merrill lynch reviews

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Review (2024)

Merrill Lynch wealth management review, fee schedule, financial advisor minimum account investment. Are Merrill Lynch fees high?

Merrill Lynch Self Directed Account

The following review applies to Merrill Lynch wealth management account. For Merrill Lynch self-directed account review, go to Merrill Edge Review.

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Review

Full-service financial planning and investment management are available at Merrill Lynch. The cost is reasonable, and there are many perks, too.

Program Overview

The Merrill Lynch Wealth Management program is an old-school service with actual human investment advisors. Their task is to help their clients invest their assets and make sound financial decisions. Despite this focus, it is possible to open a Merrill Lynch account as a self-directed or non-discretionary managed account. With any setup, the account will always have a financial planner attached to it.

The standard arrangement is for the account to be a full discretionary account where the financial advisor makes actual trading decisions on behalf of the client. In either mode, there are a variety of tax structures that can be used. Merrill Lynch offers 529 plans, IRAs, estate accounts, small business 401k plans, trusts, custodial accounts, and more.

There are multiple IRA types available. These include not only Roth and Traditional accounts but also Inherited, SEP, and SIMPLE plans.

Merrill Lynch will open accounts for U.S. and non-U.S. residents. The investment firm has branches around the world.

Finding a Merrill Lynch Advisor

Every Merrill Lynch account must be opened through a branch office with a financial advisor. It is not possible to open an account online. Remember, this is an old-school, traditional program with a lot of guidance and hand holding.

Merrill Lynch has brick-and-mortar locations in most U.S. states. Some territories, like Guam and Puerto Rico, have some, too. In total, there are more than 15,000 advisors.

The easiest way to locate an advisor is to use Merrill Lynch’s search tool on its website. Simply click on your state and scroll through the available choices. There is a map on each state’s profile page (look for the red button to “show map”) that will display the locations of these offices. It’s also possible to search by zip code (look for the “By Office” tab).

Many offices have multiple advisors. Background information is shown for each advisor, and there are contact links (phone, email, and LinkedIn). One of these should be used to set up an appointment.

It is at this appointment that an account would be opened. Of course, many other issues will be discussed, including program details, costs, and investment goals to be pursued.

Services and Investment Vehicles

As a full-service investment program, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management delivers a lot of personalized financial services that won’t be found through robo or self-directed approaches. These include:

  • Insurance
  • Wealth planning
  • Lending and banking services though Bank of America
  • Retirement planning
  • Wealth transfer
  • Coordination with outside attorneys and accountants
  • Estate planning
  • Specialized services for athletes and entertainers
  • Customized financial plan
  • Assistance with philanthropy
  • Trust establishment
  • Socially-responsible investment strategies
  • Ongoing monitoring and reviews

Merrill Lynch also delivers a long list of investment vehicles. These include:

  • Precious metals
  • Individual stocks
  • Options
  • Fixed-income securities
  • Brokered CDs
  • Preferred stocks
  • Mutual funds
  • Money-market funds
  • Exchange-traded funds
  • Unit Investment Trusts
  • Closed-end funds
  • Market-linked investments
  • Annuities
  • Derivatives
  • Overlay strategies
  • Hedge funds
  • Private equity funds
  • Managed futures
  • Non-traded REITS
  • Variable annuities
  • Private equity investments
  • Initial Public Offerings

Wow, that’s quite a list. Not every account setup will be eligible for every asset class, however.

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Digital Tools

Besides the dedicated financial advisor, Wealth Management customers get access to digital tools that can be used in either investment-advisory or self-directed mode. The Merrill website has several resources that can be used to monitor an account. These include a graph that shows an account’s balance and a contact tool to reach out to the attached financial advisor.

