Choosing a financial advisor in Madison, WI can feel daunting given the number of advisors in Wisconsin’s capital city, named after the fourth U.S. president, James Madison. Finding the right advisor in Madison — or anywhere — is a lot about figuring out the proper fit, which means understanding your financial needs and goals as well as how much you’re willing to spend.
That being said, we understand it can be difficult to compare firms and data points, so we compiled the most important information to help guide your decision. To determine the best advisors in the City of Four Lakes, we only considered firms that manage individual accounts and offer financial planning services. We then ranked these firms based on assets under management (AUM), which serves as a general metric for a firm’s size. Although not formally part of our ranking, we encourage readers to take note of each firm’s client-to-advisor ratio, as this indicates how much attention you may get as a client. All data used in our methodology is taken from each firm’s most recent Form ADV filing with the SEC so as to ensure the accuracy and reliability of our rankings.
Our ranking is not indicative of which firm in Madison may be best for you, but it can help make the shopping experience easier. Take a look at our list below for the top firms in Madison and their key highlights:
|Minimum assets required
|Madison Investment Advisors, LLC
|Varies by program
|John F. Suby Wealth Management, LLC
|Isthmus Partners, LLC
|Resonant Capital Advisors, LLC
|Not specified, but generally a $5,000 minimum annual fee for investment management
|Poehling Capital Management, Inc.
|$250,000 for traditional portfolio management; smaller accounts receive mutual fund recommendations
|RMR Wealth Advisors, LLC
|WEA Financial Advisors, Inc.
|Baker Tilly Wealth Management, LLC
|None, but minimum fee of $1,500 for written financial plans and for accounts with assets under $200,000
For our search, we looked at firms across the city of Madison, WI All of the firms considered are bound by fiduciary duty, registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and offer individual account management and financial planning services. Information used for our methodology criteria is taken directly from each firm’s most recent Form ADV filing and brochure, found on the IAPD database.
To localize our results for this list, we exclusively looked at firms that met the above criteria and had their headquarters in Madison, as per the address provided in the Form ADV. Of those firms, we only considered those that offer financial planning services and portfolio management to individual investors. To be considered for this list, firms also could have no more than one disciplinary disclosure in the past 10 years. From there, the remaining firms that met all of the above stipulations were ranked in order of highest to lowest AUM, as this is an indication of a firm’s size and how many assets it has been entrusted to manage.
In our reviews, we have also listed several other key features that will help you determine which financial advisor may be most fitting for your investing style and financial needs. While our ranking system and methodology is designed to help you compare firms, it does not indicate which firm may be best for you. All information here is accurate as of June 2, 2021, but we urge you to also evaluate these firms on https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/.
The parent company of Madison Investment Advisors, LLC, known as Madison Investment Holdings, dates back to 1974. The firm’s parent company is majority owned by the employees of Madison Investment Advisors, which is in turn principally owned by employee Frank Burgess, who also serves as the chairman of the board. In addition to its Madison office, Madison Investment Advisors has additional locations in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Toronto.
The firm’s client list is broad, and includes individuals and families who both are and are not considered high net worth (for reference, the SEC defines high net worth individuals as those with at least $750,000 to invest or a net worth of at least $1.5 million). Clients utilize the team’s wide range of fixed income, balanced and equity managed portfolios, as well as its financial planning services. The latter includes a written financial plan that can help clients identify long-term planning or retirement goals and income plans, as well as determine appropriate asset allocations.
Madison Investment Advisors also works with hundreds of institutions, including charitable organizations, businesses, pension and profit-sharing plans, insurance companies, banking or thrift institutions, state and municipal government entities and other investment advisors.
Separately, many of the firm’s advisors are licensed as broker-dealers, meaning they can buy and sell securities for commissions.
Madison Investment Advisors specializes in three key areas: active bond management, risk-managed equity management and customized multi-asset portfolios. Third-party subadvisors may be used in areas where the advisor has a particular expertise, such as international equities or a small cap strategy. Thus, the strategy in which you are invested may be managed by the firm or an outside team. Alternatively, you can have a custom account created by your advisor specifically for your needs.
Common investment recommendations made by the team at Madison Investment Advisors may include mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), preferred stocks, government agency obligations, money market instruments and other securities, as well as private placements and alternative investments. To decide what stocks to recommend, the firm uses a bottom-up process. In this type of analysis, the team may consider a company’s business model, the management team and its valuation, considering factors like whether the firm has competitive advantages as well as stable and growing earnings.
