What is a "Financial Advisor"?

Unfortunately, the term "financial advisor" has come into common usage.  The unfortunate thing about it is that the term has no precise meaning whatsoever.  Anyone may call himself a "financial advisor".  Just because someone calls himself a "financial advisor" does not mean that he has any specific education, background, experience, or certification which actually qualifies him to give financial advice.

What makes this especially unfortunate is that the most common usage of the term "financial advisor" nowadays is for a salesperson.  Stock brokers and insurance agents, especially, call themselves "financial advisors" all the time.  This can be highly misleading because one might expect one's "advisor" to work for his client and in his client's best interest.  In fact, stock brokers and insurance agents do not work primarily for their clients but, rather, for their employers.  Insurance agents have a fiduciary obligation to the insurance company, not the customer.  Stock brokers are held to a "suitability" standard rather than a "fiduciary" standard with respect to their customers.  This means that when these brokers and agents have a choice of several products which are "suitable" they may actually recommend whichever of those products makes them and their companies the most money, rather then the ones which cost their clients the least or make their clients the most money.

This doesn't mean that all "financial advisors" are looking out for themselves to the detriment of their customers.  Most financial advisors do have the best intentions and mean well for their customers.  And most of them do very good work for their customers.  But at the end of the day, people respond to incentives.  Always ask just how folks get paid and take that into account when evaluating their advice.

Because the term "financial advisor" is so loosely used and unregulated, Meyers Wealth Management tries to avoid the term.  We do fee-only financial planning and portfolio management.  We do not get commissions or any other financial incentives to put our clients into any particular product.  If we advise a client to invest in or use some particular financial product or security, it's because we believe that it's in our client's best interest.  Period.  We are held to a fiduciary standard with respect to our clients.

There are some terms with precise and legal meanings which do apply.  Meyers Wealth Management is a Registered Investment Advisor, registered with the state of California.  Mr. Meyers is an Investment Advisor Representative.  As a Registered Investment Advisor, Meyers Wealth Management is required to register with the states in which we do business and provide various disclosures to our clients.  Moreover, as a Registered Investment Advisor, we have an explicit fiduciary obligation with respect to our clients.

David Meyers is a member of NAPFA, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.  NAPFA is the leading organization of fee-only financial advisors and all members of NAPFA must sign and renew a fiduciary oath every year, and follow NAPFA’s code of ethics.  Members of NAPFA may not receive commissions, and in order to join the organization, they must submit a comprehensive financial plan for peer review and approval.

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