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Are you looking for a financial planner in the DC – Northern Virginia – Montgomery County area? Entrusting someone with your finances is a big decision. But what do you do if there are so many options, or you’re not sure where to start? This article aims to take the guesswork out of your DC financial advisor search.
First and foremost, we significantly narrowed down the field by only considering fee-only financial planners who are required to act in your best interest.
A fee-only financial planner is a financial advisor who does not earn commissions and offers transparent pricing. Unlike other financial advisors, a fee-only financial planner is not incentivized to sell you insurance or annuities that may not be good for you. Fee-only financial planners act as a fiduciary, meaning they have sworn an oath to act in the client’s best interest. They’re like a doctor for your finances.
This criterion effectively filters out “financial advisors” who are not fiduciaries, like insurance or annuity agents.
The two websites we used to find fee-only financial planners were the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and XY Planning Network.
Second, only fee-only financial planners that have a CFP® designation made it into our list. The CFP® designation is the most well-recognized financial planning designation and requires extensive training and experience.
The other four criteria we used to find the best financial planners in Washington, DC were:
We added bonus points for fee-only DC financial planners who:
Unlike other rankings, we purposely excluded the amount of assets under management. We felt like the amount of assets a firm has does not have anything to do with the quality of their service.
We did the search as if District Capital did not exist, and we needed to find a financial planner for our loved ones.
All in all, we closely examined about 35 fee-only financial planning firms in the Washington, DC area.
Here are the results! They are arranged in no particular order. I included a blurb from their website and a brief note about their lead financial planner(s). Note that this is not an exhaustive list of local financial planners and it reflects my personal opinion per our criteria above.
“North Financial Advisors is a boutique financial planning firm with offices in Washington, DC (Metro Center) and San Diego, CA (Gaslamp) and serving clients virtually in between. We provide fixed fee financial planning advice with no minimums to women and those who are planning to start businesses.”
North Financial Advisors is run by Cady North, CFP®. I met Cady during a Financial Planning Day in the Northern Virginia/DC area, where many CFPs give free advice to the DC community.
“Pavlov Financial Planning believes providing smart, strategic financial advice for your complex and ever-changing life is a collaborative, continuous, and evolving process. Pavlov Financial Planning was born in 2010 to make complex financial decisions approachable. From the Founder to the current owner, we have always enjoyed working with people who see things from a global perspective.”
Hui-chin Chen, CFP® specializes in helping Americans working abroad and green card/visa holders working in the U.S. with their unique financial situations.
“I serve as an Independent, Fiduciary, Fee-Only advisor offering Financial Planning and Investment Management. I started Dream Financial Planning to help two communities that have typically been underserved by the financial planning community, young people and minorities.”
Lamar Watson, CFP® has been in the financial planning industry for 15+ years.
“Clarity Financial Planning provides fee-only comprehensive financial planning to busy middle- and upper-middle-income professionals, with a particular emphasis on creating a woman-friendly environment. The focus is on the process of integrating all aspects of a client’s financial life, sorting through the numbers and sorting out the noise, in order to chart a clearer path toward the desired goals.”
Claire Emory, CFA, CFP®, MA, MBA is the only financial planner in this list who has a CFP® and a CFA designation (aside from yours truly).
“Citrine Capital is a wealth management firm committed to helping business owners, entrepreneurs and tech professionals conserve and create wealth. We accomplish this by working with our clients to organize their finances, manage investments, define and prioritize goals, plan for major life events, reach financial independence, protect loved ones, and mitigate taxes.”
Citrine Capital is based in San Francisco, but one of their financial planners – Sefa Mawuli, CFP® is based in Washington, DC. One thing that stands out about Citrine is that their minimum fee ($8,000) is more than the maximum fee of most fee-only financial planners in DC!
“MainStreet Financial Planning, Inc., is a national fee-only, project-based, financial planning firm. There is no minimum of assets or income required to work with our financial planners, as we don’t manage investment accounts or sell financial products. Our entire focus is to help our clients build a path to Financial Independence.”
MainStreet Financial Planning has three advisors in their DC office: Anna Sergunina, CFP®, Liz Gillette, CFP® and James Ludwick, CFP®.
“Illumint offers fee-only financial planning specifically for young couples and families. The company’s founder & CEO, Kevin Mahoney, CFP®, helps his peers navigate stressful financial decisions such as repaying student loans, buying a house, and investing savings.”
Kevin works mainly with millennial couples, and his firm’s website contains a diverse set of clients.
“Our team provides ongoing wealth management and comprehensive financial planning services. We help our clients build, grow, and protect wealth with upfront planning, ongoing support, and accountability. We work with our clients 100% virtually.”
2050 Wealth Partners is a recent entity resulting from the merger of Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® of Your Greatest Contribution and Lazetta Rainey Braxton, MBA, CFP® of Financial Fountains.
“Entelechy is a flat fee-only financial life planning & investment management company. Our mission is to help people use money as a tool to realize life goals and reach their full potential. We call this integration of financial planning, investment management, and tax planning & preparation Financial Life Management, and charge one flat annual fee for this service that isn’t arbitrarily tied to the value of your investment portfolio or net worth.”