Madison Investment Advisors has a clean record, disclosing no legal or disciplinary actions. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires all registered investment advisors to disclose in their Form ADV any criminal, civil or regulatory actions against the firm or its employees or affiliates over the prior 10 years that a potential client would find material to their evaluation of the firm or the integrity of its management team.
Visit this firm’s IAPD page to learn more.
John F. Suby Wealth Management LLC registered as an investment advisor in 2009. The firm is owned by the accounting firm John F. Suby & Associates, S.C., which in turn is owned by several shareholders, with none owning more than 25% individually. The firm works out of its single office in Madison.
The team offers asset management and financial planning. The latter may include creating a comprehensive financial plan or consulting on a particular topic such as cash flow or planning for retirement, college or your estate. John F. Suby Wealth Management also has an affiliated firm that can provide tax preparation and accounting.
John F. Suby Wealth Management’s client list includes individuals and families who both are and are not high net worth, as well as select institutions including businesses, charitable organizations and pension and profit-sharing plans. In particular, many business owners, professionals with uneven income, physicians and others in private practice and individuals with income from multiple partnerships turn to the firm for its tax expertise in addition to its wealth planning services.
After advisors at John F. Suby Wealth Management gather information from clients about their goals and risk tolerance, they can weigh in on the client’s current investments and recommend other appropriate investments, subadvisors or third party managers. In most cases, the firm does not actively manage the account, and instead delegates ongoing management to a third party or subadvisor, typically only Greenrock Research, Inc. or Provident Trust Company. Those managers and advisors use their own investment strategies and methods of analysis.
In the end, client money is typically invested in individual stocks, mutual funds and ETFs, although other investment vehicles may be recommended when appropriate, such as alternative investments and private placements.
John F. Suby Wealth Management discloses no legal or disciplinary events against the firm or its employees or affiliates over the past decade that a potential client would deem material when evaluating the firm or the integrity of its leaders. Learn more by viewing the firm’s IAPD page.
The name Isthmus Partners comes from Madison’s location on the isthmus between lakes Mendota and Monona. The group was founded in 2014 by its four founding partners, David Hackworthy, Victor Rodriguez, Franks Gambino and Joel McNeil, who have worked together since 2003. Today, the firm is owned by those founding partners as well as partner Jeremy Baier. The ensemble works out of its single office in Madison.
Isthmus Partners offers portfolio management, investment advice and financial planning. The latter addresses topics such as retirement, insurance and cash flow. Family office services, including bill paying, are also available. The firm serves high net worth individuals and families as well as those with more modest incomes, including many business owners, executives and professionals. It also works with pension plans, charitable organizations and businesses. A minimum investment of $2 million is generally required to access the firm’s portfolio option for individual investors, with higher minimums required for institutional investors.
Advisors at Isthmus Partners create custom accounts for clients based on their unique needs. These accounts are typically centered around the firm’s equity strategies: a large cap core equity portfolio and a small cap core equity portfolio. To complement those positions and increase diversification, the team may add customized fixed income portfolios, international equity portfolios or portfolios of mutual funds.
To determine its equity picks, Isthmus Partners’ equity investment committee follows a formalized process that first screens potential investments for specific quality and valuation factors. Next, the team conducts an analysis of the firm’s balance sheet, cash flow and other qualitative factors to agree on an intrinsic value. The team buys companies that trade at what it believes to be a 20% discount, and when investment committee members agree on what the catalyst will be that moves the stock price.
Isthmus Partners disclosed no legal or disciplinary actions against the firm or its employees or affiliates in the prior 10 years that potential clients would find material when forming their views of the firm or the integrity of its management team, thus giving the firm a clean record. View the firm’s IAPD page to learn more.
Resonant Capital Advisors, LLC registered with the SEC as an investment advisor in 2018. The firm is principally owned by Benjamin Dickey, its CEO and chief investment strategist, and Walter Dewey, its president. The duo and their team work from a single office in Madison.
The firm offers services to individuals, trusts, estates, charitable organizations, pension and profit-sharing plans and businesses. Its list of services includes investment management and advice as well as financial planning and consulting. The latter can be enlisted as standalone services, or in conjunction with investment management. Topics such as cash flow, retirement, insurance, taxes, philanthropy and other issues may be addressed. Business planning and consulting is also available, particularly for family-owned businesses. The firm also can provide advice on employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k) plans and qualified tuition plans such as 529 plans.
