Category Archives: Financial Advice

The Perfect Storm (Of The Coming Market Crisis)

My Comments: We do not live in a perfect world. Flaws are all around us. As responsible adults, we always try to make good decisions, and mostly we succeed. Until we don’t.

If you expect to live another 20 or 30 years, the money you’ll need to pay your bills has to come from somewhere. If you’ve already turned off the ‘work for money’ switch and retired, you’re dependent on work credits and saved resources. Maybe you have a pension that sends you money every month. Good for you.

If you are still working, you’re probably setting aside some of what you earn so you can someday retire and get on with the rest of your life without financial stress. At least that should be your plan.

This article from Lance Roberts, a professional money manager, needs to be read and understood. I’m not going to copy everything he says, but I do encourage you to follow the link I’ve put below. Make an effort to understand what he’s telling us. Your financial life may depend on it.

Know also there are ways to shift the risk of loss to a third party. For a fee, you get to enjoy the upside and avoid the downside. If you do live for another 20 – 30 years, where is your money going to come from?

Lance Roberts published this today, November 28th, and it can be found HERE.

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FIA: Dream Investment or Potential Nightmare?

My Comments: The article below by Jane Bryant Quinn in the AARP Bulletin are fine, as far as they go.

My initial reaction was to reject her comments out of hand as they reflect a bias that to my mind is not accurate. But then I decided to expand on her thoughts. I apologize if I made this too technical for some of you.

Most of the Fixed Index Annuities (FIA) sold are probably very close to having the features and limitations she describes. If there is indeed $60B flowing into FIAs each year, then they are being sold by every run of the mill agent across the planet. And most of those are probably selling whatever their company is telling them to sell. A strong reason for them to sell FIAs is that they make good money for the company. If the client benefits, it’s an incidental benefit for most of them.

I decided to add my two cents worth, below in red, based on what I know after 40 plus years as an entrepreneur in financial services, and the qualities and features of the FIAs I’ve chosen to present to potential clients. You should draw your own conclusions about the merits of FIAs, or the lack thereof.

by Jane Bryant Quinn, AARP Bulletin, October 2017

I’m getting mail about an apparent dream investment. It promises gains if stocks go up, zero loss if they fall and guaranteed lifetime income, too. What’s not to like? Plenty, as it turns out.

The investment is called a fixed-index annuity, or FIA, and it’s issued by an insurance company. Sales are booming — $60.9 billion in 2016. FIA contracts vary, but this is how they work. (Sales are booming, not so much because of the financial benefits, but because they offer emotional benefits as well. ie “I get to stay invested in the markets and I won’t lose any money…”)

You buy the annuity with a lump sum, which goes into the insurer’s general fund. You are credited with a tax-deferred return that’s linked to the market — for example, to Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks. If the S&P rises over 12 months, you receive some of the gain. For example, your credits might be capped at an increase of 5 percent, even if the market soars. If stocks go down, you take no loss — instead, your FIA receives zero credit for the year. ( Many FIAs do have caps limiting the upside potential. The one’s I offer clients have NO caps. If the index goes up 50%, you get 50%. If it goes down 50%, you get nothing credited. You have shifted the downside risk to an insurance company. It also means that when the market goes back up again, you are starting from zero and not from somewhere lower. That in turn means at the end of the next crediting period, you are higher than if you were starting in a hole somewhere.)

Each year’s gains or zeros yield your total investment return. . (Your money is NOT invested in an index, whether it’s an S&P500 index or any of dozens of other indices. The yield on bonds inside the insurer’s general fund is used to buy option contracts and the return given the client is a function of the performance resulting from those options.) But I see problems:

Low returns. Salespeople might claim that FIAs could earn 6 or 7 percent a year. But with fees, they’ll struggle to match the low returns from bonds, says Michael Kitces of the wealth management firm Pinnacle Advisory Group in Columbia, Md.(The product I prefer buys 2 year option contracts with the bond yield. Over a ten year period, any ten year period since 2000, a 2 year option result exceeds two consecutive one year options 87% of the time. Some of this is due to the fact that 2 year options are cheaper than 1 year options. In this scenario, a 6% geometric mean return is not unreasonable.)

High fees. You can’t find out what you’re paying for investment management. Costs are buried in the black-box system used to adjust the credits to your account. Sales commissions run 5 to 7 percent and may be hidden, too. Under the new fiduciary rule, which requires advisers to put your interests ahead of theirs, commissions have to be disclosed if you’re buying the annuity for a retirement account, but not for other accounts.

