If you’ve spent much time on investment sites, you may have heard of Fisher Investments or at least its founder, Ken Fisher. The firm manages billions of assets under management for tens of thousands of clients. That makes it one of the largest independent wealth managers in the U.S.
Fisher Investments uses a fee-only financial planning model and every client is assigned a dedicated Investment Counselor. But in a day and age when an increasing number of investors are looking to robo advisor platforms to handle their wealth management, is Fisher Investments worth considering? Our full Fisher Investments review below can help you decide if its features are worth the fees it charges.
What Is Fisher Investments?
Founded in 1979, Fisher Investments is an independent, fiduciary money management firm. The company serves hundreds of thousands of high net worth individuals, as well as institutional clients across the world. “High net worth” is generally defined as individuals with a liquid net worth of at least $500,000.
The firm is based in Camas, Washington, with additional offices in California, and Texas. It currently offers its services to clients in several different countries across Europe, as well as Japan, Dubai, and Australia. According to its website, Fisher Investments has over $197 billion in assets under management.
Who Is Ken Fisher?
Ken Fisher is ranked #151 on the 2021 Forbes 400 list of Richest Americans, with a net worth of $6.4 billion.
Fisher was an investment columnist for Forbes magazine from 1984 to 2017. He has written 11 books, as well as research papers in the area of behavioral finance. And he currently writes for several publications including USA Today, Financial Times, Borsen in Denmark, DE Telegraaf in The Netherlands, and Focus Money in Germany.
In 2019, a viral tweet accused Fisher of making sexist jokes at the Tiburon CEO Summit. In the immediate aftermath, several pension fund managers added him to their watchlists. However, Fisher apologized for the crass comments and has since made progress towards rehabilitating his reputation in the investment community.
How Does Fisher Investments Work?
Fisher Investments manages every aspect of an individual’s investment portfolio. The Fisher team creates a tailored portfolio comprised of assets from the U.S. and international markets, including stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), cash and/or other securities.
You get to schedule a free consultation to see if Fisher Investments is right for you and to ask any questions you might have. Once Fisher Investments' team gets to know you and your goals, it puts together a custom portfolio and reviews every recommendation with you for approval.
The firm doesn't take custody of your investments. Instead, the accounts are titled in your name at a reputable third-party custodian like Charles Schwab or Fidelity where Fisher has discretionary control.
You're assigned a dedicated personal Investment Counselor, who will regularly review your individual situation with you and keep you advised of important developments related to your portfolio. This is the main reason to use Fisher Investments; it's a personalized service, not a cookie-cutter investing service.
How Your Portfolio Is Determined
Fisher Investments uses several factors to determine your personal portfolio, including your investment time horizon, investment objectives, cash flow requirements, outside assets (those that are not managed by Fisher), risk tolerance, outside income, capital gains situation, and any specific personal restrictions or customizations that you require.
Once that information has been determined, Fisher provides you with a personal portfolio recommendation. It reviews every single recommendation with you, and you don't have to include assets in your portfolio if you don't want to.
From there, the Investment Policy Committee (IPC) makes all strategic investment decisions for client portfolios. The IPC includes five individuals who collectively bring more than 130 years of investment experience to the table. Also know that Fisher Investments is an actively-managed investment service, which is much different from plopping money in index funds or using a passive robo-advisor.
Individual and joint accounts are the main focus. However, Fisher Investments can also work with personal equity plans, self-invested personal pensions, funded retirement benefits arrangements, trusts (including charitable trusts), corporate accounts, open-ended investment company accounts, and generic offshore investments.
Fisher Investments Fees and Pricing
Fisher Investments doesn't charge any commissions for trades. Instead, the firm charges an annual fee that is based on the size of your portfolio. The fee is between 1% and 1.5%, depending on the number of investments under management.
This makes Fisher Investments comparable to fees assessed by other non-robo-advisor investment management companies. However, this is well above fees typically charged by robo advisors. For example, Wealthfront and Betterment start their fees at just 0.25% to 0.30% of assets under management.
