BWP Weekly Market Commentary

BWP Weekly Market Commentary


What Is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor and Why Does it Matter?

By Jeff Gilbert

If you’re in the process of looking for a financial advisor—congratulations! You have taken the first step to reach your financial goals by partnering with a professional. Now the challenge becomes finding an advisor you can trust who has your best interests in mind. You may have heard the term “fee-only” being used to describe financial advisors’ practices. But what does “fee-only” mean, and why is it an important distinction when choosing your financial advisor?

How Advisors Get Paid

To truly understand the value of a fee-only advisor, it’s important to first understand the different ways advisors can get paid. The three most common methods include:

  • Commission-based
  • Fee-based
  • Fee-only

Commission-based advisors don’t charge fees to their clients. On the surface, this model sounds great. But these advisors have to get paid somehow, so instead, they earn commissions from financial and insurance products they sell to their customers. Even if they mean well, commission-based advisors may be more motivated to sell investment and insurance products that will earn them the most money, rather than providing advice that is solely in the best interest of the client.

Fee-based advisors may sound like they’re fee-only, but they can also make commissions from financial products and transactions. In addition to charging their clients a fee, they earn a percentage of their revenue from selling products on behalf of brokerage firms, mutual fund companies, or insurance companies, thus placing them at the same risk for conflicts of interest as commission-based advisors.

Fee-only financial advisors are paid directly by their clients—and only by their clients. They don’t receive any type of kickbacks or commissions for recommending certain securities, investments, or insurance products. Their fees are typically structured as hourly or project-based fixed fees or as a small percentage of the assets they manage, known as assets under management (AUM) fees. Because fee-only advisors only get paid by their clients, their incentives are usually better aligned with the clients they work for than commission-based or fee-based advisors.

The Pros of Working With a Fee-Only Financial Advisor 

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) believes fee-only advisors are the most transparent and unbiased advisors you can come by. If you’re in the market for a financial advisor, here are three reasons why you should choose a fee-only financial professional: 

1. Reduced Conflicts of Interest

No matter how pure an advisor’s intentions are, it can be difficult to provide unbiased recommendations when they know they’ll get a kickback or commission. But this isn’t the case for fee-only advisors. They have no incentive to push certain products because they don’t sell any products at all. They’re solely compensated by you. Fee-only advisors can still have conflicts of interest that may be tied to the value of investments that are managed, but they are required to clearly disclose those to clients.

2. Fiduciary Commitment

Fee-only advisors are fiduciaries at all times, which means they are legally and ethically obligated to act in your best interest and to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. They are loyal to you and provide objective financial advice based on your unique situation and goals. 

3. Objective Advice 

It’s easy to act on emotion when you’re dealing with your own money. For example, if there’s talk of a stock market crash, you may want to change your investing strategy. Or if a family member needs to borrow money, you may be tempted to help them out even though you know giving to them would jeopardize your financial security. You also want to live a comfortable life during retirement, but you’re not sure if you’re on track. In situations like these, it’s nice to have someone you can go to for objective advice.

We’re Here for You

At Balboa Wealth Partners, we have our clients—and our clients only—in mind. We pride ourselves on transparency and avoiding biased advice whenever possible. We give our clients our undivided loyalty and are dedicated to helping them reach their financial objectives. 

Whether you have a specific financial concern or need help developing a solid financial plan, we’re here to guide you every step of the way. Give me a call at 949-445-1465 or email me at [email protected] to set up a complimentary get-acquainted meeting so we can see if we are a good fit! 

About Jeff

Jeff Gilbert is the founder and CEO of Balboa Wealth Partners, a holistic financial management firm dedicated to providing clients guidance today for tomorrow’s success. With nearly three decades of industry experience, he has worked as both an advisor and executive level manager, partnering with and serving a diverse range of clients. Specializing in serving high- and ultra-high-net-worth families, Jeff aims to help clients achieve their short-term and long-term goals and to worry less about their finances and more on their passions in life. Based in Orange County, he works with clients throughout Southern California, as well as Arizona, Oregon, and Washington. To learn more, connect with Jeff on LinkedIn or email [email protected]

Advisory services provided by Balboa Wealth Partners, Inc., an Investment Advisor registered with the SEC. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Balboa Wealth Partners and its Investment Advisor Representatives are properly licensed or exempt from registration.

Securities offered through Chalice Capital Partners, LLC, member FINRA, SIPC.

Balboa offers advisory services independent of Chalice. Neither firm is affiliated.