Clay Budach, CFP®

Clay is a Wealth Management Advisor for Custom Wealth Planners. Clay enjoys writing on topics of retirement planning, taxes, and industry related news. Learn more about Clay here.

Relationships Rooted In Trust

Choosing who to work with as a financial advisor is a significant decision. Clients want advisors who can solve their specific financial issues, foster trust, and consistently prioritize their best interests. However, the financial advice industry often appears as clear as mud, and that’s not by accident. Over the last few decades, large financial services corporations have wielded their influence in the Capitol to create a web of rules—or rather, the lack thereof—to confuse consumers. Legislative attempts in the past 20 years have often substituted one piece of nonsense for another.

Lack of Title Protection

Despite being one of the world’s most highly regulated industries, the titles “financial advisor” and “financial planner” remain largely unregulated. The requirements for obtaining these titles are remarkably low. Regardless of their regulatory affiliation, individuals only need to pass a couple of basic exams. These exams primarily cover sales and conduct laws that advisors must adhere to, shockingly lacking any examination of their competence in offering sound financial advice.
This situation has led to a myriad of individuals presenting themselves as financial advisors, each operating with varying levels of competency, compliance, and ethical standards. To distinguish those who genuinely provide financial planning services from those who merely use the title as a marketing tool to sell financial products, some segments of the industry are taking proactive steps to safeguard consumers, rather than waiting for regulatory intervention.

The CFP Solution

To ensure you’re working with a professional who has achieved a high standard in financial planning (including investment, tax, estate, risk management, retirement savings, income, and professional conduct), consider working with a Certified Financial Planner (™). These professionals must meet stringent education and experience requirements while adhering to ethical standards. CFP professionals are obligated to act in your best interest at all times, which should be a basic expectation in the financial services industry, but unfortunately, most financial advisors are only held to a lower suitability standard.

In simpler terms, this means that the recommendations made by these advisors are not required to be in your best interest but must be considered “suitable” in the eyes of regulators. Clients often mistakenly believe they are dealing with a trusted party for their financial matters when, in reality, these advisors may prioritize their own interests over the client’s. This conflict is often driven by the compensation structure, which encourages the sale of specific products, strategies, or funds.

Compensation Conflicts

CFP certification raises the standards for competency, experience, and ethics, but it doesn’t completely eliminate the potential conflict of interest related to compensation. To find a CFP who is genuinely dedicated to their craft and not primarily a salesperson, look for those who are part of the fee-only network or the National Association of Financial Planners. These advisors are committed to maintaining the highest standards of competency and are always required to act in a fiduciary capacity, putting the client’s interests first. They cannot receive commissions or kickbacks for selling financial products, ensuring the highest legal and ethical standards in the industry.

As financial advisors, our primary role is to provide advice, with compensation based on the quality of our guidance, not the products we sell. In the last two decades, many advisors have migrated to the independent registered investment advisor (RIA) channel, with a growing number choosing to take a fee-only approach. In a capitalist economy, people vote with their feet, and the migration of advisors to the RIA channel with a fee-only approach in the last 20 years indicates a growing recognition of the need for a more transparent and client-centric approach to financial advice.


In the world of financial advice, it’s important to recognize that not all advisors operating within a particular business model are inherently good or bad. I’ve had the privilege of working in both environments and have met exceptional professionals on both sides.
My experience within the broker-dealer world provided valuable insights and allowed me to serve families effectively while encountering some remarkably talented individuals. To safeguard consumers and clarify the hierarchies in financial advice, we must draw distinct lines. It’s not about pitting one model against the other but ensuring transparency and accountability in the best interests of the clients.
The power to move the industry forward ultimately rests with you, the client. By staying informed and demanding transparency, you can help reshape an industry that places your needs at the forefront.

Welcome to Custom Wealth Planning’s blog where founders Travis & Clay share their thoughts on topics that cover Money, Mindfulness, & History.

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