I'm a CFP® who specializes in message-based financial guidance for Millennials just like you. And it's only $95.
Now that 2023 has arrived, I want to update for you my list of other financial advisors in Washington, DC who I would trust with my own money. You can also listen to my thoughts on Financially Well, the finance podcast for Millennials.
I hear this question often. But I’ve found that it isn’t as easy to answer as it should be.
I’ll briefly explain why, from my own perspective. And then I’ll share my list of the financial advisors in DC who I would trust to help my family use our money to live our ideal lives. These are the local individuals who I believe are the best financial advisors in Washington, DC.
Any financial advisor is best prepared to help their clients when that advisor specializes in one specific set of financial circumstances. I created my company, Illumint, to offer financial planning for Millennials specifically. I would love for Illumint to be able to help everyone in DC who has financial questions. Toward that end, I’ve worked hard to build Illumint into a company that Washingtonian named a “top financial advisor” and that Washington City Paper named “Best of D.C.” for money management services.
But I focus my research and analysis on the issues that impact Millennial parents specifically. Our clients typically are in growing families. They’re ready to build their wealth, including planning and saving for college. Plus, there are plenty of people who don’t need – or want – financial planning for Millennials. If you’re not focused on investing for retirement, saving for college, or paying off student loans, you should find a financial advisor in DC who can address your particular needs.
Some people, Millennial parents included, also may want their financial planning services structured in a certain way. In my work for Illumint, I’m a fee-only financial planner. I charge a flat, fixed fee that reflects the valuable guidance I provide for this stage in life. But others might prefer a company that charges a fee based on a percentage of the assets hat you invest with them (AUM, or assets under management). Similarly, Illumint has long held virtual meetings (even pre-pandemic!) so that my clients don’t lose time to work and family. This meeting style, however, may not appeal to everyone.
No matter the particular reason, I can tell pretty quickly when Illumint is not the best fit for someone based on their financial needs and circumstances. In such cases, I will gladly recommend a financial advisor in Washington, DC who I trust.
After all, you wouldn’t want to work with a pediatrician when you need a hip replacement, right?
We all know that Washington, D.C. is an expensive city. And the cost of living plays a large part in many of the financial questions I hear. But D.C. also is a very vibrant city. And I’ve found that the independent financial advisors who work here often reflect that characteristic. 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 (hi, Elle!).
I’ve reached a point at which I have full confidence that the group of independent financial advisors 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 Washington, DC for 2023 (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.”
“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.”
“My parents were small business owners, and I learned to balance a business checkbook by the age of 13. I spent more than a decade advising high-level executives of Fortune 500 companies while working for industry giants such as Bloomberg and Financial Executives International. I then took the leap to start my own business helping women and entrepreneurs plan for their futures.”
“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.”
“We help progressives build thoughtful, prosperous, impactful financial lives. By making smart financial decisions based on their values, clients can attain financial security, live lives they feel good about, and make the world better. Values Added focuses on meeting the needs of people who want a trusted advisor to help them as their lives evolve over time.”
“When I was a teacher and DC Public Schools staff member, I signed up with one of the salespeople pushing expensive 403(b) plans. When I learned I was set up to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary fees over the course of my career, my outrage fueled a passion to help other educators. Now I’m a Certified Financial Planner working with educators and government employees in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia.”
“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.”
“I created this business to help people like you feel more confident in their future, and to make better decisions regarding the resources that make up their personal wealth: time, human capital, & financial assets. My job is to empower you to use your wealth as a tool to realize life goals and reach your full potential.”
(Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list of local financial planners. This list reflects my opinion and is not a testimonial or endorsement.)
When you searched online for a financial advisor near you, you likely had to navigate ads and other search results that didn’t apply to your specific needs. But this isn’t always obvious.
For example, you may have come across appealing lists from Smart Advisor, Zoe Financial, or even “Google Screened” profiles. The reason for their high placement in search results, though, is that they all paid for the space.
From there, the options get better, but they remain imperfect. Washingtonian magazine offers a good selection of local DC financial advisors, but that list can rely too heavily on popularity. Yelp, meanwhile, can provide helpful reviews, but the list isn’t curated to include only fiduciary or fee-only financial advisors. And Smart Asset bases its “top 5” list exclusively on total “assets under management.” This outdated approach fails to include many innovative financial advisors in DC who work with Millennials and members of Gen Z.
So while the financial advisors that I highlight here may not encompass all of the great financial planners around Washington, DC, my thoughtful approach is more likely to lead you in the right direction than most online lists.
