Archives For Insurance

Life Insurance Rules of Thumb Are Stupid - Like This Sign       Like so many other rules of thumb, the 10 times your income for life insurance rule is a stupid way to make a major decision for your finances. (Sames goes for the 15 times your income, or 20 times your income, or any # times your income…) I keep writing about stupid rules of thumb because they can be so dangerous to your financial future. These simple rules of thumb are nice and easy for a quick guess or check on where you’re at now, but you should never use them as your primary decision making tool!

       The problem with using one of these simple rules for calculating your life insurance needs is that they ignore your personal situation. What if you don’t need all of your income to be replaced? What if you only need the income to last a few more years? These simple rules ignore these factors if they don’t give you some way to adjust.

How to Figure Out How Much Life Insurance You Need

       Your first step should be to decide if you actually even need life insurance at all. There are cases where you probably don’t need life insurance. It would be foolish to buy it if you don’t need it.

       If you decide you do need life insurance, the next thing you want to do is think about what you need it for. Are you in one of the rare cases where permanent life insurance makes sense or should you stick with term (which is the best option for just about everybody)? Do you need it to replace your entire income (so your survivors can still fund other goals like retirement or education)? Do you just need it to cover the bare essentials for your survivors? How much would that cost? Will your survivors be able to provide for some or all of their own needs?

       Then you need to figure out how long that income needs to last. This is pretty simple – how much longer would you probably be working assuming you don’t die prematurely? That’s generally how long you’ll need the income to last. You can choose to cut it short or maybe extend it a little longer than you estimate, but you need to know why you’re making that choice.

       After you’ve got those two numbers worked out then you can start using a number times your income need. This chart below is designed to help you figure out how much you need based on the number of years until you retire (or number of years you need your replacement income to last):
 

Life Insurance Factors

 
       So if you need to replace an income of $40,000/year and you have 40 years until retirement, you’ll multiply $40,000 by 25 to get $1,000,000 of insurance coverage needed.

       Next, add in any immediate costs like funeral costs or debts you want to pay off immediately at death. Then, subtract any savings that could be used to fulfill any of the goals you included when you were figuring out how much income you need. I generally exclude retirement savings because that money is set aside for non-working years and the amount you need to save for retirement going forward should account for your current savings. That will leave you with the total amount of insurance coverage you need to buy. If you’re married, just repeat this process for your spouse (from their perspective).

       All that’s left is to buy life insurance for the amount and term you need. If your situation is relatively straightforward, you can probably do all this yourself. But if it’s complicated, I’d highly recommend at least sitting down with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM to discuss your situation. If you can find someone who works on an hourly basis or by the project, it won’t cost you too much to get a second opinion.

Think for Yourself!

       Even though this method involved multiplying your replacement income by a certain number, you didn’t get to that step until you thought through several aspects of your situation. That’s the point of all the articles I’ve been writing about stupid rules of thumb. You need to think for yourself to figure out what really makes the most sense for your unique situation. Once you take the time to do that, you can be sure your decision is going to be a lot more accurate than following a stupid, over-simplified rule of thumb.

(photo credit: Chris Ingrassia on Flickr)

This article was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

Ruffling a Few Primerica Feathers

Corey —  September 8, 2010 — 10 Comments

Sparrow with Its Feathers Ruffled by bterrycompton on Flickr       Last week I wrote about why I hate MLMs (multi-level marketing companies). It seems I’ve ruffled a few Primerica feathers with my comment on the company. I received two emails from Primerica agents last week – one who I know has been reading for a while and another I’ve never heard from before.

       Both emails essentially said that I don’t understand what Primerica stands for or the value of “network marketing”. (By the way, that’s just another name for multi-level marketing. You get your family, friends, and neighbors to buy from you and recruit them to work under you. Then they do the same and so on. You can make a little money selling products directly, but the big bucks come after you’ve developed a huge down-line or “organization” as Primerica calls it.)

       Now I don’t want to end up in a saga like Lazy Man and Money’s with MonaVie where people start threatening to kill me or blackmail me because of my opinions. But I do want you all to be aware of the truth about Primerica before working with them. My concerns about Primerica can also be applied to many other brokerage companies and insurance companies, but Primerica seems a little more dangerous to me because of the focus on recruiting you for their business opportunity and not just selling you their financial products.

       So I thought it might be worthwhile to do a bit more digging to see what I can learn about Primerica – their products, their “business opportunity”, their training, and so on. Since I’ve been trained in financial planning and have experience in the industry, I can cut through the jargon for you and plainly explain what’s going on.

