This market will continue to grow rapidly as firms abandon traditional defined-benefit plans in favor of defined-contribution plans or other cheaper alternatives, such as stock option plans. Furthermore, mandatory automatic enrollment in the employer's retirement plan will keep bureaucracy and paperwork to a minimum for the advisor, who is only responsible for the actual advice given on an individual basis, as opposed to the overall plan assets and their composite performance.
It’s best to go with a certified financial planner (CFP), which is an instant signal of credibility – but not a guarantee of same. To start, ask people like you if they can recommend a planner. If you have kids, ask a colleague who also has children. If you’re single and just out of college, check with a friend in the same boat. If possible, you want to find a planner with successful experience advising clients in the same stage of life as you.
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.
All investment advisors registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state securities regulator must act as fiduciaries. Broker-dealers, stockbrokers and insurance agents are only required to fulfill a suitability obligation. This means that while they must provide suitable recommendations to their clients, they don’t have to put their clients’ interest before their own.
The CFA program is an extremely well-regarded curriculum, and the CIPM program "is the investment industry's only designation dedicated to investment performance analysis and presentation." If articles with titles like "Evaluating Portfolio Performance" by V. Bailey, Thomas M. Richards, and David E. Tierney, and "Investment Performance Measurement: Evaluating and Presenting Results," Philip Lawton and Todd Jankowski, eds. (Wiley 2009) capture your interest, the CFA institute has a reading list that you are sure to like.
Compensation: The employer must consider the compensation arrangement required by the advisor. Will the advisor charge hourly or annual retainer fees, or commissions, or some combination thereof? Will compensation for all services be the same? May the fiduciary advisor charge a flat fee for offering retirement plan advice, and then make a commission on the sale of long-term-care insurance to the same employee?
Personal Capital funded a research study that found that nearly half of Americans erroneously believe all advisors are legally required to always act in their clients' best interest. Not only is this wrong, but it can also be damaging to the millions of savers and investors who unwittingly expose themselves to biased and potentially dangerous advice from advisors who can do what is best for themselves, at the expense of their clients.
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