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 may not have not been reviewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners or the Investment company.
Choosing a financial advisor can be challenging, especially given the number of options in Seattle. Finding the right advisor is a lot about figuring out the proper fit, which calls for understanding your financial needs and goals and how much you’re willing to spend.
Comparing firms and data points can be difficult, though, so we compiled the most relevant information to help your decision-making process. To determine the best advisors in the Emerald City, 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 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 Seattle and their key highlights:
How much would you like to invest?
|Firm name||Minimum Assets Required||Fee Structure|
|Brighton Jones||None specified||A percentage of AUM
|Freestone Capital Management||None||A percentage of AUM
|Columbia Pacific Wealth Management||$5 million (detailed below)||A percentage of AUM
Other (administration fees)
|Pacific Portfolio Consulting||$500,000 (detailed below)||A percentage of AUM
|Badgley Phelps Wealth Managers||$1 million (detailed below)||A percentage of AUM
|McCutchen Group||None||A percentage of AUM
|Moss Adams Wealth Advisors||None||A percentage of AUM
|Merriman||Varies depending on strategy||A percentage of AUM
|Empirical Wealth Management||$1 million (detailed below)||A percentage of AUM
|The Clarius Group||$2 million (detailed below)||A percentage of AUM
For our search, we looked at firms across the city of Seattle. 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 Seattle, 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 February 8, 2021, but we urge you to also evaluate these firms on https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/.
Founded in 1999 by then-Deloitte partners Charles Brighton and Jon Jones, Brighton Jones is the largest wealth management firm in the state of Washington. The founders remain the firm’s co-owners, with Jones serving as CEO and Brighton as a managing director.
Brighton Jones aims to serve as a “Personal CFO” to clients, offering holistic advice to individuals and families as a chief financial officer for a company. The firm offers discretionary and non-discretionary wealth management on a fee-only basis, as well as financial planning, primarily to individuals and high net worth individuals.
In addition to its Seattle headquarters, the firm also has offices in Oregon, California, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Virginia, in the Washington, D.C. metro area.
Brighton Jones offers personalized portfolios based on each client’s financial situation, but the firm’s overall approach to investing includes diversification, both among and within asset classes. Portfolios might include fixed income securities, individual equities, funds and real estate investment trusts.
The firm uses several methods to invest in those asset classes, including a combination of short- and long-term purchases, margin transactions and options. The firm analyzes investments using fundamental, technical and cyclical methods.
Brighton Jones has had no disclosures over the past 10 years. All registered investment advisors must disclose in their Form ADV documents filed with the SEC any civil, criminal or regulatory actions against its firm, employees or affiliates that clients would consider material when evaluating the firm or its management team.
For more information, visit the firm’s IAPD page.
Gary Furukawa, a former executive at E.F. Hutton and Salomon Smith Barney, founded Freestone Capital Management in 1999. Furukawa currently serves as the firm’s chief investment officer and co-portfolio manager of its real estate funds. He and his wife, Della, own between 25% and 50% of the firm, and the firm’s employees own the rest.
The firm offers investment advisory, wealth management and financial planning services, primarily to high net worth individuals and investors. There is no minimum to invest, but the brochure notes that Freestone Capital Management seeks advisory clients who wish to establish accounts of at least $1 million, or $500,000 for Schwab Advisor-referred investors.
In addition to Seattle, Freestone Capital Management also has offices in San Francisco and Santa Barbara, Calif.
Freestone Capital Management invests clients’ assets usually using a combination of both model portfolios that are internally managed and model portfolios that are developed by third-party firms (managed either by those firms or by Freestone Capital Management), as well as alternative investments. Its “Stay Wealthy” approach focuses not only on upside performance, but also on downside risk.
The firm believes in broad diversification beyond traditional stocks and bonds. To achieve that diversification, Freestone Capital Management looks for opportunities to invest directly in the assets of alternative asset classes. For example, the firm would purchase real estate rather than buying shares of real estate investment trusts. And while the firm generally focuses on long-term investments, approaches may also include short- and long-term purchases, trading, concentrated positions and other short sales among its methods.
Freestone Capital Management does not have any disciplinary disclosures listed in its Form ADV, including any civil, criminal or regulatory actions against the firm. Learn more on the firm’s IAPD page.
Senior housing entrepreneur Dan Baty and investment managers Alex Washburn and Peder Schmitz founded Columbia Pacific Wealth Management in 2010. Baty currently serves as the firm’s chairman, while Washburn and Schmitz are managing partners. Columbia Pacific Wealth Management is employee-owned, and no individual owns more than 25% of the firm.
