Fisher Investments Review: Is Fisher Really a Fiduciary? (2024)

Outside of the biggest names such as BlackRock, Fidelity, Schwab and Vanguard, Fisher Investments is one of the most recognizable investment companies in the United States.

Fisher Investments offers full-service financial advisors to individuals with high net worth. The company markets itself frequently, so you may be curious to learn more.

Is Fisher Investments a fiduciary? How much does the company charge its clients? And what makes Fisher Investments different than other full-service financial advisors?

I’ll answer those questions and more in this article.

Table of Contents

  • What Is Fisher Investments?
  • Is Fisher Investments a Legit, Trustworthy Fiduciary?
  • How Much Does Fisher Investments Cost?
  • How Is Fisher Investments Different From Other Financial Advisors?
  • Should You Become a Fisher Investments Client?
  • FAQs About Fisher Investments

What Is Fisher Investments?

Fisher Investments is a full-service financial advisor.

Founded in 1979 by investing personality Ken Fisher, the majority of its business caters to high-net-worth individuals via financial advisors. The firm also offers 401(k) services for companies and institutional investing.

Fisher Investments offers services that are typical for a financial advisor, including financial planning, retirement planning and estate planning. But the company built its reputation on understanding the market and guiding its clients via a strong point of view on investing.

You need at least $500,000 to guarantee that Fisher Investments will accept you as a customer. However, the company does accept applications for those with at least $200,000 on a case-by-case basis.

What Is a Full-Service Financial Advisor?

Many people associate “financial advice” with investing. And although that’s an important part of your financial life, it’s far from the only component.

Other services that a typical financial advisor such as Fisher Investments offers include:

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  • Retirement planning
  • Tax strategy and planning
  • Estate planning
  • Debt management
  • Insurance strategy
  • Charitable giving planning
  • Small business planning
  • Cash flow analysis

There are also several ways that a financial advisor can get paid, including:

  • Annual fee expressed as a percentage of assets under management (AUM)
  • Flat hourly rate
  • Per-service basis

Some financial advisors get paid commissions to steer you into certain insurance products or investments. Many times these decisions line their pockets but are not in your best interest.

There’s a special class of financial advisors called fee-only fiduciaries. These advisors only get paid an annual percentage of the money you entrust to them. They have a legal obligation to do what’s in your best interests at all times.

It’s confusing because there are “fee-based” fiduciaries who still manage to legally earn money via commissions. But money expert Clark Howard wants you to only work with fee-only fiduciaries.

Is Fisher Investments a Legit, Trustworthy Fiduciary?

The most important filter to use when you’re evaluating any full-service financial advisor is whether your advisor is a fee-only fiduciary.

Back to Fisher Investments. Does this company offer legitimate fee-only fiduciary advisors to its clients? The answer is yes.

Fisher Investments operates under the AUM model. They charge an annual fee based on a percentage of your assets (more on that below). And they don’t make any extra money by putting you into certain investments or insurance products.

So, based on the most important filter you should apply to any financial advisor, Fisher Investments is trustworthy.

How Much Does Fisher Investments Cost?

Fisher Investments charges a progressive fee rate. Unlike the U.S. tax code, however, the more money you have, the cheaper it is. That’s typical of financial advisors.

Assets Under ManagementAnnual Fee
$200,000-$499,9991.5%
$500,000-$999,9991.25%
$1 million-$5 million1.125%
$5 million+1.00%

If you get accepted as a Fisher Investments client with less than $500,000 in assets, expect to pay 1.5% in annual fees.

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Remember that if you invest enough money to reach a less expensive tier, you’ll only get the discounted rate on subsequent dollars. In other words, if you invest $2 million, you’ll get charged 1.25% on your first million and 1.125% on your second million for an effective rate of 1.1875%.

You can’t get below 1% in annual fees at Fisher Investments even by putting in $10 million or more.

What Are the Typical Annual Fees for a Fee-Only Fiduciary?

The benchmark for a typical financial advisor is 1% of AUM in exchange for all services (not just portfolio management).

Although that number is widely accepted as a proxy for the standard rate, it often varies at least to a small degree depending on the company as well as the amount of money that they are managing for you.

Note that most financial advisors do not include the expense ratios of your investments in their fees. Fidelity is an exception (see below).

Keep in mind that each financial advisor offers a slightly different menu of services beyond investing. And that each advisor and company determine their own investment philosophy, so there can be differences.

Here’s a quick look at some fees from Clark’s three favorite investment companies for financial advisors just to give you an idea of what’s available in terms of market rates.

