Hire a financial planner at a 10% discount
Here's something you may be surprised to hear: The brokers who work at the big-name, "full-service" brokerages -- you know, the suits you see behind the faux-oak desks of such places as Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch -- are not legally obligated to put your interests first. It's explained in a recent Wall Street Journal article by Jason Zweig:
"As of now, the roughly 630,000 brokers, bankers and insurance agents registered to sell securities must determine whether investments are 'suitable'—based on how wealthy you are, what else you have invested in, your tax status and your investment objectives. Securities salespeople generally aren't obligated to act in your best interest. They needn't tell you that they make extra money pushing one particular investment or that cheaper alternatives might provide you a higher return.
"Suppose two mutual funds are 'suitable,' but one of them pays the broker a fatter fee. You may well end up in that one—without finding out that your broker had an incentive to favor it. On the other hand, financial advisers—who are regulated as 'fiduciaries' under the federal Investment Advisers Act—are obligated to put you first. They must explain their fees, disclose conflicts of interest and disclose past infractions. If they get paid extra to recommend a fund or sell an insurance product, they have to tell you."
How do you find a "fiduciary"? You can start by seeing if there's a Garrett Planning Network advisor in your area. These folks are all fee-only financial planners, getting paid only for giving advice -- not from commissions selling products. For a limited time, some planners are offering Fool readers a 10% discount. Click on your state on the Locate an Advisor map; the Motley Fool logo indicates an advisor offering the discount.