Until now, not all financial advisors in Tennessee and the rest of the country were required to put their clients first, before any investment funds they represent. This month that's expected to change after the U.S. Department of Labor issued a fiduciary rule, taking full effect in 2018, that requires all financial advisors who give retirement advice to act in the best interest of their clients.
Jim Lardner, communications director for Americans for Financial Reform, explains what the problem was. "Brokers, insurance companies, sales people and others can take advantage of loopholes and have taken advantage of loopholes to promote high-commissioned investment products that do very well for them," he says. "But are not so good for the investor."
This is the first time the rules have been updated in 40 years. Opponents say it requires excess paperwork and will result in higher costs for investors in the long run. Though the policy hasn't been mandated by law before now, many reputable investment companies require their advisors to sign a contract committing to act in the best interest of their client.
Experts say to protect yourself, ask your advisor if they've committed to such a standard. Americans for Financial Reform estimates the lack of consumer protection until now has cost savers more than $17 billion annually.
Lardner says financial advisors looking to make extra profits on the backs of their clients can cost big bucks over time. "The cost of this kind of conflicting so-called advice, which is really a sales pitch disguised as advice," says Lardner. "Can run into the tens of thousands of dollars for an individual worker or retiree."
According to a study by the Center for American Progress, even a seemingly small extra fee on an investment in a mutual fund can add up over time. A 25 year old, earning $30,000 a year and investing 5 percent of his or her salary annually, would end up paying almost $100,000 extra over a lifetime with an extra fee of less than 1 percent.
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