*Updated: February 2021*
I’ve found that this question isn’t as easy to answer as it should be.
As a result, I want to shine a spotlight on a few local financial advisors. In fact, I would trust all of these advisors with my own family’s money.
Financial advisors are best prepared to help their clients when the advisors specialize in one specific set of financial circumstances. I would love for my company, Illumint, to help everyone in D.C. who has financial questions. But I focus my research and analysis on the issues that impact Millennial couples. And there are plenty of people who don’t need — or want — a financial planner for Millennial couples. If you’re not focused on paying off student loans, investing your savings, catching up on retirement, or learning how to budget, you should find a financial advisor who can address your individual needs.
Even among the Millennial generation, though, some people may want the financial planning services they receive structured in a certain way. Illumint charges a flat, fixed fee that decreases when your questions and requests aren’t particularly complex or time-consuming. But others might prefer a company that charges a fee based on the percentage of assets that you invest with them. Similarly, Illumint holds virtual meetings in the evening so that people can focus on work and their family during the day. This schedule and meeting style may not work for everyone.
No matter the reason, I can tell pretty quickly when Illumint is not the best fit for someone based on their financial needs and circumstances. In these cases, I will gladly recommend another financial advisor in the Washington, D.C. area who I know.
After all, you wouldn’t ask to work with a pediatrician when you need a hip replacement, right?
We all know that Washington, D.C. is an expensive city, which is what prompts many of the financial questions that I hear. But D.C. also is a very vibrant place, and — thankfully, when you feel stuck with your money — I’ve found that the financial advisors who work here often reflect that characteristic. As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with my industry colleagues at conferences, local universities (Hoya Saxa!), networking events, and even my favorite neighborhood coffee shops (tell Matt at The Coffee Bar that I sent you).
I’ve reached a point at which I have full confidence that the group I’ll introduce you to below can get you on the right track with your personal finances. With that said, and in no particular order, please meet — in my opinion — the 9 best financial advisors in the Washington, D.C. area for this year (along with a brief overview from their respective websites):
“As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional with over a decade of experience, Rianka approaches financial planning with a strong emphasis on financial education and provides business owners, individuals, and families with the tools to make informed financial decisions. Rianka firmly believes individuals can make positive long-term decisions about their money if they understand their financial history, money culture, and the way those two things impact their lives.“
“We structure our family wealth advice around a wealth creation and preservation system called family governance. In part, family governance is an understanding that with growing wealth comes a growing sense of responsibility. Our business is helping clients implement family governance strategies along with the six comprehensive strategies of financial planning. If you respond to the idea of managing wealth responsibly; if developing a high-net-worth (and high–self-worth) family resonates with you, we should talk.”
“I am unusual in that I think that when tackling financial issues, it is critically important to consider emotional ones as well. Different clients have different concerns and anxieties. I try to help you identify what issues are in the background so that I can help you come up with sustainable solutions. It is rare to find someone who can help with financial topics who is also committed to feminism, economic equality, and other areas of justice and social change. If you happen to share these values or have other closely held ones, it is important to find someone who understands them and can help you apply them to these topics.”
“North Financial [is] a boutique financial planning firm that specializes in helping women dream big and get their personal finances on track. A lot of my clients aren’t entrepreneurs yet, but they want to be or at least know they don’t want to work at the same desk job forever. To give your dream the best chance of success, your personal finances need to be in order. However, with your busy personal and professional life, you probably don’t have time to wade through mountains of news and information to figure out what to do about your budget, investing, or retirement planning. This is where I can help.”
“My role as a financial planner is to help you use money in accordance with your values and priorities. The financial lives of the military are unique and the opportunities and challenges service members face are unique. I help clients determine what is best for them and accompany them through life as they achieve their dreams. In themselves, financial topics like investing, retirement planning, budgeting, and insurance can seem dull or even painful. The good news is these are the means and not the end.“
“I specialize in helping people make smart financial decisions for international moves and global living. Having lived in six countries in the past 10 years, in positions as diverse as foreign company employee, non-profit worker, dependent expat spouse, and location independent business owner, I have accumulated firsthand experience and created solutions to manage the multi-facet financial picture you are facing.”
