Fee-Based vs. Commission-Based

Feb 07, 2024 By Susan Kelly

Regardless of the field that the focus of the advisor's investment, they typically fall under two categories: fee-based (or fee-only) and commission-based. Fee-based advisors typically cost their clients fixed costs, while commission-based advisors earn commissions from financial transactions and products.

What kind of advisor is more suitable is a matter that's too old-fashioned as the field itself. But, investors need to know the distinctions between them and, ultimately, the costs of a fee-based as opposed to an investment manager who is a commission-based financial advisor.

Fee-Based Financial Advisors

A fee-based financial adviser typically receives payment in either the retainer fee or an hourly charge. It is more beneficial to have if you're looking to manage an extensive portfolio and require a fee-based advisor. They're not a single-use solution and are always available to evaluate your portfolio. It differs between an occasional successful date and a long-lasting, steady relationship.

Contrary to commission-based advisors, fee-based advisors are bound by an obligation of fiduciary to their clients. This is excellent from a consumer perspective since they must put your interest first legally. A fee-based advisor cannot sell you an investment product that is against your requirements. Although fee-based advisors typically cost more, you purchase their time and commitment to your investment portfolio. A fee of 1-2% annually for managing your assets is normal, and so you'll need to ensure that there is the need to engage this kind of advisor.


The main concern to consider as a prospective client is whether the advisor recommends an investment that boosts their profits and whether the products they recommend are the best for you. In reality, there are registered reps and others who receive most of their earnings through commissions that could be required to prefer products provided by their employer. This could or might not be the right investment to use in your portfolio strategy. Since fee-only advisors cannot sell commission-based products, pay referral fees, or receive other types of payment, the possibility for conflicts of interest is very low. This is why most recommend that you choose a fee-based advisor.

Commission-Based Financial Advisor

Financial advisors who earn commissions are paid when they offer a product or service to their clients like insurance, stocks, or mutual funds. This type of arrangement could cause you to think that financial advisors who earn commissions do so in the interest of their self-interest to make more money at the cost of helping you grow your portfolio; however, advisors operating as fiduciaries have to ensure that the interests of their clients are first. Certain Financial advisors have the status of fiduciaries, and others are required by law to sell only products that meet a client's requirements. What qualifies as appropriate differs between professionals, and therefore, make sure that the advisor you choose to commission is aware of your goals in managing your finances.


Every investor has individual goals in investing along with financial goals, as well as levels of risk tolerance. One complaint at the root of advisors who earn commissions is whether they can keep the client's best interests in mind when recommending investment security, fund, or others. Suppose the advisor is making an income from the sale of a product. How can an investor be sure that the investment suggested is the right choice for them or just the most profitable option beneficial to the advisor? To understand the way advisors who earn commissions function is important to know the way they're paid and employed in the financial world.

How Commission-Based Advisors are Compensated

Many investment advisors who are commissioned (including Full-Service brokers) work for large firms like Edward Jones or Merrill Lynch. However, they have jobs with their companies but only in a limited capacity. In most cases, they are self-employed independent contractors whose earnings come directly from clients they attract. They are paid a small or no basic income from the brokerage or financial services firm, although the company may provide facilities, research, and other operational assistance. To receive this assistance from the investment firm, advisors must fulfill certain essential obligations. One of them helps the company with its revenue: Advisors have to contribute a specific part of their earnings to the firm by commission-based sales. The issue with this payment method can be that they reward advisors who engage customers in trading regardless of whether this investment approach isn't appropriate for the client.

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