Often, the people who would most benefit from the help and advice of financial planners are those who can least afford to pay for those services. A knowledgeable financial planner can help you create a plan to consolidate credit card debt, guide you through the process of setting up an HSA, show you how to save money by refinancing your student loans, and much more.
If you could use some financial advice but aren’t a high-net-worth individual (yet!) we can show you how to get cheap or free financial planning.
FPA Pro Bono Days
The Financial Planning Association (FPA) is a professional organization that helps people find ethical financial planners. As part of its efforts to educate people on the importance of financial planning and using a financial planner, members of the FPA offer pro bono days that offer access free financial advice.
FPA members provide free one-on-one help and group presentations on personal finance topics. These events are a great way to access a free financial advisor. Advisors are not allowed to pitch products or services, give out their business cards, or take down any information for future solicitation — the events are purely an effort to provide services to people who need but can’t afford them.
Each FPA chapter schedules its own pro bono days. You can find a chapter near you here.
Affordable One-on-One Financial Advice
For years, financial advisors have been targeting baby boomers. But more and more services are popping up that are aimed towards tech-savvy younger generations.
SmartPath pairs clients with financial advisors who provide personalized financial planning advice. Your coach can help you to stop living paycheck to paycheck so you can start saving money, pay off debt, save for a home, and plan for your children’s future education expenses.
You can speak to your coach through text messages, online chats, phone calls, and emails. SmartPath doesn’t offer free financial planning, but it does charge a reasonable flat fee of $39 per month. You’ll have an initial telephone call with your coach, and after that you can contact them as much as you need. Your coach will reach out at least once a month through email or text messages, depending on which method you prefer.
XY Planning Network
The XY Planning Network is comprised of fee-only financial advisors. Fee-only advisors are registered investment advisors with a fiduciary responsibility to their clients (meaning they are legally required to act in your best interest).
The advisors at XY Planning Network specialize in working with Generation X, Generation Y and millennial clients. Advisors can help clients set up a budget with the correct budgeting percentages, create an estate plan, develop a retirement plan, and provide investment advice.
Clients can opt to work with a local financial advisor, but all services are also offered virtually. That means clients can be matched with the advisor who best fits their needs and lifestyle, not just the geographically-closest advisor.
XY Planning Network advisors work on a fee-only basis and also offer the option of paying a monthly retainer for their services. Each advisor sets their own rates, which you can view on their profile on XY Planning Network’s site.
Facet Wealth’s CFPs® provide customized, one-on-one financial advice to their clients.
Facet Wealth charges a flat annual fee, ranging from $480 to $5,000, based on the complexity of a client’s needs. All meetings are held remotely via video chat or phone calls, and the customized financial blueprint created for each client can be tracked and managed online.
Which pricing tier your needs fit into is determined through a free consultation with a financial adviser. Those in the $480 tier will get help with things like managing cash flow, reviewing insurance needs, merging finances with a spouse, and buying a home.
At the $1,600 level, expect help with issues like how to optimize multiple investment accounts, basic estate planning, and education expenses planning.
The $5,000 level is for those with more complicated needs, such as business owners, those with real estate investments, and clients who need more complex estate plans.
Facet Wealth can be a real bargain for those seeking an investment advisor, or those who have more complex needs and a higher net-worth and want to avoid paying a financial advisor based on assets under management.
Robo-Advisors: Betterment, Wealthfront, and Personal Capital
Robo-advisors helped bring investing to the masses. Now they’re doing the same for financial planning.
Betterment is an online investment platform that offers automated investing, banking services, and investment advice. Betterment is one of the first and largest of the robo-advisors.
- The “Premium” plan offers unlimited phone access to a CFP® for a 0.40% fee of assets under management. In other words, if you have $100,000 managed on the platform, you’ll pay $400 per year for this service. Unfortunately, this is only available to those with at least $100,000 invested with Betterment.
- The “Getting Started” package is $199 and provides one 45-minute call with a CFP® to help set up and maximize your Betterment account (and make sure you’re properly utilizing Betterment’s features).
- The “Financial Checkup,” “College Planning,” “Marriage Planning,” and “Retirement Planning” packages are each $299 and include one 60-minute phone call with a CFP® to discuss your investment goals for these stages of life. These plans are great for those who need some guidance but prefer a “set it and forget it” approach to managing their investments.
Note that only the “Premium” plan requires a minimum investment of $100,000.
A really cool option is that any of these packages can be purchased as a gift. If you need a wedding or baby shower gift, the marriage and college packages would be a great (and unique) option.
Wealthfront offers automated investing, financial planning tools, credit lines to those with at least $100,000 in their account, and a high-interest savings account.
