Last week, the Department of Labor released its long-anticipated final rule that will extend the fiduciary duty to all financial advisers that provide investment advice on retirement plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA’s). The new fiduciary standard requires that all advisers act in the best interest of their clients when providing advice on retirement plans. Previously, only Registered Investment Advisers (RIA’s) were held to the fiduciary standard while brokers were held to a lower standard that only required them to recommend products that were “suitable” for their clients.
Critics of the lower suitability standard argued that this allowed brokers to sell high-fee products that paid them high commissions. Brokers will still be allowed to accept commissions but they must have the client sign a “best interest contract” that discloses the costs and fees associated with the product.
Another important provision is that advisers will be required to document why any advice he or she offers on rolling money from a 401(k) to an IRA is in a client’s best interest. The Labor Department believes this will help investors save money if the 401(k) offers lower fees than an IRA.
The new rules will start to take effect by April 2017 and advisers will have until January 2018 to comply with all of the rule’s provisions and disclosures.
Clients of Syverson Strege & Company and Sherpa Investment Management will likely see minimal changes. As a RIA, the firm is already held to the fiduciary standard and must act in clients’ best interests. As fee-only, the firm does not accept commissions or any third-party compensation on investments. The new rule is a step forward for leveling the playing field for advisers and should help investors understand the fees they are paying.
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– Jason Gunkel, CFA, CFP®, CAP®