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Sunday, September 27, 2015

DOL Conflicts of Interest Rule: Great for Small Investors ... and the U.S. Economy!

The Landscape Today
    Today, most small investors' primary retirement savings are undertaken in defined contribution (DC) accounts.
    Most small investors don't seek out investment advice, because they don't trust financial advisors.
    Most small investors receive educational presentations from non-fiduciary DC plan "consultants" - but because providing specific investment recommendations would trigger fiduciary status they leave such presentations with two thoughts: "I really don't understand what was said" and "what do I do now."
    Most small investors do not receive investment advice from non-fiduciaries currently they either do not meet the non-fiduciaries minimum investment requirements, or they are steered into the highest commission or highest fee products (good for the seller, not for the investor).
    When smaller investors do receive investment advice, which is most commonly associated at the time of a rollover to an IRA, current pitfalls include:
  Such advice does not address whether an IRA rollover is appropriate (versus staying in the DC plan, which could be more appropriate due to differences in conditions for early withdrawals, loan features, better investment options, etc.).
  Is usually limited to which investments to buy, and does not address many of the tax considerations present (such as planning options around company stock, Roth IRA conversions, tax-efficient portfolio design and/or drawdown strategies, coordination with decisions on when to take social security retirement benefits, annuitization of all or a portion of plan assets, etc.). In fact, most brokers, insurance agents and dual registrants disclaim the provision of this all-important financial and tax advice, often leading to irreparable harm.
  Most of the larger Wall Street broker-dealer firms don't serve small investors - they don't compensate registered representatives on any clients who possess less than $100,000 - $250,000 of investment assets.
  20% to 40% of the returns of the capital markets are diverted through costly intermediation - the sale of highly expensive products. The academic research is clear: higher fees and costs result in lower returns.
  Most Americans are sold produces, and dont receive objective investment advice. As a result, most Americans don't invest well, thereby accumulating far less than they need for a secure and comfortable retirement.
  Excessive financialization of the U.S. economy results in decrease of U.S. GDP by 2% per year (Wall Street is a macro-economic problem of the first order. (Forbes, 5/31/2015, citing NY Times article IMF Staff Discussion Note: Rethinking Financial Deepening, May 2015).
  Lower GDP growth and individuals ill-prepared for retirement increases burdens on federal, state and local governments to provide for needs of the elderly.

How the DOL Rule Will Change the Landscape
    DC plan advisors, as fiduciaries, can innovate and provide what plan participants need and want: cost-effective, specific investment recommendations in group presentations.
    DC plan participants receive objective, comprehensive, expert advice regarding the IRA rollover decision.
    The movement toward fiduciary investment advice and away from product sales accelerates, following trends already seen in the marketplace over the last decade or longer.
   Increased competition among fiduciary advisors occurs, placing further downward pressure on fees for investment advice.
   Low-cost, fiduciary financial and investment advice, already available to small investors through independent fee-only advisors, becomes far more widespread.
    As more fiduciary advisors act as purchaser's representatives, more asset management firms (who provide mutual funds, ETFs, REITs, annuities, and other investments at far less cost. Controlling investors fees and costs is part of their fiduciary duty.
   Total fees and costs relating to financial and investment advice fall dramatically.
    Increased use of technology leads to innovation in advisory firms and better, and low-fee solutions for all individual investors.
    As majority of advisers become "trustworthy'" the demand for financial advice soars - leading to much better individual decisions on saving, smart expenditure planning, taking advantage of tax-saving opportunities, and better investment advice.
    Americans save, plan and invest far better for retirement and other needs.
    Far greater capital accumulation provide the fuel for innovations to be developed and deployed, super-charging U.S. economic growth - and enabling federal debt to be addressed quicker and better (leading to lower future interest rates, even better economic growth).
    As many more Americans become prosperous, government funding of needs declines, leading to lower income tax rates and less pressure to cut benefits.
    An increased number of college graduates entering into the financial services profession results - these grads desire to provide expert advice, not sell products.

    Plan sponsors (employers both large and small), who currently are often sued for being steered into choosing high-cost investments in their DC plans, in reliance on recommendations from non-fiduciary retirement plan consultants operating behind the low "suitability" shield, receive far better advice from fiduciary advisers who now share responsibility for plan menu choices.

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