Creative Planning Review - MagnifyMoney
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Creative Planning Review

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Creative Planning is a wealth management firm that also offers a range of other services, such as financial planning and business owner services, as well as tax and retirement services. While its headquarters is in the Kansas City metro area, the firm has over 70 additional locations throughout the country and works with clients in all 50 states. There are nearly 870 advisors on staff, including those who hold high-end qualifications like the CFP designation, MBAs and law degrees.

The bottom line: Creative Planning works with individuals and institutions, offering investment management and financial planning services to those with at least $100,000.

  • Customizes portfolios for each client’s situation; doesn’t use pre-designed funds
  • Advisors hold numerous high-end credentials and awards
  • Financial planning only included for larger accounts (those over $500,000)

All information included in this profile is accurate as of March 27, 2022. For more information, please consult Creative Planning’s website.

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Overview of Creative Planning

Creative Planning registered as an investment advisor in 1983. Peter Mallouk, the firm’s president and CEO, bought the firm in 2004 and remains the majority owner through a holding company, CPI HoldCo B. A number of firm executives also hold small ownership stakes in the firm.

The firm has more than 900 employees, nearly 870 who work in an advisory capacity. The firm’s staff includes a variety of different financial professionals, including certified financial planners (CFPs), certified public accountants (CPAs), MBAs, insurance experts and attorneys. The firm has grown rapidly in recent years due to its acquisition of other financial advisory firms.

Creative Planning’s pros

  • Customized portfolios: The firm doesn’t offer one-size-fits-all funds — rather, it tailors the portfolios to each client’s situation. Clients are also able to set restrictions on what goes into their portfolio.
  • Impressive staff credentials: Advisors have a range of high-end credentials. There are CFPs, attorneys, MBAs, insurance specialists and CPAs. The firm’s president, Peter Mallouk, has also won awards for being one of the top advisors in the country.
  • Moderate account minimums: You can sign on for investment management for just $100,000 with even lower minimums for retirement accounts, versus other high-end RIAs, which could require $1 million or more.
  • Numerous awards for performance: The firmwas named the No. 1 firm on RIA Channel®’s List of Top 100 Wealth Managers in 2020 based on its size and growth of assets. Additionally, in 2021, three Creative Planning wealth managers were named to Barron’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors List.

Creative Planning’s cons

  • Reduced fees only for extremely large accounts: For portfolio management, rates start at 1.20% on the first $500,000 under management. This is on the higher side of average, as the typical advisor charges between 0.50% to 1.25%. While the firm does reduce fees for larger accounts, it takes millions to get to this point. You’ll need at least $25 million before the firm reduces the rate to 0.40%, though this is below average for advisor costs.
  • Financial planning only included for larger accounts: The firm only includes financial planning for investment accounts that are at least $500,000. Smaller accounts must pay fixed fees in order to receive a customized financial plan.
  • Potential conflicts of interest due to common ownership: The firm is under common ownership with a number of other companies, including a trust company and an accounting company. The firm may recommend these companies’ services, which poses potential conflicts of interest due to the affiliation.

What types of clients does Creative Planning serve?

Creative Planning primarily works with individual investors. Its client base includes those who both are and are not considered high net worth, defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a client with at least $750,000 under management with the advisor or a total net worth of at least $1.5 million. At Creative Planning, there’s a close to equal divide between the number of high net worth and non-high net worth clients, though high net worth individuals make up a much larger share of the firm’s assets under management.

Pension and profit-sharing plans are another large share of the firm’s client base and assets under management. Creative Planning also serves corporations, government entities, charitable organizations and banking/thrift institutions, though they make up a smaller share of its client list.

For investment management, the minimum portfolio size depends on where the money is located. It’s $100,000 for money outside of a retirement plan, $30,000 when the money is in a retirement plan and there’s no minimum balance requirement for 401(k) plans. Clients with accounts of at least $500,000 receive financial planning included with the investment services.

Services offered by Creative Planning

For individuals, the firm offers portfolio management and financial planning. Its financial planning services can deal with a range of topics, including insurance, taxes, retirement and trust and estate planning. The firm also offers business owner services, to help these clients better understand their workplace benefits.

For institutions, Creative Planning offers consulting, plan design and fiduciary services for workplace 401(k) retirement plans. This includes employee education programs for those enrolled in the plans.

Here is a full list of services that the firm can provide:

  • Portfolio management
  • Financial planning
    • Retirement planning
    • Insurance planning
    • Strategic tax planning
    • Estate planning
    • Trust planning
    • College financial planning
    • Risk management and asset protection
  • Retirement services
  • Business owner services
  • Institutional services for nonprofits
  • International services for Americans abroad

How Creative Planning invests your money

The firm doesn’t offer pre-designed portfolios or funds, but rather creates customized portfolios for its clients that are tailored to their specific goals and objectives. The advisors at Creative Planning look at a client’s needs and goals to build their portfolios. It aims to balance clients’ long-term growth needs with short-term security in order to foster returns throughout changing market conditions.