  • At Schwab, $1 million will unlock annual fees of 0.80%. That fee shrinks to 0.30% annually for any assets above $5 million.
  • Fidelity’s Wealth Management (requires $250,000) charges all-in costs of 0.50% to 1.50% per year (including expense ratios for investments). The company’s Private Wealth Management requires $2 million under management and at least $10 million in total assets. It charges 0.20% to 1.04% per year (also including expense ratios for investments).
  • Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Select requires $500,000 in assets but charges just 0.30% annually.

How Is Fisher Investments Different From Other Financial Advisors?

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the word “investments” is part of the company’s name.

Fisher Investments seems to offer an intense market focus. Its Investment Policy Committee offers written reviews, quarterly statements and bi-annual videos on its market outlook.

Other companies have well-educated and experienced staff focused on evaluating the macro economy as well as various market sectors. But Fisher Investments seems to derive much of its public identity from its investment decisions.

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When it comes to financial advisors, each client’s goals, circumstances, risk tolerance and timeline are different. So portfolios and market strategies can be highly individualized.

From the reports, it seems like Fisher Investments takes clear positions on the overall market. For example, they’re likely to have an opinion on how long excess inflation is going to last and how to position your investments to best capitalize on that view.

Again, it’s hard to evaluate the performance and returns of any full-service financial advisor. Because each individual client may have a totally customized and unique financial plan.

But it sure seems like Fisher Investments has a clear view of the market, where it’s headed in the future and why. And it seems like the company is willing to put real stakes on those beliefs.

In addition to publishing in-depth research about its market view each quarter, Fisher Investments also prefers investing in individual stocks rather than in funds.

That key tenet within Fisher Investment’s philosophy allows the firm more flexibility for reallocation and end-of-year tax-loss harvesting. Mutual funds, which the company avoids, also include tax disadvantages, lack personalization and charge expense ratios.

Should You Become a Fisher Investments Client?

Here are some characteristics that seem to define Fisher Investments:

  • Its fee structure is more expensive than some of the biggest players in the market, especially for those with millions of dollars in assets.
  • The company invests in individual stocks instead of mutual funds and ETFs. It does so for many reasons. But it may save you money on your net or all-in costs compared to other financial advisors due to a lack of expense ratios and potential tax savings.
  • Fisher Investments and its Investment Policy Committee are pretty public about their market research and viewpoints. The company doesn’t seem shy about holding strong views.

It’s hard to know how Fisher Investments allocates the portfolio of any individual client. But it seems like Fisher Investments is willing to attempt to outperform the market.

That may result in better or worse results vs. a financial advisor that isn’t attempting to beat the market.

Remember that investing is only one spoke on the wheel of what a full-service financial advisor offers to its clients.

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Let’s assume that Fisher Investments and the other financial advisors you’re considering are roughly equal on the rest of those services.

As a client, you’re betting that Fisher Investment’s fee schedule, which skews more expensive, is worth their combo of market expertise and money-saving investment strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fisher Investments

Here’s a look at some questions you may have about Fisher Investments.

What Happened With Ken Fisher in 2019 That Caused a Controversy?

Ken Fisher founded Fisher Investments in 1979 and remained CEO until 2016. He wrote an investing column for Forbes Magazine from 1984 to 2016, the longest-running column in the publication’s history. Fisher also has written 11 books on investing.

Fisher reportedly made some controversial comments in 2019, about three years after he stepped down as CEO. You can read about the controversy here.

What Are the Alternatives To Investing With a Full-Service Financial Advisor?

The key to determining the best investment option for you is to understand what you need.

Investment TypeTypical FeesMain AdvantagesMain Disadvantages
Self-ManagedCan be freeCheap and flexibleTakes confidence and at least some knowledge.
Robo-AdvisorLess than 0.40% netGreat if you only want help investing.No access to human help, no additional financial services.
Hybrid Advisor~0.40% to 0.60% netOffers some financial planning and coaching beyond investing.Not as cheap as a robo-advisor and not as full-service as a true financial advisor.
Fee-Only Fiduciary~1% + expense ratiosOffers financial help way beyond investing. Takes care of your every long-term need.Much more expensive. Many people don't need this level of service.

If you only need help investing, and nothing else, you probably don’t need a full-service financial advisor. You can get help investing, along with financial planning and wealth-tracking tools, from a robo-advisor such as Wealthfront or Betterment for much cheaper.

If you want temporary advice on a specific topic, you can find and hire a fee-only fiduciary from Garrett Planning Network at an hourly rate. Or you can do business with a hybrid advisor with one of Clark’s favorite investment companies, which will get you a basic level of financial planning and occasional coaching calls with a live human.

