This past week on The Crash Proof Retirement Show, Phil Cannella had the opportunity to interview Barbara Roper, the Director of Investor Protection for the Consumer Federation of America.
Ms. Roper’s appearance on The Crash Proof Retirement Show was a natural fit, as she has spent her career thoroughly dedicated to consumer advocacy causes, including those that benefit older Americans and specifically, people in or near retirement as a member of AARP’s “Money-After-50” program.
As the nation’s leading consumer spokesperson on investor protection issues, Barbara has testified before Congress on several occasions in support of federal and state laws on investor protection.
One subject on which Phil Cannella and Barbara Roper found a great deal of common ground is the concept of fiduciary responsibility. Wall Street professionals are not held to such an obligation, a fact that hurts millions of investors every year because their advisors are not required to act in the best interest of their clients.
“It’s a huge problem,” said Ms. Roper, “because even people who consider themselves financially sophisticated don’t know whether their current broker or advisor is a fiduciary or not. Nobody calls themselves a broker anymore. But most people assume that they’re dealing with someone who’s required to put their best interest first.”
As founder of The Crash Proof Retirement System, Phil Cannella has met the challenge of educating investors on a variety of topics, including making them aware that many advisors do not operate under a fiduciary duty. It’s a challenge Barbara Roper knows all too well, as she recognized in the exclusive interview.
“What do you tell [a client] to do in that circumstance?” she asked. “You can certainly advise that they ask ‘Are you a fiduciary? Will you put my interests first?’ We’ve certainly recommended that, but I don’t feel a lot of confidence that people out there are doing that.”
As such, Ms. Roper’s organization is at the forefront of the push for a fiduciary requirement when it comes to retirement accounts—the same requirement advocated by President Obama when he spoke at AARP Headquarters in Washington D.C. this past winter. Such a law would protect investors from financial products that are designed to directly benefit the advisor rather than the consumer.
“The industry frequently designs products to be profitable for them,. Regardless of how well they serve the needs of investors,” she said. “They build in complexities that make it difficult—if not impossible—for the average investor to assess those products, so they will turn to financial professionals for advice. These professionals then hold themselves out as objective advisors, but give advice that put their own self-interest first.
“No matter what expert I interview, I hear the same answer,” summarized Phil Cannella. “It’s all about the advisor.”