       Unless you all have objections, I’ll begin writing some posts where I look at the different aspects of Primerica and help you understand what you need to know about the company. Here’s how you can help.

       If you’ve had an experience/encounter with Primerica, please share your story in the comments or contact me directly. This includes learning about the “business opportunity”, meeting with a friend of yours who started working for Primerica, or any other experience you’ve had with the company. I only have one limited experience with Primerica, and finding accurate and comprehensive information online about the company can be difficult.

       Also, if you’ve got some questions about Primerica that you need answered now, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me. I may use your question as the subject of a post, or I might just write you back with an answer/analysis.

       My goal is to give you the most honest, objective, and accurate information I can about Primerica, its products, and its business opportunity. My hope is that this information will help you make a good, informed decision so you won’t waste your money or your time. Until I have more information on here, I can only advise you to question everything. Thanks for helping me as I try to help you!

The Secret to a Successful Budget eBook
 
       Welcome to the Carnival of Personal Finance #271 – The Secret to a Successful Budget eBook Edition! My friend Craig Ford at Money Help for Christians is launching a new eBook today. It’s designed to help you discover the secrets to successful budgeting.

       I think it’s a great resource for anyone who’s ever struggled with budgeting, so I’ve included some quotes from his eBook throughout this carnival. You can get the book for 30% off if you buy before midnight (EDT) August 31st, 2010. Be sure to read through to the end of this carnival because I’ll be giving away two FREE copies to two lucky winners!

Editor’s Choice

       Here are my top picks from the submissions this week:

  • Mike Piper from Oblivious Investor presents Dealing with Investment Confusion, and says, “What’s the best approach to dealing with the confusion that comes from being a new investor?” – [Mike shares some good advice for people who are confused about investing. It won't immediately cure your confusion, but applying this strategy over and over will help you make informed decisions you can stick to.]
  • Briana Ford from Go Banking Rates presents Why Americans Can’t Afford to Die [Infographic], and says, “If you never thought about this problem before, take a look at how expensive funerals really are. You may discover you, like many Americans, simply can’t afford to die.” – [What can I say? I'm a sucker for infographics.]
  • Len from Len Penzo dot Com presents A Simple Trick to Get Your Credit Card Interest Charges Waived. – [I wish more people realized the power of Len's simple trick!]
  • Lauren from Richly Reasonable presents 4 Bad Deals, and says, “The term “Bad Deal” is relative. Not only is Necessity the mother of Invention, she is also the mother of many a Bad Deal. Necessity has a TON of children.” – [Funny, smart, and witty - and likely to open a few eyes at least!]
  • Jacob A. Irwin from My Personal Finance Journey presents Adjusting My Monthly Budget to Account for Home Ownership, and says, “A look at the steps I have recently taken to adjust my personal budget to account for the various elements of home ownership.” – [At our current rent rate owning a home just doesn't make sense. Just look at all the costs involved!]

       Congratulations to the editor’s choice picks! Here are the rest of the articles from this week’s submissions.

Money Management

  • MD from Studenomics presents Quick College Students Guide To Personal Finance.
  • Jason from One Money Design presents How Do You Live Well on Less Pay?, and says, “There are plenty of people that don’t make a lot of money and have trouble covering basic expenses each month. There are 5 essential tips to follow to live well on less pay.”
  • Revanche from A Gai Shan Life presents Shopping for the single life .
  • ispf from Grad Money Matters presents The American Dream of Home Ownership: 10 Things You Can Do as a Student.
  • Jim from Wanderlust Journey presents Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Shareholder Benefits.
  • Jason from Live Real, Now presents Check Your Bills, and says, “Can you automate your finances too far?”
  • Elle from Couple Money presents Financial Tips for College Success, and says, “Many college students are surprised to see how easy it is to build a financial foundation for themselves. Learn how to set up bank accounts, pay your bills, and start a graduation fund.”
  • DE(a)BTh from Murder Your Debt presents Your Wasted Life, and says, “You thought financing a house and a fast car meant freedom. That an expensive education would lead you to a rewarding career where you could earn lots of money. You were wrong, weren’t you? You hate your career but you’re stuck. You’re stuck because you swallowed the lies you were sold. The lies that material possessions bring success. The lies that more money means more happiness. And now what? You’ve got it all; the cars, the house with the huge yard, the sexy outfits and shiny shoes. But you’re STILL not happy!”
  • vh from Funny about Money presents Social Security’s Bizarre Rules, and says, “Social Security’s restrictive rules make it impossible to get out of poverty when unemployment forces one into early retirement and stock-market losses militate against retirement fund drawdowns.”
  • J. Money from Budgets Are Sexy presents What would you do with an extra $1,000?, and says, “Montel Williams wants to know ;)”
  • Bob from Christian Finances presents How to spend unexpected income: 3 questions to ask, and says, “It can be tough to know what to do when you receive a large sum of cash – this article will give you some questions to help you figure out what to do with it…”
  • Mr. GoTo from Go To Retirement presents How Much Long Term Care Insurance Should You Have?, and says, “Insuring against a long term care event is part of personal risk management. Estimating the amount of long term care coverage to obtain requires careful consideration of several factors.”


