Fundamental of the Week: #1 – PUT CLIENTS FIRST, ALWAYS. We exist to serve our clients’ best interests. Period. We have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that our advice is free of any biases, and that we avoid any conflict of interest. When people give us their money, we enter into a sacred trust with them. Honor that trust ALWAYS.

Fundamental #1 is why Bernhardt Wealth Management exists. In my previous employment, I disliked commissions and the conversations registered representatives were having with their managers about the compensation they would receive under different solutions they could recommend. More often than not, the solution recommended was the solution that yielded the greatest commission. Ultimately, each solution was suitable for the client, but my objection was that the conversation was never about what was the best solution for the client. I couldn’t look in a mirror and feel good about my recommendations when I knew there were solutions that were better than what I was allowed to recommend. This was primarily due to the example set by my parents.

I remembered the time my father borrowed a shovel from a neighbor when we were building an addition to the house. After Dad was done with the shovel he washed it thoroughly to remove any dirt, he used a steel brush to remove as much rust as he could, and he sharpened the shovel. Dad returned the shovel in better condition than when he first borrowed it.

That was the example my parents set for me. Dad’s obligation was to return the shovel. If it had been returned caked with mud, he would have met his obligation. To me, the dirty shovel is representative of the suitability standard. But Dad’s example was a clean, sharp shovel which is the fiduciary standard by which Bernhardt Wealth Management must operate.

Of course, establishing a firm which cannot receive commissions makes it impossible to benefit from one solution over another because our fee is our fee. But avoiding conflicts of interest may also mean reducing assets under management if the client sleeps better having lower debt and it is in their best interest. The bottom line is our clients trust us to give advice in their best interest. ALWAYS honor that trust.

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