Who really needs a financial adviser?

Illustration of two people studying a notepad with finance symbols
Illustration of two people studying a notepad with finance symbols Illustrated / Getty Images

Over half of Americans have worked with a financial planner at some point in their lives, and 28% of those who haven't plan to do so sometime in the future, according to a survey by the CFP Board. But just because a lot of people are doing it, does that mean it makes sense for you as well? The answer is: It depends.

There are certain major life events when it's recommended to seek advice from a financial professional to make sure you have your proverbial ducks in a row. But it's important to consider what you can get out of working with an adviser, and how much it costs, to determine if hiring one or looking for an alternative makes sense for you.

When to get an adviser

As mentioned, the most common times during which a financial adviser is recommended is amid major life events that "change your financial picture or outlook," per Forbes. This can include marriage, divorce, becoming a parent, starting or selling a business, inheriting money, starting a new job or getting promoted, or taking on caregiving responsibilities.

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Beyond those events, working with a financial adviser can make sense if you have "complicated finances or you don't know how certain things work," according to Bankrate. An adviser also may come in handy if you're hoping to figure out your financial goals and how to achieve them. Take "an extensive look at your finances," as this "will give you a better sense of where you stand financially and what a financial adviser may be able to help you with," according to Investopedia.


A big part of the decision is determining what you hope to get out of the relationship. Not only can this help you decide if an adviser is the right solution, but it can help you better tailor your search for an adviser who suits your needs.

Different types of advisers offer distinct services and have certain specialties. Some examples of the types of services that financial cial advisers can provide include:

  • Managing your investment portfolio

  • Making investment recommendations

  • Mapping out a long-term financial plan

  • Getting ready for retirement

  • Creating an estate plan

  • Saving for a child's college education

  • Establishing a tax plan


The amount you pay depends a lot on the type(s) of fees an adviser charges. According to Nerdwallet, "Advisers who charge flat fees can cost between $2,000 and $7,500 a year, while the cost of advisers who charge a percentage of a client's account balance — typically 0.25% to 1% per year — will vary based on the size of that balance."

If you're operating on a tighter budget, know that you don't have to pay for a premium adviser. For example, some advisers may offer one-time planning sessions that can help you establish if you're on the right track, while others offer more limited, basic services that can be more affordable. As Nerdwallet pointed out, a financial coach "may offer fewer services than a CFP, but they likely won't charge as much."


Hiring another human isn't your only avenue to getting some financial advice. Additionally, not everyone may need one — at least not yet. Per Vox, if you're "young and have fairly straightforward financial goals, like saving for retirement and having a retirement plan through your employer, you might not need to work with a financial planner."

Instead, you might consider a robo-adviser, as they tend to have lower costs but can still offer some level of guidance. "You can put in what your goals are, what you want to achieve, and it automates everything for you and does all the work for you," Elizabeth Ayoola, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet, told Vox. "For people who don't want to stress, don't want to think about or keep checking their portfolio, robo-advisers can be a great alternative."

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