When it comes to fees, people often think that higher rates mean better value/performance, and that's simply not true. It's to the point where charging low adviser fees borders on a competitive disadvantage as people assume the adviser must not be worth it. The amount you pay in fees has no positive bearing on your performance, and is likely a negative, as fees eat into returns. And fees can take lots of forms, you can pay them to an adviser, to a fund or to both, if you use an adviser who also uses funds, as most do.
[For the record, most advisers charge fees @ 1.00% of assets under management. As for funds, you can get simple index funds for as low as .05%.. There are some good funds that charge more, but there are also funds that are essentially index funds but charge well over 1% in fees.]
There also seems to be a perception among some that you have to be wealthy to get access to good financial advice. This is sort of true. If you have a small amount of money, it won't be cost effective for most advisers to work with you (and you might not want to pay out any of that money to an adviser anyway), so you get shut out of "the game". But, that doesn't mean the advice gets super-fancy as you creep towards the 6 or 7 digits. It's just that the options increase (most people would shove a $5k account into one fund, but probably wouldn't do that for a $500k account).
But, any small thing that an adviser does to "juice" returns on a modest account is going to pale in comparison to you saving more money, so don't waste too much time trying to maximize return on an account that's barely worth enough to buy a very used KIA. If you have only a few thousand bucks, the best advice is to save more, save consistently and invest in one or two simple low fee funds. Then, if you want your hand held by an adviser as your account gets bigger and there are other corners of your finances to consider (greater insurance needs, financial planning, small business retirement plan options, etc.), hire one. Or maybe by that point you feel confident enough to do it continue doing it yourself.
And once you turn that into more money, you admittedly have a few more options. But the principles will remain the same: watch your fees, be consistent, stick to your plan. By and large, the world of sophisticated financial advice doesn't suddenly open up to you because you have some wealth. You get a few more tools in the toolbox, but you can also potentially stab yourself with them. The rich are subject to many of the same constraints as the rest of us. Being wealthy means one thing: you have money. It doesn't necessarily mean you are smart and may not even mean you are good with money. It it definitely doesn't make you immune from bad returns or being swindled.
As to those options available to wealthy investors, as I said, a few things do open up. First, if you meet certain income/net worth standards, you become an "accredited investor". That means that the government then assumes you are knowledgeable enough to handle some riskier investments in securities not regulated by financial authorities, such as hedge funds. The problem is that, while we can make some broad assumptions about returns in the "vanilla" stock market, the returns of these hedge funds and other pseudo-private investments are all over the map. So, as is the case in many areas, the government's assumptions are often wrong.
And hedge fund returns have been downright ugly as of late. Of course, periods of under-performance are a certainty with any investment, but the problems with hedge funds could be structural as long as they continue their high fees. Historically, these funds have charges 2% of the assets under management and 20% of the profits, but the smart funds are bringing fees down.
And, of course, people with a higher net worth can also invest in real estate without needing excessive leverage, which can work out very well. But again, those returns vary by location, experience and luck. And, remember, I'm not a real estate adviser, so I won't go out on any limbs here. This is often more about how you are at the business of real estate than how you are as an investor. And business and investing are not the same thing, though the line can get blurry.
So, it's not so much that only rich people can afford good advice, it's more that poor people generally can't afford advice and/or don't need it yet. If price equaled value when it came to investing, we'd see hedge funds as a class have consistently superior performance. Also, we'd see the high fee, actively managed mutual funds with similar success. But, most don't beat the indices, and you generally have to pay for this middling performance. There are ways to attempt to improve on the index returns, but often they can be implemented with tactically using inexpensive index funds or using mechanical, algorithm-based funds that still charge much less than 1%.
Most successful investing is simple, and the simplest investing is essentially index investing, give or take. Are there things you can possibly due to improve upon that and/or mitigate the ups and downs? I certainly believe so, but they won't be as essential as the amount you save, your consistency of implementation and of course, how much you pay in fees.