Fiduciary Advisor

Fiduciary Advisor vs. Broker / Planner / Agent
The Differences Are Striking! You Have A Choice!


We often get the question, "What is the difference between a "Fiduciary Advisor" and a "Retail Broker" or "Financial Planner?" Most investors are unaware of the differences! Our clients know the difference. Do you know the difference?

Royal American Financial Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor bound by a fiduciary standard, established as part of the Investment Advisors Act of 1940. We put our clients' interest above our own. Brokers, planners, and agents ARE NOT bound by a fiduciary standard, and are not required to put their clients' interest above their own. As long as a financial product is "suitable" (not necessarily the best for the client), they can sell it to you. The suitability rule allows many "financial professionals" to sell inferior financial products to unsuspecting investors.

Royal American Financial Advisors is a fiduciary advisor. In keeping your best interests in mind, we will not accept any commissions, fees, or incentives from any third parties or financial institutions. Our compensation is not effected by financial products or incentives. We have made a commitment to only accept compensation directly from our clients. By making this commitment to not accept compensation from third parties, we eliminate potential conflicts, so you can have confidence we are making decisions in your best interest.

A coach is someone who sometimes must tell you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you sometimes can't see, so you can become the best you can be."

Tom Landry - football coach

What it Means to be a Fiduciary

"A Teacher Affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops."
Henry Brooks Adams, writer

Brokers / Planners / Agents vs. Fiduciary Advisors
There are significant differences you must understand - You have a choice!

I want to start out by saying that most retail brokers are nice, well meaning people. A vast majority are doing the best they can with the system they are given. Unfortunately, for brokers (and their unsuspecting clients), they are trapped in a system of unavoidable conflicts of interest that do not have to be disclosed, and that most investors are unaware of. Investors must become aware and keep up their guard when dealing with retail brokers.


The Broker Name Game 

 And, don't be fooled by fancy titles of financial planner, senior advisor, financial advisor...brokers can call themselves many different names, but they are still brokers, or a better name...salespeople. These names are not to be confused with a "fiduciary registered investment advisor." It is important to keep in mind that the regulators have not done a good job of policing the misleading titles that brokers often use. This means you are on your own in determining whether the financial professional you are working with, really works for you.

Want to know if you have hired a broker? Ask one simple question. Are you a "registered representative?" This is the common name all brokers have, but rarely publicize. If they are a "registered representative" they work for the brokerage firm, not for you. Regardless of the name brokers choose, they are not "independent." All registered representatives work for the firm, not for the investor.

The Broker Account Type Game
 Most investors don't realize this, but through brokers you can typically get two types of accounts:
 1.   Classic Brokerage Account
 2.   Investment Advisory Account

Classic Brokerage Account: In a classic brokerage account, the broker is an agent for the firm. The broker’s first duty is to the firm, not to you….even though you are the customer. Any investment advice is incidental to his main business of generating sales and commissions for the firm. There are often quotas or minimums to continue working for the firm. There are often higher payouts for brokers that generate more commissions. None of this has to be disclosed to the unsuspecting investor.

n a classic brokerage account, the broker is not held to the standards of the Investment Advisors Act of 1940, a fiduciary standard. The broker is not required to disclose fees, conflicts of interest, disciplinary actions, and because of his duty to the firm, may not be able to put your interests first. You do not get the protection of the Investment Advisors Act of 1940 with a classic brokerage account.

Investor Beware of Undisclosed Conflicts

Classic Brokerage Accounts Undisclosed Potential Conflicts of Interest:

  Broker is often better compensated for generating activity.
  Broker is often better compensated for selling certain financial products.
  Broker is limited to the products approved by the firm.
  The products approved by the firm sometimes pay the firm to get on an approved or preferred list.
  Broker is paid by the firm, not by you.
  Compensation is up to you to find, often buried in hard to read disclosure documents.

Investment Advisory Account: Yes, brokers in some cases, when they are dually registered, can also open an investment advisory account for investors, similar to what a fiduciary registered investment advisor can do for their clients. In this type of account, the broker is held to the standards of the Investment Advisors Act of 1940, a fiduciary standard. However, there are still drawbacks to this model as well.

  Broker is still limited to the products approved by the firm.
  Broker is still better compensated for selling certain financial products.
  The products approved by the firm sometimes pay the firm to get on an approved or preferred list.
  Since broker is dually registered as a broker and as an investment advisor, he/she can switch hats with little disclosure and often becomes a salesperson for the firm in midstream, with the investor unaware.

The Changing Hat Game
When working with retail brokers, investors must be aware of the “changing hat game.” This can happen when a broker is dually registered as a “registered representative” and registered as an “investment advisor.” It is important to keep in mind that the regulators have done a poor job of protecting the investors and have not done a good job of policing the changing hat game. At anytime, with little disclosure, acting as an “investment advisor”, he/she can switch hats and become a salesperson, or agent for the firm. Currently, this is perfectly legal. Due to gaps in the law, investors have to beware of the “bait and switch” when working with brokers. Just when you think they must work in your best interests, they may not be.

Independent Fiduciary Registered Investment Advisor: No Changing Hats...Ever!      

  Not dually registered as a registered representative and investment advisor.
  Are legally required to act as fiduciaries to their clients at all times.
  Are legally required to put their clients' interests first at all times.
  Must disclose all fees.
  Must disclose disciplinary actions.
  Must disclose conflicts of interests (yes, some conflicts are unavoidable).
  Works directly for the client.
  Is paid directly by the client.

The Financial Planning Game

Financial planning often is used by brokers as a disguise to sell high-commission, inferior financial products that may not be in your best interest. The financial plan is not for you (the client), rather it's a tool for the planner to sell product.  Be aware that the planner can manipulate the numbers in software programs with just a few small adjustments, and skew the results in his favor to help sell product.

