The new fiduciary rule for financial advisers has caused a lot of confusion about what is and is not allowed with retirement accounts.

On June 9, a controversial new Department of Labor rule went into effect. The rule seems simple enough. Financial advisors who give investment advice to consumers about their retirement accounts, must act as fiduciaries of those consumers.

At least for attorneys, that is a very simple idea to understand.

Nevertheless, for consumers and their advisors the new rule has caused a lot of confusion, as the Washington Post details in “A new conflict-of-interest rule for retirement savers is causing a lot of confusion.”

The easiest way to understand what the new rule means, is that advisors have to act in the best interests of the people they are advising. Investment advice must be based on the best thing for the saver, not the advisor.

Therefore, if an advisor would earn a higher fee from suggesting one investment rather than another, he, or she cannot advise the saver on that basis. If the investment that pays the least to the advisor is better for the consumer, then that is the investment that must be recommended.

Many advisors are taking advantage of the new rule to make changes to how they manage retirement accounts.

The confusion surrounding the rule has given them the opportunity to make changes customers may not like and place the blame for them on the new rule.

If you are not sure if a change your advisor is making is really required by the new rule or if you should look for a different advisor, ask an estate planning attorney.

Reference: Washington Post (June 19, 2017) “A new conflict-of-interest rule for retirement savers is causing a lot of confusion.”

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