Personal Finance

This is the single most important thing to know about the financial advice you're getting

Key Points
  • When working with a financial advisor, you want to be sure to ask them one question: Are you a fiduciary?
  • If your advisor does not uphold this principle, they may not be acting with your best interests in mind.
  • Financial regulators are working on creating one standard for all financial professionals. In the meantime, you can protect yourself by verifying that your advisor is a fiduciary.
Finding a fiduciary

When it comes to professional financial advice, there is one question you don't want to forget to ask.

That question is: Is this financial professional a fiduciary? according to Elliot Weissbluth, founder of HighTower Advisors.

A fiduciary is a financial professional who has the legal obligation to put you first. That means the recommendations they make to you have to be with your best interests in mind.

Financial professionals who are not fiduciaries may operate by a suitability standard. That means that the recommendations they make have to be relevant to you, but they are not necessarily in your best interest.

Ideally, the answer to the question as to whether your financial professional is a fiduciary will be yes, according to Weissbluth.

The probability that that is the case will be higher if your financial advisor works at a registered advisory firm.

But if the answer is no, "you should probably find out why and then consider finding a fiduciary to give you advice," he said.

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Financial regulators have been working to come up with a uniform fiduciary standard that would apply to all professionals who provide financial advice.

But efforts to accomplish this have so far been unsuccessful.

In the meantime, you can protect yourself — and your financial future — by making sure your advisor has your best interests at heart.

Vetting a financial advisor infographic