages. If you have an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or self-directed trading account, you may also be able to look to your brokerage for investment advice. Whether this advice is offered at no charge or for a fee can depend on the brokerage.
- Investing websites. Investing websites and blogs can also be a source of free investment advice. Keep in mind that the quality of the advice you’re receiving can depend on the credibility of the site or blog that’s providing it.
- Investing apps. Investing apps make it easy to build a portfolio from your mobile device. While these apps may not offer specific investment advice, they may have a library of videos, articles and other educational resources you can browse for answers to common investing questions.
A financial advisor is another option for getting free investment advice. Many advisors offer a free initial consultation where you can meet to discuss your investment goals. You likely won’t get all of your investment questions answered in one go but a free consultation can help you to decide if hiring a financial advisor is right for you.
Should You Hire a Financial Advisor?
Financial advisors can provide numerous services to their clients, including investment advice. In exchange, financial advisors charge a fee for that advice. The typical financial advisor fee is 1%. For a comparison, robo-advisors may charge an advisory fee of 0.25% or 0.50% instead. So is paying a fee for investment advice worth it?
It could be, depending on what you need help with. Financial advisors can evaluate your portfolio to determine what adjustments might need to be made, if any, to help you stay aligned with your goals. They can look at the fees you’re paying to invest and the tax efficiency of those investments to develop strategies for minimizing costs.
A financial advisor can also help you to keep a level head when the market becomes volatile. If you’re tempted to sell off assets over fears of an economic downturn, for example, a financial advisor can advise you on whether it makes sense to do so and how that might affect longer-term outcomes in your portfolio.
Keep in mind that the degree of investment management and advice that a financial advisor offers may be limited. If you’re looking for advice on specific stocks, mutual funds or other securities, you may want to work with a registered investment advisor (RIA). While financial advisors take a comprehensive approach to financial planning, RIAs focus specifically on investments.
How to Choose a Financial Advisor
If you’re interested in getting a free consultation from a financial advisor or establishing an ongoing relationship with one, it’s important to find the right advisor to work with. You can start your search for financial advisors in your local area online, using SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool.
Once you’ve put together a list of possible candidates, the next step is asking the right questions. Some of the most important things to ask a financial advisor include:
- Are you a fiduciary?
- What are your credentials?
- How long have you been a financial advisor?
- What do you charge for your services?
- How do you get paid?
- What type of clients do you typically work with?
- Do you have any specialty areas of expertise?
- What’s your preferred method of communication?
- How often will we communicate?
- Do you offer any free educational resources or tools?
- What is your preferred investment strategy?
- What investment benchmarks do you use and how will you allocate assets?
Asking these kinds of questions can help you identify financial advisors who are most likely to understand your needs and situation. You can vet advisors online or over the phone, but it may be helpful to meet with them in person if a free consultation is offered. That way, you can get a chance to see whether your personalities “gel” and whether it’s a good fit.
Getting investment advice can help you to feel more confident about the choices you make with your portfolio if you’re just getting started with investing. Even if you’re an experienced investor, you can still benefit from getting advice from time to time, especially when the market is experiencing more bumps than usual.
Financial Planning Tips
- If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. 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.
- Robo-advisors can save you money when investing but it’s important to understand what you’re getting in exchange for any advisory fees you’re paying. For example, in addition to free investment advice, you can check to see if the robo-advisor provides other benefits, like automatic rebalancing or tax-loss harvesting. Looking at all of the features and benefits can help you to decide if a particular robo-advisor is worth the cost.
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