The firm offers investment management, tax planning, estate planning and risk management primarily to individuals and high net worth individuals, though it also works with charitable organizations, pension and profit-sharing plans and pooled investment vehicles. Columbia Pacific Wealth Management typically requires a minimum of $5 million in assets, though this may be waived at the firm’s discretion. It has offices in Seattle and San Francisco.
Columbia Pacific Wealth Management aims to create sustainable, long-term growth for clients by managing risk and maximizing tax efficiency, while offering access to private investment opportunities through its proprietary funds. Portfolios may include public equities, boutique separate account managers, real estate investing, private lending, private equity and environmental, social and governance and impact investing.
The firm creates customized, diversified portfolios for clients based on their financial situation. It takes a manager-of-managers approach to these portfolios, controlling the asset allocation while using third-party managers to select specific sectors and securities.
Columbia Pacific Wealth Management has had no disclosures over the past 10 years, including any criminal or regulatory actions against the firm or its employees or affiliates. For more information on the firm, visit its IAPD page.
Investment advisor Lawrence Hood founded Pacific Portfolio Consulting in 1992. He remains the firm’s chairman and CEO. Pacific Portfolio Consulting is owned Pacific Wealth Advisors, which in turn is owned by several individuals, partnerships and corporations, none of whom have more than a 25% stake.
The firm offers wealth management and financial planning primarily to individuals and high net worth individuals from its main office in Seattle (there is an additional one in Anchorage, Alaska). While Pacific Portfolio Consulting does have a $500,000 minimum requirement for assets, it also notes that this requirement may be waived at its discretion.
Pacific Portfolio Consulting believes asset allocation is the most important factor in the success of an investment strategy. The firm bases its asset allocation recommendations on three principles:
Portfolios include a range of investment, including cash, fixed income, stocks, real estate and alternative investments.
The Securities and Exchange Commission requires all registered investment advisors to disclose any disciplinary events, including civil, criminal and regulatory actions, on their Form ADV. Pacific Portfolio Consulting reports no such disclosures. For more information on the firm, visit its IAPD page.
Badgley Phelps Wealth Management has been employee-owned since its founding in 1966. Currently, 15 employees have an ownership stake in the firm, with President and Chief Investment Officer Steve Phelps and Chairman J. Kevin Callaghan owning significant stakes.
The firm offers wealth and investment management primarily to individuals (mainly high net worth clients) from its Seattle office. Badgley Phelps Wealth Managers requires $1 million minimum in assets, but notes that this can potentially be waived “under certain circumstances,” according to its brochure.
Badgley Phelps Wealth Managers creates investment strategies for individual clients based on their financial goals and other factors. The firm uses three approaches, each of which can be combined with alternative investments:
Badgley Phelps Wealth Managers reports no disciplinary history over the past 10 years involving either the firm, its employees or affiliates. For more information visit the firm’s IAPD page.
Launched in 2007, McCutchen Group is principally owned by firm President and CEO Matthew McCutchen. The firm provides financial planning and investment advisory services primarily to individuals and high net worth individuals from its Seattle office.
McCutchen Group creates customized portfolios for clients that include investment with a range of independent managers. The firm uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate managers, and it typically relies on them to provide asset valuations.
To help clients meet their goals, McCutchen Group uses several types of investment vehicles, including separate accounts, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, commingled funds and limited partnerships.
McCutchen Group has no disciplinary history on its Form ADV. This means that the firm and its employees and affiliates have not faced any civil, criminal or regulatory events within the past 10 years. For more information, visit the firm’s IAPD page.
A subsidiary of the national accounting and consulting firm Moss Adams LLP, Moss Adams Wealth Advisors has been providing personal wealth management and financial planning services since 1988. The firm primarily serves individuals, many of whom are high net worth individuals, and has 10 additional offices throughout the West.
Moss Adams separates its customized portfolios into two segments, core and satellite. For the core segment, it looks for low-cost, diversified real asset investments that deliver returns in line with broader markets. In the satellite segment, Moss Adams advisors might look for more specialized investments with the potential to generate above-market returns.
In addition, portfolios might include an alternative section aimed at minimizing risk.
Moss Adams Wealth Advisors reports no disciplinary history on its Form ADV. The SEC requires all registered investment advisors to report any civil, criminal or regulatory events within the past decade that involve the firm, its employees or affiliates.
