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Review of Voya Investment Management

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Voya Investment Management is a New York-based registered investment advisor that manages investments for institutions and individual clients. With 206 investment advisors, Voya Investment Management covers a wide range of investment strategies, including equity, fixed income, real estate and hard currency.

All information included in this review is accurate as of March 18, 2020. For more information, please consult the Voya Investment Management website.

Assets under management: $108,248,624,160
Minimum investment: $1,000, no minimum on some investment types
Fee structure: Assets under management
Headquarters location: 230 Park Ave New York, NY 10169

Overview of Voya Investment Management

Voya Investment Management got its start in 1972 when it was known as Aetna Capital Management. For many years the firm was a subsidiary of Amsterdam-based ING Holdings. But when ING began divesting its U.S. retirement, investment and insurance business in 2013, the firm rebranded to Voya, an abstract name meant to evoke the image of a “voyage.”

Today, Voya Investment Management Co. LLC is a registered investment advisor and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Voya Holdings, which is in turn a wholly-owned subsidiary of Voya Financial Inc. (VOYA), a publicly traded company.

What types of clients does Voya Investment Management serve?

Voya Investment Management largely caters to institutional clients in its role as an advisor and sub-advisor. The firm manages the investments of other investment companies. In addition, Voya provides investment management directly to state and municipal governments, insurance companies, corporations, pensions, charitable organizations and banks and thrift institutions. Only about 2% of the amount of assets Voya manages is on behalf of individual investors.

Voya primarily charges a percentage of assets under management, though the firm also charges performance-based fees in some instances.

For institutional clients, Voya’s minimum ranges from $25 million to $100 million. Investors in R share classes, available through qualified retirement accounts, have no investment minimum. When it comes to mutual funds for individual investors, Voya typically has a $1,000 minimum.

Services offered by Voya Investment Management

For individual investors, Voya has a lineup of over 40 mutual funds covering such diverse asset classes as equities, infrastructure, real estate, hard currency and bonds. In addition, the company maintains a roster of target-date funds whose end dates range from 2020 to 2060 in five-year increments.

Alongside traditional mutual funds, many of these strategies also come in 40 variable portfolios that are available exclusively within variable annuity contracts.

Voya also provides portfolio management services to investment companies, small businesses, pooled investment vehicles, large businesses, selection of other advisors including private mutual fund managers and publications and newsletters.

For individual investors, Voya provides the following services:

  • Portfolio management
  • Selection of portfolio managers
  • Wrap programs
  • Publications of newsletters

How Voya Investment Management invests your money

Voya runs a number of index funds and strategies. For actively-managed strategies, Voya seeks to uncover value before the rest of the market. Voya uses the insights of its analysts for fundamental research into these hidden opportunities.

In addition, Voya has a number of equal-weighted funds. Unlike market-weighted portfolios, the strategy most index funds follow, equal-weighted funds allocate the same amount of assets to each name in the portfolio. The strategy is intended to minimize concentration in the market’s largest companies. Voya’s Corporate Leaders 100 and Global Perspective are two funds that employ this strategy.

In fixed income, Voya applies a macro view alongside bottom up security selection. In addition, Voya applies environmental, social and governance factors in its security selection when the managers believe it’s appropriate.

