Independence and Your Finances

Independence and Your Finances

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Freedom and independence are important to us as Americans. As we celebrate these ideals this July 4, recognize that not all financial professionals provide you freedom of choice when it comes to your financial options, nor do they necessarily provide you independent advice that is in your best interest.

While many people call themselves “financial professionals,” far fewer have the training, experience, and integrity necessary to advise you on your finances. You or someone you know may have even encountered a financial professional who gave bad advice or took advantage of you and your financial situation.

Protect your finances today and every day through accurate information and deliberate action. Following are three things you need to know when it comes to selecting the right financial professional for you.

Only Some Financial Firms Are Obligated to Always Work in Your Best Interest
All you need to do is search the internet or tune in to your favorite podcast and you are likely inundated with a dizzying array of companies that hold themselves out as ideal firms to advise you on your finances.

Quiet the noise with accurate information: Only one type of financial firm, a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), is obligated to always act in your best interest. RIAs are organizations that have allegiance only to the clients that they serve. They are regulated on the state and/or federal levels and are bound by law to act as fiduciaries to their clients.

What is essential is whether the person providing you the financial advice is a fiduciary—a professional who is bound to legal and/or ethical standards when they work with you.

Typically, RIAs provide highly customized financial advice to individuals, families, and organizations and manage investments that often partner with custodians, or banks, that hold clients’ securities. While the RIAs direct trades in the clients’ accounts at the custodians, clients experience peace of mind that there is some separation between the RIA professionals that advise them on their finances and the institution that safeguards their assets.

Only Some Financial Professionals Are Obligated to Always Work in
Your Best Interest

At your last professional networking event or social engagement, your head may have been spinning after listening to so many people introduce themselves as financial services professionals. The titles they carry may have sounded impressive, too, from Vice President to Wealth Manager, and the organizations they represent may be widely recognized institutions such as banks, investment firms, or insurance companies.

However, when it comes to advising you on your finances, professional titles and brand names alone are not what matter most. What is essential is whether the person providing you the financial advice is a fiduciary—a professional who is bound to legal and/or ethical standards when they work with you. A fiduciary financial professional:

  • Always puts your interests above their interests.
  • Discloses any actual or potential conflicts of interest when working with you.
  • Explains all fees associated with services provided to you.
  • There are two main types of fiduciary financial professionals:
    • Professionals who work for an RIA. The individuals are Investment Advisor Representatives, and they follow the fiduciary rules set for them by the state and/or federal regulators that monitor the RIAs that employ them.
    • Professionals who carry the profession designation “Certified Financial Planner” (CFP). CFP designees have completed extra training and fulfilled experience requirements preparing them to provide advice on investments, taxes, estates, insurance, and retirement. Additionally, CFP professionals follow a strict code of ethical conduct in their practices. The Certified Financial Planner designation is widely recognized in the financial services industry and is regarded as the gold standard in delivering competent and ethical financial plans.

    Not All Financial Professionals Provide You Independent Advice
    Some financial professionals offer you financial advice with a narrow focus defined by the company that employs them. Other financial professionals claim to provide you independent perspective when you first start working with them. Over time, however, they strive to convert you to a client who purchases only financial products specifically designed and sold by their firm.

    If you value unbiased financial advice from fiduciary professionals who have access to an array of resources to serve you, an independent RIA may be right for you.

    Before working with any professional on your finances, be sure to do your homework. Consider taking the following steps before starting any relationship with a financial professional or firm:

    • Check out the CFP website: https://www.letsmakeaplan.org/ to find a CFP professional near you
    • Review financial services regulatory agency websites to learn more about the experiences of a specific professional or firm
    • BrokerCheck (Financial Industry Regulatory Agency FINRA)
    • Investor.gov (Securities and Exchange Commission SEC database)
    • Ask questions to clarify the terms of the relationship, including fees
    • Request client references

    Not every individual who holds themselves out as a “financial professional” deserves to work with you on your finances. If you want to develop a comprehensive financial plan and know that your investments are managed according to your plan, my independent, fiduciary team and I are right here, ready to chat with you.

    Caroline Wetzel is one of Natural Nutmeg’s 10Best Winners for Business/Life Coach. Caroline is a Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) and Vice President, Private Wealth Advisor with Procyon Private Wealth Partners, LLC. Procyon Private Wealth Partners, LLC and Procyon Institutional Partners, LLC (collectively “Procyon Partners”) are registered investment advisors with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). This article is provided for informational purposes only and for the intended recipient[s] only. This article may also include opinions and forward-looking statements which may not come to pass. Information is at a point in time and subject to change. Procyon Partners does not provide tax or legal advice.