Enjoy the current installment of “weekend reading for financial planners” – this week’s edition kicks off with the industry news that TD Ameritrade anticipates most advisory accounts will not need to be re-papered in its prospective merger with Schwab… even as the merger itself is now potentially delayed while the Department of Justice begins an anti-trust inquiry as to whether the Schwabitrade merger would lead to an unduly anti-competitive environment (particularly with respect to RIA custody).
Also in the news this week is a planned push from E*Trade Advisor Services to significantly ramp up both its technology and marketing spending in the hopes of capturing a share of however many advisors decide they’re displeased with the Schwabitrade merger and begin to look for alternatives, and Fidelity’s announcement of new refinements to its onboarding process that cuts the amount of information advisors have to fill out by 40% and reduces the account application paperwork from 9 pages down to just 2!
From there, we have several additional items of noteworthy news this week, including a coming series of changes to the FICO credit scoring system that may boost the credit scores of those with already-good credit but potentially reduce credit scores for those who are already struggling to pay their loans on time (in a deliberate effort to better separate ‘good’ credit risks from ‘bad’ for lenders increasingly concerned about the long-in-the-tooth economic expansion), IRS guidance for brokerage firms that unwittingly sent out the ‘standard’ first-RMD notices to those turning age 70 1/2 this year who in light of the SECURE Act won’t actually need to begin their RMDs this year, and a look at the new CFP Board Standards of Conduct that recently took effect (and that the CFP Board will begin to enforce in June).
We also have a few articles on planning for aging clients, from a look at the rising frequency of older couples who are “living apart together” by remaining in ongoing committed relationships where they deliberately do not get married nor move in to live with each other, the ongoing shift in consumer preference to die at home and not in a hospital (as last year, deaths from natural causes were more likely to occur in the home than in a hospital, for the first time in more than 50 years!), and the importance of finding a “new normal” after a major health event occurs, rather than trying to regain one’s prior lifestyle that simply may no longer be feasible (and make us unduly unhappy to even try).
We wrap up with three interesting articles, all around the challenging theme of fraud, financial abuse, and bad advisor recommendations: the first explores why and how athletes are disproportionately targeted by swindlers and defrauded (and the rise of lawyers and forensic accountants who specialize in unraveling such scenarios); the second examines the ways that spousal financial abuse are transforming in the technology era (where it’s easier to hide assets with cryptocurrencies and surveil a spouse with computers and GPS tracking, but also easier to spot and recover paper trails for assets that have been hidden); and the last looks at a new study that finds, when faced with conflicted compensation while making a recommendation, we may be more likely to try to rationalize after-the-fact why the higher-compensation recommendation may have been good, than de-bias ourselves by being aware of the potential conflict in the first place… suggesting that in the future, regulators may try to limit advisors’ own access to information about how some recommendations may benefit themselves or their companies more than others (as when people aren’t aware of the conflicts until after the fact, they still give objective recommendations), or increasingly try to focus instead on levelizing advisor compensation (so advisors can still be well-compensated for their work, just not differently compensated for various recommendations).
Enjoy the ‘light’ reading!