Portfolio/Fund Name Investment Strategy
Voya CBRE Global Infrastructure Infrastructure
Voya Corporate Leaders 100 Large Blend
Voya Diversified Emerging Markets Debt Emerging Markets Bond
Voya Emerging Markets Hard Currency Debt Emerging Markets Bond
Voya Floating Rate Bank Loan
Voya GNMA Income Intermediate Government
Voya Global Bond World Bond
Voya Global Corporate Leaders World Large Stock
Voya Global Diversified Payment World Allocation
Voya Global Equity Dividend World Large Stock
Voya Global Equity World Large Stock
Voya Global Multi-Asset World Allocation
Voya Global Perspectives Fund World Allocation
Voya Global Real Estate Global Real Estate
Voya High Yield Bond High Yield Bond
Voya Intermediate Bond Intermediate Core-Plus Bond
Voya International High Dividend Low Volatility Foreign Large Value
Voya Investment Grade Credit Corporate Bond
Voya Large-Cap Growth Large Growth
Voya Large Cap Value Large Value
Voya MidCap Opportunities Mid-Cap Growth
Voya Mid Cap Research Enhanced Index Mid-Cap Blend
Voya Multi-Manager Emerging Markets Equity Diversified Emerging Markets
Voya Multi-Manager International Small Cap Foreign Small/Mid Blend
Voya Real Estate Real Estate
Voya Russia Miscellaneous Region
Voya SMID Cap Growth Mid-Cap Growth
Voya Securitized Credit Multisector Bond
Voya Short Term Bond Short-Term Bond
Voya SmallCap Opportunities Small Growth
Voya Small Company Small Blend
Voya Strategic Income Opportunities Nontraditional Bond
Voya Target In-Retirement Target-Date Retirement
Voya Target Retirement 2020 Target-Date 2020
Voya Target Retirement 2025 Target-Date 2025
Voya Target Retirement 2030 Target-Date 2030
Voya Target Retirement 2035 Target-Date 2035
Voya Target Retirement 2040 Target-Date 2040
Voya Target Retirement 2045 Target-Date 2045
Voya Target Retirement 2050 Target-Date 2050
Voya Target Retirement 2055 Target-Date 2060
Voya U.S. High Dividend Low Volatility Large Value

Fees Voya Investment Management charges for its services

Typically, Voya Investment Management charges a percentage of AUM to manage clients’ money, though sometimes Voya has other billing arrangements in place.

For individual investors in Voya’s mutual funds, fees range from around 0.50% for the target date funds to 2.00% for the Voya Russia Fund. In addition, the A shares of the firm’s funds levy a 5.75% maximum upfront commission. However, investors can have the front-end load amount reduced with higher deposit amounts.

In addition, Voya also provides wrap program services to broker-dealers. If Voya is selected to be the investment, clients will pay one fee to their broker-dealer for Voya’s service and Voya bills the broker-dealer. In those cases, Voya charges less to the broker-dealer for its services than it would normally charge. However, clients may pay more than going to Voya directly.

Equity Funds Class A Shares Commissions
Total balance Fee
Up to $49,999 5.75%
$50,000-99,999 4.50%
$1 million-249,999 3.50%
$250,000-$499,999 2.50%
$500,000-999,999 2.00%
Over $1 million 0.25%-0.35% 12b-1 fees and 0.25% tail fee for 13 months
Fixed Income Funds Class A Shares Commissions
Total balance Fee
Up to $100,000 2.50%
$100,000-$499,999 2.00%
Over $500,000 N/A

Voya Investment Management’s highlights

  • Covers all bases: Voya’s investment lineup is exhaustive. In addition to typical asset classes, such as equities and fixed income, Voya also has offerings in alternative investments like real estate, global real estate, hard currency and Russian companies. Sophisticated investors who want exposure to these niche areas will be able to complete their portfolios, however, they might be assuming additional risk.
  • High customization: In separately managed accounts, Voya will tailor investments to the individual needs of its clients, such as excluding certain industries and securities if clients have an objection or emphasizing environmental, social and governance factors for those who prioritize that in their investments.
  • Best place to work: Over the years, Voya Investment Management has landed on several lists as a best place to work. For example, in 2019, the firm made it to Pension & Investment Magazine’s “Best Places to Work in Money Management” for the fifth consecutive year. In 2018, the firm was recognized as a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” by the American Association of People with Disability and the U.S. Business Leadership Network.
  • Low fees: While the gross expense ratio of Voya’s mutual funds seem high, the firm has contractually agreed to waive certain fees. As a result, many of Voya’s mutual fund fees are classified as either “below average” or “low” by Morningstar, the fund research company. On the other hand, A shares of the funds carry a 5.75% upfront commission.

Voya Investment Management’s downsides

  • Few offerings for individual investors: Voya Investment Management’s services are limited to investment management and don’t include financial planning. Further, its focus on institutional investors and high net worth clients mean that individuals who want to invest in Voya funds will first need to find a financial advisor (and pay a commission) to help them invest.
  • Collects performance fees: Voya’s use of performance fees could potentially push portfolio managers to take on additional risk in an effort to boost performance.
  • Potential conflicts of interest: Some Voya Investment Management employees are also registered representatives of Voya Investment Distributors and can receive a commission for the sale of investments managed by Voya. This creates an inherent conflict of interest since these representatives receive financial remuneration for their recommendations.
  • Could be on the auction block: Voya Financial, the parent company of Voya Investment Management, held talks to sell itself in late 2019 with several big insurance companies. Though the talks didn’t result in a sale, there’s speculation that the firm could be on the market with private equity companies in the mix of potential buyers. A sale could result in some disruption for investors as the company transitions from one owner to another.

