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    How to Find Transparency in Your Financial Relationships

    By Brandon Miller, CFP

    Choosing a financial advisor is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. After all, this individual or team will have access to your life’s savings—and you have to trust them to guide you toward the future you desire. 

    But, amidst all the industry hype and jargon, understanding how to identify a true financial ally can be incredibly challenging.

    Search for an RIA

    One way to find a financial professional you can rely on is to look for a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA). This type of financial firm has fiduciary duty, which means they must always act in their clients’ best interests.  

    Of course, many talented and trustworthy advisors work for big-name firms. But the reality is that corporate priorities can also sway how they serve clients. Often, advisors at big firms have to meet sales quotas or push products that contribute to their employer’s bottom line. They might charge commissions for their work—even if their choices make you lose money.

    RIAs have a fiduciary role when working with clients that includes disclosing any conflicts of interest, and must present solutions that are in their clients’ best interests. Not putting your needs first is literally against the law.

    Expect Clear Communications

    As an RIA, we have to complete a form called the ADV, which outlines every aspect of the services we provide for clients, the fees we charge, and how we work. And, the Securities and Exchange Commission requires us to write the content in plain English—which means no burying our true actions in jargon or legalese.

    So, what can you do to help ensure you find clear guidance that looks out for your best interests? Start by asking the right questions.

    The next time you meet with a financial professional, I recommend asking them these questions to help find the insight and transparency you deserve:

    • Are you a fiduciary?
    • How do you charge for your services?
    • Where can I find information about conflicts of interest you may have?
    • How will you put my needs first?

    Ultimately, an RIA provides transparency you might not find at other firms. And in today’s complex, constantly changing financial world, you deserve to understand exactly what your advisor is doing on your behalf.

    Brandon Miller, CFP, is a financial consultant at Brio Financial Group in San Francisco, specializing in helping LGBT individuals and families plan and achieve their financial goals.