Finding and Hiring the Right Advisor

It's time to understand your choices

Before you set out on a mission to develop the 5-Star Retirement Plan, you must first learn a thing or two about today’s financial professionals. If you think all advisors and brokers are the same, boy, are you wrong. Today’s financial world is swimming with financial salespeople who are just there to sell you a product.

This piece is designed to teach you a few core principles you need to understand before you begin your search for a retirement specialist. Choosing the right advisor is just as important as the actual investment and product choices themselves. If you choose the wrong advisor to help you along the way, you may wake up someday during your retirement being advised to, “Hang in there! It’ll come back!"

Working with a specialist

There are a lot of similarities between doctors and financial advisors. Think about this concept for a second. Most families have a family practitioner. This family doctor may have been a perfect fit for you and your kids as the years went by. When the flu virus hit or an antibiotic was needed to kick that ear infection, the doctor was there to help you. Most of the other families visiting the doctor’s office often got similar, if not the same, advice or prescriptions.

However, imagine that something more severe has happened. Perhaps you have some arthritis pain. Your general practitioner will most likely send you to see a rheumatologist, someone who specializes in providing advice and guidance on arthritis.

Financial planning should be no different. Working with a financial advisor who specializes in retirement and income planning is vital. With something serious like your health, you make a point to move past a general practitioner in the event that more specialized care is needed. You worked a lifetime and sacrificed a lot along the way to get where you are today. Why would you treat your money or, more importantly, the next 30 years of your life, any differently?

Can we offer a word of caution here? Today, there are an abundance of brokers and insurance salesman posing as “retirement specialists.” Here are some things you should take into consideration.

Suitability vs. Fiduciary

If you can recognize the difference between the fiduciary standard and the suitability standard, you may be one step further to finding yourself a trusted advisor. If you are just hearing about these terms now, we’re not surprised. Rarely are they talked about in a largely “suitability standard” based financial world. However, this idea may just be the most important thing you should know about the advisor or broker with whom you are working.

Brokers and advisors who operate under the suitability standard offer you products for sale from a range of products carried by the companies they represent. They are paid commissions calculated as a percentage of the amount of money you initially invest into the product. By law, the advice or products they sell you simply must be suitable for you. Or, in other words, the advice may or may not be the best advice for your given situation or investment objective. Approximately 85% of so-called advisors fall under the suitability standard.*

An advisor operating under the fiduciary standard must present, by law, the “best advice” he/she can give, taking into consideration the needs, wants and objectives of the individual. The client’s needs and personal objectives must come first. Typically, most fiduciary advisors are paid a quarterly fee calculated as a percentage of the assets for which they are providing advisory services (not commissions). Only approximately 15% of advisors fall under the fiduciary standard.*

Yes, these two standards actually exist. Wouldn’t you have thought that any financial professional should be required to act on behalf of the client’s best interests? Technically, your broker or suitability advisor doesn’t have to worry about you as much as you thought.

*PBS Frontline, “The Retirement Gamble”

Fee-Based vs. Commission-Based

You can take the fiduciary vs. suitability example one step further. Advice from your financial professional can be skewed heavily based on the type of compensation the advisor will receive upon sale. Most suitability advisors are compensated on the front end of transactions via commissions at the point of sale. Fiduciary advisors are compensated a little bit at a time (yearly) over time.

Not to say that an advisor earning a commission upfront isn’t giving you good advice, but let’s back up for a second. You spent a lifetime accumulating what you have, and now is not the time to get bad or no advice. What incentive does your broker or advisor have to continue to help you over that time period if he or she is paid up front? How much time will he or she really spend servicing your accounts if that is the case?

The fiduciary advisor must work hard to keep his or her clients happy. Having a fee-based relationship may be much more favorable than working with a commission- based advisor.

What about Senior Planning Advisors?

At Senior Planning Advisors, we specialize in retirement and income planning for retired individuals and those within five to 10 years of retirement. At Strategic Investment Advisors, our affiliated Registered Investment Advisory Firm, our Financial Advisors are fiduciaries who operate under a fee-based platform of service.

Are you ready for a 5-Star retirement?

Every prospective client who comes through our doors is taken through our fiduciary-based, proprietary planning process: The Financial G.P.S. – Guided Planning System. Before a recommendation is ever made, we want you to understand your current financial situation better than you ever have before. Continue on to learn how our Financial G.P.S. could help you develop your 5-Star Retirement.

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