Clients also can turn to the group’s automated investment program, which requires a lower minimum investment of $5,000. For this service, clients answer an online risk questionnaire, and their money is then invested in a range of firm-managed strategies consisting of ETFs and cash.
The team at Resonant Capital Advisors typically allocates client funds among various mutual funds, ETFs and independent managers based on the client’s investment objectives. Other potential recommendations, when appropriate, may include individual stocks and bonds, options, alternative investments, real estate investment trusts (REITs), master limited partnerships and privately placed securities.
To identify their equity recommendations, the team at Resonant Capital Advisors uses a bottom-up selection process, specifically looking for companies that are able to grow while generating excess free cash flow. They specifically focus on free cash flow, since it gives companies more flexibility to repurchase shares or increase dividends, which the firm believes produces better investor returns over the long run. When analyzing fund managers, the team tries to determine if a manager’s historical performance is attributable to a well-conceived strategy, if that strategy is repeatable and what factors may influence the results in the future.
Resonant Capital Advisors discloses no legal or disciplinary events in the prior 10 years that a client would find material in their opinion of the firm or the integrity of its leaders. Learn more about the firm on its IAPD page.
Established in 2004 by brothers Thomas and Pat Poehling, this firm is headquartered in Madison with an additional office in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Today, Poehling Capital Management, Inc. is principally owned by Thomas Poehling.
Poehling Capital Management offers investment management, estate planning and financial planning, with advice provided on areas including cash flow, taxes and retirement planning. The team can also weigh in on how to invest 401(k) retirement plans. The firm’s client list is made up primarily of individuals and families both with and without a high net worth, as well as a handful of institutions such as charitable organizations.
The team at Poehling Capital Management takes a value-oriented approach to investing, looking for companies selling below their intrinsic value. For clients with portfolios of $250,000 or more, the firm offers a series of model portfolio strategies across the risk spectrum. Its primary focus for these clients is on publicly traded equities, ETFs, open-end mutual funds, fixed income and option contracts, though third-party managers may be used when an asset class falls outside the firm’s core competency areas. Accounts with less than $250,000 will be invested in mutual funds, also with a value-oriented investment approach.
To determine its investment picks, Poehling Capital Management relies on key quantitative and qualitative criteria. This includes performance history, a manager’s contribution to the return and the manager’s fee structure and tenure.
Poehling Capital Management has a clean record. The firm discloses no legal or disciplinary items in the prior 10 years against the firm, its employees or its affiliates that potential clients would find material when forming their views of the firm or the integrity of its leaders. Visit the firm’s IAPD page to learn more.
RMR Wealth Advisors’ roots extend back to 2003, when cofounder Rich Mikkelson opened the eponymous firm Rich Mikkelson Rich Financial Advisors. He became the firm’s only owner in 2009. In 2018, the firm rebranded as RMR Wealth Advisors, LLC. Based in Madison, the group has two additional Wisconsin offices in Milton and Edgerton.
Today, RMR Wealth Advisors serves mostly individuals and families, including some high net worth investors. The firm also works with select institutions such as charitable organizations. In general, the firm requires a minimum asset value of $250,000.
The team at RMR Wealth Advisors offers investment management and advice, as well as financial planning, which may address a myriad of topics including paying for college, long-term care insurance, stock option planning, life insurance and tax planning. The firm also offers retirement plan consulting services to employers. Family office services are provided for clients who typically have a net worth of at least $10 million.
The team at RMR Wealth Advisors provides advice on stocks, mutual funds, bonds, annuities, ETFs, options and futures. The firm can also weigh in on interests in partnerships investing in real estate, and oil and gas interests, as well as variable life insurance. Client money also may be invested with outside managers.
To make its investment recommendations, RMR Wealth Advisors uses fundamental analysis, based on research it receives from outside sources. The team also conducts its own phone calls and meetings to gather information. The firm makes buying and selling decisions for the short term as well as the long term.
RMR Wealth Advisors has a clean record, disclosing no legal or disciplinary events against the company or its employees or affiliates in the previous decade that clients would find materially shaped their opinions of the firm or the integrity of its leaders. View the firm’s IAPD page to learn more.
