Of course, the fiduciary advisor will have to meet the professional standards of prudence, loyalty and adequate asset diversification, as well as compliance with all ERISA regulations. The clients' best interests must always come first when making any recommendation, although possible benefits to the fiduciary advisor and/or the employer may also be considered, as long as they are subordinate to the needs of the employee.
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.
Another good bet could be a planner in the Garrett Planning Network, a group of certified financial planners who all pledge to make themselves available for smaller projects for an hourly fee. All of the members of this network are CFPs or they’re actively working towards this designation. It may be that you just have a handful of questions, and someone here could help you without charging too much.
You might also encounter financial planners who cater exclusively to the rich and refuse clients with less than $250,000 to invest. Don’t take it personally—hugely successful planners would just prefer to deal with big accounts rather than beginner clients. You want a planner who’ll make the time to focus on your concerns and is interested in growing with you.
In legal terms, a fiduciary is an individual or organization that has taken on the responsibility of acting on behalf of another person or entity with utmost honesty and integrity. For example, bankers, attorneys and officers of public companies are all fiduciaries, meaning they must act in the best interest of their customers, clients or shareholders. If they don’t, they are legally liable. Similarly in the investment world, fiduciary financial advisors manage client assets with the clients’ best financial interests in mind. Therefore, be sure to limit your search for a financial advisor to only fiduciary advisors in your area.
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.
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.
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.