Let’s face it: Halloween for investors knocking on Financial Advisors’ doors only spells “treat” if there’s a Fee-Only advisor on the other side holding a bowl full of financial planning candy.Fee-Only Advisor Definition: Trick, or Treat?

So what’s the trick, then? Here’s a perfect example.

A couple seeking early retirement, severance and investment planning advice met with me earlier today. This couple was super excited to learn that an advisor in their area offered a month-long course on retirement strategies at no obligation or cost. They even shared with me a very thoughtful, strategic plan that they emerged with – nicely bound and printed in color.

There was only one problem:  They felt jinxed at the end of the course.  TRICKED, not TREATED.

It was explained to me that after the instructor/advisor spoke of all things 2008 (losses and market uncertainty), that he then asked all of the participants what their biggest concerns were in regards to their retirement assets.

Naturally, this couple responded with “asset protection” (as did most of their classmates).

What ensued?  You guessed it.  A pitch to all class participants that included buying multiple annuities as a part of their retirement planning strategy.

The point is this:  Anyone with a brain in the course knew they had then been SOLD something and, now, no one knew if it was in fact something they truly needed.   You see, they trusted the instructor/advisor with their time and attention to teach them how to best handle their retirement assets – yet that trust gets lost when compensation for the sale of investment products gets slyly revealed in the end.

And while this very authentic, and real-time scenario, is dramatic in its story (thanks, A&G for sharing today!), the only difference between a NON Fee-Only advisor/planner and the above instructor is that one was dressed up as a sheep (instructor/advisor) in wolves clothing and the other, well, the other just presents themselves as a planner (salesperson).

The bottom line? 99% of all planners offer insurance planning and advice.  But only a small fraction offer that advice with no conflicts of interest (AKA nothing to sell).

The truth is, one half of the couple was interested in the instructor’s Asset Protection Plan.  But neither of them trusted him due to his approach and his clear objective of selling annuities versus that of instructing retirees to successful asset protection.

Trick or Treat, plain and simple.

The Treat, defined:  A Fee-Only advisor is one that SELLS NOTHING except fiduciary advice with ZERO conflicts of interest.  ZERO conflict of interest = TREAT, no tricks.

And if you’re looking for a Fee-Only advisor in your immediate area, NAPFA (the leading fee-only professional association) is the fee-only “watch dog” of Fee-Only advisors.

But remember…not all Fee-Only planners are for you – so make sure you kick the tires and find a good fit to include chemistry, fees and experience.

NAPFA defines a Fee-Only planner as “one who, in all circumstances, is compensated solely by the client, with neither the advisor nor any related party receiving compensation that is contingent on the purchase or sale of a financial product. A NAPFA member or affiliate may not receive commissions, rebates, finder’s fees, bonuses or any form of compensation from others as a result of a client’s implementation of the individual’s planning recommendations.”

Don’t get tricked this year with a planner who needs a commission.  Choose the treat, a Fee-Only planner, instead.