This article is sponsored by TrueNorth Wealth. TrueNorth Wealth is a Fee Only Financial Planning firm that can help people with complex wealth make decisions about things like the ‘Fiduciary Rule’. Their Certified Financial Advisors have a fiduciary responsibility to act in their client’s best interests.


Does your financial advisor serve your best interests or their own?

The answer may have just become more complicated.

On March 15th, 2018 the Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals struck down the Department of Labor’s “fiduciary rule” law. Also commonly called the “conflict of interest rule”. It forced financial advisors to act in their clients’ best interests. This dissuaded them from steering someone towards a more expensive or inferior investment. Because it paid the advisor a higher commission. Or because of some other conflict of interest.

According to CNBC, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on March 15 that the Labor Department overstepped its authority by creating the so-called fiduciary rule. Parts of which went into effect last year. In general, the rule requires advisors and brokers to put their clients’ interests before their own when advising on retirement accounts. This includes thing like 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts.

“Pending further review, the [Labor Department] will not be enforcing the 2016 fiduciary rule,” an agency spokesman said.*

Now, this ruling has led to mixed industry opinion. Fund managers and investment firms are happy. To them, it loosened an overly-strict piece of regulation. Advocates of consumer protection are not happy about this change.

Micah Hauptman, financial services counsel to the Consumer Federation of America said, “this case was wrongly decided,”. He says that “the industry opponents went forum shopping and finally found a court that was willing to buy into their bogus arguments. This is a sad day for retirement savers.”**

How to Protect Yourself

Since this change, the best way to protect yourself is to employ a financial advisor who voluntarily acts as a fiduciary. And will attest to that in writing.

When you start looking, check how the financial advisors are paid. Does the financial advisor accept commissions from any product they provide advice about? Do they use mutual funds that include 12b-1 fees, which are a kickback to them? Do they have an in-house broker/dealer to execute trades? A ‘Yes’ to any of these questions likely presents a conflict of interest. Plus, it would preclude that advisor from acting as a true fiduciary.

Conversely, if the advisor’s compensation structure is fee-only, they likely do function as a fiduciary. When an advisor is fee-only they get paid directly by the client. Not by a third party to promote some products over others.

Also, choosing a fee-only fiduciary is an important foundation for a profitable long-term relationship with your advisor. You want to reach your long-term goals. And you want to have a trusted expert as your advocate. So it’s vital to make the right choice.

An example of a firm that acts as a fiduciary in each case, is TrueNorth Wealth. TrueNorth Wealth is a fee-only fiduciary. And they strive to help meet the goals of their clients. Find out more about how a dedicated financial advocate can improve your long-term financial outcomes at http://www.truenorthwealth.com.

References
*https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/19/dol-shelving-enforcement-of-fiduciary-rule-after-court-decision.html
** https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/business/fiduciary-rule-retirement-planning.html