The fiduciary rule won’t go into effect until April 2017, but now is the time to begin arming yourself with the information you need to verify your advisor is on your side. Once the new rule kicks in, a lot of financial advisors will jump on the bandwagon to claim they are fiduciaries, even if they or the firms where they work aren’t.
Remember Bernie Madoff? He too claimed he was a fiduciary investment advisor. But the reality is, it doesn’t take a sociopath to bilk you out of your retirement savings. There are plenty of perfectly legal (though often unethical) ways for advisors to help you lose your money.
Even comedian John Oliver poked fun at non-fiduciary financial advisors in his eye-opening monologue video (posted on Newsweek) outlining all the ways sleazy advisors leech off clients’ retirement savings by selling investments with huge fees that clients didn’t even know they paid.
Financial advisors may “pinky swear” that they meet the higher fiduciary standard, but these five questions will help you ascertain who’s a fiduciary and who’s giving you a slick sales pitch.
1. Are you really a fiduciary advisor—can I have it in writing please?
If the advisor you’re considering hiring isn’t willing to state this in writing, run the other way.
2. How am I paying you?
Commission-driven brokers or advisors earn most of their income by selling certain funds, annuities or other investment products. Sales charges for these types of brokers or advisors can run 3% to 6% off the top of your investment. Sometimes the company whose product they are pitching pays their commission as a “marketing expense” in what basically amounts to a kick-back. The problem with this is that commissions create a conflict of interest for the advisor because they have a huge incentive to recommend the option that pays them the most—whether or not it is really the best investment for you. Some advisors are basically just high-paid salespeople, so transparency is the hallmark of a real fiduciary advisor.