Salespeople sometimes claim, falsely, that their services are free. (Numbers shown in hypothetical illustrations provide by sales agents are always net of fees. At least the ones I show prospective clients. Yes there are obviously costs inside FIAs. I’m sorry but no one works for free. What is critical, however, is the net return to you the buyer.)

Profit limits. Every year, the insurer can raise or lower the amount of future gain credited to your account. You face high risk that returns will be adjusted down. (Yes, this happens. It’s a function of market cycles, of interest rates in general, and the performance of the index chosen. The FIAs I offer have NO CAPS and will credit whatever the option used calls for.)

Poor liquidity. You can usually withdraw 10 percent in cash, each year, without breaking your guarantee. But you’ll owe surrender charges if you need your money back before five or 10 years are up. You might also forfeit some gains. ( This lack of liquidity is the price you pay for shifting the risk of loss to an insurance company. It’s the same thing you do with your car, your house, your life when you buy life insurance, etc. The benefit to you from this ‘cost” is the avoidance of downside risk associated with market corrections. Without the ability to offset this risk to an insurance company, many people opt instead for ‘guaranteed’ returns which actually means you are guaranteed to go broke if you get less than the increase in the cost of living. The cost of a guaranteed returns might mean you run out of money sooner.)

Lifetime benefits. For about 1.5 percent a year, you can add a “guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit” to your FIA. Promised yearly payments run about 5 percent. But, Kitces asks, why do it? Your basic FIA already provides a lifetime income. What’s more, 5 percent is not a return on your investment. The insurer is merely paying you your own money back, in 5 percent increments — and charging you 1.5 percent for the “service.” If you live long enough, you’ll exhaust your money and the insurer will pay, but that doesn’t happen often. ( I choose not to offer these anciliary benefits to clients. They serve to make more money for the company by playing to your fears.)

For a guaranteed income, try a plain-vanilla immediate or deferred annuity. It’s cheaper, and you’re not apt to be led astray. (It’s possible you will be led astray. The rules today do not support a fiduciary standard. They should, but our current administration is working hard to avoid that outcome. It’s back to buyer beware despite the best efforts of some who think all financial advisors should be legally required to work in a clients best interest.)

On balance, Jane Bryant Quinn’s comments are essentially correct. But only if you are talking about the arguably poor contracts that so many companies and their agents are interested in selling. If you find someone who is happy and willing to act in your best interest, you are much more likely to find FIAs that resemble the contracts I prefer for my clients. They are a way for you to stay invested in the markets and at the same time, remove the risk of market losses within a crediting cycle.

Protect Yourself Against Cognitive Decline

My Comments: Readers of my posts know I usually talk about money or some aspect of it. My challenge over the years has been to assess the financial literacy of whomever I’m talking with. And that challenge increases with age; both mine and that of my friends and clients.

This article might start a useful conversation between you and your children and/or other family members. I’ve had clients reach the end of their lives leaving loved ones totally ignorant about their financial lives. It can dramatically increase the pain and frustration of those they leave behind.

by Danielle Howard \ Aug 12, 2017

You could lose the ability to manage your finances and not know it

Many people work hard to make sure there are ample assets to provide for the go-go, slow-go and no-go season of life. Have you ever considered how the mental capacity to manage those resources will change as you age?

A study done in January of 2017 by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College delves into how cognitive aging could affect financial capacity.

Your financial capacity is the ability to manage your financial affairs in your own best interest. It scopes a broad range of activities ranging from rudimentary money skills (understanding the value of bills and coins) to complex activities such as identifying assets and income, exercising judgment around risk and return of investments or comprehending tax implications of purchases or sales.

Many activities in our financial lives are based on “crystallized” intelligence. This is the knowledge and skills we have gained over time, also known as financial literacy. These are the practical, day to day financial applications or procedures in our lives. It is heightened with the level of involvement in family monetary matters. With normal cognitive aging, knowledge remains largely intact throughout our 70s or 80s.

Our “fluid” intelligence incorporates memory, attention and information processing. As our wealth grows, so does the need to track where it is, and how to best use it for what is important to us. This “fluid” aspect of our intellect can start to decline as early as age 30.

The research found that individuals who age normally are more likely to develop deficits in the area of judgment over their ability to carry out the basic tasks. However, there are cautions in both areas of capacity.

Many people in their fall season are competent of managing the “crystallized” aspects of their financial lives. If a person has not taken an active role in the family finances, they are vulnerable to losing capacity in this area. A “financial novice” may be a person that has had to take over the responsibilities of managing the family finances in the event of a death or incapacitation of another family member. Women who lose a spouse and have not been involved in the family finances are highly vulnerable to losing capacity in this area.

