Kip Tips


4 Sites for Customized Financial Advice

Cameron Huddleston

If you can't afford to hire a financial planner, you may be able to get the help you need online.



Financial planning isn't only for the wealthy. The rest of us need help from time to time choosing investments for our retirement accounts, figuring out how much insurance we need or picking the right college-savings account. The problem is that most financial advisers only accept clients with hundreds of thousands of dollars (to millions) in assets.

So what do you do if you only have a small pile of cash but need a little help managing it? The August issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine has tips for getting the advice you need when you don't fit the typical financial planning client profile (see Financial Planning for the Middle Class). Plus, the issue lists several resources online where you can get financial advice:

Garrett Planning Network can help you find a local adviser who will provide hourly advice on the phone or in person on an as-needed basis. The advisers have no minimum or net worth requirements and charge $180 to $240 per hour or $400 to $600 for two-hour planning sessions. The service is good for beginners, middle-income Americans and do-it-yourselfers to get investment and financial advice. It's appropriate for one-time engagements and recurring reviews with a local fee-only financial planner, who can help establish your financial plan and make investment recommendations.

My Financial Advice has financial planners who provide hourly advice by phone or online for $150 per hour (simple questions can be answered for less). The service is good for one-shot questions and second opinions. Select your topic, ranging from retirement planning and debt management and employee benefits, then choose a planner who is standing by to answer your question. You'll get a cost estimate before you commit, and the fee includes a financial checkup.

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Smart401k provides investment advice for funds in employer-based retirement plans, including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457 plans, the federal Thrift Savings Plan and SEP IRAs. It's good for long-term investors who don't have access to investment advice at work. For $200 per year, you get personalized recommendations based on the funds available in your retirement plan. You'll receive quarterly updates, and you can discuss your questions with experienced advisers over the phone or in live online chats. Group discounts are available if five or more employees from the same company sign up together.

Financial Engines provides online guidance for investors. It's good for do-it-yourself investors who want objective guidance and are comfortable with online communications. You can purchase personalized investment for all or your retirement accounts, including guidance on employee stock options, for $150 per year (comprehensive investment advice that includes non-retirement accounts is $300 per year.)

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