If you are dealing with an order taker for financial products, or with someone that derives most of their earnings from commissions, or with someone that does not provide ongoing education to you the client, you are not working with a coach. You also want to work with someone that discloses all fees and commissions. When fees and commissions are hidden, abuse can take place and investors often pay more than they should.

There is a huge conflict of interest with commission-driven planning. Even planners, who have good intensions, might choose their own self-interests over yours for higher compensation. Some brokers and planners also push past performance or "hot" products because products with "hot performance" are easier to sell.

The financial brokerage industry also is in alliance with the media because of the huge amount spent on advertising. As investors search for the next great investing idea, they often turn to CNBC, Fox Business, Money Magazine, Forbes, Bloomberg, financial newsletters, or the internet. Then, when the hook is in, they got you...and you have to act on the new idea with transactions that put additional commissions in the broker's pockets. Brokerage firms take their cut as you hop from one hyped up investment to another.

The most common result I see from the traditional commission-driven financial planning process is fear, anxiety, confusion, complexity, and a reduced ability to take action on your own behalf. A fiduciary advisor and investment coach can help you wade through all of these very complex issues and maintain long-term discipline around the investing process. Ultimately, investing is a people problem, not necessarily a portfolio problem. Another thing that we will do is make independent recommendations. Recommendations based on doing what is in your best interest.Coaches can also provide the discipline necessary to be a successful investor. There will be times in the future where your emotions will be tested. A coach can help keep you on the right track.

The THREE SIMPLE RULES of investing demand discipline

The commonly held rules of prudent investing are:

  Own Equities
(And reduce risk to the extent necessary for your tolerance by increasing exposure to high quality shorter term bonds around the world)

(Broad based diversification in free markets around the world, in asset classes with different correlations)

(Rebalance when necessary: A forced sell high, buy low discipline to keep your risk in line)

As in any endeavor, there are certain accepted rules that can simplify our ability to achieve success.

In the area of weight-loss, for example, the rules are straightforward:

"Eat Less & Move More."
All of these rules sound simple enough. However, it isn’t knowing the rules that is hard; it’s consistently following them that challenges most people (in weight loss or investing). When people make investing decisions about the future based on track-record or emotions, without realizing it they wind up breaking these rules, thereby sabotaging their portfolio. This is where coaches are critically important. Whether it is for fitness, in investing, or any other areas of your lives, coaches are necessary to keep you on track. The best professionals in any field and the most successful people all have mentors or coaches.
If investing & dieting were easy, we would all be rich and skinny.

Just like implementing a diet plan, investing takes discipline, patience, and commitment. We all know what it takes to lose weight and be fit. Most of us, however, don't have the self-discipline to follow the rules (eat right and exercise) on a consistent basis to get the results we dream of. Sometimes it takes a personal trainer or coach to get us on the right track and keep us doing what we need to do.

What does it take to have the discipline you need to become a serious and successful investor? An investment coach! Exactly the same as a personal trainer for your body and mind, an investor coach provides you with the tools and strategies you need to be a successful investor. The coach keeps you on the right track to achieve your goals.

Investment coaches help you make prudent decisions needed to be successful for your lifetime:

  A good coach can help you measure how much volatility and risk in your portfolio is acceptable, so you can stay disciplined and get the average lifetime market returns available to the disciplined investor.
  A good coach helps you to distinguish prudent from imprudent risk.
  A good coach also aids you to truly understand and measure diversification in your portfolio.
  A good coach will provide you with continuing education on a weekly basis and teach you about prudent and imprudent investor behavior to increase your chances for success.
  A good coach helps you to reduce overlapping assets in your portfolio.
  A good coach is someone that (on occasions) is not afraid to tell you the truth, or tell you something you may not want to hear. A coach will be realistic. A salesman (broker) will tell you what you want to hear to make the sale, even if it is not in your best interest. A coach sometimes helps you see what you sometimes cannot, so that you can become the best investor you can be.
  A good coach can help you minimize hidden fees and costly portfolio turnover.
  A good coach can help you to stay disciplined in your prudent investing process during your lifetime.
  A good coach will rebalance your portfolio to help keep your risk in line.
  A good coach will provide you with an investment policy statement to clarify responsibilities (for both the Advisor and the Client), and establish guidelines and standards for the prudent investment of your assets.

How to Check on a Broker or Advisor
Protect Your Money: Check Out Brokers and Investment Advisers

Federal or state securities laws require brokers, investment advisers, and their firms to be licensed or registered, and to make important information public. But it's up to you to find that information and use it to protect your investment dollars. The good news is that this information is easy to get, and one phone call or web search may save you from sending your money to a con artist, an unscrupulous financial professional, or a disreputable firm.

Brokers and Brokerage Firms

The Central Registration Depository (CRD) is a computerized database that contains information about most brokers, their representatives, and the firms they work for. 

Investment Advisers

To find out about an investment adviser and whether it is properly registered, read its registration form, called "Form ADV." Form ADV has two parts. Part 1 contains information about the adviser's business and whether the adviser has had problems with regulators or clients. Part 2 sets out the minimum requirements for a written disclosure statement, commonly referred to as the “brochure,” which advisers must provide to prospective clients initially and to existing clients annually. The brochure describes, in a narrative format, the adviser’s business practices, fees, conflicts of interest, and disciplinary information. Before you hire an investment adviser, always ask for and carefully read both parts of the Form ADV. You can view an adviser's most recent Form ADV online by visiting the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) website. You can also obtain copies of Form ADV for individual advisers and firms from the investment adviser, your state securities regulator, or the SEC, depending on the size of the adviser.
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