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THE FIDUCIARY DIFFERENCE

Federal and state law requires that Registered Investment Advisors are held to a Fiduciary Standard. This law requires that an advisor act solely in the best interest of the client, even if that interest is in conflict with the advisor's financial interest. Investment Advisors must disclose any conflict, or potential conflict, to the client prior to and throughout a business engagement. Investment Advisors must adopt a Code of Ethics and fully disclose how they are compensated.

Unfortunately, only a small proportion of "financial advisors" are federally or state-registered Investment Advisors. Most so-called financial advisors are considered "Broker-Dealers" by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). They are held to a lower standard of diligence on behalf of their clients. In fact, they are required by federal law to act in the best interest of their employer, not in the best interest of their clients.

Because broker-dealers are not necessarily acting in your best interest, the SEC requires them to add the following disclosure to your client agreement. Read this disclosure, and decide if this is the type of relationship you want to dictate your financial security:

"Your account is a brokerage account and not an advisory account. Our interests may not always be the same as yours. Please ask us questions to make sure you understand your rights and our obligations to you, including the extent of our obligations to disclose conflicts of interest and to act in your best interest. We are paid both by you and, sometimes, by people who compensate us based on what you buy. Therefore, our profits, and our salespersons' compensation, may vary by product and over time."

If this disclaimer appears in agreements you are signing, you should ask questions of your advisor. Obtain complete disclosure about how he or she is compensated, and where his or her loyalties lie. Then decide if the relationship is in your best interest.

WHO IS A FIDUCIARY?

Fiduciary responsibility does not arise only in the financial services industry. Professionals in other fields also are legally required to work in your best interest.

Type of Professional

Who is a Fiduciary?

Physician

Yes, follows the Hippocratic Oath

Lawyer

Yes

Stock Broker

No

Insurance Agent

No

Registered Representative
Financial Advisor

No
No

CFP Practitioner

Maybe*

Financial Planner

Maybe*

Garret Planning Network Member

Yes

*Advisors who are affiliated with a broker-dealer firm are most likely not fiduciaries. If the client signs an NASD binding arbitration agreement (which is required by almost every broker-dealer firm), then the firm's advisors would not be held to a Fiduciary Standard by the North American Securities Dealers. CFP Practitioners and Financial Planners will be held to a Fiduciary Standard if they are also Registered Investment Advisors (RIA) or associated with an RIA.^

The Antonio Financial Group adheres to the fiduciary standard and conducts business as such.

^We adhere to both stringent requirements.

Recognizing a Fiduciary:

They will show you their signed written oath promising to exercise their best effort to act in your good faith and in your best interests.

All fees have been fully disclosed to you. The fees are understandable and you do not have to read the fine print to understand them.

You pay fiduciaries for their knowledge, similar to a doctor or lawyer. Therefore, a fiduciary does not sell commissioned products.

Does your advisor sell you products? If so, they are commissioned sales people acting in an advisory capacity. They have a legal obligation to the company they work for, not you the client.

Listen to the language that your advisor uses. A fiduciary will use consultative language. A sales person, who is trained to get to know you so that they can make a sale, will ask questions like: "Would you be willing to buy if . . ." and "Which of these choices would you prefer . . ."

Last....Follow your instincts. A red flag should be raised if...

You feel like you are being sold or pushed to make a decision.

It seems too good to be true.

You are being sold a product that you cannot get out without great financial penalties.

You perceive a conflict of interest. If your advisor is paid for products you buy, there is a conflict of interest between what is best for you and what is best for him/her and the company they work for.

Protecting Yourself:

Ask your advisor or any prospective advisor if they would be willing to complete the questionnaire provided by the organization "Focus on Fiduciary"

Insist on full fee disclosure. If the prospective advisor is not willing to provide this information, walk away. Remember, a commissioned sales person by law does not have to disclose all their fees.

Ask your advisor if he/she accepts referral fees. This is important. If your advisor accepts referral fees when he recommends someone to you, this is a warning sign.

Check FINRA or SEC to see if there are any registered complaints against the advisor.

Do not pick an advisor just because a relative or friend recommended him/her. While references are very important, do your own due diligence.

Arm yourself with knowledge. Do your homework. Sit down and make a check list of qualities you would like in a planner. Then, look for a planner that meets those specifications.

HOW COMPENSATION IS RELATED TO FIDUCIARY CONDUCT

One of the best ways to judge if your financial advisor is held to a Fiduciary standard is to find out how he or she is compensated.

Fee-Only Compensation –

This model minimizes conflicts of interest. It is the required form of compensation for all members of The Garrett Planning Network. A Fee-Only financial advisor charges clients directly for his or her advice and/or ongoing management. No other financial reward is provided, directly or indirectly, by any other institution. Fee-Only financial advisors are selling only one thing: their knowledge. Fee-Only Compensation is the only form of compensation the Antonio Financial Group engages in.

Fee-Based Compensation –

This popular form of compensation is often confused with Fee-Only, but it is very different. Fee-Based advisors earn some of their compensation from fees paid by their client. But they may also receive compensation in the form of commissions or discounts from financial products they are licensed to sell. Furthermore, they are not required to inform their clients in detail how their compensation is accrued. The Fee-Based model creates many potential conflicts of interest, because the advisor's income is affected by the financial products that the client selects.

Commissions –

The Garrett Planning Network has always maintained that an advisor who is compensated solely through commissions faces immense conflicts of interest. This type of advisor is not paid unless a client buys (or sells) a financial product. A commission-based advisor earns money on each transaction—and thus has a great incentive to encourage transactions that might not be in the interest of the client. Indeed, many commission-based advisors are well-trained and well-intentioned. But the inherent potential conflict is great.

fi•du•ci•ar•y – A Financial Advisor held to a Fiduciary Standard occupies a position of special trust and confidence when working with a client. As a fiduciary, the Financial Advisor is required to act with undivided loyalty to the client. This includes disclosure of how the Financial Advisor is to be compensated and any corresponding conflicts of interest.