If you make it this far, you are clearly serious about your endeavor. Now it's time to make your quest a daily habit. Subscribing to the The Wall Street Journal will give you a daily overview of the issues impacting global business operations. The WSJ also has a great "Money and Investing" section. Barron's is another fine publication read by many professionals in the financial services industry. There are many other top-quality publications dedicated to various aspects of the financial services world. Find one that matches your interests and read it.
Fiduciary duty is a legal responsibility to put the interests of another party before your own. If someone has a fiduciary duty to you, he or she must act solely in your financial interests. A fiduciary cannot, for example, recommend a strategy that doesn’t benefit you but instead provides a kickback. You can think of it like the doctor-patient relationship, where one party has a duty to provide the best care it can to the other party.
In Singapore, financial services are highly regulated by The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the regulator and supervisor of financial institutions in Singapore. Rules are set by MAS for financial institutions and are implemented through legislation, regulations, directions and notices. Currently, the majority of the financial planners (financial consultants) are commission-based, which may cause a conflict of interest related to the products recommended. In 2015, a balanced scorecard framework was implemented to better align the interests of the FA industry and consumers. This ensures FA representatives and supervisors meet key performance indicators that are not related to sales, such as providing suitable product recommendations and making proper disclosure of material information to customers (Non-Sales KPI). Failure to achieve good grades for the Non-Sales KPI will directly affect their commission (variable income).
A growing number of financial planners make money only when you pay them a fee for their counsel. These independent financial planners don’t get a cut from life insurers or fund companies. You might pay them a flat fee, such as $1,500, for a financial plan. Or you could pay an annual fee, often 1% of all the assets—investment, retirement, college-savings and other accounts—they’re minding for you. Others charge by the hour, like lawyers.
A good financial planner will not make recommendations until they understand your goals and have run a long-term financial plan for you. If you meet with someone who starts talking about a financial product right away, even if they call themselves a financial planner, they are more likely a financial salesperson. A good financial planner will want to gather account statements and data on all aspects of your financial life.
The suitability standard also allows these finance professionals to sell overpriced investment products on which they tend to make higher commissions rather than steering their clients towards lower-cost investment options. The advisor must only prove that the product is not unsuitable for their clients, and the product need not be in the client's best interests.
For more leads, check the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). These planners are fee-only, which means their only revenue comes from their clients. They accept no commissions at all and pledge to act in their clients’ best interests at all times. In many respects, NAPFA standards meet or surpass the requirements needed for a CFP credential.
Financial planners who explicitly provide financial advice and manage money for clients are considered fiduciaries. This means they are legally obligated to act in a client’s best interests, and they can’t personally benefit from the management of client assets. Instead, they are expected to manage these assets for the client’s benefit rather than their own. Fiduciary specifics can vary. Registered investment advisors (RIA), for example, are fiduciaries under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 who advise high-net-worth individuals on investments. They are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state securities regulators.