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Where to Find a Fee-Only Financial Advisor

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Fee-only financial advisors are harder to find because they are in the extreme minority -- it is said that less than 2% of the financial advisor population is fee-only.   While it may be difficult to find a true fee-only financial advisor on every corner, they can be found on a variety of fee-only financial advisor organization websites.  The most well-known fee-only financial advisor organization that has the most fee-only advisors listed is the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA).  Compared to two other organizations that I am about to mention, NAPFA has the widest range of types of firms - from solo practitioners to large national firms, from holistic financial planners to more investment-centric and so on.  Advisors generally need to have their CFP® to become a member, although early NAPFA members may be an exception to that rule. 

Another place to find fee-only advisors is with The Alliance of Comprehensive Advisors ("ACP") - https://www.acplanners.org/home .  ACP bills itself as the "community of tax-focused financial planners operating under the retainer model" and has approximately 170 advisers.  ACP planners typically provide ongoing flat-fee planning to cover a wide variety of issues, from strategic tax planning and tax preparation to retirement planning to investment advice.  The ongoing open retainer is the primary service level, but some advisors with ACP offer shorter-term packages and may offer a reduced percentage of “assets under management” (“aum”) fee approach to complement the open retainer.  While all ACP advisors are generally required to be members of NAPFA, you are more likely to find a greater percentage of tax-focused planners at ACP than at NAPFA. The members of this alliance are generally required to have their CFP®, and the advisors take a fiduciary oath.

The Garrett Planning Network (https://www.garrettplanningnetwork.com/ ) boasts nearly 250 financial planners and is known for offering the hourly model that is accessible to a wide variety of clients.  Like ACP and NAPFA, these members are generally required to have their CFP®.  Like ACP, these advisors will address holistic planning issues in an integrated fashion. The level of investment services can vary from advisor to advisor and will be based on the need of the client and expertise of the advisor.  Garrett members may also offer additional ways to work with them, including a project or an open retainer approach and maybe even the aum approach; they, too, have taken a fiduciary oath.

A final place to find a fee-only advisor is at XY Planning Network - https://www.xyplanningnetwork.com/, a fast-growing group of over 1,000 advisors that generally serve the XY generations.  The methods of delivering and charging for their services are more similar to NAPFA as it is said to be more across the board, ranging from flat-fee to aum.  Anecdotally, it seems that more XY planners are adopting more of the flat fee or subscription-based model (which is more like a continual open retainer).  An adviser does not necessarily need to be a CFP® practitioner to be a member, but the advisor does need to be a CFP® practitioner to be listed on XY's "Find an Advisor" tool.  One differentiator of this network is that the advisors must work with the Gen X and Gen Y crowd, but they don't have to focus exclusively on that segment.  The XY member must also sign a fiduciary oath.

Thus, there are some good options to find fee-only advisors.  I have generally been impressed with the leadership and character displayed with all of these networks.  The consumer does need to understand that hiring an advisor - yes, even a fee-only advisor - does require some expense on the consumer's part.  It is up to the consumer to determine the value they are seeking from the advisor and to be willing to pay a reasonable amount for such value and expertise.  

Should You Use a Fee-Only Financial Advisor?

Whether you use a fee-only financial advisor is a personal choice. Some do choose fee-only advisors because the incentive structures are said to better align with an individual’s interest.  While a commissioned advisor may be influenced to sell product based on the payout structure, a fee-only advisor – truly acting in a fiduciary capacity – cannot receive commissions.  Other individuals and families use fee-only advisors because such financial planners tend to provide more holistic advice, providing integrated planning advice. Rather than focusing on product sales, the fee-only financial planner tends to analyze how the retirement picture integrates with the tax planning and asset allocation, among other areas.  

Indeed, many commentators do recommend that consumers utilize fee-only advisors.  Consumer advocates such as Clark Howard generally recommend fee only financial advisors.  However, you should evaluate your own needs and determine whether you desire to work with a fee-only advisor compared to a non-fiduciary.

Where to Find A Range of Financial Advisors?

As indicated earlier, you may want to work with advisors other than fee-only advisors as expertise can be found on either aisle.  Advisors that are not fee-only can receive commissions for the products or solutions that they sell, and they do not have to adhere to as strict of a duty in serving their clients.  It is somewhat confusing as the title of these advisors can be the same, e.g., Financial Advisor, Wealth Advisor, Financial Planner. Nevertheless, there are quality advisors that are not fee-only; consumers should just be aware of any potential conflicts that exist when finding advisors.   

While a google search will turn up many choices and you can find many advisors with a range of skill sets and incentives at your corner retail bank, there are a couple of sources online to find both brokers (aka commission-based advisors, or non-fee-only advisors) and fee-only advisors.  At the CFP Board site (https://www.letsmakeaplan.org/), consumers can search for a range of advisors as there are said to be over 80,000 CFP® certificants.  Of course, the advisors on the CFP Board site should have their CFP® certificate. 

Also, both fee-only and commissioned-based advisors can be found at the Financial Planning Association® site at https://www.plannersearch.org/ .  This large organization boasts over 22,000 members and includes both CFP®s and those without such designation including academia and students.  With many members, the range of skills, clients served, and incentive and compensation structures can range dramatically.  The vast majority of advisors on this site can receive commissions on products they recommend or sell.

Finding a Fee-Only Financial Advisor in the Nashville and Williamson County Metro Area 

The Nashville area continues to grow as new residents flock to the Music City.  Whether you are a long-time resident or a new resident to the Nashville area, there are a few fee-only financial advisors you can turn to.  Based on a review of NAPFA, there are just over ten fee-only advisor firms that serve the Nashville area, including Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, and Hendersonville. 

Oasis Wealth Planning Advisors is one such firm.  Oasis Wealth is a financial planning firm headquartered in Nashville and serves clients in other Tennessee cities, including Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, and Hendersonville.  The firm has meeting space in these locations and serves many clients beyond those cities through meeting with their clients face-to-face by video.  In fact, due to more and more clients desiring an easy way to meet with their advisor, Oasis serves over half of their clients by video.