Ben Brown, CFP®, EA is the firm’s founder. In case you’re curious (I was), Entelechy describes the inner strength directing life and growth to become all one is capable of being.
“Our approach is one of balance: living, spending, saving, and investing comfortably. Whether you are considering military retirement, a career change, or simply want to live your best life now, we’ll help you create a plan that is true to you.”
Kathleen Cote, CFP® works mostly with military and government families.
Like the ten best financial planners in DC that made it into our top 10, District Capital is also a fiduciary and has CFP®, AFC® and ChFC® professionals on our team. We have a modern website and frequently give free financial tips through our written and video blogs. We believe in comprehensive financial planning and serve young and mid-career professionals in their 30s and 40s. We have been in business since 2013.
The three traits that make District Capital unique are:
1) Strong investment team. We have two CFA charterholders in our firm; the CFA designation is considered the gold standard in investing. Two of our co-founders manage a multi-million-dollar pension/foundation portfolio and meet regularly with investment analysts across the nation. Our ears are very close to the ground when it comes to investment opportunities and risks. We’re also well-versed in socially responsible investing funds.
2) We are a majority minority firm. More than half of our clients are minorities. This was recognized by the Financial Planning Association when it awarded our Managing Partner and Financial Planner Alvin Carlos the Financial Planning Association Retreat 2018 Diversity Scholarship. Many of our team members are military spouses, who have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation due to their highly mobile life.
3) Strong pro-bono culture. Our firm’s financial planners regularly volunteer giving free financial advice to low-income families. Our pro-bono offerings are published on our website. Our non-financial planning team members actively volunteer in their community.
Our pricing is competitive. We’re not the cheapest – we’re not willing to discount the value we provide. We’re not the most expensive – we have found an efficient and highly effective way of creating and delivering plans with the help of modern tech platforms and collective knowledge. Our mission is to provide top-notch personal financial planning advice in an affordable manner and meet people where they are.
There are 3 popular best financial advisor lists in the DC area.
The Washingtonian’s Best Financial Adviser in DC ranking is perhaps the most well-known one. Their list is produced by doing a survey to people working in the DC financial industry. While the Washingtonian is a highly regarded publication, there are three limitations to their survey:
One thing I noticed was the lack of diversity among their top 12 financial advisers.
SmartAsset also produces a top financial advisor in Washington, DC list. One major feature of this survey is its sole focus on the amount of assets under the firm’s management. Their list also only selects advisors that are registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This leaves out scores of other DC-based registered investment advisors that are registered not with the SEC but with the District of Columbia.
Lastly, Yelp has a list of best financial planners in the DC area, along with client reviews. While Yelp is my go-to review site for restaurants, Yelp customer reviews of financial advisors come with a big caveat. Washington, DC and many other states currently prohibit financial planners from asking clients to leave reviews and from publishing testimonials.
Based on our research, the cost of a fee-only financial planner in the DC area ranges all the way from $1,900 to $30,000 per year! Financial planning is a highly fragmented industry, so we expected to see a wide variation in fees.
The lower end of the range usually requires an upfront fee of $1,000 to $4,000. The median lowest price is about $3,100, and the median highest price is about $6,800. Fees are usually billed quarterly or monthly.
While asset-based pricing usually ranges from 0.50% to 1% of assets under management, most of the fee-only DC financial planners we looked at do not charge this way.
To save you time and energy, here is the fee schedule of the 10 best financial planners in DC according to our list, including how District Capital stacks up. We included the ten factors we used in developing the list.
Once you have identified two or three planners that resonate with you, set up a discovery call with them. This is typically free. During the exploratory call, you may want to ask the following four questions:
1) Are you a fiduciary?
2) How do you get paid?
3) What are your credentials & experience with my demographic?
4) Is it a good fit?
You’ll want to confirm that they are a fiduciary financial planner, so she or he will act in your best interest. You’ll want to work with a DC financial planner with transparent pricing and no commissions on products recommended. Look for financial planners with either a CFP®, AFC®, or ChFC® designation. They have undergone rigorous training. Ask about their typical client demographic, and whether they have encountered the goals and concerns you are sharing.
In the end, do you feel like you’re getting a good vibe from your conversation? Is the financial planner asking you relevant questions and expressing interest in your financial life? You’ll be sharing very personal information with this planner, which may even include sensitive topics like fertility and past major financial mistakes. So it is important that you feel comfortable working with this person.
For more details on the questions you should ask a financial advisor, watch our video on 4 Questions to Ask a Potential Financial Advisor.
Are you in your 30s or 40s, and feel it’s time to get a financial expert in your corner? Maybe you have decent income, and want to find a way to finally pay off your student loans and build wealth? Maybe you have a newborn child, and want to start saving for their college, while also being able to renovate your kitchen? Or maybe you just want to maximize your money, lower your taxes, and max out your 401(k) and IRA and begin contributing to a brokerage account?
District Capital is one of the fastest-growing local fee-only financial planning firms in Washington, DC. We can help you reach your life goals and be smarter with your money. You can receive top-notch advice from our diverse team of experts, all with well-recognized designations and well-versed with your financial situation. We will meet you where you are.