A Fee-Only financial planner is one who is only compensated by fees from their clients. He or she does not receive commissions, rebates, awards, referral fees, kickback or any other sort of incentive for their advice. A Fee-Only financial planner charges fees for financial planning and investment management, and these fees are fully-disclosed.
Estimates suggest that less than 5% of all financial planners are Fee-Only.
Why is this important?
There are inherent conflicts of interest when a financial planner stands to gain financially from the purchase of any product he or she recommends to the client. Is the planner really providing objective advice? Can their recommendations truly be considered unbiased? If a commission product is recommended, is there a lower commission or no-commission product that would be just as good or better? Is their company providing non-disclosed incentives to recommend a certain product? How do you really know you are getting the best advice?
Almost all financial planners, financial advisors, insurance agents, and brokers work on some sort of compensation besides fees. Some work on a straight commission basis, while others refer to themselves as "fee-based". This is the most common type of compensation.
Fee-Based is not the same as Fee-Only. Fee-based advisors charge a fee for advice, but they can also receive commissions from product sales. Fee-based advisors play on both sides of the fence and add confusion to the marketplace. At least you know what you are getting when you deal with a straight commission-based advisor -- buyer beware! Fee-based advisors can charge a fee for advice and then turn around and recommend a product on which they are paid again. They may not fully-disclose their entire compensation. Again, how do you really know you are getting the best advice?
Fee-Only financial planners have purposely chosen to divest themselves of all compensation that creates a conflict of interest. They are the only true professional consultants in the financial services industry.
Blue Water Capital Management, LLC has accepted and embraced the higher professionalism of Fee-Only. We are members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). NAPFA is the nation’s leading organization dedicated to the advancement of Fee-Only financial planning. Currently, there are about 2,500 members nationwide. Being a part of NAPFA allows us to enhance our skills, learn about best practices, and have an influential voice on matters that impact consumers and our profession.
Quote from Arthur Levitt, Former SEC Chairman:
“If you have more than $50,000 to invest, you should fire your broker and find an investment advisor. Brokerage firms would like you to think that they perform the same functions as investment advisors. Many brokers call themselves 'financial consultants' or 'financial advisors'. But they are not the same as independent investment advisors... an investment advisor's fiduciary duty is on a higher plane, like that of a lawyer, a trustee, or the executor of an estate. Financial planners who are members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)…submit their work to peer review and are not supposed to charge anything but a fee.”