Some sample prices for straightforward pay-for-hours-or-deliverables planners:
- I was just talking to a planner in my area, and his rates are $150/hour, but for a complete plan he'll do a flat fee project at probably about $1000 depending on complexity and then it comes out to about $100/hour.
- Vanguard charges $1000 for a complete plan if you have less than 50k in assets, $250 if you have up to 500k and free if you have more.
I think I've seen some similar rates elsewhere, too. I'd feel like you might get something perfunctory and boilerplate for too much less than $1000 - how could the person afford to spend much time? - and I'd feel like lots more than $1000 for just a standard straightforward plan might be a ripoff. Basically you're paying $1000 for a day or two of work, you don't want just a couple hours of work, but you don't need a week of work either.
Anyway, extracting the general guideline (since prices may vary regionally or over time), you could figure it takes a day or two to do a decent job on a basic complete financial plan without a lot of complexities in it. From there you can decide what's fair, adding or subtracting time if you need less than a complete plan or have complex issues.
This is assuming you're paying for time and deliverables, which is not a given. The biggest factor in how much you pay is probably how they charge; a couple of the most common models,
- Hourly. You are paying for advice. Some planners doing this are part of the Garrett Planning Network which is basically a franchise; the general idea is that you will do a lot of implementation yourself and just need some sanity checking and help with tricky parts. You might pay pure hourly, or you might pay an agreed-on flat project fee for a complete financial plan.
- Percentage of assets. You are paying for investment management, and it costs say 1% of assets per year or something like that, often with "volume discounts" if you have more assets.
(There are other models but these are the ones I've seen most.)
The difference between these two models is a lot of money over time.
Hourly is going to be much cheaper, because it's a one-time cost instead of ongoing, and unrelated to what you have in assets. However, you won't get investment management, which can be valuable if you aren't the kind to stick to an investment plan or you want someone else to completely take care of it for you. The investment-management planners have the potential to make a lot more money (and are more likely to be in it for the money). Hourly planners don't really have as good a business from a business owner's perspective, but they are cheaper from a customer perspective, as long as you're happy to DIY a bit.
One thing I like about hourly planners is that I don't really feel investments are the main place planners can add value, so it makes me nervous to have the compensation based on that. Insurance, estate planning, taxes, etc. are where it's harder for a layperson to know all the ins and outs and DIY.
From what I've seen, the cheapest planners are the ones that you can get free or discounted from companies like USAA or Vanguard if you have an account with them. However, they will only recommend products from the company in question, so that's a downside, and you probably won't get to meet them in person.
This question may be useful too: What exactly can a financial advisor do for me, and is it worth the money?