WEA Financial Advisors, Inc. caters to certain groups, primarily kindergarten through 12th grade public school educators and their families, as well as select others. The firm and its affiliates operate using the Wisconsin Education Association (WEA) Member Benefits branding. Founded in 2007, the firm is owned by WEA Member Benefit Trust, which was established specifically to focus on these public educators and certain others.
The team at WEA Financial Advisors can manage client portfolios or provide advice on portfolios that the clients then execute themselves. Advisors also can crunch retirement projections for clients saving for or approaching retirement, and provide retirement income analysis.
The group operates from its single office in Madison. Some advisors are also registered insurance agents and representatives of the firm’s affiliated broker-dealer, meaning they can buy and sell securities for commissions.
When WEA Financial Advisors manages a client’s portfolio, the money is typically invested in model portfolios specific to various risk tolerances. Clients complete an investor suitability profile questionnaire to help determine the appropriate model, which include:
Conservative models are made up of 60% fixed income and 40% equities, while at the other end of the spectrum, the aggressive models include 10% fixed income and 90% equities. The models consist of mutual funds and sometimes ETFs and annuities.
WEA Financial Advisors discloses no legal or disciplinary events over the previous 10 years against the firm or its employees or affiliates that a client would view as material when judging the firm and the integrity of its managers. To learn more, read the firm’s SEC filings available on its IAPD page.
Baker Tilly Wealth Management, LLC, formerly known as Baker Tilly Financial, provides continuous portfolio management and general financial consulting to individuals and families, including many high net worth families. Financial planning may address a myriad of topics such as retirement, education, estates, cash flow management, divorce planning, insurance and other topics. Family office and business planning services are also available.
Founded in 2013, the firm is a subsidiary of Baker Tilly US, LLP, an accounting, advisory, tax and assurance firm, which is structured as a partnership where no single partner owns more than 5% of the firm. Based in Madison, the group has 11 additional locations: Milwaukee; New York; Houston; Los Angeles; San Diego; Indianapolis; Spring, Texas; Irvine, Calif.; Encino, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn. and East Lansing, Mich.
In addition to its individual clients, the firm also advises many government groups including cities, towns, counties, utilities, schools, libraries and others, and works with pension and profit-sharing plans and businesses.
Advisors at Baker Tilly Wealth Management typically limit their recommendations or advice to stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate funds, options, hedge funds, private equity funds, ETFs, venture capital funds, private placements and insurance products. Some or all of client money may be invested with third-party managers.
To make their investment recommendations, the team at Baker Tilly Wealth Management combines a myriad of types of analysis, examining fundamental, technical, economic, cyclical and other factors. When it comes to buying and selling, advisors may place long-term or short-term trades, even sometimes buying and selling in as little as 30 days. The team may also use margin and options.
Baker Tilly Wealth Management has had no legal or disciplinary events in the prior 10 years against the firm or its employees or affiliates that a potential client would find material when evaluating the firm or the integrity of its management team. Visit the firm’s IAPD page, where its public filings are available, to learn more.
Income taxes in Wisconsin fall on the moderately high end of the spectrum, with the top individual rate coming in at 7.65%. Wisconsin has no estate or inheritance tax. However, residents of Wisconsin may still be subject to federal estate tax depending on the size of the estate.
While all financial advisors routinely help clients invest money they intend to live on in retirement, not all advisors specifically focus on helping clients determine their retirement goals and formulate realistic plans to achieve them. Some advisors focus more on investing in a client’s portfolio, known as asset management. Other advisors take a more holistic view, dubbed wealth management, and can help clients with other financial aspects of their retirement such as their estate, taxes or income projections.
To narrow it down to a financial advisor who is right for you, start by identifying firms that work with clients with similar situations to yours and that have an investment minimum requirement you can meet. Next, look for firms that offer the specific services you want, such as the creation of a standalone written financial plan, or advice on your employer-sponsored 401(k) retirement plan. Finally, find out how each advisor is paid, and by whom. Fee-only planners typically have fewer potential conflicts of interest since they do not accept commissions or referral income when you buy a product or engage a professional they recommend.
For further guidance on how to conduct your search to find an advisor who is right for you, here is a list of key questions to ask potential advisors.
Clients working with a fiduciary financial advisor can have a higher level of comfort that the financial advisor is acting in their best interest, putting your needs above their own. Financial advisors who do not abide by fiduciary duty may only be held to the suitability standard, which only requires them to make a recommendation that is suitable — not necessarily what’s best. This could mean the professional could look out for their own bottom line more than your own.