Who do you trust with your money? A robot or a human? In our Fisher Investments review, we’ll tell you why you may prefer this human-guided investment firm over robo-advisors.
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If you’re uncomfortable managing your own investments, and you’re not keen on the robo-advisor trend, Fisher Investments might be for you. They provide the same comprehensive investment management you get with robo-advisors, but they do it with a human touch. And rather than investing your money in passive assets to merely track the markets, they actively seek to give you a better performance.
Fisher Investments is one of the largest independent wealth management firms in the country. The company began operations in 1979, and as of March 2019 has $107 billion in assets under management. They serve more than 5,000 private clients and over 175 large institutions (also as of March 2019). With offices in California, Texas and Washington, the firm also has two wholly owned subsidiaries in Britain and Germany.
Founder, Executive Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer, Ken Fisher, is the heart and soul of the firm. His “Portfolio Strategy” column ran in Forbes from 1984 to 2017. He has a personal net worth estimated at $3.6 billion. He has authored 11 books, and has been listed as one of the 30 most influential people in the investment advisory industry over the past 30 years by Investment Advisor magazine.
Fisher investments is a fee-only investment firm. That means you pay a flat fee for investment management, rather than fees based on individual investments or trades. This ensures that Fisher Investments is working first and foremost in your best interests.
In an investment universe increasingly focused on robo-advisors, Fisher Investments is a traditional human-guided investment management service. And unlike robo-advisors, it doesn’t actually take control over your assets. Instead, an account is set up in your name with a third-party custodian, with Fisher Investments having control over the investment activity.
Your investment account is made up of U.S. and international stocks, bonds, cash and exchange traded funds (ETFs). They are part of an investment portfolio, custom-designed for your investment profile and personal goals.
Personal Investment Counselor
The firm handles complete investment management for you, plus, you get a dedicated personal Investment Counselor. This person is a professional investment advisor, who will review your portfolio periodically, and keep you advised on major decisions that will affect it. In this way, Fisher Investments offers a much more hands-on approach than robo-advisors, which typically involve minimal human contact.
One important benefit of your personal Investment Counselor is that he or she is not on commission. You will only be contacted for investment updates and important information. You will never be contacted with a sales call.
Fisher Investments starts by determining the right portfolio for you. They consider the following factors in creating the asset mix:
- Your risk tolerance
- Investment objectives
- Investment time horizon
- Cash flow requirements (how much income do you need from your portfolio right now?)
- Other income sources you have
- Tax considerations – minimizing the tax impact of capital gains
- Other assets, not managed by Fisher Investments (like employer sponsored retirement plans)
- Personal preferences or restrictions you may require
Investment management is provided by Fisher Investment’s Investment Policy Committee (IPC). The committee is comprised of five people, some of whom have worked together for more than 30 years. Naturally, Ken Fisher himself, is a member of the IPC.
Fisher Investments has more than 3,000 employees, including a fully staffed research department. This includes teams dedicated to analyzing macroeconomic trends, monitoring every investment sector and major country around the world, evaluating individual securities, calculating performance attribution, and implementing the IPC’s portfolio decisions.
Active Investment Management
This is an important distinguishing factor of Fisher Investments. Robo-advisors invest primarily in index-based ETFs, with the goal of matching the performance of the market. Fisher Investments uses an active investment management strategy. That means your portfolio will be adjusted based on market conditions.
For example, if the outlook for stocks is negative, your stock positions will be reduced in favor of bonds and cash. If a market upturn is expected, stocks will be re-emphasized in your portfolio. The service will also look to exploit foreign markets that might outperform U.S. markets, as well as market shifts between large, mid, and small-capitalization market sectors.
There’s no guarantee Fisher Investments will outperform the general market. But it’s believed that strategic asset reallocations in various market conditions will improve your long-term performance.
In addition to professional portfolio management and regular access to your personal Investment Counselor, you can expect the following when you’re a client of Fisher Investments:
Education and Information
Fisher Investments strives to keep investors in the know. They use the following contact methods to keep you fully up-to-date:
- Comprehensive quarterly reports
- Daily online commentary
- Capital Markets Update videos
- A series of investing books
- Periodic updates from the IPC
Fisher Investments host events in more than 60 cities nationwide, designed exclusively for their clients. The purpose is to give clients unprecedented access to senior decision-makers as well as other clients of the firm. Events include:
- Fisher Forecast Seminars
- Investment Roundtables
- Fisher Friends events
These events are available to you at no extra cost, and there’s no limit to how many you can attend. You’re under no obligation to attend. But, if you want more direct involvement in what’s going on in the investment world, these events are a real opportunity to expand your knowledge base.
You may prefer to turn your portfolio over to Fisher Investments and let them handle all the details. But if you’d like to know more about what’s going on you’ll have that option with:
- Quarterly Reviews – Each quarter you’ll receive a report discussing recent market performance and future market outlook, including discussions of historic and emerging trends.
- Capital Markets Update Videos – These are produced twice each year and explain the current investment market outlook.
- MarketMinder.com – This is a website available to the general public. It’s a source of “straight talk” about the financial markets. It’s updated daily and includes analysis and commentary on the current market events.
Fisher Investments Retirement Planning
Fisher Investments uses a holistic approach to retirement planning. That includes meeting with you to learn about your retirement needs and desired lifestyle, then developing a personalized portfolio to help you get there. It also involves regular updates of your financial situation and adjusting the investment strategy as your circumstances change.
Fisher Investments offers a large amount of information on various retirement accounts, including 401(k) and 403(b) programs, and traditional and Roth IRAs.
The 15-Minute Retirement Planner. This is a planner Fisher Investments offers free of charge. It centers on what is perhaps an investor’s biggest concern about retirement: outliving your money. The guide helps you to understand the intricacies of providing for your retirement. It takes into account life expectancy, the income you’ll need, as well as the portfolio necessary to produce that income.