Voya Investment Management disciplinary disclosures

In 2013, two directors of ING Pomona Private Equity, a closed-end fund of funds and a Voya affiliate, organized in Luxembourg, ran afoul of Luxembourg securities regulation when they failed to file the annual financial statement in a timely manner with the Luxembourg Commission de Surveillance du Sector Financier. The fund received a fine of 2,000 euros. The directors argued that they are not engaged in day-to-day fund activities such as filing annual statements. What’s more, since the fund is a fund-of-funds, it must first receive financial statements from the underlying portfolios in order to file its own annual statement. Besides the monetary fine, there were no other actions taken.

Voya Investment Management onboarding process

To access one of the Voya funds or strategies you’ll need to go through an intermediary, whether that’s a financial advisor or a retirement plan at work. You can get a prospectus for a Voya Investment Management fund by calling 800-992-0180.

Is Voya Investment Management right for you?

Voya has a wide range of investment options that can be the backbone of most people’s investment portfolios. It’s suite of below average and low-fee funds (after sales charges) speak favorably of the line.

However, because Voya’s primary business is institutional, individual investors can only access Voya’s investment strategies through an intermediary such as a financial advisor or in a workplace retirement plan. Advisors who sell Voya funds collect an upfront commission, giving them a financial incentive to do so. Investors need to weigh whether the added cost, plus the potential conflict of interest, are worth it.

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Review of Wetherby Asset Management

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Wetherby Asset Management is a San Francisco-based registered investment advisor (RIA) with an additional office in New York City. Catering to high net worth clients with at least $10 million to invest, the firm’s 40 financial advisors provide service to 500-plus clients and oversee roughly $4.85 billion in assets under management (AUM).

Along with traditional investment management, Wetherby also advises clients on impact investments across nearly every asset class. The firm also offers a full range of financial planning services.

All information included in this profile is accurate as of March 20th, 2020. For more information, please consult Wetherby Asset Management’s website.

Assets under management: $4,851,933,986
Minimum investment: $10 million (exceptions made on a case-by-case basis)
Fee structure: 0.15% to 1.00% of AUM; hourly fees; fixed fees; negotiated fees; contingent fees
Headquarters: 580 California Street
Eighth Floor
San Francisco, California 94104
(415) 399-9159

Overview of Wetherby Asset Management

Wetherby Asset Management was founded in 1990 by Deb Wetherby, a former broker in Morgan Stanley’s private client division. Prior to that, Wetherby worked in the auditing and consulting department of Price Waterhouse, the accounting firm. In founding her RIA, Wetherby’s goal was to marry the investing know-how of Wall Street with the personalized service and objectivity of accounting.

Today, Wetherby Asset Management is privately held. Wetherby, who is the firm’s CEO and a wealth manager, owns between 10% and 25% of the firm. The remainder is distributed among 23 other shareholders, only four of whom are non-employees.

The firm generally requires its wealth managers to hold an advanced degree or professional license. Its current team includes a number of chartered financial analysts (CFA), certified financial planners (CFP) and certified private wealth advisors (CPWA).

Which types of clients does Wetherby Asset Management serve?

The vast majority of Wetherby’s clients are high net worth individuals, though the firm works with a limited number of individual investors who are not high net worth. For reference, the SEC defines high net worth individuals as those with at least $750,000 under management or a net worth of at least $1.5 million. In addition to individual investors, Wetherby manages money for charitable organizations, corporations, pooled investment vehicles and state and municipal government entities.

With a $10 million minimum, however, Wetherby caters almost exclusively to high net worth and ultra high net worth clients. In some instances, Wetherby will lower its minimum requirements. Still, clients at the top end of the asset level enjoy low fees and a high level of customization.

Services offered by Wetherby Asset Management

Wetherby Asset Management provides investment management services to all of its client types. Clients typically work with Wetherby under one or more of the following arrangements:

  • Discretionary: Wetherby has the discretion and authority to invest and place trades in client accounts according to a client’s established objectives and guidelines.
  • Non-discretionary: Wetherby provides investment guidance but does not have the authority to place trade in client accounts without prior approval.
  • Consulting: Wetherby provides investment advice as needed based upon a mutual agreement, but clients execute trades on their own.

