Let's Aspire Higher: The Fiduciary Standard Is Not Enough

My introduction into the financial planning world began at a well-respected fee-only financial planning firm in Appleton, Wisconsin – Wealth Management LLC. I learned a tremendous amount during my 3+ years at this firm and had planned to spend my entire career there. Unfortunately, the firm met an abrupt end for a number of reasons which led to the SEC placing the firm in Receivership. I bring this up because, while I believe in the fiduciary standard as the next step, I think it is time financial planners and advisors recognize the responsibility we have taken on with our clients and aspire for an even higher standard.

Clients turn to financial planners and advisors for help with financial issues they do not understand. They look for someone whom they can trust to care for their financial well-being nearly as much they do themselves. This places an incredible responsibility and burden on financial planning professionals. We have the ability to do tremendous good, but equally tremendous harm. We can ruin lives with our decisions and recommendations. We can cause irreparable harm with one poor decision. We can do all this despite working in our clients’ best interest.  We do not try to hold a scalpel steady whose one slip can kill a person, but our impact carries nearly as heavy a burden. We cannot end life by our own hands, but we can maim happiness tremendously. 

During my time at Wealth Management LLC, I know I always worked in the best interest of our clients. While I can only truly speak for myself, I believe that everyone else at the firm had a similar commitment to client’s interests. In the end, that commitment was not enough.

Let the bottom feeders argue why a fiduciary standard does not help clients. For those of us who know working in a client’s best interest is the only way forward, whether by legislation or choice, let’s begin a discourse about what the true standard should be.

We can have remarkable positive impact in clients’ lives and on society as a whole. First, we must understand our charge and understand what comes responsibilities that charge carries. We need to do more for people. We need to understand the impact our financial discussions have on clients. We need to accept our burden or leave the profession.


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