What is a Fiduciary and Why Does it Matter?

Maura Schauss |

By Maura C. Schauss, CFP®

In the news, the word “fiduciary” has been thrown around a lot in regards to financial advisors and their duties. The concept can seem confusing to people, as many assume that all advisors, whether they’re stockbrokers or financial planners, are required to act in their client’s best interest. But that’s not the reality. It’s important to understand the distinction between different types of advisors’ roles and what it means for you and your money.

What is a Fiduciary?

The primary duty of a fiduciary is to put your needs first and to provide advice and recommendations that will benefit you. Think of a fiduciary like a trustee, someone who is given and accepts the responsibility of managing assets for a someone else. This duty protects you from conflicts of interest.

For example, fiduciary duty prevents an advisor from making an investment with your money solely for a kickback commission. For those who don’t adhere to a fiduciary standard, a recommendation made by advisors only has to be “suitable.” The problem with this is that some advisors could then sell high-fee products, even if a lower-priced option was just as suitable or available, in order to receive a higher commission.

The fiduciary standard includes providing guidance that is unbiased, is considered beneficial to you, and fees that are clear and upfront. The fiduciary standard can give you confidence that your hard-earned money is in good hands.

How Do I Know Who is a Fiduciary?

While some advisors may toss around the term lightly, not all advisors are fiduciaries. Wall Street brokerage firms can sell proprietary products, so their advice may potentially be biased. For example, annuities and other high-fee investments that provide brokers a higher commission can still be sold into your retirement account. Additionally, while brokers must inform clients that they’re choosing to be paid commissions, if the investor neglects to read the disclosures, they won’t know where their broker’s interests lie.

On the other hand, Registered Investment Advisory firms are required to uphold a fiduciary duty. At Washington Wealth Advisors, we are an independent Registered Investment Advisory firm committed to helping you reach your goals. Our approach to investing is founded upon the highest fiduciary standards. Our independence serves as a basis to create a specific investment strategy tailored to meet your financial goals. Our advice is driven by one concern alone – the best interest of our clients.

We are dedicated to providing you with the best advice we can give without any conflicts of interest. We act with undivided loyalty to you and provide complete transparency and disclosure when it comes to our compensation or investment approach.

Why Should I Work with a Fiduciary?

There are several benefits to working with an advisor who serves in a fiduciary capacity. For one, they are open and transparent. Aside from the obvious goal of maximizing value for your money, working with a fiduciary will give you confidence that your advisor is working in your best interests rather than their own.

By working with an advisor who holds to fiduciary standards, you can feel more empowered to make the best decisions for you and your finances. Clients have the power to ask questions and to demand the highest value for the service that advisors are providing. As a firm in the financial world, we understand people’s reservations or even negative connotations towards the underlying motivations of some advisors. We want to assure you that you can trust in the fact that our relationship with you is built on integrity.

Your Next Steps

It’s important to thoroughly research an advisor before choosing to work with him or her. An advisor should be open to sharing their business philosophy, how they choose investments, what their process looks like, any potential conflicts of interest they face, and how they’re paid.

At Washington Wealth Advisors, we take pride in our transparency and objectivity. If you’re unsure about your current retirement strategies, haven’t reevaluated your investments in several years, or are just interested in learning more about what it means to work with a fiduciary, call us today at 703.584.2700 or email info@washingtonwealthadv.com and know that you are in good hands.

About Washington Wealth Advisors

Washington Wealth Advisors is an independent registered investment advisory firm serving high net worth families and small businesses. We focus on holistic financial planning and comprehensive investment management. Leveraging our core strengths of unbiased, active investment management together with a detailed annual financial planning capability, we serve your comprehensive investment and financial planning needs.