The Latest and Greatest in Planner Compensation

Daniel YergerAbout the Firm, Financial Planning Leave a Comment

The latest study on compensation within registered investment advisers has been released, so today, we’re providing an overview of the compensation measurement changes for three entry-level and early career positions: non-licensed support (e.g., customer service, receptionist, office admin), entry-level financial planners (paraplanners, associate advisors, planning analysts), and experienced CFP® Professional Financial Planners.

Non-Licensed Support

Based on the data from 2022, a non-licensed support staff member could anticipate a median base salary of $49,003 with total cash compensation extending to a national median of $51,896. In 2023, base salaries grew at a rate lower than inflation at 2.03% while variable compensation remained almost completely flat, arriving at a national median base salary of $50,000 and variable compensation arriving at $52,000. However, the median varied wildly, with small rural markets paying a median of $43,000 and big city markets ranging up to a $58,000 median, with the 20th percentile extremes ranging from $39,000 to $66,000 based on the size of the marketplace. Experience in this role was weighted toward those with less than a decade of experience, though approximately a little over 1/3rd had more than a decade of experience.

For those staff specializing in operations rather than basic client service and support, wages saw a more measurable jump. In 2022, the national median sat at $63,000 in base compensation with an additional $5,000 in variable bonus compensation. However, in 2023, the national median base compensation climbed by $68,000 with an additional $6,188 in bonus compensation, reflecting greater-than-inflation growth of 7.9% and 23.76%, respectively. This would suggest that while demand for basic support staff is down, demand for experienced operations associates and professional back office staff is rising, as the needs of RIAs for experienced and competent support team members grows.

Entry Level Planners

Prospects have brightened for entry-level financial planners as well. In 2022, the national median for paraplanners and entry-level associate planners rests at $62,500 with an additional $5,000 in variable compensation, mirroring that of operations associates. This more significantly varied based on the market, with rural planners showing a median of $53,000 and major metropolitan planners showing a median of $80,000, with the 20th percentile ranging as low as $47,000 in rural markets and as high as $100,000 in metropolitan markets. A noteworthy element in this are as well is that while these positions are ostensibly entry-level, between 8%-27% of those holding paraplanning roles already have their CFP® Certification.

These positions saw growth in their income in 2023, with the national median increasing by $3,201 to $65,701 with an additional $6,000 in variable compensation, representing 5.12% growth in wages. These increases were more gradual than seen in the support staff roles, and it was further observed that revenue-related bonus compensation declined; while the same percentage of respondents (74%) reported receiving compensation tied directly to revenue, the percentage of new client revenue was cut in half from 20% to 10%, while existing client revenue declined from 20% to 19%. This may signal a slow shift towards more stable or salaried compensation and less client-related variable compensation, but the range of compensation packages in entry-level positions can vary significantly with the nature of the role, e.g. purely support planning versus client-facing or entry-level business development.

Experienced Financial Planners

For experienced financial planners in 2022, the median national salary sat at $91,444, with variable compensation creating a significant degree of incentive, with an additional bonus comp of $23,182. As with other positions, the median varied by marketplace, with the rural market showing a median of $74,000 in annual salary while major metropolitan areas showed $115,000 as a median, with $50,000 at the 20th percentile and $170,000 at the 80th percentile across markets.

Income increased in 2023 with the national median salary rising to $96,579 while variable compensation declined slightly to an additional $21,750. However, the median in all markets increased significantly, with the rural median increasing by $8,000 to $82,000 annually and major metropolitan markets increasing by $16,000 to $131,000. A noteworthy item of interest in this role, however, is that in rural markets, a substantial amount of income is derived from revenue, with 20% of advisors reporting that 100% of their compensation was based on existing client revenue, while mid-market and metropolitan advisors reported much lower percentages of revenue shared.

Of additional note is the prevalence of the CFP® Certification in this role, with 2/3rds of people holding financial planner roles reporting that they held the CFP® Certification.


Year over year, benefits have proven an interesting area of evaluation. From 2021 to 2022, there was a noticeable decline in the prevalence of hard-dollar benefits, such as insurance benefits, and a boom in soft-dollar benefits, such as vacation and leave policies. In 2023, there was a nominal increase in the number of firms offering medical, dental, and vision insurance; however, there was a standout improvement in the state-registered RIA space, with firms almost doubling the offering of Dental and Vision insurance, while offering medical insurance increased by over 30% relative to the prior year.

Benefits such as disability and life insurance increased a minor amount, with firms remaining surprisingly stingy about offering these benefits despite ostensibly being aware of the importance of such benefits. However, benefits such as retirement plans remained extremely prevalent, with four out of five firms offering a 401(k) plan, and another 7% offering a SIMPLE IRA. However, despite the constant conversation in the industry about equity and succession, ESOP plans remained incredibly uncommon, with 1% of firms offering them in 2022 and 2023.

Notably, despite the major increase in firms offering more vacation and flexible leave policies in 2022, leave policies appear to have hit a ceiling, with the average number of paid holidays increasing by 0.3 for 2023 from the prior year. Additionally, while unlimited vacation is a prevalent and universal mainstay of small state-registered RIAs, the larger a firm becomes, the more restrictive its leave policies become. In fact, in the billion-dollar RIA space, leave for employees with five or fewer years of service actually declined.

2023 also represented the first year that non-traditional benefits were tracked. Some benefits were extremely prevalent, such as remote work and hybrid work opportunities. Many firms also extended to offering health and wellness benefits and PTO for volunteer or service activities. However, some benefits remain uncommon, including childcare and eldercare reimbursement.

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