Wetherby’s services also include an impact investing capability, which is the practice of investing in companies, organizations and funds with the intention of generating positive social and environmental change along with financial return.

In addition to investment management, Wetherby also offers its clients a wide range of financial planning services. These services are provided as needed, and clients may or may not incur additional fees for financial planning.

Here is a complete list of services currently offered by Wetherby Asset Management:

  • Investment management
    • Impact investing
  • Financial planning:
    • Financial statement preparation and analysis
    • Income tax planning guidance
    • Risk management/insurance analysis
    • Retirement planning
    • Estate planning
    • Education planning
    • Philanthropic planning
    • Intergenerational wealth transfer
    • Equity ownership and stock option advice

How Wetherby Asset Management invests your money

Wetherby Asset Management invests client money with the dual goals of growth and downside protection. The firm develops an investment policy for each client that takes into account each client’s needs and goals, as well as the current economic and market conditions.

Wetherby’s investment approach is long term, with advisors looking out at least a year, though changing market conditions could cause Wetherby to sell securities more quickly. The firm diversifies its investments across asset classes and among multiple money managers. To execute its investment strategy, Wetherby primarily uses actively managed funds, though it includes passively managed funds in client portfolios to reduce fees and taxes.

Clients have the ability to customize their portfolios with Wetherby. That being said, client assets are generally invested in open-end, no-load mutual funds and other pooled investment vehicles. In some cases, investments are made in individual equities, fixed-income securities, exchange-traded funds or closed-end mutual funds. Some clients may have assets invested in private investment funds or other separate account vehicles or strategies managed by outside advisors.

In addition, Wetherby clients have access to private fund offerings through LRHF II Holding Company, which is owned and managed by Wetherby Asset Management. Wetherby also has an impacting investing capability for clients who want it. With this service, the firm reviews the social and environmental challenges that clients want to address and then finds appropriate investments to meet those goals.

Fees Wetherby Asset Management charges for its services

Wetherby charges clients based on a percentage of assets under management for its discretionary investment management services. There different fee schedules for clients with portfolios under $10 million and portfolios over $10 million, with rates generally declining the more assets a client has invested. However, the firm’s rates are negotiable and may be lowered for charitable organizations or employees’ family members and friends.

Fee Schedule for Portfolios Under $10 Million
Assets Under Management Annual Rate
First $3 million 1.00%
Amounts over $3 million and up to $9 million 0.75%
Amounts over $9 million and up to $10 million 0.00%
Fee Schedule for Portfolios Over $10 Million
Assets Under Management Annual Rate
First $10 million 0.75%
Amounts over $10 million and up to $40 million 0.55%
Amounts over $40 million and up to $80 million 0.25%
Amounts over $80 million 0.15%

In addition to the fees charged by Wetherby, clients may be responsible for some trading fees, such as when investing in private placements. Clients will also incur expenses for investing in mutual funds and other pooled accounts. Further, clients who use the services of LRHF will be charged an additional fee.

Whetherby’s fee may also include a negotiated fee in which clients contribute a portion of their negotiated fee into Wethreby’s Donor Advised Fund.

In some circumstances, Wetherby may negotiate with another investment advisor on behalf of a client for a reduced fee. For this service, Wetherby fees may include a contingent fee, which is charged based on a percentage of the client’s savings.

For the firm’s non-discretionary asset management and consulting services, clients may be charged either a fixed or hourly fee, with the rate varying based on the complexity of the client’s situation.

Wetherby Asset Management’s highlights

  • Low fees (for big investors): Those with more than $80 million to invest can enjoy rock bottom fees of 0.15%. A sampling of investment advisory fees in 2019 by AdvisoryHQ shows that the average rate for assets over $30 million is 0.59% a year, which is significantly higher than Wetherby’s rate.
  • High level of customization: With just under 550 clients, Wetherby has 40 investment advisors on staff. The firm allows clients, including those who request impact investing, to place certain restrictions on the types of investments in their portfolios. Additionally, Wetherby will provide consultation and oversight to assets not held at the firm for no additional charge, unless asked to provide reporting or additional research on the assets.
  • Awards and accolades: Wetherby has frequently earned top rankings over the years. The firm’s founder, Deb Wetherby, landed the No. 5 slot on Forbes’ list of the Top 50 Best-In-State Wealth Advisors in 2020; No. 122 on Forbes’ list of America’s Top Wealth Advisors in 2019; and No. 19 on the magazine’s list of America’s Top Women Advisors in 2019. Other awards the firm has won include two entries on the list of the 2018 Top Wealth Advisor Moms by Working Mother magazine and appearances on B Lab’s lists of the Best for the World for Changemakers, Workers, Customers and Governance in 2019.