If you are working 40 or more hours a week to earn your money, don’t you think it is worth an hour or two to set up a budget?

Isn’t it worth spending about an hour every week to manage the money you work so hard to earn? It is always better to manage what you have than to work yourself crazy trying to get more money.

- from page 21 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Finance


Investing

  • Dividend Growth Investor from Dividend Growth Investor presents 33 Dividend Champions to Consider, and says, “Dividend investor David Fish has created a list of dividend stocks which have raised distributions for 25 consecutive years and has named it the dividend champions list. His list includes 100 companies, which is more than twice the size of the Dividend Aristocrats. I ran a screen on the list in order to identify stocks for further research.”
  • Mike from The Financial Blogger presents Use the Loonie’s Strength to Invest in the Eagle Market, and says, “Canadian dollar is strong compared to the US dollar at this time. Use this as an opportunity to invest in US stocks.”
  • Div Guy from The Dividend Guy Blog presents Dividend Investing with Less Than $1,000 Part 3: How to Pick Your ETFs and/or Dividend Funds, and says, “Starting to invest is quite motivating but as a young investor, you must put greed and hype aside and start by looking for sound investments.”
  • Squirrelers presents Small Stocks = High Return and High Volatility, and says, “Small stocks, particularly those in the lowest deciles, have performed very well over the long-term. They can be an important part of your asset allocation, provided you can stomach the associated risks.”
  • D4L from Dividends Value presents My Top 6 Performing Dividend Stocks Just Might Surprise You, and says, “As I have stated many times, my goal is to create an ever growing income stream from dividend stocks. Secondarily, it is my desire to beat the S&P 500 over time. With that said, I rarely look at the capital performance of individual stocks. However, I recently sorted my portfolio by Total Gain % (total gain/basis) and was mildly surprised at the top performers.”
  • ElizabethG (Modern Gal) from Modern Gal presents Investing for Inflation in 2010.
  • DSO from High Dividend Stocks presents Big GE and it’s big dividend, and says, “One of America’s oldest and most prestigious companies has become an accidental high yielder.”


Budgeting in and of itself is useless.

Budgeting is part of a larger financial plan.

- from page 9 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Budgeting


Saving


Frugality


You need to focus your finances on accomplishing one major task at a time.

If you don’t, the danger is that every dollar will be diluted to a point that it makes little impact helping you reach your goals.

- from page 9 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Debt


Credit


The goal of the budget is to help you spend less than you earn.

Therefore, this becomes the single criteria for an effective budget – does it help you spend less than you earn?

- from page 12 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Reviews

  • PT from PT Money presents Free Prepaid Credit Cards, and says, “A thorough, original review of the best free prepaid credit cards, including those that are free of activation and monthly fees. These cards are great for those who need to avoid debt, or those that can’t get a traditional bank account.”
  • Silicon Valley Blogger from The Digerati Life presents Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard Review, and says, “Here’s a review of a credit card I actually like.”


Real Estate

  • FMF from Free Money Finance presents How to Hire a Home Inspector, and says, “When you buy a home, you need to be sure you hire a good home inspector to identify any potential problems. This post gives tips on how to do this.”
  • Jeff Rose from Good Financial Cents presents Should You Upgrade to a Larger Home”, and says, ”
    In many markets, home owners are looking at homes in the next price range up as good buys, since foreclosures and a slow market are resulting in good deals. But, as tempting as it is to upgrade to a larger home, is it really a good idea? Here are some things to consider before upgrading to a larger home.”
  • Rob from Two Wise Acres presents 3 Things to Avoid When Buying a Home, and says, “When buying a home, it’s critical that you avoid these three credit mistakes.”
  • ctreit from Money Obedience presents Do renters really save money in the end?.


