Ideally, people investing for retirement always should have been able to feel confident that their financial advisors were giving them unbiased advice and recommending what was best for them.
That wasn’t necessarily the case, though, which prompted the Department of Labor to issue new fiduciary rules in April designed to ensure that financial professionals put their clients’ interest ahead of their own when it comes fees and investment advice on retirement accounts.
Investors weren’t the only ones applauding the move.
“We welcomed this change since our firm was already acting as fiduciaries,” says Lou Desepoli, president of Desepoli Wealth Management.
“This might be able to weed out a lot of people who were giving the business a bad name.”
Mike Desepoli, Lou’s son and a wealth adviser at Desepoli Wealth Management, says people need the right advice because the United States is in the middle of a retirement crisis.
“Statistics show that, by and large, Americans aren’t prepared for retirement,” he says. “In fact, there have been surveys that show one-third of Americans haven’t saved anything for retirement. Meanwhile, few people have pensions anymore.”
With their retirements looking so sketchy, people should be flocking to financial advisors for help. But there is also skepticism about the financial-services industry, with a Harris Poll this year revealing that most Americans don’t hold the industry in high regard.
The Desepolis are among those hoping that the new fiduciary rules will help to change that as financial professionals put their clients first.
Lou Desepoli, who’s fond of saying that most Americans spend more time shopping for a car than a financial advisor, says a little research and a few well-planned questions can help in the search for the right advisor.
It’s important to know, for example, how the advisor is paid. Some earn commissions for investments or products they sell, but it’s best if they are paid fees based on the value of the assets they manage for you because that gives them an incentive to make those assets grow, he says.
Other topics an investor should ask about include:
- Communications. How frequently does the advisor communicate with clients? Does he or she proactively send out the reasons for buy-and-sell decisions that are made in a client’s account?
- Client service. Ask the advisor to explain their client-service philosophy and what steps they take to ensure that each client receives personal and professional experience.
- Succession. Find out what happens to your money if your advisor dies or retires. There should be a succession plan in place so that the advisor’s accounts are passed onto someone else, but you also need to make sure you are comfortable with that successor.
For investors concerned about retirement, having the right advisor concentrating on the right investments is critical.
“How you retire tomorrow,” Mike Desepoli says, “depends on how well you plan today.”