Wetherby Asset Management’s downsides

  • High account minimum: Wetherby’s high investment minimum requirement of $10 million makes its services out of reach for many investors. However, the firm will waive this minimum on a case-by-case basis, and it does currently serve just under 50 individuals who do not meet the SEC’s definition of high net worth individuals.
  • Small geographic footprint: With just two offices, Wetherby has a limited geographic reach. If you aren’t located in San Francisco or New York, it will be challenging to meet with your advisor in person, though the firm is registered in a number of other states if you’re open to working remotely with your advisor.
  • Potential conflict of interest: Debra Wetherby and two other owners of the firm also own minority ownership interests in a savings and loan holding company called National Advisors Trust Company (NATC). The firm intends to refer clients to NATC for trust and custodial services, contending that NATC provides these services for less than competitors. While the firm states in its Form ADV that it “will only recommend NATC to its clients when it is in the best interest of its clients,” this outside interest does present a potential conflict of interest as advisors may have an incentive to give the company additional work, thus referring its clients.

Wetherby Asset Management disciplinary disclosures

Wetherby has no disciplinary disclosures listed in its Form ADV. SEC-registered firms are required to provide prompt disclosures of any legal or disciplinary actions in their Form ADV to help current and prospective clients evaluate the firm. The type of legal and disciplinary events that must be disclosed include criminal and civil actions; administrative proceedings before a federal regulatory agency; and proceedings before a self-regulatory organization.

Wetherby Asset Management onboarding process

Prospective clients can contact Wetherby by filling out a form on its website, emailing the firm at [email protected] or calling (415) 399-9159.

Once clients choose to work with the firm, they will attend an official kickoff meeting during which advisors will get to understand the client’s goals and risk tolerance to create a suitable portfolio. The firm continually monitors clients’ investments and will make adjustments as necessary as a client’s goals and objectives change over time.

Clients have five business days after signing on with Wetherby to rescind the contract (though they will be required to settle transactions that Wetherby began on their behalf).

Is Wetherby Asset Management right for you?

For high net worth investors, Wetherby Asset Management offers a customizable investment management experience. Additionally, the firm’s requirement that wealth managers hold professional licenses and its clean disciplinary record can provide assurances to investors that they’ll be taken care of. What’s more, Wetherby’s emphasis on impact investing gives investors an option to participate in an increasingly popular investment style. However, the firm’s high account minimums leave out all but the very wealthy who are based near the firm’s offices in San Francisco and New York City from getting advice there.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Review of Buckingham Strategic Wealth

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth, LLC is a registered investment advisor (RIA) firm based in St. Louis with satellite offices in an additional 34 locations throughout the United States. With 210 investment advisors on staff, Buckingham provides comprehensive financial planning to its clients as well as investment management services.

In addition to serving individual investors, Buckingham also advises retirement plan sponsors, charitable organizations and foundations. The firm currently has more than $15.5 billion in assets under management (AUM).

All information included in this profile is accurate as of March 5, 2020. For more information, please consult Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s website.

Assets under management: $15,523,330,180
Minimum investment: $500,000
Fee structure: Percentage of AUM, ranging from 0.35% to 1.25%; hourly fees; fixed fees
Headquarters: 8182 Maryland Avenue
Suite 500
St. Louis, MO 63105
(314) 725-0455

Overview of Buckingham Strategic Wealth

Buckingham Strategic Wealth was founded in 1994 by Bert Schweizer and Stuart Zimmerman, both accountants who wanted to provide clients with a better financial advisory experience than they believed they were getting from their existing advisors. Paul Forman and Steve Funk joined them as co-founders. Of the founders, Schweitzer remains at the firm as a client experience advisor.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Focus Operating LLC, which is in turn wholly owned by Focus Financial Partners, a Nasdaq-traded company that owns several RIA firms. The firm is headquartered in St. Louis and it has branch offices in an additional 34 locations, including in Houston, Miami and Denver. Buckhingham has 448 employees on staff, including 210 who perform investment advisory functions.

