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Finding a Fiduciary Financial Advisor

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A Critical Life Skill? 

[By Rick Kahler MS CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com]

Rick Kahler CFPIn today’s complex world of technology, regulations, and finance, a critical life skill is finding advisors and service providers we can trust.

Few of us know how to repair a laptop, grasp the details of income tax regulations, or understand the nuances of selecting the best mutual fund.

We must rely on others to help us out.

Trust Owed

In the legal sense, there are very few people who “owe” us their trust. Certainly, those selling us goods owe us accuracy and honesty. When I buy a 48-ounce bottle of 100% pomegranate juice from Safeway, I expect it to contain exactly 48 ounces and be 100% pomegranate juice, not a blend of pomegranate, grape, and apple. However, I cannot trust Safeway to know whether the health claims behind pomegranate juice are accurate or whether I can find it cheaper elsewhere.

Sales People

In a similar fashion, salespeople for appliances, cars, or cable service have one basic goal, to sell products to their customers. They owe us honesty about the costs, features, and condition of their wares. But it is up to us to research products and decide whether they are good values for us.

Professionals

Professionals in some fields give unbiased advice about certain products or services as they relate specifically to you. In a legal sense, such professionals do owe you trust. They have a “fiduciary” duty to be your advocate. The law requires a professional held to a fiduciary duty to work solely in the consumer’s interest. Examples of such professionals are physicians, attorneys, accountants, trustees, trust officers, and most real estate consultants.

When a professional has a fiduciary duty to you, you are called a client. When a professional is selling you a product or service, you are a customer.

Conflicts of Interest

One of the primary issues affecting how easily fiduciaries can advocate for you is their level of freedom from a conflict of interest. At times a potential conflict of interest can be so significant that a fiduciary will decline the engagement. Attorneys, for example, will turn you down if you want to sue someone they have represented in the past. The past association may cloud their ability to effectively advocate for you.

Compensation

One of the greatest potential conflicts of interest is how you compensate the fiduciary. Typically, paying a flat or hourly fee is the easiest way to insure there is no compensational conflict. Compensating a fiduciary with commissions almost always carries some type of potential conflict. The greater the compensation from a commission, the greater the potential conflict.

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Example:

For example, Real Estate Agent A acts as a buyer’s broker with a fiduciary duty to a buyer, who pays her an hourly fee plus 1% of any amount that the final purchase price is reduced from the list price. Agent B, also a fiduciary buyer’s broker, is only compensated by a commission if there is a sale. Which agent has the larger potential conflict of interest? Without a question, Agent B. He may face a situation where his client’s interest would be best served by a sale with a lower commission or even no sale at all. Advocating for his client would mean a direct financial loss for Agent B.

To minimize such potential conflicts, in most states real estate agents are required to clearly disclose fees and get clients’ written acknowledgement. Unfortunately, the total fees charged by investment advisors, and whether you are their customer or a client, is seldom clear, often even when the advisor assures you that you will be a client. Many advisors don’t know the difference.

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Assessment

What can you do to protect yourself? Next time I will give you a five-minute solution.

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5 Responses

  1. On Fiduciaries

    Rick – You said: The greater the compensation from a commission, the greater the potential conflict.

    I agree and have found that the more inferior the product, or more it is eschewed by buyers, the greater the sales commission.

    Whole life insurance policies, and EHRs, come quickly to mind as examples.

    Dr. Moe

    Like

  2. 10 things financial advisers won’t say

    I was an insurance agent back, in the day, and for years consumer groups and financial industry representatives battled over whether financial advisers’ services should be in their clients’ best interests. Still, sometimes they’re not.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-financial-advisers-wont-say-2013-03-29?reflink=e2emsn

    Here, MarketWatch’s Jim Jelter discusses the things financial advisers won’t tell you. So – Be Aware!

    Hope Rachel Hetico RN MHA CMP™
    http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

    Like

  3. Time and energy

    A doctor can’t be just a doctor any more.

    S/he also has to deal with ever increasing regulatory mandates, paperwork requirements by state and federal agencies and capricious insurance companies. It is estimated that for every hour spent on patient care, and additional half-hour is spent on paperwork. To-date, the use of electronic medical records has exacerbated; not ameliorated this problem. The demand on their time is mind-boggling. A typical doctor works a ten- to twelve-hour day.

    After work and family, we simply don’t have time and energy left to do comprehensive financial planning.

    D.O.
    [Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine]
    http://www.amazon.com/Comprehensive-Financial-Planning-Strategies-Advisors/dp/1482240289/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407584271&sr=1-1&keywords=david+marcinko

    Like

  4. Certified Medical Planner™ Designation

    Fiduciary accountability is an increasingly contentious topic in the industry. Many stock-brokers believe they are professionals, yet eschew client accountability in a most non-professional manner. They seek to be “financial doctors”, but do not adhere to doctor-like responsibility.

    Brokers, renamed “financial advisors”, too often seek the protective legal mechanisms of agency relationships through contract arbitration clauses to shirk their advertised roles.And so, we believe that to be a “professional” means to be held accountable and have a specific font of superior knowledge; just like a physician.

    And, if you wish to advise doctors, you must learn about the healthcare industry and accept responsibility like a doctor.

    Eugene Schmuckler PhD MBA MEd CTS
    http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

    Like

  5. New Best Practices Aim to Codify Advisors’ Fiduciary Duty

    Aiming at a new professional certification, the Institute for the Fiduciary Standard published a draft of best practices for fiduciaries, seeking to help investors distinguish between “product sellers and advice givers.”

    http://www.financial-planning.com/news/regulatory_compliance/new-best-practices-aim-to-codify-advisors-fiduciary-duty-2691821-1.html?utm_campaign=daily-jan%2030%202015&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&ET=financialplanning%3Ae3746330%3A86235a%3A&st=email

    Ann Miller RN MHA
    http://e.infogr.am/enter_the_certified_medical_planner?src=embed

    Like

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