Other Fisher Investments Services
Fisher Investments' main service is its personalized portfolio management service. If you don't want a cookie-cutter portfolio and want to work with a investment counselor to build a custom portfolio, this is the service for you.
Additionally, Fisher Investments also offers numerous other planning services and financial tools like:
- General Financial Planning: Fisher Investments can help you analyze your cash flow and build a budget. It can also help with estate and tax planning.
- Annuity Assessment: Fisher Investments helps you evaluate your annuity, weighs the pros and cons, and helps you develop a better financial plan.
- Retirement Planning: Fisher Investments can help you set goals and learn how to generate retirement income. Its Counselors can also teach you how to invest during retirement and provide you with the resources and tools you need to stay on track. It also helps you figure out how to create retirement income if that's your goal.
- Education and Resources: Fisher Investments provides quarterly reports, seminars, workshops, videos, and free eBooks on investing.
- Calculators & Tools: Fisher Investments has several useful financial tools like a retirement calculator, 401(k) calculator, and in-depth financial guides on topics like retirement planning and dealing with market volatility.
- Exclusive Invites: Clients get invitations to participate in several types of exclusive events, including regional seminars, investment roundtables, and Fisher Friends gatherings.
- Mobile App: U.S. clients can access their accounts via the Android or iOS app.
Is Fisher Investments a Fiduciary?
Yes, Fisher Investments is a fiduciary. This means the company and its Investment Counselors are legally obligated to put your interests first. This isn't the case with every money manager out there or many online brokers. You also pay a straightforward annual fee with Fisher Investments, not commission-based fees, so Investment Counselors aren't incentivized to keep selling you different products or services.
Pros and Cons of Fisher Investments
If you have a high net worth and want a custom, actively managed portfolio, Fisher Investments is an excellent choice. The fees are similar to working with many financial advisors, but you also get the investing experience of Fisher Investments' team as a client.
That said, some alternatives might be better options if you want lower fees or to choose your own advisor.
Facet Wealth connects you with a dedicated Certified Financial Planner who works directly with you to help with services like retirement planning, asset management, tax planning, and even services like estate planning. The CFPs you work with are fiduciaries and can work with you to create a custom investment portfolio using your current brokerage account.
You have an introductory call with a Facet Wealth CFP that's similar to Fisher Investments, so you can feel out the service. If you decide to move forward, Facet Wealth charges $1,800 to $6,000 annually depending on the services you use, not assets under management. If you have a very large portfolio, this could actually save money versus using an investment advisor that charges fees based on assets under management.
The Paladin Registry is a free registry of registered financial advisors who are also fiduciaries. It's essentially a match-maker for financial advisors and clients who need assistance with wealth management. Advisors on the registry must have at least five years of experience and be either a Registered Investment Advisor or an Investment Advisor Representative.
The best part about Paladin Registry is that you don't pay any fees; advisors are the ones who pay fees to be part of the network. However, if you end up working with an advisor, you pay fees to that advisor based on their rates.
If you want lower fees than Fisher Investments and access to human financial advisors, Betterment could be for you. This leading robo-advisor only charges 0.25% annually on portfolios under $100,000 and 0.40% for portfolios above this amount. But clients with $100,000 or more get free access to Betterment's team of financial advisors.
Like other robo-advisors, Betterment keeps fees low by investing in a variety of low-cost ETFs and bonds. It builds portfolios to match your goals and risk tolerance, and you have plenty of portfolios to choose from, including ones that focus on socially responsible investing and ESG investing.
Is Fisher Investments Right for You?
Fisher Investments actively manages investment portfolios through different market environments. If you have no experience managing investments or lack the time, the company will handle the entire process for you.
You’ll also have the availability of a personal Investment Counselor. The Counselor will know your investment situation intimately and help you stay on track. You're free to talk with him or her at any time. There's no limit to your access.
There are no trading commissions charged by Fisher Investments but their advisory fees are higher than those charged by robo advisors and even some companies that offer access to human advisors, like Vanguard and Personal Capital. Still, the assets under management model used by Fisher Investments means that ultimately their free structure is aligned with your interests.