The fiduciary advisor boom may be just around the corner, and prosperity may be awaiting those who can meet the selection criteria for this position, and subsequently to capitalize on it. The possible market base for fiduciary advisors includes all the 100 million households in the U.S.—quite a large base to draw from by any standard. Financial planners who are looking for a new way to grow their practices should investigate this possibility immediately.
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.
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.
Broker-dealers are regulated by the SEC, but they are not required to be fiduciaries. Rather, they are held to the “suitability standard”—they only have to prove that an investment is suitable for their client at the time of its purchase, not that the advice was in the client’s best interest. Broker-dealers typically earn a commission on sales of investments.
If you're considering hiring professional help, you'll need to know what to expect from a good financial planner, and how to tell the difference between a salesperson and someone who offers fiduciary financial planning advice and carries valid financial credentials or designation. Hiring the right professional planner starts by understanding what financial planning is and knowing what to expect of the person you might hire.
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.