There are several resources available that can help you know if an advisor is a fiduciary. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) has an online search tool that makes it easy to find certified financial planners in your area. Every advisor in that system operates on a fee-only basis and promises to act as a fiduciary. Garrett Planning Network is another planner organization of fiduciary financial planners who charge an hourly rate. Additionally, the Certified Financial Planners Board has an advisor search tool. You can use it to look up a particular planner and see their experience and history.
If you’re starting out and don’t have a trove of assets, an planner who charges by the hour could be the best fit. These planners are best for when your needs are fairly simple. Typically, hourly planners are just building their practice, but that usually means they’ll take the care to get your finances right. After all, they’re relying on your recommendation to grow their business. Finally, many experienced advisers do hourly work because they enjoy working with younger clients who can only afford to hire someone at that rate.
A fiduciary advisor, by definition, is an advisor who is paid a retainer by an employer to advise employees on their retirement plan investments, as well as to provide a complete range of other products and services. Fiduciary advisors are not responsible for the entire company's retirement plan; they are only accountable for the advice which they give to employees on an individual basis.
What services will the fiduciary advisor provide to employees? Will the advisor provide simple retirement plan advice, or will comprehensive financial planning also be included? Is it appropriate to also offer other financial products and services to employees; things like mortgage advice, income tax planning and preparation, and estate planning? If so, how will these services be charged for and compensated? Will the employer foot the bill for all services, or will some services be considered ancillary benefits that come at an extra cost to the employee?
Investment advice can range from a general recommendation as to what type of asset allocation model you should follow, to specific recommendations on which investments to buy and sell. Some financial planners also offer investment advice and investment management services in addition to financial planning. Ask a potential financial planner if they give specific investment advice or only offer planning services.
In Australia, a company providing financial services must obtain a licence from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). However, there are no requirements for the individuals providing the financial advice, and the ASIC website states that "Holding an AFS licence does not provide a guarantee of the probity or quality of the licensee's services."