Research by the Financial Conduct Authority found for advice on a UK average pension pot of £47,100, advisers charge anything from 1 per cent to 4.5 per cent.
This means an initial charge ranging from £471 to £2,119, a difference of 349 per cent.
Clients with the smallest amount of savings of £10,000 and below, faced paying higher proportions of up to 5 per cent.
But advisers have defended the wide range of charges, blaming compliance rules aimed at ensuring clients receive suitable advice for the the higher percentages levelled at those with less savings.
Jane Hodges, chief operating officer for national IFA Alexander House Financial Services, said the amounts paid out would often be similar to those with more assets.
“To access pension freedoms for clients as an adviser you have to look at their whole position.
“The consequences are fees are high because it doesn’t matter if you are advising on £10,000 or £50,000.
“The compliance regime is onerous because we cannot look at something in isolation and that comes with a cost implication.”
Anna Sofat, managing director of London-based Addidi, said: “We cannot take shortcuts.
“If you want gilt-edged service there is a cost, but at the same time the regulator is saying everyone should have that service and by the way, you have got to make it affordable – something has got to give.”
How to make advice cheaper by tackling the regulatory burden advisers face when giving full, independent, regulated advice was the focus of the FCA’s Financial Advice Market Review.
The subsequent report acknowledged some consumers would benefit from simpler, less tightly regulated and so cheaper, guidance or limited advice on a particular need.
HM Treasury, which jointly ran the review, will consult on a new advice definition. The FCA will consult on new guidance for firms so they can help consumers without a personal recommendation.
Ms Hodges welcomed the changes, but said she “had hoped FAMR would have come out with something that could help straight away”.
Greg Heath, managing director of Lancashire-based Derbyshire Booth, said a simple suitability process for clients who only wanted advice on one issue was “utopia”.
“The moment you start making a recommendation you run into the whole compliance process, which takes time and money.”
The FCA survey also found looked at charges for ongoing advice, and found larger firms tend to charge more than smaller advisers.