What types of clients does Buckingham Strategic Wealth serve?

Buckingham Strategic Wealth primarily serves individuals and high net worth individuals. For reference, the SEC defines high net worth individuals as those with at least $750,000 in assets under management or a net worth exceeding $1.5 million. In particular, the firm specializes in serving dental practice owners. Aside from individual investors, the firm’s advisors also manage money for pension and profit-sharing plans, charitable organizations and corporations.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth has a $500,000 investment minimum. However, the firm may make exceptions for clients with smaller account sizes, particularly if they have family relations of clients with higher account balances.

Services offered by Buckingham Strategic Wealth

Buckingham is a full-service wealth management firm that offers a large menu of services. When Buckingham begins working with a client, the firm determines the client’s goals and objectives, which are set forth in a written investment policy statement. Buckingham then builds an investment portfolio that helps clients meet their objectives, risk tolerance and required rate of return. Buckingham regularly monitors client portfolios to ensure that they continue to meet their defined objectives.

As a complement to its investment advisory service, Buckingham provides financial planning advice to help clients integrate their personal and professional lives. This offering, known as Practice Integrated Wealth Management, is typically an add-on to Buckingham’s service, but in some cases can be a stand-alone service.

Buckingham also works with retirement plan sponsors to help them create and service retirement plans for their employees. In these instances, Buckingham will provide investment research and recommendations for the types of investments the plan should include. In addition, the firm also provides investment education to employees. In some cases, Buckingham may manage the retirement plan assets.

Another service offered by Buckingham is as a sub-advisor to other independent RIAs. The firm will provide individual account management, usually for fixed income, for the other firm’s clients.

Here is a complete list of services provided by Buckingham Strategic Wealth:

  • Asset management
  • Financial planning (offered as part of wealth management or on a standalone basis)
    • Retirement planning
    • Charitable gift planning
    • College planning
    • Estate planning
    • Risk management counsel
    • Transition planning
    • Tax planning, preparation and/or advisory services
    • Divorce planning
    • Cash flow analysis
    • Death and disability
    • Assistance with outside accounts
  • Practice Integrated Wealth Management
  • Sub-advisory services
  • Employee benefit retirement plan services

How Buckingham Strategic Wealth invests your money

Buckingham Strategic Wealth practices “evidence-based investing,” which draws on historical, observable market behaviors. The firm, guided by its chief research officer, Larry Swedroe, dives deep into the latest academic research to understand what works in the markets and what doesn’t. Therefore, you won’t find active management in Buckingham portfolios, which is when investment decisions are made based on educated inferences about what the market may do.

Swedroe and his team maintain that beating the market is difficult and costly. However, they believe that investors can control factors like costs and tax efficiency to improve returns. Additionally, building on the work of Nobel prize winner Eugene Fama, Buckingham maintains that small-cap, value and positive momentum stocks have proven to outperform over time and Buckingham’s portfolios reflect these biases. In addition, the firm has a small allocation to alternative investments.

To implement these views, Buckingham favors mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that also practice passive and evidence-based investing. These include companies like AQR, Bridgeway and Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA).

For the fixed-income component of a client’s portfolio, which the firm institutes in an effort to reduce volatility, it creates customized laddered portfolios of individual bonds. The strategy calls for holding bonds of varying maturities. As one bond comes due, its proceeds are reinvested. Clients who don’t have large fixed-income positions are invested in low-cost, passively managed fixed-income mutual funds.

Fees Buckingham Strategic Wealth charges for its services

Buckingham Strategic Wealth charges for its services in a few different ways, including asset-based fees, hourly fees and fixed fees.

Wealth management and asset management fees

Clients are charged for the firm’s wealth management or asset management services based on a percentage of assets under management, ranging from 0.35% to 1.25% depending on the size and complexity of the client’s account, as well as the services requested.

Buckingham generally charges a minimum annual fee of $5,000 for wealth management services, which includes financial planning, and a minimum quarterly fee of $250 for investment management, which the firm describes as a “condensed offering” of the former. Fees can be reduced if clients receive a portion of their investment advice elsewhere.

In addition to these fees, clients will pay fees charged by the mutual funds or exchange-traded funds that Buckingham selects for inclusion in their portfolio. For clients who wish to use a separately managed account provider for some portion of their portfolio, they will incur whatever fees are charged by that third-party provider.