Taxes

  • pkamp3 from Don’t Quit Your Day Job… presents Tax Incidence, and says, “Who really pays for a tax when it is enacted? If the government enacts a new tax on washing machines, is the entire tax on Maytag? The consumer? Cameron Daniels breaks down the details.”


A budget lets your spouse see your values and priorities in a tangible way.

A budget forces you to communicate not just about your life goals, but also about your daily financial preferences.

- from page 16 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Career

  • Kristina from Dinks Finance presents A DINK in The Office, and says, “As a married or unmarried employee with no children, are you treated differently than your colleagues with kids?”
  • Nicole from Nicole and Maggie: Grumpy Rumblings presents Why did you go to graduate school?, and says, “Nicole and Maggie discuss reasons for graduate school and how sometimes we’re directed into a career for the right reasons and sometimes we fall into it for the wrong reasons. But it turns out OK anyway (or maybe it doesn’t, but you can always change your mind).”


Economy

  • Bret from Hope to Prosper presents Trillion Dollar Public Pension Shortfall, and says, “An article in the New York Times stated that there is a $1 Trillion dollar public pension shortfall. Despite repeated denials from PERS and public employee unions, public pensions are in big trouble.”
  • JLP from AllFinancialMatters.com presents Democrats, Republicans, and the Federal Debt Since 1979, and says, “Though the title may suggest it, this is not a “political” post.”


Budgeting is a process, not an event.

You won’t wake up tomorrow with an effective budget. Instead, you will start with a decent budget that later becomes a good budget. Eventually, it is a great budget.

- from page 16 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Other


The Secret to a Successful Budget eBook Giveaway!

       As promised, I’m giving away two free copies of The Secret to a Successful Budget courtesy of Craig. To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post telling me how budgeting has helped you OR your biggest struggle with budgeting. I’ll use random.org to select two winners tomorrow evening (August 24, 2010) at 5:00 PM EDT so be sure to enter by then!!! I’ll update this post to announce the winners, but use a valid email address when you comment so I can reach you if you win. Good luck!

[Update: Laura has won a free copy of The Secret to a Successful Budget! Congratulations!!!]


The Secret to a Successful Budget eBook

       Negotiation skills are a powerful asset in life. Understanding how to negotiate will help you get raises and promotions, get a better deal, and get out of paying stupid fees. These five steps will help you learn how to negotiate better and smarter.

1. Prepare

       Before you begin negotiating (meeting with your boss or calling a company), take time to prepare for the negotiation. Think about what you want to accomplish and make it a concrete goal. “I want a 10% raise” is better than “I want more money”.

       Then, take some time to look at it from the other person’s point of view. Why should they be willing to give you what you want? In the case of getting a raise, have you proven yourself to be a valuable asset to the company? If you’re dealing with a business you buy from, have you been a customer for a long time or is it difficult to get new customers?

       The key is to list your accomplishments and reasons why you should get what you want. If you’ve saved your company money or taken on new responsibilities, write down exactly what you have done. Good examples would be “saved the company $20,000 a year by reducing waste in …” or “supervising ten more employees than last year”. Be ready to justify your request with reasons that will appeal to the other person.

       If you’ve been hit with a bogus fee, review your situation and be ready to explain what happened and why you don’t think you should be charged. If you were misinformed by an employee of the company, make that clear when you call. This is also why it’s smart to keep a record of when and to whom you speak when you call a company. You can easily reference the conversation and the person if a problem arises in the future.

2. Choose the Right Time

       Timing can greatly help your changes of negotiating successfully. If you’re asking for a raise, try to do it right after you finished a major accomplishment or as you take on new responsibilities. Your boss will have a difficult time overlooking the current circumstances – making it easier to give you a raise.

       Trying to get a better deal on your cell phone? Wait until your contract is just about to expire. (This works for other bills, too.) Businesses often spend quite a bit of money to get customers, so they’ll often do what they can to keep you. Negotiating when you’ll have the option to cancel gives you more power.

3. Be Firm & Confident but Polite

       Even if you are nervous or unsure, act confident and be firm as you negotiate. Weakness (real or perceived) puts the negotiating power back in the other person’s hands, so avoid it at all costs. This simply means you should not act timid when making your request. If you know you deserve a raise, act like it!

       However, this doesn’t mean you should be rude. Nobody likes a jerk. If you become hostile or impolite, people may refuse your request simply because they don’t like you. Be pleasant, kind, and patient and you will be rewarded.