Accounts with Bank of America will be automatically linked to any investment accounts with Merrill, and transferring funds among all these accounts is quite easy. It’s even possible to transfer funds from a securities account to a credit card with Bank of America.

merrill lynch wealth management fee schedule

Then there is the MyMerrill mobile app. This mobile platform is designed exclusively for investment-advisory clients. It has contact tools to reach out to the account’s assigned financial advisor. Email, phone, and internal messaging are all possibilities. And there is a document upload tool that uses the phone’s camera to send a document to the advisor. Mobile check deposit operates in a similar fashion. Once again, Bank of America accounts are automatically linked.

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Fees

There are a variety of bundles with their various pricing schedules for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. The low range is at 0.40% per annum for a fixed-income portfolio, while the high end is at 1.75%, which would be for an equity portfolio.

Some programs have stepped pricing schedules that give discounts to customers with sufficient assets. The Strategic Portfolio Advisor setup, for example, starts at 1.5% and goes down to 0.60% at $25 million. It begins discounting at $5 million in assets. Accounts with more than $50 million get negotiated rates, which presumably will be something under 60 basis points per year.

Self-directed accounts are a different story altogether. Instead of an annual percent-based fee, Merrill Lynch charges commissions on trades. Stock trades cost anywhere from 5.00% of trade value to 0.50%, depending on the amount of the trade (large trades get lower rates).

Option trades are priced on a more complicated system. They have a fixed-dollar commission based on the total trade principal (from $65 to $123) plus another fixed-dollar fee based on the number of contracts ($0 to $880) plus a percent of trade value (anywhere from 15% to 0.7%). To make it a little easier to understand, option trades here are really expensive.

Bond trades have markups and markdowns. The latter range from 0.00% to 0.50%, while the former cost 0.10% up to 2.00%. It depends on the bond type and maturity.

Hedge funds and private equity funds have an upfront placement fee of 2.00% of the investment amount. This can be in addition to other fees.

Wealth Management customers who are Preferred Rewards members with Bank of America can get discounts on some of these fees.

Find a Financial Advisor

If you are looking for a professional money management service in your area, you can find a Financial Advisor on the Echo Trade.

Try Echo Trade

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Minimum

Generally speaking, admission to the Wealth Management program requires at least $250,000 in assets.

Educational Resources

Brokerage and investment-advisory customers can both benefit from Merrill Lynch’s treasure trove of learning materials. These come in a variety of formats, including podcasts, articles, in-person events, videos, calculators, and more. Examples we found during our research include:

- The great wealth transfer: Is your family ready?
- One of the Most Surprising Things About Retirement Today
- More volatility ahead: Your key questions answered

There is a Merrill newsletter called Perspectives that is available by email free of charge. It goes out once a month.

Some educational resources are on the Merrill Edge site. This is the company’s online discount brokerage firm, where lower account minimums and reduced fees will be found.

Merrill Edge as an Alternative

Like the Wealth Management program at Merrill Lynch, both brokerage and investment-advisory accounts are available at Merrill Edge. The self-directed variety has no account minimum and charges no commissions on stock trades, a huge advantage over the pricing schedule we found at Merrill Lynch. Moreover, option trades are just 65¢ per contract, an enormous savings.

Managed accounts have either a $1,000 or $20,000 account minimum, depending on the package chosen. And the advisory fee is either 0.85% or 0.45%. As with the full-service program, Preferred Rewards members can get discounts.

The downside of opting for Merrill Edge is a reduced lineup of services and tradable products. Hedge funds and estate planning won’t be available, for example. Investors who don’t need these types of advanced financial services may want to check out Merrill Edge.

Open Merrill Edge Account

Visit Merrill Edge Website

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Review Judgment

Merrill Lynch has a competitive Wealth Management service that offers a great deal for a reasonable cost, at least for investors who have enough money to enter the program. Anyone with less than $250,000 to invest should consider Merrill Edge as a substitute.

About the Author
Chad Morris is a financial writer with more than 20 years experience as both an English teacher and an avid trader. When he isn’t writing expert content for, Chad can usually be found managing his portfolio or building a new home computer.