The Investment Scientist

Your Retirement Account: DOL’s Fiduciary Rule Brings Good News

Posted on: April 22, 2016

US_Dept_of_Labor.jpgRecently Department of Labor issued a fiduciary rule that requires that financial advisors who manage retirement accounts must act in clients’ best interests.

Here is the quote from a Wall Street Journal report …

About $14 trillion in retirement savings could be affected by the rule, which requires stockbrokers providing retirement advice to act as “fiduciaries” who will serve their clients’ “best interest.” That is stricter than the current standard, which only says they need to offer “suitable” recommendations, a standard that critics say has encouraged some advisers to charge excessive fees or favor investments that offer hidden commissions.

Still, reflecting intense lobbying from the financial industry, which has fought the regulation since it was first proposed six years ago, the final version includes a number of modifications.

This might come as a surprise to many people that financial advisors do not need to act in clients’ best interests up until this day.

Alas, as I explained in this article, there are really two types of financial advisors: those who have a broker license (series 7) and those who have a registered investment advisor license (series 65). Here is the kicker: 93% of all financial advisors are licensedbrokers. These are advisors from major Wall Street brokerages like Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and etc., as well as many independent broker-dealers. By law, they do NOT need to act in clients’ best interests.

Those who have a registered investment advisor license have always been required by law to act in clients’ best interests, but they account for only 7% of all financial advisors.

The financial industry benefits tremendously from not needing to act in clients’ best interests, for instance, by selling clients high hidden cost financial products. That’s why they fight the fiduciary rule tooth and nail, and with the help of many Senators and Congressmen.
It’s better late than never. I am glad that seven years after the financial crisis that nearly brought the country to its knees, something is finally done to address the rampant conflict of interests in the financial industry.

There is a caveat though. The fiduciary rule only applies to retirement accounts. So if you have a brokerage account and an IRA account with Merrill Lynch. Your Merrill Lynch broker needs to act in your best interests with your IRA account, but needs NOT with your brokerage account!!!

The best way to check whether your financial advisor is a broker is to ask “Do you have a series 7 license?” If the answer is “Yes.” You need to use my second opinion review. Chances are good I will find many hidden costs and bad investments.

Schedule a Discovery review with me, or get my white paper for free: The Informed Investor: 5 Key Concepts for Financial Success.

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Author

Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC. He is also a regular contributor to Morningstar Advisor and Physicians Practice. To explore a long-term wealth advisory relationship, schedule a discovery meeting (phone call) with him.



You may also get his monthly newsletter, or join his Facebook page for regular wealth management insights. Michael's email is info[at]mzcap.com.

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