Cognitive impairment, ranging from mild (CMI), to dementia primarily affects financial judgment — the “fluid” intelligence”. This can pose challenges in that a person can feel confident and remain “knowledgeable” about day to day activities, but their impaired judgment makes them more likely to become victims of fraud. As people loose both the “crystallized” and “fluid” elements of their intellect, they are additionally exposed to financial abuse by caregivers.

Since a critical characteristic of cognitive decline or impairment is the unawareness of the deteriorating state, how can we protect ourselves and our loved ones?

1. Become financially literate. I have heard too many stories that started with “my spouse is the money person, I just let them take care of it”. Educate and empower yourself around everything financial. Start somewhere and keep learning.

2. Educate yourself on the aging process. Talk to your elder family members as to what they are experiencing. Embrace and make the most out of it. Do the best you can with your choices to maximize your health in all areas of your life during this season.

3. Build trusted relationships. That includes your relationships with friends, family and advisers (health, spiritual, financial). Make sure everyone has your best interest in mind and communicate with each other. Transparency, integrity and honesty will serve you well.

Danielle Howard is a Certified Financial Planner practitioner. She’s the author of “Your Financial Revolution: Time to Recognize, Revitalize, and Release Your Financial Power.”

When Will the Bull Market End?

My Comments: Be assured, I have no idea. But then, I don’t know what I’m going to have for lunch either. All I know is that I will have lunch and one of these days, this bull market will end.

The trick is to understand that it will end, and if you’re not ready to watch a ton of your money disappear, then you have to be ready. Some of you may have enough money that you really don’t give a damn. Good for you.

But if you worry about this, even a little bit, then you should talk with someone who has some answers. Someone you can relate to. I promise it won’t hurt much.

By Anne Kates Smith, Senior Editor @ Kiplinger, June 26, 2017

As the second-longest bull market in history makes its way into its ninth year, many investors are understandably asking: When will it end? We’d all be rich if there was a foolproof way to figure that out. But we can make some educated guesses.

One thing to remember is that bull markets don’t die of old age alone. Something’s got to kill them. And the surest weapon is a recession. That’s not always the case. There have been bear markets without a recession, as the crash of 1987 shows. But many of the worst downturns have been accompanied by a recession – or, more accurately, followed by one. The Great Recession that began in December 2007 was preceded by the start of a bear market in October of that year that went on to lop 57% off stock prices. The recession that began in March 2001 followed a March 2000 market peak that initiated a 49% stock decline.

False alarms are frequent, says economist and market strategist Ed Yardeni, of Yardeni Research. “The next bear market will start when the market anticipates the next recession – and turns out to be correct. The market has anticipated lots of recessions since 2008 that have turned out to be buying opportunities,” says Yardeni.

When recessions do pair with stock market peaks, they can do so immediately, as with the concurrent start of the recession and bear market of July 1990, or they can lollygag more than a year behind. On average, recessions begin 7.7 months following a stock market peak, according to market research firm InvesTech Research.

If we only knew when the next recession would begin. Well, Yardeni has a date in mind: March 2019. He bases his determination on the average number of months the economy has continued to expand after it has reached its previous peak, going back to the early 1970s. Counting from November 2013, which is when the economy finally surpassed its 2007, prerecession peak, Yardeni arrives at March 2019.

The date is not an official forecast, says Yardeni, who adds that it comes with no guarantees and plenty of questions. “What do we know today that suggests that March 2019 is a realistic date, or that a recession will come sooner or later? Right now, March ’19 looks realistic,” says Yardeni. “But if pressed,” he adds, “I’d say it might be later.” If the economic cycle sticks to the averages and if the stock market does, too – both big “ifs” – then investors should look for a market top around August of next year.

4 signs of recession

Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at investment research firm CFRA, looks at four indicators when he’s searching for a recession on the horizon. Every recession since 1960 has been preceded by a year-over-year decline in housing starts, says Stovall. The dips have ranged from a 10% decline to a drop of 37%, and they have averaged 25%. The most recent report on housing starts showed a decline of less than 3%. “So we’re on yellow alert, not red,” says Stovall.

Consumer sentiment is another signpost. Before a recession kicks in, you’ll typically see an average decline of 9% in the University of Michigan’s monthly sentiment index compared with the previous year, says Stovall. Current reading: up 2.4%.