“I founded Luminate Financial Planning because I am passionate about the power of planning and about helping you build a life based on what matters most to you. Financial planning is a mix of art and science. It’s how you can use money as a tool to build your own great life. I will work with you to simplify and take control of your financial life, then empower you to align your financial assets with your own values and goals.“
“Lamar Watson founded Dream Financial Planning to serve the needs of young professionals and minorities who typically don’t have access to fee-only and fiduciary financial planning. Lamar’s proprietary process, the DREAM Financial Planning Process™, is the culmination of 15+ years of industry insight and experience. Less than 30% of all CFPs nationwide are in their 20s and 30s. I use The DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help my clients save, grow, and protect their wealth. We operate as a virtual firm and offer evening and weekend meetings for our client’s convenience. Ask about our unique pricing structure that starts at $100 per month for young professionals. We don’t have asset minimums for our clients.“
“I founded Donalies Financial Planning, LLC with the goal of providing affordable fee-only financial planning services to anyone in need – not just people with millions of dollars. While we provide financial planning and investment advice to anyone, there are two types of clients with whom we work best: dual-income families, often with a combined income of $300K+, who don’t have the time, inclination, or knowledge to manage their finances; and individuals or couples who are ready to retire and who want help achieving financial goals, managing investments, and retirement distributions.”
(Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list of local financial planners. This list reflects my opinion and is not a testimonial or endorsement.)
I purposefully designed Illumint to operate differently than most financial planning companies, particularly the larger, more traditional firms. And I understand — for some people, it feels easier just to ask for financial advice from their bank or investment company. But the benefit of working with a CFP® at an independent financial planning firm (like those listed above) is that we have the flexibility to create the exact services that our generation needs.
Here’s how I’ve shaped Illumint to create a financial partner that meets Millennial couples exactly where they are in life:
The Washington, D.C. financial advisors that I highlighted above bring different backgrounds, perspectives, and services to financial planning. They work with different clients and specialize in different aspects of personal finance. Yet, they share certain attributes that you absolutely must require from any financial advisor with whom you work:
There’s certainly a chance that none of the D.C.-area financial advisors listed above offers the specific help that you seek. This isn’t an exhaustive list, so you may wish to continue your search elsewhere. If that’s the case, I encourage you to check out the following organizations. Their members meet many of the same strict standards as the financial advisors that I consider the “best of D.C.”
During your search, first scroll through each advisor’s website to get a feel for their style and messaging. Then read a few articles they’ve written and watch a few videos that they’ve made. Next, I would review their social media activity to better understand the finance conversations they’re engaged in. Finally, I would send any questions you have to the 2-3 financial advisors who seem like the best fit.
During your initial conversation with a financial advisor, you may not be sure what questions to ask. But don’t let that stop you from collecting the information you need to make an informed decision. To help, I spoke with the Huffington Post a few years ago about important questions to ask a financial advisor before hiring one. You may find the following articles helpful as well:
Ultimately, you likely won’t want to work with a financial planner who can’t answer these essential questions clearly, concisely, and confidently.
Some people who want financial advice may have lost a job or income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Others may need to allocate as much money as possible to paying off a large amount of debt. Financial planning is almost always valuable, but perhaps it’s not the best use of your money right now. You still deserve access to a professional who can answer your financial questions, though.
As an alternative, I encourage you to request pro bono financial advice. A national non-profit, the Foundation for Financial Planning, can connect you with this help. Financial advisors across the country regularly offer their services at no cost to those who truly can’t afford to pay.
I’ve proudly worked with the Foundation for Financial Planning’s partner organizations. I can attest to their important role in our profession. And Illumint continues to offer pro bono financial advice in certain situations. If you’re interested in this type of help, I welcome you to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No matter your circumstances, though, I wish you the best as you put together a financial plan that will help you to create the life you want.
Kevin Mahoney, CFP® is the founder & CEO of Illumint, a Washington, D.C.-based financial planning company for Millennial couples. He specializes in navigating the new financial decisions that arise during our late 20s and 30s, such as repaying student loans, buying a house, & investing savings. Kevin also works with employers and brands on a variety of Millennial personal finance events and projects, including speaking engagements, financial wellness programs, and sponsored campaigns.
Visit Kevin's YouTube channel for guidance on young couples' most common financial discussions, including student loans, housing, and preparing for kids.