Since our inception in 1989, Total Wealth Planning has served our client families according to a Fiduciary Standard of Care. This means, by law, we must put our clients’ best interest first. This also means that we do not sell products or proprietary funds and we do not accept commissions, kickbacks, Caribbean vacations, or any other form of compensation beyond transparent fees paid by our clients. Our adherence to this Fiduciary Standard has allowed us to remain independent and free from potential conflicts of interest.
The industry uses this word, Fiduciary, quite a bit, so we asked several professionals in our network to interpret the word in their own words, and here's what we heard:
This distinction sets us apart from other salespersons who call themselves “advisors” who are only subject to a suitability standard. Under the suitability standard, a sale person may recommend any investment, insurance, or worse, as long as the investment can be deemed “suitable” for the client’s situation.
- "Being able to tell someone the truth about where they are financially and plan accordingly, compared to a firm that isn’t willing to be crystal clear because they are scared about losing the account."
- "Fiduciary is everything. The trust comes first, and action comes second. Actually, following the word to what it means speaks to the firm’s character."
- "Taking on all aspects for what is needed for retirement or other goals."
- "Never feel like you are positioning something for your benefit."
- "Having the clients' best interests at heart."
- "A comprehensive look at someone’s needs that puts the client’s first."
- "Holistic approach. Fulfilling more than just a portfolio. You can answer not just performance questions, but how performance helps clients achieve their goals."
- And my personal favorite: "Suitability means the suit fits; Fiduciary means the suit looks fantastic on you!"
We believe that only advisors adhering to a Fiduciary standard can align firm and advisor interests with those of clients. For this reason, the Fiduciary Standard can be considered the ”gold standard” among financial advisors. How does your advisor stack up to this gold standard? Will your advisor sign the Fiduciary Oath that our team has?
According to the Investment Advisor Association (“IAA”), an investment adviser stands in a special relationship of trust and confidence with, and therefore is a fiduciary to, its clients. As a fiduciary, an investment adviser has an affirmative duty of care, loyalty, honesty, and good faith to act in the best interests of its clients. The parameters of an investment adviser’s duty depend on the scope of the advisory relationship and generally include:
We’ve prepared a quick overview of what it means to be a Fiduciary, in our Fiduciary 101 handout.
- the duty at all times to place the interests of clients first;
- the duty to have a reasonable basis for its investment advice;
- the duty to seek best execution for client securities transactions where the adviser directs such transactions;
- the duty to make investment decisions consistent with any mutually agreed upon client objectives, strategies, policies, guidelines, and restrictions;
- the duty to treat clients fairly;
- the duty to make full and fair disclosure to clients of all material facts about the advisory relationship, particularly regarding conflicts of interest; and
- the duty to respect the confidentiality of client information.