A drop over a six-month period in the Conference Board’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators means trouble, too, with declines of 3%, on average, registering ahead of an economic downturn. Latest six-month change: up 3%.

Finally, when yields on 10-year bonds dip below the yields on one-year notes – known as an inverted yield curve – look out, says Stovall. Ominously, long-term rates recently have been under pressure while the Federal Reserve pushes short-term rates higher. “We’re getting a flatter yield curve, but nowhere near an inversion,” says Stovall. His conclusion: No recession is in sight.

Before you fixate on the twin risks of recession and a bear market, ponder a third risk – exiting a bull market too early. The payoff in the final year of a bull market is historically generous, with returns, including dividends, averaging 25% in the final 12 months and 16% in the final six months.

Nonetheless, investors have every right to ratchet up the caution level at this stage of the game. Now is a good time to make sure your portfolio reflects your stage in life and your risk tolerance. Stick to a regular rebalancing schedule to lock in gains and maintain the appropriate balance between stocks, bonds and other assets, domestic and foreign. And whatever you do, make sure your portfolio is where you want it to be before you go on summer vacation next year.

Are You Ready For The Next Crash?

My Comments: Dr. Doom here once again! Fundamentally, I’m an optimist, except when the shadows of doom are clearly in the wings. If your money is exposed to the markets, I encourage you to read this.

If you can, look carefully at the chart and note the changes in key metrics for our economy between the two time periods.

In part, this explains why the Tea Party in Washington wants to kill any improvements to health care. But without explaining and encouraging an understanding of these metrics, whatever legitimacy the current Congress has for limiting money spent on health care goes down the drain.

I choose to ignore the author’s recommendations about what stocks to buy; I’m more interested in the coming fundamental upheaval in our ability to sustain our standards of living.

by SHAWN LANGLOIS Mar 4, 2017

The man behind the iBankCoin blog on Thursday morning asked his readers: “Where were you when Snap ripped off America?”

While his rant focused on the wild valuation the Snapchat parent SNAP, -7.95% reached in its debut, others may see the booming IPO as a last gasp before the bubble pops like it did back in the days of Pets.com and Webvan.

But the truth is, this market climate — which has seen record runups for the Dow DJIA, +0.07% , S&P 500 SPX, -0.01% and Nasdaq COMP, +0.17% — is nothing like we saw during the dot-com hey day. By many measures, it’s actually worse, according to numbers crunched this week by 720 Global’s Michael Lebowitz.

“Even though current valuation measures are not as extreme as in 1999, today’s economic underpinnings are not as robust as they were then,” he wrote. “Such perspective allows for a unique quantification, a comparison of valuations and economic activity, to show that today’s P/E ratio might be more overvalued than those observed in 1999.”

In this chart, Lebowitz stacks up the metrics from the years running up to the dot-com explosion versus what we’ve seen since 2012:

Lebowitz acknowledged, of course, that equity valuations back in 1999 were, as proven after the fact, “grossly elevated.”

But when put up against a backdrop of economic factors, he says those numbers appear to be relatively tame compared with today.

“Some will likely argue with this analysis and claim that Donald Trump’s pro-growth agenda will invigorate the outlook for the economy and corporate earnings,” he wrote. “While that is a possibility, that argument is highly speculative as such policies face numerous headwinds along the path to implementation. Economic, demographic and productivity trends all portend stagnation.”

His bottom line: “There is little justification for paying such a historically steep premium for what could likely be feeble earnings growth for years to come.”

This Is Not How A Bear Market Starts

My Comments: Today is Memorial Day, and the markets are closed in this country. It’s a day for us to instead remember those of us who gave their lives that we might continue with ours. Pray that fewer lives will be given in the years to come.

The following comes from someone whose name I do not know. But if you can wade through the math and graphics, you may find that the world is not about to end. At least financially.

Here’s how the author describes himself: “I have a degree in Math and Science from the University of Toronto, as well as a degree in education, also from U of T. I have traded private equity for 38 years and have developed a proprietary Price Modelling System which has provided me with consistent profitable trading success. In partnership with my computer scientist son, Aidan Gomez, we have automated this model using neural networks, and offer a Trade Alert service that lets subscribers replicate the trades we are involved in.”.

To see the charts, you’ll want to visit the source article HERE.

May 22, 2017 | ANG Traders

Summary
There has been much digital ink spilled trying to convince us that the bull market is on its last legs.

We present fundamental and technical reasons to support the idea of an ongoing bull market.

Black swans aside, this is not how bear markets start.