       Another strategy is to use praise to your advantage. When negotiating a raise, show that you enjoy working there and are aligned with the company’s interest. If you’re trying to get a good deal with a company, comment on how you’ve enjoyed using their product in the past. Let people know you appreciate their time and help and they’ll be happy to help you again.

4. Be Ready to Respond

       You should be ready to respond to any number of reactions you get. If the answer is yes, then express your thanks. If the person needs to get someone else’s approval, let them know you appreciate their support. If the answer is no, things get a little trickier.

       If you’re trying to lower your bills or get rid of bogus fees, don’t give up at the first “no”. Restate one of your reasons for why you should get what you’re asking and follow that up with a leading question. Here’s an example: “Well, I’ve been a customer for 3 years and I’d hate to have to switch to [competitor]. What can you do to help me lower my bill (or get this fee waived)?” Do not follow up with a question that can be easily answered with a “yes” or “no”. Push for a “what else” or “how” type question rather than simply saying “Are you sure?” or “OK”.

       Dealing with your employer is a bit different because you don’t want to be so pushy you lose your job. If you think your boss is being unreasonable in denying your raise (i.e., you actually do deserve it), don’t be afraid to ask for more details and insist on your accomplishments once again. Be polite but firm. “After saving the company $25,000/year and increasing efficiency by 15%, a 10% raise is a reasonable award. In addition, comparable positions pay 20% more than my current salary so it is still good for the company.”

       If your boss still won’t (or can’t) budge, offer some alternatives that might not cost more money but are still beneficial to you. Increased vacation time, flexible hours, or the option to telecommute one day a week are a few examples. If these don’t go over well, ask for concrete goals you can achieve to earn a raise and get an appointment to renegotiate in a few months.

5. Be Ready to Walk Away

       Finally, you must be prepared to walk away if necessary. If a company won’t offer you a discount, let them know you can get a better deal elsewhere (be specific) and thank them for their time. That’s often enough to get what you ask for right away (but you shouldn’t abuse it).

       If you are significantly underpaid, work very hard, and have not been able to get a raise, be ready to leave your employer and go elsewhere. I wouldn’t use this as a negotiation tactic though. Even if your current employer offers to increase your salary, they’ll know you aren’t loyal to the company and they may look to replace you. Your best bet is to start looking for a new job without letting your current boss know. Turn in your resignation after you have a firm offer from a new employer and move on.

These Tips Do Work!

       If you think these tips don’t work, I’m proof that they do. Using these strategies, I’ve gotten 10% raises, lowered several of my bills, and had bogus fees waived several times. Again, preparation and confidence are key. You must know why you deserve to get what you’re asking for and be willing to push for it if necessary. Many times, simply asking will get what you want because so many people fail to take that step.

       Have you successfully negotiated a raise, lower bills, or fee waivers? Share your tips and stories in the comments!

       While knowledge isn’t really a hindrance to success, you don’t need to know everything to accomplish your goals. After you reach a basic understanding of an area you want to be successful in, you need to start taking action. Continuing your learning after that point is wise, too. But if you never act on what you learn, you’ll never be successful.

First, Learn the Basics

       This is especially true in personal finance. You don’t have to be a seasoned financial planner to begin finding success. You don’t even need to spend a ton of time to understand the basics. They’re simple. Spend less. Earn more. Save and invest. Be wise and cautious when making purchases (goods, services, or investments). Plan ahead. Don’t pay things you don’t have to (like extra taxes). And so on. A basic education is all you need to start finding success in your personal finances.

       You don’t need an accounting degree to make a budget. You don’t have to be Warren Buffet to start investing. You don’t have to go to law school to get your estate documents in place.

Then, Take Action

       Success in personal finance is not necessarily about knowing all the right answers. It’s about taking action. Those who only read about the benefits of budgeting will never be as successful as those who actually try to make a budget and stick to it. This is true even if the doers are not successful the first time.

       You can learn by reading about the experiences of others – but only so much. Until you start creating your own experiences, the information will just be knowledge in your head. You must start using it yourself!

       Don’t think I’m discounting the value of learning, education, and research. To be truly successful, you’ll have to keep learning. But you can’t get started on the road to success unless you follow a pattern of learning, doing, learning, doing, and so on.

Avoid Danger Areas!

       I’ll end with a few cautions especially true in personal finance. In some areas of personal finance, there are unscrupulous people who will try to take advantage of your lack of education. Insurance, investing, and debt are the most common places you’ll run into this, but you can really find it anywhere. Here’s the key: Before doing something, make sure you’re aware of the possible problems/pitfalls and educate yourself on how to avoid them.