One of the areas of specific concern it deals with is increasing life expectancy. Fisher investments recognizes that most people will likely live longer than they expect. Their investment strategy helps you to prepare for this likely outcome.
The Planner is an excellent introduction to help you to understand and prepare for this possibility.
Other retirement investing guides Fisher Investments offer include:
- The Definitive Guide to Retirement Income
- Retirement GPS
- 13 Retirement Blunders to Avoid
- 401(k) & IRA Tips and Answers
- 99 Retirement Tips
- Premier Retirement Destinations
- When to Retire: A Quick and Easy Planning Guide
Annuities are perhaps the most mysterious investment vehicles of all. In fact, technically speaking they’re not even investments–they’re investment contracts. Your upfront investment is for a future income stream, but doesn’t necessarily remain your property.
The complication is that annuities contain dozens of provisions that are poorly understood by the general public. People are certainly interested in creating a permanent income stream, but they’re not usually aware that they might forfeit a large part of their investment, or that they’ll pay very high fees for the privilege.
For this reason, Fisher Investments offers a wealth of information on annuities. They’ll help you to determine if an annuity you already have, or one you’re planning on buying, is right for you. They also explain the many different types of annuities, and the various provisions they contain.
Fisher Investments Calculators
Fisher Investments provides several investment related calculators to help you determine your investment needs.
401(k) Calculator. This shows you how small changes can have a big impact on your retirement. The number of years left before you retire, your current salary level, the percentage of your salary that you contribute, and your estimated return on investment are all factors. The calculator enables you to determine changes you may need to make to improve the future value of your plan.
Annuity Calculator. Annuities are something of a mystery investment. But they’re becoming increasingly important as a source of stable income, as traditional defined benefit pensions gradually disappear. The annuity calculator will help you to determine the future value of an annuity, and whether or not it makes sense for you.
Future Value Calculator. Calculate the future value of any investment. You enter the present value, anticipated additions, the number of years you’ll be investing, and the anticipated rate of return.
Retirement Calculator. This gives you a simple method to estimate how certain changes can affect your retirement income. In the process, it enables you to come up with different scenarios that’ll help you reach your goals in a world of changing circumstances. It can help you to know if you’re on track, or if you need to make changes, such as your contributions or your investment mix.
The Fisher Investments Mobile App
The Fisher Investments Mobile App is available for U.S. users at the App Store or Google Play. It will provide you with daily commentary, daily news roundups, Fisher Investments social media posts, and access to videos from their YouTube channel.
The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod devices.
Fisher Investments charges an all-encompassing fee of 1.5% on portfolios up to $500,000. The fee drops on higher account balances, to as low as 1.25%. There are no commissions or hidden fees based on trading within your account.
- Comprehensive investment management.
- Personal Investment Counselor, who isn’t on commission, and will contact you with pertinent information, and not random sales calls.
- Active portfolio management that seeks to beat the market, not merely match it.
- Strong emphasis on retirement, which will be a benefit to most investors.
- Flat fee management means no commissions, and no broker incentive to “churn your account” to generate the income.
- Fisher Investment’s management fee is much higher than what you will pay for robo-advisors. But they also provide a higher level of service.
Not everyone is comfortable managing their own investments. In fact, that’s probably true of most people. Right now, a lot of people are gravitating toward robo-advisors, largely because they charge much lower fees than human investment advisors.
When you don’t have the time or energy to invest in your portfolio but you have the desire to participate, you should consider a robo-advisor. There are many benefits to using robo-advisors, it’s easy on the wallet, low maintenance and a great way for beginners to make an entrance into the investing world. One of our favorite robo-advisors is Betterment. You can open a Betterment account now with zero dollars and not have to worry about a fee since fees are based on your account balance. Another major robo-advisor is Wealthfront. We put both of these robo giants to the test. Find out which one is best for you in our Betterment vs. Wealthfront match-up.
Related: Our Wealthfront Review
But while low fees matter with investing, they’re hardly the whole story. You will pay more for investment management through Fisher Investments, but it’s an entirely different level of service.
Fisher Investments will provide you with a personal Investment Counselor, who knows your financial situation and goals personally, and will help you to reach them. That level of personal service is not available with robo-advisors.
But perhaps the more compelling reason is active investment management. Robo-advisors use passive investment management. That’s a strategy that involves simply matching the performance of the underlying markets. Active investment management is a strategy that works to outperform the market.
This can be a difficult objective in the type of rising market we’ve had for the last nine years. But it may prove to be a superior strategy when the market reverses. Rather than staying with an initial portfolio allocation, the way robo-advisors do, Fisher Investments will lower your exposure to stocks, and increase your holdings in fixed income and cash assets. This will minimize losses in a declining market.
That’s the kind of investment management that Fisher Investments offers. And it may well produce higher investment returns over the very long term.
Investing in stock markets involves the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.
How to Manage Your Fisher Investments
Track and Analyze your Investments for Free: Managing investments can be a hassle. You may have multiple IRAs, multiple 401ks, as well as taxable accounts. And then there are bank accounts. The easiest way to track and analyze all your investments, regardless of where they are located, is with Personal Capital’s free financial dashboard.
Personal Capital enables you to connect all of your 401(k), 403(b), IRAs, and other investment accounts in one place. Once connected, you can see the performance of all of your investments and evaluate your asset allocation.
With Personal Capital’s Retirement Fee Analyzer you can see just how much your 401k and other investments are costing you. I was shocked to learn that the fees in my 401(k) could cost me over $200,000!
Personal Capital also offers a free Retirement Planner. This tool will show you if you are on track to retire on your terms.