Zealous Preachers and Fee-Only Advisers

by Jeff C. Johnson

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors logo

Television preachers are sometimes dramatic, if not outright zealous, in the delivery of their message. Oftentimes (at least when I’ve listened for more than a minute or two), they claim to be motivated and outspoken because they were “sinners who saw the light.”

Well, I’m a zealous preacher, too. I worked for many years as a stockbroker and financial consultant, and I held various titles as well. I sold investments where commissions were charged to the customer and paid to me. And in that context, my colleagues and I worked to do the right thing.

(There is evidence we were, in fact, doing the right thing. My team and I still work with many clients that started their relationship with us in the 1980s.)

But there are clearly conflicts in the sales-motivated business. No sale, no transaction, no pay. Sometimes, however, it’s better for clients to think, consider, advise, and do nothing.

Fee-only advisers are paid not for their sales skill but for their advice and counsel to clients. It has nothing to do with account activity or selling products manufactured by the financial firm.

How can a consumer know? Here comes the “Zealous Fee-Only Planner” message: Find a fee-only planner affiliated with NAPFA, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. NAPFA-registered advisers are committed to accept advice-driven, fee-only compensation, and readily conform to a fiduciary standard, which means an obligation to recommend the very best thing for the client.

For more information about NAPFA or to find a fee-only adviser, go to www.napfa.org.