       Here’s an example. In investing and insurance, you must be aware of how advisors and salesmen get paid. If it’s commissions, know what conflicts of interest might exist. In other words, learn how people might try to rip you off and be on the lookout for those techniques.

       Even though there are risks to the learn, do, learn method, you can avoid most major mistakes by learning first about the danger areas and how to avoid them. In personal finance, be aware of those who earn commissions, learn the math of debt, and read the academic research on investing.

Now Do Something!!!

       So get out there and start doing the needed things to achieve success. Stop reading about budgeting and do it! Stop worrying about having enough for retirement and start saving! Stop dreaming of starting your own business and do it! You’re never going to get anywhere until you take action.


P.S. I think I wrote this as much for me as for anyone else. I have the curse of perfectionism, and I must battle it every day. There is no such thing as perfect in this world. Only God is perfect. So I need to stop worrying about doing everything perfectly and just start doing. What about you?

       According to insurance companies and their agents, you have an 80 percent chance of becoming disabled during your working years. I’m not sure about you, but that statistic just doesn’t mesh with my experience in life and the experience of people I know.

       Ron Lieber, author of the Your Money section of the New York Times, has a great article about the true odds of becoming disabled. I can’t do a better job than him in sharing the info he learned, so I recommend you check it out for yourself. I also want to share a link to a graph in the article because I want you to see it.

       I found this article from The Oblivious Investor who wrote about it on Twitter.

       What do you think about the true odds of becoming disabled and your need for disability insurance? Let me know in the comments.

       A fiduciary is a person in a position of trust who obligates himself to always act in the best interests of those who trust him. For example, the trustee of a trust is considered a fiduciary and must always act in the best interests of the trust’s beneficiaries. Fiduciaries are legally required to act in the best interests of those they’re serving, and they can never put their own interests first.

Why Does It Matter?

       So why should you care what (or who) a fiduciary is? In the financial world, there are two types of advisors:

  1. Those who are fiduciaries.
  2.  

  3. Those who are not.



       If you understand what a fiduciary is, you’ll see that advisors who are fiduciaries are required to do what’s best for you. Advisors who are not fiduciaries are not held to such a standard. It’s perfectly legal for them to put their own interests first – to act in a way that might not provide the best benefits to you. Obviously, you want to use a fiduciary advisor whenever possible because of their legal responsibility to you.

       There are very clear guidelines on who is considered a fiduciary in the financial world and who is not. The following people are NOT considered fiduciaries:

  • Stock Brokers
  • Insurance Agents
  • Real Estate Agents acting on the other party’s behalf (This is common when you are buying, as most real estate agents are acting on behalf of the seller.)



       ”Advisors” in this group do not represent you. They represent themselves, their company, or someone else. They have no legal responsibility to act in your best interest. They are simply not permitted to commit fraud or provide you with “unsuitable” recommendations. But the “unsuitable” standard is very broad and difficult to impose.

       On the other hand, people in these groups are considered fiduciaries:

  • Registered Investment Advisers (RIAs) or Investment Adviser Representatives (IARs)
  • Insurance Brokers
  • Real Estate Agents acting on your behalf
  • CPAs
  • Attorneys



       Advisors in this group are legally required to act and advise you only for your benefit and interests. They can never act in a way that is contrary to what is best for you. They must act with undivided loyalty to you. If they fail to do so, you are entitled to legal action against them. It’s not enough for them to just provide “suitable” recommendations. They must try their hardest to provide you with the best advice possible.

       Let’s use a simple example. If you go to a stock broker, the broker can recommend you invest in Fund A (as long as it’s “suitable”) even though Fund B is better for you. Why would he do this? Probably because Fund A will give him a higher commission.

       Now let’s say you go to a Registered Investment Adviser (or an Investment Advisor Representative – someone who works for an RIA). Because RIAs have a fiduciary duty to their clients, they’ll always be required to recommend you invest in Fund B since it’s your best option. RIAs can’t receive commissions or do anything that’s not in their client’s best interests. So who do you want to get your advice from? The stock broker or the RIA?

       It’s quite clear that fiduciaries are held to a much higher standard than non-fiduciaries. Whenever possible, you should seek to obtain advice from people who are held to a fiduciary standard. Ask your advisors if they are fiduciaries. Ask them if they are required to always act in your best interests. They are required to answer truthfully, and you should be wary of those who cannot answer with a confident and resounding “yes”.

       Have you ever heard of the term “fiduciary” before? Is there any aspect of the fiduciary duty/standard you’re not clear on? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions!