Merriman Wealth Management Review - MagnifyMoney
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Merriman Wealth Management Review

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Merriman Wealth Management is an asset and wealth management firm based in Washington state. It’s a part of Focus Financial Partners, one of the largest networks of independent wealth management companies in the U.S. The firm’s more than 30 advisors hold advanced certifications and manage over $3 billion in assets.

The bottom line: Merriman Wealth Management provides investment management and full-service financial solutions to individuals and high net worth individuals.

  • It offers custom wealth management solutions on topics like taxes and estate planning
  • Clients who use wealth management services receive lower investment service fees
  • The minimum investment commitment required of a private fund is $250,000

All information included in this profile is accurate as of October 21, 2021. For more information, please consult Merriman Wealth Management’s website.

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Overview of Merriman Wealth Management

Paul Merriman established the firm in 1983. After two generations of Merrimans being involved in the company, Focus Operating acquired the firm in 2012 as a wholly-owned subsidiary. The Focus Financial Partners is one of the largest networks of independent wealth management companies in the U.S. Merriman itself acquired two firms in April 2016 and July 2017, expanding its team and its offerings.

Today at Merriman, a team of around 50 employees (over half of whom perform advisory functions), manage over $3 billion in assets. Almost every advisor has an advanced degree or certification, including Masters in Business Administration (MBA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC). The firm offers a wealth of services including investment management, wealth management and financial planning services.

A look at the firm’s founder, Paul Merriman

Founder Paul Merriman was involved in the firm until 2012 when he retired to establish the non-profit Merriman Financial Education Foundation. He is currently the president of the foundation and produces weekly podcasts, contributes to the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch and has authored several books. He won the 2021 Cloonan award for excellence in investment education from the American Association of Individual Investors.

Merriman Wealth Management’s pros

  • Limited conflicts of interest: Merriman doesn’t sell investment products or work on commission, but instead receives income through client fees.
  • Clean disciplinary record: The firm reports no disciplinary issues on its current Form ADV, meaning it didn’t receive regulatory or criminal complaints in the last 10 years.
  • Roughly industry-standard fees: Industry average fees typically range from 0.59% to 1.18% of AUM, according to an AdvisoryHQ study. Merriman’s fees range from 0.40% to 1.35% with a minimum annual fee ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on the portfolio and whether a client also uses wealth management services.

Merriman Wealth Management’s cons

  • Higher fees for clients who don’t use wealth management services: If you choose to only use Merriman’s investment management services, you’ll face the higher end of the investment fee rates.
  • Performance-based fee schedule: One of Merriman’s portfolios has performance-related incentives that may push investment managers toward more aggressive investments and more risk for their clients.
  • No clear investment minimums: Merriman notes that minimum account requirements vary among clients, yet it doesn’t give guidance on the range of minimums accepted for any of their portfolios. The only stated minimum is $250,000 for one private fund.

What types of clients does Merriman Wealth Management serve?

Merriman Wealth Management’s largest client group by the number of accounts is the individual investor, followed by high net worth investors. (For reference, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) defines a high net worth individual as a person who has $750,000 assets managed by an advisor or who has a net worth of at least $1.5 million.) However, this ranking flip flops when looking at AUM. Nearly 80% of Merriman’s AUM comes from high net worth investors. The second largest group by AUM is individual investors followed by pooled investment vehicles.

The firm does not state the minimum account balance required to participate in its investment portfolios. It does state, however, that select clients who invest in a bond account managed by a third party, Lord Abbett, must meet an investment minimum of $250,000. It does provide its minimum investment fees, which we discuss below.

Services offered by Merriman Wealth Management

Merriman offers portfolio management and wealth management services for individuals and families. Its advisors can guide clients on legal, tax and financial matters as well as provide investment management.