There has been, and continues to be, an inordinate amount of digital ink spilled promulgating the imminent demise of the bull market. Most of the arguments for this, center around the near-historic levels of certain metrics, such as PE ratios and S&P averages, but they ignore the factors that truly coincide with the launch of bear markets. In this piece, we will attempt to elucidate several of the metrics that we have correlated with bear or bull markets, and hopefully, show that the bull market is alive and well.

Rate Differential
When the 10-y minus the 2-y Treasury rate inverts, it has a way of marking the end of bull markets. When this differential turns negative, in conjunction with low unemployment, investors should look for an exit. Today, the unemployment rate is low, but not as low as in 2000 or 2007, and the 10-y minus 2-y rate is still a healthy +1%. It will take several sizable Fed rate hikes before the rate differential inverts (chart below). This does not look like the start of a bear market.

Fed Funds Rate

It is obvious that when the Fed raises rates, the bull market dies, but often when it comes to the market, what is obvious, is obviously wrong. In fact, three of the last four bull markets occurred while the Fed raised rates – the latest bull market being the exception (chart below). The Fed has lots of room to raise into a growing business cycle. Bear markets do not start when low rates are being raised.

Industrial Production
Except for a five-month period in 2002, a rising industrial production has coincided with a rising SPX. The chart below demonstrates this strong positive correlation. Bear markets do not start with rising industrial production.

GAAP Earnings

The Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) earnings enjoy a positive correlation with the S&P 500. The GAAP earnings started rising two quarters ago, and the current quarter is shaping up to be positive also. Bear markets do not start with rising GAAP earnings.

Technical Indicators
The 8-month moving average remains above the 12-month moving average, the MACD is rising, the ADX is displaying a bullish pattern, and the RSI and stochastic are elevated, but they can remain elevated for long periods of time (chart below). This is not how bear markets start.

Investor Sentiment
Bull markets climb the proverbial “wall of worry.” There is a lot of geopolitical and intramural politics to worry about, and which are feeding the bull market. Bear markets do not start when there is fear around. They start when investors are confident and throw caution to the wind. The AAII investor sentiment indicator stands at a fearful 24% bullish sentiment, and 34% bearish sentiment (red and blue arrows respectively on the chart below). Bear markets start when bullish sentiment is over 50%, and bearish sentiment is under 30% (red and blue oval on the chart below). This is not how bear markets start.

In conclusion, the evidence presented paints a picture of a bull market that is still fearful and healthy. That is not to say that a black-swan won’t fall out of the sky and ruin the picnic, but judging from what we can and do know, a bear market is not imminent.

How to Get Financial Advice That Is in Your Best Interest

Piggy Bank 1My Comments: Remember the phrase ‘the birds do it, the bees do it…”? Well, attorneys do it, CPAs do it, architects do it, doctors do it, and so should financial advisors. BTW, politician’s don’t do it.

I’m talking about acting in the best interest of the client and/or patient. The Obama administration worked several years to bring about a standard within the financial industry that would mandate advice in the best interest of clients and customers. Finally, a watered down version of what has become known as “the DOL fiduciary rule” was agreed to and full implementation will be on April 1, 2017.

However, the Trump camp has indicated it’s willingness to reverse the implementation of the rule. I’m assuming this is because they believe the folks on Wall Street and their minions don’t need to be told and/or required to work in our best interest as citizens.

Many of us in the advisory services side of things think the rule does not go far enough. Many of us have already pledged to act as a fiduciary in our relationships with clients. But the companies for whom we might be working or representing are not going to be held accountable under a fiduciary standard. It’s still a buyer beware world. The ‘law of the jungle’ will prevail.

By JOHN F. WASIK      JAN. 13, 2017

In April, financial advisers for the first time will be required to put retirement investors’ best interests first.

But there is a catch. The new requirement, known as a fiduciary rule, was imposed by the Labor Department during the Obama administration, and could be blocked by the Trump administration or congressional action before it takes effect.

With its fate uncertain, investors can still protect their interests, by exercising vigilance, finding advisers who will act as fiduciaries, and understanding the issues involved in the first place.

“What’s been most striking to me is that when I talk to consumers, they say that they thought advisers were supposed to be working in their best interests all along,” said Linda Leitz, a fee-only certified financial planner in Colorado Springs. The reality is that many advisers are not required to act in investors’ best interests.

That was supposed to change for retirement investors under the fiduciary rule, pushed by Thomas E. Perez, the secretary of labor, and strongly supported by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat.

