Advice that is truly
Objectivity with accountability.
You would never settle for compromised advice about your health. The same should be true for your finances.
As a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA), at Milestones we have a fiduciary obligation to our clients to provide objective advice and identify the financial strategies that are in your best interest, not ours. We do not accept commissions or share revenue of any kind with the managers we recommend for client portfolios, nor do we sell investment products.
What is a Fiduciary?
At its most basic level, a fiduciary is a person or firm who acts on behalf of someone else and is required to put their best interests first at all times. Registered Investment Advisers (RIAs) are required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or with the states in which they do business, depending on how much in assets they manage. In either case, they are held to the fiduciary standard to act in the client's best interests.
However, not everyone providing financial advice is a fiduciary. Brokers, for example, are generally not currently held to the fiduciary standard and often call themselves “advisors” or “financial advisors.” Brokers may earn sales commissions for the financial products they sell to investors. Because of this, there is the potential for brokers to have incentives to recommend products that are not necessarily in your best interest, but may earn them a larger sales commission.
A Different Standard of Care
Firms providing investment advice are either held to a “suitability” standard or a “fiduciary” standard.
Under the suitability standard of care that typically applies to brokers and insurance agents, the financial advisor (with and "o") can promote an investment recommendation so as long as it merely suits a client’s needs. In that context, depending on the circumstances, a broker is not prevented from recommending products and services that generate the best commissions and is generally not obligated to put the client’s needs ahead of their own — or their employer’s — financial benefit. These advisors are not generally required to always put their clients’ interest above their own. This means that if there are two “suitable” investments for a client, an advisor ("o") from this environment could potentially recommend the more expensive (and possibly higher commission) product.
By comparison, a fiduciary standard of care mandates that an adviser (with and "e") put the interest of the client ahead of their own when making an investment recommendation. The adviser ("e") must also disclose material potential conflicts of interest in their recommendations as well as clarify all sources of compensation in serving a client account.
Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) versus Financial Advisor
One way to distinguish financial professionals is through their registration — or lack thereof. This factor can imply vastly different responsibilities and legally obligated standards.
Registered Investment Adviser (with an "e"): Within the financial services industry, a Registered Investment Adviser's (RIA's) primary business is providing investment advice and plans. These professionals generally do not earn commissions or have incentives to sell products. They typically charge fees based on assets under management.
An RIA must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). They are bound by a fiduciary standard which means they are accountable for acting in their clients’ best interests at all times. RIAs are also required to provide a Form ADV that details any potential conflicts of interest and a history of their business dealings.
Financial Advisor (with an "o"): The term Financial Advisor can indicate various financial professionals who provide portfolio or investment planning services. Most often, within the financial services industry, this term refers to a representative of a broker-dealer. These representatives, who may call themselves Investment, Financial or Retirement Advisors, generally serve two main functions — to buy and sell securities on behalf of their customers (as the broker), and to do the same for their firm’s own accounts (as dealer). Sometimes they do both. Some may charge an ongoing fee while simultaneously earning commissions from client trades.
While nothing is inherently wrong with the “investment advisor” or “retirement advisor” titles, these professionals generally operate under different regulatory standards than RIAs.
At the heart of a good client-adviser relationship is trust, and it can be difficult to have that trusting relationship if you are not assured that your financial professional is recommending products that are in your best interest. That is one of the important reasons why Milestones has been held to the fiduciary standard since its founding.
Milestones is a fee-only adviser and does not earn any commissions by trading in your account. While some brokers or advisors may call you to sell products or earn sales commissions, we only place trades in your account based on our forward-looking market outlook. For example, if our economic and markets analysis suggests that dividend-paying US equities will outperform growth equities or non-US equities, then we may overweight dividend-paying US equities in your account. Similarly, if we believe a sustained market downturn has begun, we may choose to take a prudently defensive positioning for our clients in an effort to mitigate losses.
Milestones also works with third-party custodians to house our clients’ assets. This relationship helps provide transparency and instill trust in our asset management relationships. Milestones' founders know that having a third-party who provides regular client reporting is a crucial factor to fostering client trust. This means that — though Milestones generates client reports for you — your custodian also provides regular reporting for your accounts, providing inherent transparency and trustfully ensuring you always know where things stand with your portfolio.
The Important Relationship Between "Fiduciary" and "Fee-Only"
Milestones is both a financial fiduciary and fee-only financial adviser. We are rare. Milestones is a discretionary money management firm providing private portfolio management to high net worth individuals and institutions. Milestones is not a broker-dealer and does not earn commissions on our client’s trades. Instead, Milestones charges a percentage of assets under management. As such, the firm's incentive to perform well is directly aligned with its clients' investment objectives.
 Milestones Private Investment Advisors LLC is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but this registration is not an SEC endorsement of Milestones or its services, nor does it indicate that Milestones has attained a particular level of skill or ability.
 Fidelity Institutional Asset Management