Limited-scope service fees

For services provided in a more limited scope, such as tax preparation and tax planning, Buckingham charges hourly fees. In those cases, the firm typically charges between $200 and $350 per hour, with the rate dependent upon the nature and complexity of the services provided.

Practice Integrated Wealth Management fees

Clients who participate in Buckingham’s Practice Integrated Wealth Management program pay a fixed fee, which is negotiable but typically runs between $150 and $825 a month. Practice Integrated Wealth Management provides only financial planning guidance, not investment advice or execution.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s highlights

  • Fee-only firm: Buckingham Strategic Wealth is a fee-only firm, meaning it does not sell any financial products and does not accept commissions for its services. What’s more, Buckingham also doesn’t charge performance-based fees, which could push portfolio managers to take outsized risks in the hopes of boosting returns.
  • Large geographic footprint: With offices in 35 locations covering practically all regions of the country, clients can easily access a Buckingham advisor near them.
  • Focus on passive, low-cost investments: Given Buckingham’s belief in evidence-based investing, the firm favors mutual fund companies that don’t engage in costly stock and bond picking that must employ cadres of portfolio managers and analysts. Instead, Buckingham almost exclusively uses AQR, Bridgeway and DFA low-cost, passive fund families.
  • Awards and recognition: Buckingham has won a number of awards for its advisory services, including landing the No. 10 spot on Barron’s list of the Top 50 RIAs in 2019 and No. 16 on Financial Advisor magazine’s 2019 RIA rankings. It also appeared on AdvisorHQ’s rankings of the Best Financial Advisor in both Indianapolis and St. Louis.
  • No disciplinary disclosures: Buckingham has a clean disciplinary record, with no disclosure events noted in its Form ADV (see more below).

Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s downsides

  • High minimums: Given Buckingham’s $500,000 minimum threshold, those who are just starting their saving and investing journey won’t be able to receive advice here. That said, the firm does make exceptions to its account minimum at its discretion, including for family members of existing clients.
  • Obscure fee structure: Buckingham states that its fees range from 0.35% to 1.25%, but it does not break out any tiers for different fee levels. That makes it difficult to compare Buckingham with other RIAs until prospective clients meet with the firm.
  • Limited brokerage options: Clients must maintain their assets at one of three brokerage firms: Fidelity, Schwab and TD Ameritrade. Buckingham acknowledges that the commissions of these brokers may be higher than at others. The firm also acknowledges that it may receive economic benefits from these trading relationships that are not available to retail clients, but it makes a point of disclosing them.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s disciplinary disclosures

There are no disclosures listed in Buckingham’s Form ADV, indicating the firm has a clean disciplinary record.

All SEC-registered firms must provide prompt disclosures of any legal or disciplinary actions in their Form ADV that would help current and prospective clients evaluate the firm. The type of legal and disciplinary events that must be disclosed include criminal and civil actions, administrative proceedings before a federal regulatory agency and proceedings before a self-regulatory organization.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s onboarding process

Investors interested in working with Buckingham Strategic Wealth can visit the firm’s website to view a map of where advisors are located and then contact them directly. Alternatively, potential clients can call the firm at (800) 711-2027 or send an email to [email protected] or [email protected] There is also an online form provided on the firm’s website that you can fill out to request to have an advisor contact you.

Prior to signing on with Buckingham, advisors hold a “Discovery Meeting,” during which they get to understand a prospective client’s values, goals, relationships, interests, assets and types of accounts currently held. If the client decides to move forward with Buckingham, they can expect to receive quarterly reports from the firm that show their portfolio’s positions and performance.

Is Buckingham Strategic Wealth right for you?

Buckingham Strategic Wealth offers holistic advice and could be a solid choice for investors with at least $500,000 in investable assets. The firm’s commitment to avoiding conflicts of interest — and providing disclosures when potential conflicts do arise — should give clients reassurance that their money is being managed in their best interest, though of course it’s always necessary to do your due diligence and ask your advisor questions.

However, Buckingham’s high minimums (except in limited cases), don’t make it a suitable option for those who are just starting out and working on accumulating their wealth. Additionally, clients who want the flexibility to choose their own brokerage or don’t want to work with one of the three options provided by Buckingham may want to look elsewhere.

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