The rule, scheduled to take effect in April, bans potential conflicts of interests for advisers in retirement accounts; a broader fiduciary rule, covering all investment accounts, has been under consideration by the Securities and Exchange Commission but has not been approved.

The fiduciary rule has opposition.

The insurance industry and Wall Street have been fighting it, and several business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have sued to stop it.

Republican congressional leaders have said they want to eliminate it, and Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, this month introduced a bill that would delay it for two years. The House of Representatives last year considered legislation to eliminate the fiduciary rule, along with most of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

While the rule could be postponed or eliminated, it has already caused many companies to curtail the sale of retirement mutual funds and insurance vehicles that charged high commissions and fees or were clearly unsuitable for clients. And retirement investors can still benefit from trends that have been reshaping the financial service industry for decades.

Low-expense funds that largely cut the cord with broker-advisers have become more popular. Last year, investors moved $375 billion into low-cost exchange-traded funds, according to preliminary figures from BlackRock, the investment manager.

Fund giants like BlackRock, Fidelity Investments, Vanguard Group and Charles Schwab offer low-cost funds and have been lowering expenses in recent years. The companies also offer robo-advising services or provide funds for automated platforms. Fidelity, Schwab and Vanguard also offer direct, personalized financial planning services.

The low-expense trend has been aided by the emergence of automated “robo” portfolio managers like Betterment, Personal Capital and Wealthfront, online platforms that combine low-cost portfolios of mutual- and exchange-traded mutual funds with investment advice.

The industry’s longstanding product-oriented marketing machine also is being disrupted by a more people-centered model adopted by fiduciary advisers who give specific advice on taxes, college planning or estate planning. That momentum will be difficult to stop.

“The industry is increasingly putting the person at the center of the equation,” said Tricia O. Rothschild, chief product officer for Morningstar.

“There are something like 310,000 financial advisers in the U.S. now, which is about 40,000 fewer advisers than there were 10 years ago,” she said. “The only part of the market where we’re seeing growth is from advisers moving from commission-based to more fee-based models.”

With products sold on commission, investment advisers typically have greater incentives to make decisions that are profitable for themselves and their firms.
Fee-based advisers, however, tend to have incentives to provide information that is tightly aligned with clients’ financial goals.

Combined with a greater awareness of investment expenses — billions of investor dollars have flowed into low-cost index funds — the tide continues to shift away from commission-based products.

Some 80 percent of investor funds flowed into cheap, passive mutual and exchange-traded funds in the third quarter of 2016 alone, according to Broadridge Financial Solutions, which tracks mutual fund assets.

The ranks of fee-only personal financial planners have been growing as well. Many of them are fiduciaries who eschew commissions, charge hourly or flat rates and favor low-cost passively managed investment portfolios based on traditional mutual funds or exchange-traded funds that track indexes and do not try to beat the market.

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, which represents fee-only financial planners, has grown to more than 2,700 members, from about 1,700 members in 2007, an increase of 60 percent.

“Napfa’s growth over the last 10 years is due to a variety of factors that include growing consumer preference for fiduciary-level advice delivered under a fee-only compensation model,” said Geoffrey Brown, the association’s chief executive.

Yet the asset management industry is still dominated by broker-advisers, who operate on a loosely defined legal standard for investment “suitability.”
Broker-advisers often cannot be sued by customers, who typically are required to use an industry-sponsored arbitration forum in a dispute. Many investors are not even familiar with what the fiduciary standard — which gives them the ability to sue advisers — means.

Even without the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, there are ways to determine whether an adviser is likely to work in your best interest.

Many certified- and fee-only financial planners, registered investment advisers and personal financial advisers who are also certified public accountants operate under the fiduciary model.

The key question to ask an adviser is: “Are you a fiduciary?”

Next, ask how the adviser is compensated. While earning a commission is not necessarily a red flag, those who charge flat or hourly fees or a set percentage based on assets under management may have fewer conflicts.

To determine whether advisers have conflicts, ask to see their Form ADV, a government disclosure form about their sources of compensation, which they must provide on request.

Consider your needs. If you need pre-retirement or estate planning, or divorce or retirement advice, you may want specialists in those areas.

Looking for a comprehensive, soup-to-nuts financial plan? Then a certified financial planner may be the right person.

You can always combine an automated service such as a robo-adviser for portfolio management with an adviser who can provide customized advice on estate plans, retirement income and college planning.

In any case, it is wise to find out whether the advice you receive is really intended to benefit you.

Source:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/13/business/how-to-get-financial-advice-that-is-in-your-best-interest.html