For more information, view the firm’s IAPD page.
High-profile financial educator Paul Merriman founded Merriman in 1983 and led the firm until 2010. Since 2012, Merriman has been wholly owned by Focus Financial Partners, LLC, a publicly traded company that owns financial services firms throughout the country.
Merriman offers financial planning and wealth management services primarily to individuals, including high net worth clients. There is no minimum to invest in the MarketWise program, but the brochure notes that there is a $350,000 minimum to invest in the TrendWise options and a $250,000 minimum for eligible clients to invest in the Leveraged Global Opportunity Fund, a private fund that utilizes market timing as its main method for appreciating capital. The firm notes that it may waive its minimum requirements, though it generally cannot do so for the LGO.
Merriman also has investment-only services available to clients with $500,000 or less in assets; this service includes financial planning on a more limited basis, along with quarterly reporting and an available offer for annual review.
In addition to its Seattle headquarters, Merriman has offices in Spokane, Wash., and Eugene, Ore.
A primary focus for Merriman when creating portfolios is minimizing risk in order to decrease volatility and promote stability in clients’ returns. The firm strives for globally diversified portfolios composed mostly of mutual funds with some specialized securities. The firm takes a long-term approach, aiming to hold investments for at least five years.
Clients can choose from two core investment programs:
Merriman reports no legal or disciplinary history on its Form ADV. That means that neither the firm nor its employees or affiliates have faced civil, regulatory or criminal events in the past 10 years. For more information, visit the firm’s IAPD page.
The firm was founded by firm CEO Kenneth Smith in 2009. Smith remains the principal owner of the firm, though six employees at the firm also have an ownership stake. The firm offers investment management, retirement planning and tax planning, as well as services for executives and business owners.
Clients are primarily individuals, including high net worth clients. According to Empirical Wealth Management, it typically requires a minimum investment of $1 million; however, the firm also notes that it can waive this minimum at its own discretion. Including its Seattle headquarters, the firm has eight offices in Washington, California, Oregon and Alaska.
Empirical Wealth Management uses modern portfolio theory, which emphasizes diversification across asset classes, to build custom client portfolios that contain 12 to 21 different asset classes.
Client portfolios may include a mix of equities, corporate debt, municipal securities, investment company securities, U.S. government debt, options and futures contracts and partnerships, such as limited partnerships and third-party money managers. The firm generally focuses on long-term strategies, though it may recommend short-term strategies, among others, to reach certain goals.
Empirical Wealth Management does not report any disciplinary history, which would include any civil, criminal or regulatory events in the past 10 years involving the firm, its employees or its affiliates. For more information, view Empirical Wealth Management’s IAPD page.
Partners Keith Vernon and Matthew Talbot co-own The Clarius Group, which was founded in 2015. The firm offers financial planning, wealth management and family office services primarily to individuals, including high net worth clients, from its Seattle office. The Clarius Group generally requires a minimum of $2 million, but notes that at its discretion, it may accept a smaller portfolio.
The Clarius Group uses a mix of active and passive investment strategies in order to create portfolios tailored to meet individual clients’ goals. The firm emphasizes asset allocation and factors in investment costs, inflation, taxes and potential risk when making investment decisions.
Portfolios may include a mix of cash, fixed-income investments, public stocks, hedge funds, real assets (such as commercial real estate) and private equity or debt investments.
The Clarius Group reports no disclosures, which means that its disciplinary history over the past 10 years has no civil, criminal or regulatory events involving the firm, its employees or its affiliates. You can get more information on the firm by visiting the firm’s IAPD page.
Washington does not have a personal income tax, but the state does levy an estate tax that ranges from 10% to 20%, depending on the size of the estate. Residents may also have to pay an inheritance tax if they inherit property from another state that has one.
No. While most financial planners provide basic retirement planning, it’s not the primary focus for every advisor. If that’s important to you, make sure that you ask potential advisors if that’s a service they offer before you start working with them.
Almost anyone can call themselves a financial advisor, so checking for certification is a good way to make sure that you’re working with a qualified professional. Common certifications include the certified financial planner (CFP), chartered financial analyst (CFA) and retirement income certified professional (RICP). You can go here to do a more comprehensive search for a financial advisor.
Yes. Fee-only advisors get paid by fees alone, while fee-based advisors can receive commission for selling products. That could give fee-based advisors an incentive to recommend a product that might not be in your best interest. These concerns are mitigated by working with a fee-only advisor.
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.