Clark says that most people are in the “accumulation phase” in their 20s, 30s and 40s and should focus on building assets rather than paying a full-service financial advisor. Most financial advisors require you to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to get started.

Remember, with a financial advisor, you’re paying for much more than just investing help.

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What Does Clark Value in a Financial Advisor?

The first thing Clark will tell you if you’re looking for a financial advisor is to find a fee-only fiduciary.

From there, he wants you to understand what you need — and what you don’t — when it comes to your overall financial picture.

“The main purpose of using a financial advisor is when you’re trying to see if you’re doing things right to meet your long-term financial goals,” Clark says.

“They’re talking to you about whether you have your will up to date. Is your planning done well from a tax standpoint? What are you doing in case you are in the 70% that ends up needing assisted living?

“With real financial planning, it’s not really about what investment you’re in. Where the real importance comes with a financial planner is the estate and tax planning and goal-setting.”

What Is Clark’s Strategy on Investing?

Clark’s No. 1 financial tenetis to live on less money than you make. If you’re doing that, you’ll have a chance to build real wealth over time.

He also wants you to build an emergency fund before you start investing. That way you have a financial cushion for the “oops” that happen in life.

Next, Clark says that you should take advantage of the tax benefits and potential for a company match with 401(k) accounts and IRAs. Preferably through the Roth version of those.

From there, he advises you to increase the amount of money that you’re investing over time.

Final Thoughts

Fisher Investments is a fee-only fiduciary that pays close attention to the stock market and isn’t afraid to take a real position.

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It also features high annual fees and lacks features such as banking services, trusts and robo-advisors that are offered by Clark’s favorites.

If you need a full-service financial advisor, look beyond marketing. Make sure you understand how the advisor or company you’re considering fits into the marketplace. And make sure you compare what you’re getting to what you want.

If those things align, and the advisor also is a fee-only fiduciary, you may have found a good fit.

I'm an expert in the field of personal finance and investment, having extensive knowledge about various investment companies and financial advisory services. My expertise is grounded in a deep understanding of investment strategies, fee structures, and fiduciary responsibilities.

Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the article about Fisher Investments:

Fisher Investments Overview:

  • Establishment: Founded in 1979 by Ken Fisher.
  • Client Focus: Primarily caters to high-net-worth individuals through financial advisors.
  • Services: Offers a range of financial services, including financial planning, retirement planning, and estate planning.
  • Minimum Investment: Requires a minimum investment of at least $500,000, with exceptions for applications starting from $200,000.

Full-Service Financial Advisor:

  • Definition: A financial advisor that provides comprehensive financial services beyond just investment advice.
  • Services Offered: Includes retirement planning, tax strategy, estate planning, debt management, insurance strategy, charitable giving planning, small business planning, and cash flow analysis.
  • Payment Models: Can be compensated through annual fees based on assets under management (AUM), flat hourly rates, or per-service basis.

Fee-Only Fiduciary:

  • Definition: Financial advisors who are compensated solely by a fee from their clients and have a legal obligation to act in the client's best interest.
  • Fisher Investments: Operates under the AUM model, charging an annual fee based on a percentage of assets.

Fisher Investments Fee Structure:

  • Progressive Fee Rate: Varies based on the amount of assets under management.
  • Tiered Structure: The more money invested, the lower the annual fee percentage.

Comparison with Other Financial Advisors:

  • Fee Comparison: Fisher Investments has a progressive fee structure, potentially higher than some competitors.
  • Investment Approach: Emphasizes investing in individual stocks rather than mutual funds, offering flexibility and potential cost savings.
  • Market Focus: Fisher Investments is known for its intense market focus and clear viewpoints on the market.

Evaluation of Fisher Investments:

  • Legitimacy as a Fiduciary: Fisher Investments is considered trustworthy as it operates as a fee-only fiduciary.
  • Costs: Higher annual fees compared to some major players in the market.
  • Investment Philosophy: Strong market focus with a clear view on market trends.
  • Individualized Approach: Portfolios and strategies may be highly individualized based on clients' goals and risk tolerance.

Clark Howard's Perspective:

  • Emphasis on Fee-Only Fiduciaries: Clark Howard recommends working with fee-only fiduciaries for transparency and client-centric services.
  • Financial Planning Importance: Highlights the significance of financial planning beyond just investment management.
  • Investment Strategy: Advocates living below one's means, building an emergency fund, and utilizing tax-advantaged investment accounts.

In conclusion, Fisher Investments, while a reputable fee-only fiduciary, stands out for its market-focused approach and individualized strategies. However, potential clients should carefully consider the fee structure and compare services to ensure alignment with their financial goals.

Fisher Investments Review: Is Fisher Really a Fiduciary? (2024)
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