With fiduciary rule in question, here is how to protect yourself

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President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday to seek a review of a rule that would have forced financial advisers to act in the customers’ best interest regarding advice for their retirement.

Trump’s executive order delayed the fiduciary rule, which was scheduled to take effect in April. The rule would have required financial professionals disclose their financial compensation to clients.

The intention was to prevent conflicted advice that would benefit the investment adviser but cut into the retirement investor’s nest egg with high fees, commission costs and potential penalties.

Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser, had a metaphor that left a lot of people scratching their heads.

“(The rule) is like putting only healthy food on the menu, because unhealthy food tastes good but you still shouldn’t eat it because you might die younger,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

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Educate yourself

The rule was an important step forward for American investors.

“We are saddened by the possibility that it might be rolled back,” says Seth Rosenbloom, associate general counsel for Betterment for Business in New York.

Without the fiduciary rule, here’s what you have to know when it comes to making decisions with your retirement accounts.

First, always protect yourself, says Stan Haithcock, an independent annuity agent licensed in all states.

Know what you’re buying and check the competition.

Buying an annuity, for example, is a lot like buying a plane ticket. See what other companies are offering, at what price. Don’t put your money in investments you don’t understand.

Ask, ask, ask

It may seem confrontational to ask questions about how someone is paid, but Rosenbloom emphasizes that people in the investment industry are required to disclose any conflict.

Rosenbloom recommends the following questions:

  • How are you conflicted when you give me investment advice?”
  • How are you compensated?
  • How am I paying, you and who else is paying you?

Don’t be afraid to ask for proof, says Haithcock.

“If someone is pitching you a product, call (the company’s) 800 number,” he advises.

Whatever statement an agent has made to you, ask the reps at the toll-free number to verify the claim.

Join the fiduciary conversation

Even in the face of delay, the fiduciary rule is still important, Rosenbloom says.

“The push for a fiduciary standard is not going away,” he says, and it’s vital for people who are investing money in hopes of a decent retirement.

Anyone who is concerned about the advice they receive needs to be a part of that discussion. If you think it’s important, Rosenbloom suggests calling your elected representatives.

Individual investors need to be a part of that discussion, Rosenbloom says.

“Be vocal about it,” he says.

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