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Seeking Financial Planning Assistance from a Fiduciary


Just as patients who attempt to treat themselves before seeking professional assistance, physicians often try to direct their own financial planning despite not having the proper knowledge.

Patients visit a doctor for many reasons, but there are individuals who attempt to treat themselves before seeking professional assistance.

For instance, pain attributed to musculoskeletal conditions is the second most common reason patients visit a doctor; however, patients may decide to access online information and obtain free advice with self-help and treatment options. The plethora of recommendations may appear overwhelming, yet some may find help by attempting the posted suggestions—i.e., over-the-counter analgesics, ice, heat, rest, or hope their pain subsides.

Ultimately, patients who attempt self-care without achieving anticipated pain alleviation or positive results become concerned and stressed. They quickly realize their condition may warrant a consultation with a knowledgeable professional.

Investing becomes possible

Physicians who manage efficient practices realize, as their clinic becomes more profitable, the opportunity and ability to save and invest each month is an important reality.

Unfortunately, similar to a patient who attempts self-directed care, a physician who attempts to self-direct his or her own financial planning often discovers the inordinate amount of time necessary to research the myriad of financial products and learn about the litany of possible opportunities and how best to invest. Inquiries quickly turn into an avalanche of emails from research sites and offers for financial help. Similar to a patient, the physician quickly becomes disenfranchised and overwhelmed by the amount of information which exists and more importantly not understanding what it all means. Although highly educated and motivated to save and invest, the physician soon realizes the information may transcend his or her level of expertise and financial understanding.

The necessity of consulting with a professional who is knowledgeable of the intricacies and available information of health or financial matters should never be underestimated. Consumers—patients or investors—have access to an infinite amount of research materials, pundit opinions, and advertisements touting cure alls or potential financial windfalls without any appearance of negative consequences.

Patients seek your help

Patients have good intentions when attempting to help themselves with simple, uncomplicated health matters. It is conceivable that instituting some lifestyle changes and progressive strengthening exercises may help to alleviate symptoms, but is it getting to the core underlying cause of their condition? The downside exists that if self-care fails to help, has valuable time been lost? Ultimately, who does a patient select to consult for their condition?

The professional selected should have the patient’s interest in the forefront of all decisions made and is a fiduciary taking his or her oath to uphold its meaning. As a fiduciary, the physician has a duty to look out for the interests of the patient, even if they conflict with the physician’s own interests. In other words, doctor do no harm!

The patient decides to visit a physician and, after filling out the requisite office intake forms, the doctor performs a consultation and examination. Recommendations are given to the patient and a course of treatment is initiated. A follow-up examination is done within a certain time frame and compared to the initial findings-both subjectively and objectively. As care continues, communication remains open and transparent and additional recommendations are made as the doctor-patient relationship moves forward.

The needs of the patient are met and the doctor fulfills his or her fiduciary responsibility.

Physicians who do not treat themselves

The physician after becoming disillusioned, disenfranchised and disgusted with the inordinate amount of financial rhetoric decides to contact a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) l. Part of the physician’s research clearly indicated to be watchful for fiduciary vs. suitability standards, as they are quite different. According to “Investors Confused About Fiduciary/Suitability Difference” from the Journal of Financial Planning, 85% of investors who use an investment advisor either have not heard of or don't understand the difference between a fiduciary standard CFP and a suitability standard.

CFPs are fiduciaries and held to a very high compliance standard. Contrasting CFPs are brokers and the representatives or agents who work for them. Their responsibility to act on behalf of a client is limited to the suitability standard.

Similar to a patient filling out the requisite office forms to gather information, most CFPs use this information to develop an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). The IPS becomes the roadmap with which the advisor and client use as the asset portfolio is established and monitored.

Akin to the patient follow-up examination and an updated report, the client should receive a quarterly statement clearly illustrating the return of investment as compared to the benchmark of his or her asset class holdings and the overall portfolio return less any agreed to fees. In addition, monthly statements are sent to the client from an independent third-party fiduciary (i.e., Charles Schwab or Fidelity) clearly delineating the client’s financial assets. The advisor does not, at any time, hold the client’s assets; instead, he or she acts in a fiduciary manner to carry out the instructions of the client as agreed to in the IPS. This is an example of full transparency and fiduciary responsibility.

CFP advisors place the needs of the client before themselves and selling a product, which at face value appears to be suitable for the client. Piecemeal financial planning, as might be performed by a broker, representative or agent, may appear prudent at the time of client purchase, but may fall short of the client’s financial expectations and needs.

The financial goals discussed and stipulated in the IPS and ongoing dialogue with the advisor, allows the full picture of what the client needs to reach his or her goals, as opposed to the piecemeal haphazard approach to financial investing. After the initial consultation (examination), implementation and follow through is maintained and monitored when working closely with a CFP.

Smart decisions yield successful results

Successful planning involves the ability to first crawl, then walk, run, and stay in the marathon to reach your expected goals. It takes client fortitude and discipline to stay the course in both up and down markets. It makes good sense to work with a CFP who has the depth of knowledge necessary to understand the overall scheme of financial products and how market changes can potentially change financial returns or require a direction shift to minimize risk and maximize asset returns.

The patient, by selecting a qualified and knowledgeable physician, safeguards his or her healthcare needs were put first. Accordingly, the physician should be afforded the same opportunity by working with a fiduciary advisor to ensure his or her portfolio and needs are carefully monitored and placed first.

There are no guarantees in life, health, or finances, but minimizing the risks by working with a fiduciary—both in health or financial services—allows an investor to remain confident his or her interests will be served first and protected.

H. William Wolfson, DC, FICC, MS, MPAS is a financial consultant and advisor. After passing the rigorous Certified Financial Planner examination, Dr. Wolfson obtained a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. He was subsequently awarded by the College a Master Planner Advanced Studies. Dr. Wolfson is a member of the Financial Planning Association (FPA). Dr. Wolfson retired after 27 years of active practice and remains active volunteering his expertise to the continued education and success of professional colleagues and investors. Dr. Wolfson may be contacted at

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