Review of Buckingham Strategic Wealth 2021

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Updated on Thursday, August 12, 2021

Buckingham Strategic Wealth, LLC is a registered investment advisor based in St. Louis, with satellite offices throughout the United States. Buckingham provides comprehensive financial planning to its clients, as well as investment management services. In addition to serving individual investors, who typically have at least $300,000 to invest, Buckingham also advises retirement plan sponsors, charitable organizations and businesses.

The bottom line: Buckingham Strategic Wealth is an RIA that provides portfolio and wealth management services to clients that include individual investors and institutions.

  • Believes in passive, low-cost investing
  • Provides a wide range of financial planning services
  • Offers no clear fee schedule without an appointment
Assets under management: $21,316,907,292
Minimum investment: No defined minimum but clients with under $300,000 are accepted only on a case-by-case basis and may owe extra fees
Individual investor to advisor ratio: 46:1
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, hourly charges, fixed fees
Headquarters: 8182 Maryland, Suite 500
St. Louis, MO 63105
Website:www.buckinghamstrategicwealth.com
Phone: 314-725-0455

All information included in this profile is accurate as of August 6, 2021. For more information, please consult Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s website.

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Overview of Buckingham Strategic Wealth

Buckingham Strategic Wealth was founded in 1994 by Bert Schweizer and Stuart Zimmerman, both of whom are 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. Today, Buckingham Strategic Wealth is 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 has branch offices in over 40 additional locations. Buckingham Strategic Wealth has close to 500 employees, nearly half of whom perform investment advisory functions.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s pros

  • Fee-only: Buckingham Strategic Wealth is a fee-only firm, meaning it does not sell any financial products and does not accept commissions for its services. Rather, the firm only earns money from the fees clients pay 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 over 40 physical locations across the U.S. that cover practically all regions of the country, clients can easily access a Buckingham advisor near them.
  • Focus on 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. Additionally, the firm favors a passive approach to investing, which can minimize trading costs.
  • Awards and recognition: Buckingham has won a number of awards for its advisory services, including landing the No. 14 spot on Barron’s list of the Top 50 RIAs in 2020 and No. 20 on Financial Advisor magazine’s 2020 RIA rankings. It has also appeared on AdvisorHQ’s rankings of the Best Financial Advisor in both Indianapolis and St. Louis.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s cons

  • High minimums: Given Buckingham’s suggested $300,000 minimum threshold, those who are just starting their saving and investing journey may not 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, although additional fees may apply.
  • Opaque 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’s rates with those of other RIAs until prospective clients meet with the firm.
  • Limited brokerage options: At Buckingham, client assets are maintained at one of three brokerage firms: Fidelity, Schwab or TD Ameritrade. Buckingham acknowledges that the commissions charged by 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.

What types of clients does Buckingham Strategic Wealth serve?

The vast majority of Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s clients are individual investors, with a fairly even split between those who are and are not considered high net worth (per the SEC, a high net worth individual is someone with at least $750,000 under an advisor’s management or a net worth of at least $1.5 million).

Although Buckingham Strategic Wealth has no set investment minimum, it generally works with clients who have at least $300,000 to invest. However, the firm may make exceptions for clients with smaller account sizes, particularly if they are related to existing clients with higher account balances. Clients with smaller accounts are likely to pay higher fees, however.

Services offered by Buckingham Strategic Wealth

Buckingham is a full-service wealth management firm. When it 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. Practice Integrated Wealth Management provides only financial planning guidance, not investment advice or execution.

Buckingham also works with retirement plan sponsors to help them create and service retirement plans for their employees. 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
    • 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
  • 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.

Buckingham typically invests passively rather than actively, with a focus on smart diversification, low investment costs and risk minimization. Portfolios are tailored to each client’s specific goals, and will be continuously monitored and rebalanced. Portfolio managers will also engage in tax-loss harvesting for clients when necessary.

In general, client portfolios may include the following types of investments:

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. The rate ranges 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 $3,000 for wealth management services, which includes financial planning. For clients with a portfolio of less than $300,000, there is a minimum monthly fee of $250, which is charged on a quarterly basis.

In addition to these fees, clients will pay fees charged by mutual funds or ETFs 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, which is the firm’s financial planning offering, pay a fixed fee. The rate is negotiable but typically runs between $150 and $825 a month.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s disciplinary disclosures

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

For reference, all SEC-registered firms must provide prompt disclosures of any legal or disciplinary actions on their Form ADV that would shape current and prospective clients’ evaluation of the firm and its management team. This includes criminal and civil actions, administrative proceedings before a federal regulatory agency and proceedings before a self-regulatory organization involving the firm, its employees or its affiliates from within the last 10 years.

For more information on the firm, visit its IAPD page.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth’s onboarding process

Investors interested in working with Buckingham Strategic Wealth can connect with the firm in the following ways:

  • Visit the firm’s website to view a map of where advisors are located and then contact them directly
  • Use the online calendar provided underneath the locations to schedule an appointment
  • Fill out this form on the firm’s website

Prior to signing on with Buckingham, advisors hold a “Discovery Meeting,” during which they get to understand a prospective client’s:

  • Values
  • Goals
  • Relationships
  • Assets
  • Types of accounts currently held
  • Preferred processes and interests

If you decide to move forward with Buckingham, you can expect to receive quarterly reports from the firm showing your portfolio’s positions and performance.

Where Buckingham Strategic Wealth is located

Buckingham Strategic Wealth has offices in the following states:

  • Missouri
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Is Buckingham Strategic Wealth right for you?

Buckingham Strategic Wealth offers holistic advice, primarily to investors who have at least $300,000 in investable assets (although exceptions can be made). However, it does make exceptions, though those with smaller accounts may pay higher fees. The firm’s broad geographic presence makes it accessible to investors across the U.S., and its fee-only fee structure can ease concerns about potential conflicts of interest.

That being said, investors are limited to just three options for brokerages. Prospective clients may also have a difficult time comparison shopping, as Buckingham does not publish a public fee schedule. Instead, clients must meet with the firm to learn how much they may pay for its services. Make sure to weigh your options and consider your unique needs to ensure you find an advisor to work with that’s truly right for you.

The “Find a Financial Advisor” links contained in this article will direct you to webpages devoted to MagnifyMoney Advisor (“MMA”). After completing a brief questionnaire, you will be matched with certain financial advisers who participate in MMA’s referral program, which may or may not include the investment advisers discussed.