The firm could use a range of different investments to build portfolios, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities, options, oil and gas interests, master limited partnerships and alternative assets. Generally, a mix of short-term and long-term investments are used, as well as trading, option strategies and margin trades, where money is borrowed to make investments in an attempt to get a larger return.

When determining which investments to include in a client’s portfolio, the firm focuses on cyclical and fundamental analysis. Cyclical analysis assumes that the economy and asset prices move in the cycles, so advisors aim to buy assets when they fall in value and sell when they’re at a high. Fundamental analysis attempts to determine the true market value of investments, using their financial performance and market conditions in order to find assets to buy that are underpriced and sell those that are overpriced.

Fees Creative Planning charges for its services

Creative Planning charges clients based on a percentage of assets under management for its investment management services. For individuals, this fee can range from 0.25% to 1.20%, depending on the size of their portfolio. The firm’s fee schedule is a progressive tier system, in which all clients owe 1.20% on their first $500,000, then 1.00% on their next $1.5 million and so on.

Creative Planning Fee Schedule for Portfolio Management Services
Portfolio size Annual fee
First $500,000 1.20%
Assets between $500,001 to $2,000,000 1.00%
Assets between $2,000,001 to $5,000,000 0.85%
Assets between $5,000,001 to $10,000,000 0.80%
Assets between $10,000,001 to $25,000,000 0.70%
Assets between $25,000,001 to $50,000,000 0.40%
Assets between $50,000,001 to $100,000,000 0.30%
Assets over $100,000,000 0.25%

In addition to the fees listed in the table above, clients could also owe brokerage fees, sub-advisory fees and other expenses for the underlying investments in their portfolios. These fees don’t go to the firm, but cover the cost of the investments instead.

For clients with portfolios of at least $500,000, the firm includes comprehensive financial planning at no additional charge. Creative Planning could also offer financial planning for a fixed fee ranging from $1,500 to $15,000, with the exact rate depending on the complexity of the plan.

Creative Planning disciplinary disclosures

Creative Planning reports one disciplinary disclosure. In September 2018, Creative Planning settled an order against the firm and its president, Peter Mallouk, relating to radio advertisements they’d run. According to the SEC, their advertisements included prohibited testimonials because the radio DJ was also a client of the firm, which was a breach of the firm’s code of ethics.

The SEC found that Creative Planning failed to have the proper written procedures established to prevent such an issue. Both Creative Planning and Mallouk agreed to a cease-and-desist order for running the ads. Creative Planning also paid a $200,000 fine, while Mallouk paid a $50,000 fine.

For more information, please see Creative Planning’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) page.

Creative Planning onboarding process

If you’re interested in working with Creative Planning, you can expect to go through the following steps in order to get started:

  1. Request an initial meeting with an advisor: You can request a meeting with an advisor. You’ll need to enter your name, contact information and portfolio size. The firm will then contact you within one business day. Alternatively, you can look up the branch closest to you and call them directly.
  2. Meet with an advisor: During this meeting, the advisor will get to know your personal financial situation and goals. You may take a new client questionnaire to establish your risk tolerance, liquidity needs and portfolio growth goals. You can also state whether you want any restrictions on your portfolio, such as avoiding investing in options.
  3. Review your advisor’s portfolio recommendation: Based on your meeting, your advisor will create a portfolio tailored to your specific goals. If you’re happy with their recommendation, you can sign an agreement to join as a client and transfer over discretionary authority of your portfolio for their investment management. The firm doesn’t maintain custody of your assets but will have permission to trade in your account to keep investments aligned with your financial plan.
  4. Receive regular updates: Client portfolios are reviewed on a periodic basis as needed or as requested by the client, and clients will receive quarterly reports on their accounts. Financial plans are updated at least annually, though updates can also occur at the client’s request. Creative Planning’s brochure notes that it is the responsibility of the client to let their advisor know about any major changes in their personal and financial situation.

Where Creative Planning is located

Creative Planning has over 70 offices in total. It has locations in the following states:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Is Creative Planning right for you?

Between its customized investment portfolios, range of planning services and quality advisor credentials, Creative Planning has a lot to offer. It’s also widely available, given that it has locations throughout the country and will accept clients with smaller accounts compared to many other financial advisory firms.

That being said, if you want financial planning but have a smaller portfolio (less than $500,000), you won’t receive this service included with investment management. The firm’s fees are also on the higher end of average unless you have millions in your portfolio.

If you’d like more options to compare before deciding on a financial advisor, check out the MagnifyMoney financial advisor search tool.

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.