Do you really need a financial advisor?

Brian Barnes
Brian Barnes May 10, 2019
Illustration of a couple climbing a bar graph

It’s been nearly 27 years since the World Wide Web went live to the general public — that’s more than a quarter century of virtually unlimited, free information at our fingertips. In the years since, we’ve made even further technological strides, allowing information and innovative new tools to be increasingly accessible and available on-the-go.

So why — 27 years later — do we continue to rely so heavily on financial advisors? Especially when only 2 percent of Americans report they truly trust their advisor in the first place[1]. There tends to be this conception that while you can do it yourself, you’ll miss out on the expertise and time-saving benefits of financial advisors if you do.

But here’s the thing: “do it yourself” investing isn’t just a viable alternative when it comes to managing your money — it’s almost always the better alternative. Think of it like this…

When you begin your search for a financial advisor, you’ll almost universally receive one piece of advice: use a fiduciary. Why? Because fiduciaries are legally bound to put your needs before their own. But the reality is, that’s difficult to assess and more difficult to enforce[2]. Regardless of the rules, financial advisors still need to make money. And at the end of the day, the person who most understands and acts in accordance with your best interests is you.

Taking control of your own finances doesn’t just allow you to save money, it offers the opportunity to ensure your portfolio is completely tailored to your risk tolerances, preferences, and financial goals — because you know yourself better than anyone else, and because new technologies mean you don’t have to be an expert to do it.


Investment expertise is no longer walled off as it once was. It’s out there, and it’s free.

Twenty years ago, for example, the individual investor often turned to financial advisors to access best-in-class investment portfolios. Today, that information is both publicly available and distributed free of charge, accessible to all investors rather than only to those with large sums of capital.

You no longer need a financial advisor to invest in a passive portfolio that aligns with your risk tolerance. We offer that, and it’s free. You no longer need to meet a capital minimum to match the investment strategy of some of the world’s greatest investors. We offer these, and they’re free. You can rely on expertly curated portfolios or do your own research to build a portfolio entirely unique to you. We offer more than 6,000 stocks and ETFs, and hundreds of Model Portfolios for you to pick from, and they’re all free.

The bottom line? Don’t let industry jargon fool you into thinking that building wealth is more complicated than it is. With the right tools, you can manage your finances more efficiently and effectively than an advisor.

Time commitment

Financial advisors long touted another key advantage to using their services: they would take manual activities such as balancing off your plate to free up your time. But, once again, new financial technologies like M1 render this value proposition obsolete, automating traditionally time-consuming processes to make investing simple and convenient for everyone at lower costs or no costs. M1 rebalances your portfolio automatically, so your money intelligently flows into your investments in line with your target asset allocation. And since our intelligent automation takes humans out of the equation, this rebalancing can take place on a moment’s notice, without costing you a dime.

M1 also buys and sells securities on your behalf, so you won’t need to spend hours placing manual trades every time you rebalance or deposit money. This way, you maintain full control over where your money is invested without the time commitment. Simply select your investments and our intelligent automation takes care of the rest, so you enjoy the time-saving perk of financial advisors without the hefty price tag.

And at the end of the day, mobile investing platforms are available anytime, anywhere. Sure, you could give your financial advisor a call to check in on performance, but they’re probably too busy on the golf course with another client to take your call. With M1, monitoring your portfolio’s performance or making adjustments to your holdings is as quick and simple as the touch of a button.


Whether charging commissions, fees, hourly rates, or retainers, financial advisors can get very expensive very quickly. Even seemingly small fees can dramatically reduce your long-term returns. In fact, the Department of Labor reported even a 1 percent fee can slash your earnings by 28 percent over 35 years[3], stunting your ability to maximize wealth building potential or retirement savings.

Even if your investment horizon is significantly shorter than 35 years, that 1 percent fee constitutes a substantial portion of your returns. If your portfolio earns just 5 percent returns, for example, your advisor collects a whopping 20 percent. And while you sacrifice a significant chunk of your positive returns, you’re still the one taking on all the risk — and you’ll pay your advisor even when your portfolio tumbles.

More concerning still, costs are rarely transparent and often leave you in the dark as to where your money is going[4].

Certain fee structures may even place your best interests in direct opposition to that of your advisor. Commission-based advisors, in particular, may profit off churning your investments or pushing you toward certain products or services that may not align with your financial goals, such as funneling your money into expensive mutual funds when a low-cost ETF could offer the same benefits.

Meanwhile, automated alternatives keep your best interests at the forefront and offer lower-cost (or even no cost) alternatives for managing your money, making it difficult to justify funneling your money toward the opaque and potentially steep costs of hiring an advisor. After all, if you can do it better and do it for free, why wouldn’t you?

Find out how much you could save.

Don’t compromise.

In the past, individual investors either saved money by managing their own investments or paid for the expertise and convenience of a financial advisor.

That is no longer the case.

You shouldn’t have to choose between saving money and making better decisions for your financial future. And now you don’t.

With the tools and resources available to today’s investors, presiding over your own finances isn’t just a cheaper substitute for hiring a financial advisor. Taking control of your portfolio empowers you to get more from your money and equips you with the knowledge to continue to build wealth decades into the future.

You know your financial needs and goals better than anyone ever will. You have your best interest at heart — always and without a doubt. All the information you need is now at your fingertips, and as you continue to invest, you’ll learn more, care more, be better informed, and begin to enjoy the process.

So don’t compromise, and don’t rely on someone else to make the right decisions for your financial future. You can often reap even greater rewards when you invest for yourself.

  1. American Association of Individual Investors ↩︎
  2. Investment News ↩︎
  3. Department of Labor ↩︎
  4. U.S. News ↩︎