I purposefully designed Illumint to operate differently than most financial planning companies. I never wanted Illumint to look or feel like a large, more traditional firm. And I get it – for some people, it feels easier to just ask for financial advice from your bank or investment company. But there’s a unique benefit to working with a CFP® at an independent financial planning firm. With Illumint, I have the flexibility to create the exact services (such as 529 Plan guidance) that our target group (Millennial parents) truly needs.
Here’s how I’ve shaped Illumint to create a financial partner that meets Millennial parents exactly where they are in life:
1. The company’s focus reflects my own experiences in life. I founded Illumint in response to the challenging new financial decisions that my wife and I faced after we had our first child. Today, the company continues to grow as our family considers new financial questions and goals. For example, “How much money should we save for college?”
2. The financial plan that we develop for our clients is a living document. What good is a plan that sits in a drawer and never adjusts to reflect new life events? Financial planning, despite what you may have heard, isn’t about a piece of paper. It’s not about spreadsheets. It’s not about a lengthy report. Rather, Illumint aims to help you plan for aligning your money with what you value in life.
3. I’m proactive about trying to anticipate and understand how we will need to change our financial decisions based on external factors. What will our finances look like in the future? I can’t say for sure. But I’m constantly thinking about how to manage those parts of our financial lives, such as inflation, interest rates, and tax policy, that we ultimately can’t control.
The financial advisors in Washington, DC that I highlighted above bring different backgrounds, perspectives, and services to financial planning. They work with different clients. They specialize in different aspects of personal finance. Yet, they share certain attributes, which you absolutely must require from any financial advisor with whom you work:
1. They are all CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™. This is the highest standard in our industry, and you shouldn’t settle for anything less.
2. These financial advisors don’t sell products, such as insurance, to earn commissions from you. They are all fee-only financial advisors.
3. Each financial advisor here has signed a fiduciary oath. Unlike many financial advisors, they have committed to acting in your best interest 100% of the time. You can check out an example of a fiduciary oath here.
Still, there’s certainly a chance that none of the DC financial advisors listed above offers the specific help that you seek. This isn’t an exhaustive list, so you may want 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. Get a feel for their style and messaging. Then read a few articles they’ve written. Perhaps watch a few videos they’ve made. Next, I would review their social media activity. What type of financial conversations are they engaged in? Finally, I would send any questions you have to the 2 or 3 financial advisors who seem like the best fit.
During your initial conversation with a financial advisor, you may not be sure what additional questions to ask. But don’t let that stop you from collecting the information you need to make an informed decision. To help, I created my own list of the 8 best 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.
If you’re not close to retirement age, you often don’t need a professional to fully manage your investments. The “assets under management” (AUM) pricing that this engagement requires may cost you significantly over time.
Instead, you may opt for a fee-only financial advisor who charges a flat, fixed priced. Even under this arrangement, though, you’re likely to find different pricing options. Among these financial advisors, some will help you put together a financial strategy over the course of a year, charging between $5,000-$12,000 to do so. Others will work on a project basis, which may cost between $1,500-$7,000, depending on the complexity of your key financial question. And, occasionally, a financial advisor may work on an hourly basis for between $200-$600 per hour.
Yes! Hard to believe, right? But under certain challenging circumstances, you can see a financial advisor for free for a period of time.
Some people who want financial advice may have recently lost a job. Others may need to allocate as much money as possible to paying off a large amount of debt. A one-on-one financial planning engagement just may not be the best use of your resources right now. But you still deserve access to a professional who can answer your most critical questions.
As an alternative, I encourage you to request pro bono financial advice. A national non-profit organization, 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 very challenging situations. If you’re interested in this type of help, I welcome you to e-mail me at email@example.com.
Financial planning is almost always valuable. No matter how you choose to proceed, though, I encourage you to think of money as a tool for your life. The ultimate objective is not just to acquire as much wealth as possible. Rather, you want to make smart financial decisions so that you can actively use your money to live the life that you desire.
I wish you the best as you put together a financial plan that will help you to create the life you want in 2023.
Thanks for listening today. I encourage you to subscribe to this finance podcast for Millennials to learn about more ideas that you can apply to your personal finances in the months ahead.
[Editor’s note: this article reflects the transcript (which I’ve edited for clarity) of a recent Financially Well podcast episode.]
Hi, I’m Kevin. I’m a financial advisor in Washington, DC. I’m also the founder of Illumint, an independent financial planning company in the District that specializes in financial planning for Millennials like you. I empower our generation with the confidence to invest an inheritance, financial gift, or extra savings. If you’re new to Financially Well, welcome – you now have access to the leading finance podcast for Millennials. I encourage you to read, watch, or listen to the ideas I’ve shared about making your money work for you. And then when you’re ready, please send me your thoughts & questions!
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