Rating Methodology for Financial Advisors

Choosing a financial advisor is one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make. You’re giving the financial advisor deeply private information and are entrusting them to manage your assets. For some, this involves retirement and family planning, and for others, this involves setting up a trust and estate planning.

Whatever the reason, we take your concerns and future financial well-being seriously. SimpleMoneyLyfe’s overall ratings for financial advisors and online financial planning services include a rigorous review process that takes hours – sometimes months.

The factors and metrics we review during this process are as follows:

How We Collect Information and Gather Data

Properly analyzing and rating financial advisors, wealth managers, and online financial planning services starts with detailed research. The editorial team begins by scouring online databases and websites for publicly available information. We do a deep dive into the company’s website and take careful notes of what we discover.

After preliminary research, we turn to trusted third-party sites and platforms to dive deeper into the advisor or firm. Sources we use are Trustpilot, Better Business Bureau, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, CFA Institute, Google Reviews, App Store Reviews, Finra.org, expert interviews, product demonstrations, and the CFP Board. These expert sources help us validate advisor and financial planner credentials, previous customer experience, and security practices.

Rating and Reviewing Financial Advisors Methodology

The Review Process: A Closer Look at the Weighing Factors

This section will outline the details of the categories we review when rating financial advisors, wealth managers, and online financial planning services.

Advisor Credentials

We verify the credentials of the advisors, wealth managers, and online financial planning services we are reviewing. This includes authenticating the credential: Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and Series Exams administered by FINRA.

The Series Exam’s we recognize and validate:

Apart from certifications, licenses, and successful completion of series exams, we also utilize various platforms to review the advisor’s level of education (Bachelors, Masters, & Doctorate). It is important to note that we do not favor those who attended prestigious institutions. We value real-world experience, reputation, and results. However, for some, a certain level of education is desirable and comforting.

Rating Investment Advisors Methodology

Financial Planning and Wealth Management Services Offered

This is where the rubber meets the road, and our analysts roll up their sleeves. In this category, we review the level of services offered. Here is what we consider:

Customer Support

It is unacceptable for an online financial planning service, wealth manager, or financial planner to not offer 24/7 customer support. While around-the-clock support may come with additional fees, it is nice to have. The financial markets move fast, and reallocating your portfolio may be necessary to capitalize on public equities’ upward and downward movements.

Moreover, we also consider what is offered online. We look for:

Account and Service Fees

Our analyst review how the firm charges clients. Are they performance or subscription-based? Does the firm charge an onboarding or account closure fee? Our team will discover and articulate whatever method or fees they charge clients in the review.

Expense Ratios

We review the expense ratios financial advisors, wealth managers, and online financial planning services charge for managing your portfolio. Typically, expense ratios are between 0.10% – 0.90%. Over time, expense ratios add up and can impact your long-term portfolio gains.

Portfolio Construction & Investment Thesis

The strategies employed by wealth managers and financial advisors are usually confidential. What we review is whether new clients receive customization and personalization. Clients all have a unique financial situation.

Account Minimums

Working with a financial advisor, wealth manager, or online financial planning service typically requires an account minimum. The ranges vary widely, but consumers should expect to see account minimums between $10,000 – $250,000 and $250,000 – $1,000,000.

A quick note on account minimums. Clients with larger portfolios are usually prioritized. This is because the firm and financial advisor earn more in fees and performance for managing that specific portfolio.

Nationwide Availability

The financial industry is sporadic and scattered from coast-to-coast. Family officers typically only service individuals in their local areas, whereas online financial advisors and financial planning services tend to accommodate individuals from all 50 U.S. States.

Security

Generally, it is good practice to never reveal your security infrastructure. However, for larger firms, we verify that they comply with PCI DSS, register with the SEC or FINRA, and employ encryption to protect the transmission of private data.

Firm Size

Our analysts consider Assets Under Management (AUM), the number of employees, and the number of clients (if reported).

Transparency

The more transparent a financial advisor, wealth manager, or online financial planning service is, the better. We analyze how transparent the firm is about performance and fees.

Why You Can Trust Us

SimpleMoneyLyfe takes a holistic approach when reviewing financial advisors, wealth managers, and online financial planning services. Rating firms involved in the financial services industry is notoriously hard, but we believe our approach and the metrics we review help paint a clear picture. Our integrity, transparency, and accuracy has helped our editorial team be featured in CNBS, MarketWatch, US News & World Report, Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, Business Insider, PBS, and Readers Digest. All product analysts, writers, and editors adhere to our rigorous editorial guidelines.