Why is this even legal?
We've been to D.C.. We've spoken with members of Congress. We've protested to SEC commissioners. But we realize that Wall Street's gazillion-dollar lobbying will always buy easier ways for it to capture a larger share of your wallet.
Today's fee-based "fiduciary" carries an advisor registration
in one hand and a broker sales license in the other.
Paying an "advisor" a fee - to sell you something? This is not what an informed consumer would do; but as long as federal regulators allow Wall Street to obscure the facts in fine print, even highly-educated consumers will continue to fall prey to the expensive conflicts of interest that dominate the financial services industry.
It may be okay under today's "fiduciary standard",
but that doesn't make it what's best.
Objectivity + Independence + Expertise
Insist upon all three!
1. OBJECTIVITY: If you want financial guidance that is never influenced by a sales agenda, choose an advisor who doesn't have a sales license.
(Truly objective firms like FirsTrust have no "BROKER" or "LIFE INSURANCE" sales licenses, and there are no fine print disclosures on the bottom of their advisors' business cards.)
2. INDEPENDENCE: If you want investment choices that are never dictated by a company profit agenda, choose a company that doesn't profit from your investment choices.
(Truly independent firms like FirsTrust have no restrictions that handcuff them to a bank or brokerage product menu, and they never profit from your investment choices.)
3. EXPERTISE: If you want financial guidance from actual experts, take the time to verify their expertise before you trust anybody with your money!
(FirsTrust advisors are accredited experts with 20 to 30+ years of experience; references from local clients, attorneys and CPAs; and Public Disclosure Reports showing they have never been disciplined for violating a client’s trust.)
DON'T JUST BELIEVE THE MARKETING MATERIALS. VERIFY BEFORE YOU TRUST:
Commentary and a Word of Wisdom from our Founder:
My entire career path changed the day I met Tuxedo.
It's 1980-something; I'm a rookie financial advisor, on a vacation cruise with my wife, and I'm standing in the ship's casino among a crowd of passengers who appear hypnotized by a large wheel, spinning on the casino wall.
As you might expect, the wheel contains the numbers 1 through 100, and the objective is to correctly pick which number will be at the top of the wheel once it stops.
But what catches my attention is the energetic young attendant in a tuxedo who is handing out little yellow pencils and white note cards that say "Number Tracker" across the top in bright red letters.
Tuxedo then spins the wheel - but only a few gamblers place their bets. The majority of the crowd just stands there gazing at the wheel.
Each time the wheel stops, Tuxedo yells out the winning number, and the spectators bow their heads to scribble something on their Number Tracker cards.
My curiosity grows, and I finally have to ask:
“Excuse me, Sir,” I said to the elderly man standing next to me, “May I ask what everyone’s doing?” He reluctantly revealed his Number Tracker card and said, “We're tracking the numbers."
As I studied his card, I saw that he had marked an "X" across the numbers that won in recent spins. “Number 34 just won," he said, "so I know that I should not bet on it right now.”
“Why not?” I asked.
He raised his eyebrows and glared at me over his glasses. “Odds are against it," he said. "How likely is it that 34 will win again on the very next spin?”
I quickly answered, “One in a hundred.”
He looked to the ceiling for patience and calmed himself with a deep breath.
"Now look," he said - speaking a bit slower so I could keep up. "Statistically, the chances of number 34 coming up twice in a row are pretty slim, so I crossed it off my card. Understand?"
"Actually," I replied, "every time the wheel spins, each number has a one-in-a-hundred chance of winning. It doesn't matter which number won last time."
The man threw his hands in the air and sarcastically barked, “Oh, I see; you’ve got it all figured out and the rest of us are just a bunch of dummies, huh?”
He returned to his task as I stood there with one of those "Are you serious?" looks on my face.
Then it occurred to me:
Who created these “Number Tracker” cards and provided the little yellow pencils?
That’s right - the casino did. They know that humans tend to validate risk through irrational behaviors, so the house promotes it. They capitalize on it.
And they employ people like Tuxedo to distribute the tools for innocent people to do it with.
I looked over at Tuxedo - and I instantly hated him. Or felt sorry for him. Or both. I couldn't tell. He’s either ignorant or he’s complicit - but there’s no third option. And for the life of me, I couldn’t tell which.
So I just stood there, for quite a while, staring at Tuxedo, my brain simultaneously conflicted with both disdain and compassion, as he spun the wheel and handed out more “Number Tracker” cards with little yellow pencils.
All of a sudden, I was overcome by a gut-wrenching thought. I felt like I was having a hot flash. Blood rushed to my face, and I was actually embarrassed at the possibility...
"Am I a TUXEDO?"
Was I just another paycheck-puppet, drinking enough of the company Kool-Aid to remain blissfully unaware of how we actually paid for our football stadium logos and Wall Street skyscrapers?
I honestly didn't know.
Respectfully, my friends, when you meet an "investment advisor" these days, neither will you.
In the months after returning from that cruise, I resigned from the large financial institution that employed me, enrolled in a Masters program at George Washington University and learned the huge difference between real financial advice and the former corporate sales talk I was required to hand out.
In 1995, I began creating FirsTrust by surrounding myself with other educated financial advisors who insist upon doing what's absolutely best for their clients. It hasn't been easy; partly because they would make a lot more money somewhere that accepts commissions, sales incentives and corporate pay-to-play revenues.
But just because it's legal doesn't make it okay.
And what's just okay is never what's best.
It's your hard earned money. Do your homework. Know the difference.
And choose what's best!
Michael T. Koenig
FirsTrust founder & CEO
P.S.: A "Word of Wisdom" for Industry Professionals
I know you’re reading this too. Maybe even cursing me under your breath.
So what about you? Are you a Tuxedo?
Do you honestly believe your company pays
higher commissions, bonuses and incentives
to recommend investments that are in
the client's best interest?
I've met countless dual-registered advisors who agree completely. They tell me their revenue is 100% fee-based. So my question is: why do you put up with FINRA compliance? Why pay broker-dealer fee splits? Why do you keep renewing your insurance license?
You would actually serve the best interest of your clients without a broker dealer disclosure and a Wall Street logo on your business card.
The most positive difference in your life will come from
making the most positive difference in the life of your client.
Go home and actually read all the conflicts of interest that your company discloses in fine print. And if you’re not OK with that - if you truly want to serve your client's BEST interest but don't know how - please call me.
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