Financial Advisor Compensation

Some basic concepts and terms related to financial advisor compensation.

Financial advisors are compensated in various ways, each with its own advantages and disadvantages to both the advisor and the client. The choice of compensation structure for a financial advisor depends on various factors, including the client’s financial situation, investment goals, and comfort level with the advisor’s approach. It’s important for clients to understand the compensation structure thoroughly before engaging the services of a financial advisor to ensure alignment of interests and transparency in the fees charged.

In this structure, the advisor earns a commission for each investment product they sell to their clients. This compensation is typically a percentage of the amount invested or a flat fee per transaction. Commission-based advisors are incentivized to sell products that generate higher commissions, which may not always be the best fit for their clients’ long-term financial goals.

This method involves charging clients an annual fee based on a percentage of their invested assets, also known as assets under management (AUM). The fee typically ranges from 0.5% to 2%, depending on the advisor’s experience, the complexity of the client’s financial situation, and the size of their portfolio. Asset-based compensation aligns the advisor’s interests with those of their clients, as their earnings increase as the client’s portfolio grows.

A flat fee structure involves charging clients a fixed fee for specific services, such as creating a financial plan, managing investments, or providing ongoing advice. This method provides transparency and predictability in the advisor’s fees, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for clients with smaller portfolios.

Some advisors may use a hybrid compensation model, combining elements of commission-based and asset-based compensation. For instance, they may charge a flat fee for certain services and a percentage of AUM for investment management.


This structure combines a flat fee with an asset-based fee, typically for high-net-worth clients.

This method involves charging clients a percentage of their investment gains, but it is less common due to regulatory concerns and potential conflicts of interest.