Michael J. Schussele, C.P.A. The Pursuit of Financial Happiness ®

M.A., Registered Investment Advisor, Fiduciary, Fee-Only

My professional publications and blogs at The Pursuit of Financial Happiness ™ have been recognized, linked, and republished by Economist's View, naked capitalism,
Credit Writedowns, and Advisor Perspectives, among others, as well as academically cited.
I do my own macroeconomic and financial research and I do not portray third party information as my own.

Under Illinois Law ((215 ILCS 5/500-15)) it is a Class 4 Felony to give insurance advice/analysis without an insurance license whether one sells or not. An Investment Advisor Representative, whether fee-only or not, has a direct fiduciary duty to provide such an analysis and/or advice in retirement, financial, and estate planning and such advice is not incidental. Beware if any fiduciary and/or fee-only advisor tells you otherwise. You should report them to the Illinois Department of Insurance, the appropriate State's Attorney, and the Illinois Attorney General.

There is no clear definition as to what a “Financial Planner” is, much less what a fiduciary financial advisor is. There is no one trustworthy professional designation for financial planning or fiduciary. In many states anyone can call themselves a “Financial Planner” without having any professional training and without carrying any professional designations. Because there are no consistent licensing requirements for the various persons who call themselves "financial planners," the public has a critical need for a method of distinguishing the qualified and dedicated financial advisor. Unfortunately, there is no designation for giving fiduciary financial advice. All of the current designations, including the CFP and PFS, do not require sufficient education and are used by a variety of people to project expertise and often used by sales people or those with ethical conflicts of interest. Many CPAs have dropped the CFP to use the PFS, because they have conflicts of interest under the new CFP ethics code with respect to the use of the CFP in connection with an assertion of “fee only” services where, in actuality, conflicts exist.

In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Insurance refuses to enforce the Class 4 felony violation of CPA's or attorneys who are also Investment Adviser Representatives (investment, retirement, and estate planners) who obviously give insurance advice without an insurance license and then have another staff person, subsidiary, or related organization consummate the insurance “recommendation”. It is impossible to provide retirement, estate planning, or investment advise for retirement without reviewing and providing advice on insurance held by the client, insurance needs, lack of insurance need, or whether the insurance/annuities they have are expensive and inefficient. In Illinois, it is a Class 4 felony to give insurance advice without an insurance license. Consequently, I have an Illinois insurance license to render advice only as I have no desire to practice feloniously. I do not provide any financial products of any kind at any time in any capacity. I make recommendation and am paid for my professional time by the client only.

Many times “Financial Planners” will continue to use a designation without being an active member or inconsistent with the designation's “ethical code”..

I am very outspoken on the subject of a proper designation and education to provide fiduciary financial advice. Unlike the United Kingdom, where it is absolutely illegal to give financial advice without being an absolute fee only fiduciary with no conflicts of interest, the United States is still a libertine Wild West where wolves demand and maintain the right to dress as sheep and in which the investor is the prey. They demand the right to call themselves fiduciary while maintaining direct conflicts of interest which are to their economic benefit. The SEC even allows Independent Investment Advisers to call themselves fee only when they accept commissions if the client is convinced to allow it.

A fiduciary investment advisor, as I have published,
Fiduciary Responsibility vs Fiduciary
Worst Misconduct Brokers Are Retail
Securities Exchange Commission Comments, August 18, 2010
Are Soda taxes a Tax Regressive Health Failure?
should have a Master's degree in Finance (not these soft core, money making CFP financially antiquated and insufficient study materials Master's programs seen in some universities) which would encompass two years of study in current finance theory, macroeconomics, financial advice practice, ethics, CFA, and CMT studies. I would like to see some independent regulation, not the FINRA, SEC, CFP board, or any other sales person protective organization, but something like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which would regulate fee only fiduciary financial advisors as a separate and recognizable license. Nothing could be more important or relevant to consumer financial protection than the need for fiduciary retirement and investment advice.

Always consider the following questions: Does my “Financial Planner” really listen to me? Do they offer me realistic and academically, financially current strategies for Retirement Planning, Investments, Estate Planning and Asset Protection? Are they truly fee only? Do they they make fiduciary recommendations that help me meet my needs and goals in a cost effective and economically efficient process?

As an independent fiduciary professional financial advisor, I am ethically bound to act in your best interests as if I were you.

As a fiduciary fee only professional, I do not offer products to my clients nor am I engaged in the business of marketing or soliciting for any insurance or securities products at any time, in any capacity nor do I accept soft money “free” software or services from any financial services company, such as DFA (Dimensional Fund Advisors).

Continuing my education and staying up to date with current information is important to me. I perform a minimum of 40 hours annually on subjects directly related to the profession of financial planning, retirement planning, estate planning, trusts, and investment advice/management. I have also written and conducted continuing education courses on these subjects for attorneys, certified public accountants, financial planners, and other public participants for NBI.

I am constantly researching current financial academic research, macroeconomic trends, and investment information. I do my own investment research utilizing multiple independent sources, such as Morningstar, and make specific investment recommendations and diversification without the use of software, although I do analyze my proposed recommendations using tools from independent sources, such as Morningstar.

I am a professional fiduciary fee only financial advisor with over 25 years of experience.

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