- Free automated financial planning tools. Download the Wealthfront mobile app, connect your financial accounts (i.e., bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc.), and receive personalized advice based on your financial information and third-party data.
- The “Path” program uses AI to provide instant answers to more than 100,000 financial questions, such as “Do I have enough saved for retirement,” “Can I afford to buy a home,” and “Can I take a year off from work to travel?”
Personal Capital lets users see all of their financial accounts in one place. It’s also a robo-advisor investing platform and provides financial advisors to those with accounts worth at least $100,000.
This service is not cheap, starting at 0.89% per year of assets under management.
- Personal Capital offers both online tools and dedicated financial advisors to help manage your finances.
- Offers free financial tools, including a retirement planner, investment checkup, budgeting help, a fee analyzer, and education planning.
- Accounts up to $200,000 can access a financial advisory team that is available by phone 24/7 that offers 401(k) advice, cash flow analysis, and priority services.
- Accounts between $200,000 and $1 million have access to two dedicated financial advisors, customizable portfolios, retirement planning, college savings planning, and advice on insurance, home buying, and stock options.
- Accounts over $1 million can access Priority CFPs®, private banking services, estate planning, and private equity investments.
I wrote a detailed review of Personal Capital, which you can read here.
Non-Profit Debt Relief Programs
Most of the options I’ve discussed so far are for people who could use some advice from a financial planner but, for the most part, have their finances under control. You may have some student loan or credit card debt, but you aren’t in dire straits or considering bankruptcy.
If you are in that situation, a non-profit debt relief program is a better option. These agencies can provide free or low-cost financial counseling that can pull you out of the tailspin while providing the kind of financial education you need to build a better financial future.
A legitimate debt relief program can provide intensive one-on-one advice and planning to help pay off debt, and can sometimes negotiate with your creditors to reduce your interest rates or the balance of the debts.
I emphasize the word “legitimate” because there are many predatory businesses trying to pass themselves off as legitimate debt relief programs. Debt relief companies are not legally permitted to collect a fee from you until they have successfully “renegotiated, settled, reduced, or otherwise altered the terms of at least one debt.”
They can collect a fee once you’ve made a payment to your creditors based on their debt relief plan. Some states set a cap on these fees, but the typical fee in states without a cap is 20% to 25%.
One way to find a legitimate program is to go through Debt.com, where you can find pre-screened non-profit debt relief programs across the U.S. (many of which offer credit counseling programs that can help you both pay down your debt and repair your credit score).
Local Options for Affordable Financial Planning
If you prefer to support a local business and would like an in-person meeting with a dedicated financial planner, these are some options that won’t break the bank.
Hourly Certified Financial Planner
Some CFPs® charge by the hour rather than a flat fee. It may not be affordable for those who need to lay out their entire financial picture and get help building a customized plan, but if you need some advice on a particular situation — like buying a home, merging finances or planning for college expenses — hourly CFPs® can be a good way to get personal financial planning help.
Certified Personal Finance Counselor
A Certified Personal Finance Counselor is not exactly the same thing as a CFP®, but they can provide a lot of the same advice at a lower rate. A CPF Counselor can help clients develop custom plans for their finances, including retirement and estate planning, investments, debt management, and budgeting.
If you could benefit from consistent, personalized financial advice but can’t afford a CFP®, a CPF Counselor is a great alternative.
Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University
Most of you are probably familiar with Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, his seven-step plan for taking control of your finances. But you may not know that he also created a nine-course series designed to teach you how to pay off debt, create a budget, and save money. The course is called Financial Peace University.
You can take the course in person in a group setting, or online. The classes are held once a week for nine weeks, and each session lasts about 90 minutes. Both the in-person and online courses cost the same: $129.99.
It’s a time commitment to attend the courses in person, but it does offer the benefit of accountability and support. Money is a taboo subject, and many people struggle alone, ashamed to reach out to family or friends for support. When you attend the course in person, everyone in that room is facing struggles similar to your own. It’s helpful to know that you’re not alone.
I don’t always agree with Dave Ramsey’s approach to personal finance — mostly when it comes to investing — but this course is a good value and offers sound advice if you’re struggling with getting out of debt, or have stress when it comes to handling money inside of a relationship.
Financial Planning: Not Just for the Rich
Not so long ago, people thought investing was something only rich people did. Thanks to companies like Vanguard and Betterment, that’s no longer true. Today, investing is accessible to anyone — even if you only have a few dollars to set aside every month.
The same is becoming true for financial planning, as the internet has opened it up to a much wider audience. Take advantage of the opportunity to improve your money management skills, establish a sound financial footing, and develop a plan to build wealth.
If you’re looking for ways to get cheap or free financial planning, you have more options than ever before.