The fiduciary rule that would have required investment advisors to act in your best interest — not their own — when dealing with retirement investments is dead. That means it’s getting more complicated out there when you’re trying to find a good advisor.
But fortunately, there is an easy vetting process you can put a potential advisor through that will give you the green light to go ahead and work with them.
Have your advisor sign the ‘Fiduciary Oath’
According to Barron’s magazine, some $17 billion is lost in retirement savings every year simply because dishonest financial advisors steer their clients toward investments that meet general suitability requirements but aren’t in the best interests of their client base.
Why? Simple — such investments pad the advisor’s pocket with fat commissions.
Recognizing the need to police itself, the financial advisory industry has come up with its own solution called the Fiduciary Oath. Now, more than ever, in the absence of any legal mandate requiring advisors to put their clients’ interest above their own, you have to be sure your advisor signs this document.
When an advisor puts their name this Fiduciary Oath, he or she is legally bound to “always put your best interests first” and “avoid conflicts of interest” like the ones mentioned earlier, where they would steer you to investments that benefit them, not you.
Which firms are true fiduciaries?
As a general rule, registered investment advisors (RIAs) are held to a fiduciary standard that applies to investment management, but not necessarily to broader financial planning. Such RIAs will often identify themselves as “independent” advisors, Barron’s notes.
In addition, Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) are more broadly required to be fiduciaries in all aspects of financial planning — not just investment management.
But no matter what acronym your advisor has behind his or her name, be sure they’ve signed the Fiduciary Oath. Any hesitance to sign the oath should be interpreted as a red flag on your part.
Run away, don’t walk, if they won’t sign that document!
(Editor’s note: If you’re befuddled by all the different credentials like RIA, CFP and others in the financial world, check with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. FINRA has a database that allows you to vet the credentials of anybody trying to pitch you on an investment.)
More than 40 financial advisory firms across the country have signed the Fiduciary Oath at TheFiduciaryStandard.org. This is their promise to you as a potential customer that they’re going to do right by you if you hire them to manage your assets.
In addition, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA.org) requires its members to take a similarly binding fiduciary oath that’s a sign that you can hire any of their members in good faith.