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How Much Money Is My Adviser Making Off Me?

Question: I have a financial adviser that I hired last year.  I am coming up on my one-year visit.  Is it appropriate to ask him how much money he’s making off of my account, and can I request a breakdown of how much I paid over the year for fund fees, etc. — the ones I never see? – Kathy

Answer: Of course, it’s appropriate to ask your financial adviser how much you’re paying him — as it would be with anyone you’ve hired to do a job —  and he should be able to give you a clear answer.

But before you ask, some background might help. Financial advisers are typically paid in one of three ways. Some  charge an annual fee based on a percentage of the money you’ve invested with them — usually between 1% and 1.5%, says Kelly Campbell, principal at Campbell Wealth Management in Alexandria, Va. This typically covers everything they do for you over the course of the year, from creating and tweaking your financial plan to buying and selling stocks, bonds and other investments for your portfolio. If your account is $1 million, you might pay your adviser $10,000 to $15,000.

Other advisers, typically those affiliated with an insurance company, make their money strictly off the commissions they earn by selling you funds, annuities and other products; they typically make 1% to 5% of the money invested in any given product, which is part of the total purchase price, says Lance Reid Scott, president of Bay Harbor Wealth Management in Baltimore. If an adviser purchased $10,000 worth of shares in a mutual fund, he might make $500 on the transaction.

And then there are many advisers who use a combination of the two — an annual fee, plus commissions for selling you certain products. Ask your adviser how you’ve been paying him, and for documentation of the charges for the past year. “Advisers should be 100% transparent in how they make money,” says Scott, and should be able to list and detail all fees and expenses charged to your account.

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    • The better question to ask is what am I paying in total costs (trading fees, fund expenses, M&E, riders, etc, while I think it is a good idea to ask your Advisor what they are getting paid, keep in mind that you dont know what their percent commission / fees are, is it 50%, 70%, 90% etc. Also, depending upon what your advisor has you invested in; there are alot of fees you are paying that they do not get compensated on. It is a good question and I would ask it, but it can be a hard one for a broker or advisor to answer.

    • go index and pay 0.25% in Vanguard….

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