Fiduciary Advisors, Know How to Find One


Helping clients take better control of their financial future

Few would-be investors could probably define the term “fiduciary.” And that is why so many get pulled into weak investment strategies and poor products by bankers and brokers who put their needs before the client’s.

“This fiduciary rule came about because so many bankers and brokers took advantage of so many people with variable annuities, for example, where they got 8% commission upfront and clients were never told,” said Brian Decker, chief executive officer of Decker Retirement Planning, Inc. “They get paid every year you own that variable annuity. The insurance company gets paid every year that you own that variable annuity. The mutual funds get paid every year you own it. It’s three layers of fees that add up to 5 or 7 percent [annually] before you make a dime.”

Decker Retirement Planning, Inc., is a fiduciary retirement planning firm with offices in Kirkland and Seattle, Washington, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Fiduciary means that Decker Retirement Planning puts clients’ needs ahead of the firm’s interst, bottom line. And that’s something Decker wishes more financial service companies would do.

“You should be able to have the correct assumption that any advisor working for you is required to have your best interests at heart,” Brian said.

Decker Retirement Planning, Inc., typically serves clients over 50-years-old who are preparing to retire. The firm does require a minimum amount of investable assets from prospects which is $300,000. The Decker team helps walk clients through the retirement planning process in about seven or eight meetings that are designed to be straightforward. Client plans are projected to age 100 – useful as lifespans increase and strain retirees financially – and highlight investor income and withdrawal expectations in a way that “lays everything out in black and white,” Brian said.

“It’s a common sense mathematical approach to show the income streams they have and put a [cost of living adjustment] on it. It can provide clients with peace of mind that when the markets get crushed and it won’t destroy their income,” he added.

Brian hopes to have $200 million assets under management by the end of 2018, and he stakes his ability to properly handle those assets on a methodology that differs from the usual Wall Street way of doing business.

“For reasons that make no sense to us in retirement planning, the banker-broker community trots out this one-sided, buy-and-hold strategy for people in retirement, so every seven or eight years, you’re going to get whacked like in 2008,” Brian said. “There’s been strategies for decades that offer a two-sided approach … We’re fiduciaries so we use those.”

Spotting a fiduciary can be difficult for the uninitiated. Brian said there are three requirements prospective investors should look for to find a fiduciary. First, any fiduciary will be required by state law to put clients interest ahead of themselves. Second, your fiduciary advisor would have a Series 65 license, so ask to see proof. And last, a fiduciary can charge fees, but commissions are off-limits.

That “three-fold test” will allow a prospective investor to sort fiduciaries from the non-fiduciary advisors who often ply self-serving products.

The fiduciary mindset leads Brian to help minimize his clients’ risk exposure, which allows them to weather market storms with fewer losses. It also helps keep costs down for clients, Brian said.

“Typically, we only have around 25 percent of their money at risk, only 25 percent,” he said. “Bankers and brokers were charging their clients on all of their money because all of their money is in fees. We charge clients only for the money that we manage that’s at-risk.”

“Our clients have about 75 percent of their money that is principal guaranteed. For most people, that’s just unheard of these days with the low interest rates,” Brian added.

Decker Retirement Planning, Inc., also helps mitigates client risk by listing out potential problems, projecting their likelihood, and planning for the worst. Client plans are subjected to stress tests for everything from the death of a spouse to a severe market correction, Brian said.

“We go right down the list of the biggest problems, 22 of them, and we try to flush out any weaknesses,” Brian said.

Brian has experience handling client problems. He described his “baptism” in finance as 1987’s “Black Monday,” when the market dropped almost 25 percent in a matter of days. Clients poured in demanding to know what to do next, and Brian said he advised them to “hold on” and ride out the market. Luckily, Brian said, 1987 was “one and done,” and did not become a prolonged crisis like the 2008 market collapse.

Brian believes that proof in his model resulted from the 2008 crisis. Decker Retirement Planning had six managers at the time, four made money in 2008 and all of them were able to give clients returns the year after.

“These models have not had a losing year in the past 16 years,” he said.

The key, Brian said, is in trusting your advisor to do what’s best. Clients who realize that they cannot do it all are the ones who tend to work best with a capable, fiduciary advisor who’s looking out for them.

“I’ve got to trust my dentist when he tells me he has to do some work,” Brian said. “We have a saying in the business that you can save a lot of money doing your own dentistry but it’s not recommended.”

For more information, visit: https://deckerretirementplanning.com/


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