Doctors live by the “Hippocratic Oath”, which requires that they act in the best interests of their patients. Other professions have similar obligations.
Sadly, it’s not so in financial services. Only a minority of advisors are “fiduciaries”, who pledge to act in the best interests of their clients.
Most advisors — including virtually all who work for the large, brand-name banks — live by a lesser standard. They call it the “suitability standard”, which requires them to sell “suitable investments”. I’ll call it the “Hypocritical Oath.” It goes something like this:
“I pledge to sell a client only suitable products. But, honestly, there’a a ton of flexibility in what is suitable. If I have a choice, I’ll go with the high-fee product, especially if the fees are hard to detect. When possible, I’ll sell variable annuities, because we make 7% up-front and by the time the client sees what a bad deal it is, he can’t exit without a big penalty. High-fee mutual funds are also great, because we get kick-backs. That is, as long as I don’t have to buy any for my personal account. I’ll give the client a periodic report of how they are doing, preferably with so many pages they can’t actually figure out the under-performance. And, of course, I’ll repeat, ad nauseam, that I’m ‘client-focused’.”
Federal regulators are trying to pass legislation forcing all advisors to be fiduciaries — to act in their clients’ best interests. Wall Street and the insurance industry are fighting back, hard.
You are the client. You have a choice. You can hire someone who must act in your best interests, or you can bankroll the majority of advisors who won’t commit to act in your interests. It’s your money … until it isn’t.