  • Financial planning services
    • Taxes
    • Estate planning
    • Insurance
    • Risk management
    • Charitable giving
    • Real estate purchasing
    • College funding
    • Retirement
  • Portfolio management
    • Three portfolio options
  • Selection of other advisers
  • Credit and cash management solutions

How Merriman Wealth Management invests your money

Merriman’s investment philosophy is set on using objective data and diversified assets to provide returns appropriate to risk. To that end, it features three investment portfolios:

  • MarketWise offers a focus on core investments — long-term assets that have a history of consistent appreciation.
    • Select MarketWise clients could invest in a separately managed account by Lord Abbett, which invests in high-quality intermediate municipal bonds.
  • TrendWise offers actively managed investments, which aim for shorter term gains.
  • Leveraged Global Opportunity Fund (LGO) offers an aggressive investment strategy; it’s available only to qualified investors who meet federal requirements and can bear the risk of losing their entire investment.

Here’s more on the strategies and assets of each Merriman portfolio.

Portfolio name Investment strategy and assets
MarketWise Globally diversified core investment program, focusing on low-cost mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
TrendWise Active investment management program, uses ETFs, exchange-traded notes (ETNs) and mutual funds
LGO Aggressive investment program, buying domestic and international stock, debt, currencies, options, commodities and futures via ETFs, ETNs and other investment vehicles

Fees Merriman Wealth Management charges for its services

Merriman earns income through two types of client fees: a percentage of AUM and performance-based fees. As such, it doesn’t earn commissions or sell investment products. For all portfolios except LGO, annual fees are charged on a monthly basis. The annual fee structure is split into wealth management clients and investment management clients. All annual fees are calculated and applied monthly.

Wealth management clients subscribe to the firm’s financial planning services, in addition to portfolio management. These client fees for investment services range from 0.40% to 1.35% with a $5,000 minimum annual household fee.

Annual Fees for Wealth Management Clients
Minimum Wealth Management Household Fee: $5,000 minimum annual fee
Up to $1 million 1%
$1 million to $3 million 0.80%
$3 million to $5 million 0.60%
Over $5 million 0.40%
Up to $500,000 1.35%
Over $500,000 0.90%

Investment management clients purchase only the firm’s portfolio management services. The annual percentage fee for this type of client investing in MarketWise is static at 1.25%, with a maximum annual household fee of $5,000. These clients investing in MarketWise have a $2,000 minimum annual household fee.

Leveraged Global Opportunity Fund (LGO) clients face performance fees. Investors must qualify to participate in this fund as the investment strategy is aggressive and can take on substantial risks in its objective of capital appreciation. An industry standard performance fee is “2 and 20,” wherein the firm charges 2% of AUM and 20% of any profit. LGO pays Merriman “1 and 20,” subject to a highwater mark.

Merriman Wealth Management’s disciplinary disclosures

Merriman Wealth Management reports no disciplinary disclosures in the preceding 10 years. The SEC requires registered investment advisory firms to report any criminal, regulatory or civil infractions involving the firm, its employees or its affiliates that could impact a client’s evaluation of the business.

More information on Merriman Wealth Management can be found on its Investment Advisor Public Disclosure (IAPD) page.

Merriman Wealth Management’s onboarding process

Merriman orients clients in a four- to five-step process, depending on whether a client will use wealth management services in addition to investment management services. You can begin this onboarding process by scheduling a phone call on Merriman’s website.

  1. Discovery meeting: The advisor learns about a client’s current financial health, financial goals, interests, values and investment time horizon, and builds a client profile.
  2. Wealth management planning: If a client desires wealth management advice, the advisor will meet with a specialized team to build appropriate solutions.
  3. Strategy meeting: The advisor presents the client an investment recommendation plan and a wealth management plan, if applicable.
  4. Implementation meeting: The advisor addresses any client questions and begins implementing the investment plan.
  5. Progress meetings: Starting after 90 days, the advisor and client will meet on a regular basis to review investment progress and look further into the future.

Where Merriman Wealth Management is located

Merriman Wealth Management can serve investors in most states and has three physical offices located in two states:

  • Seattle
  • Spokane, Wash.
  • Eugene, Ore.

Is Merriman Wealth Management right for you?

This firm may be best for investors who plan to take advantage of the wealth management services the company offers in addition to its investment portfolios. It’s registered to serve clients in most states, but its physical footprint is limited to three cities in the Pacific Northwest. If you’d like to compare more options 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.