Dedicated and Independent

In the extremely complex world of financial services every advisor is not the same. You should learn more about the different types of advisors that exist in financial services as you potentially make a decision to work with someone. When it comes to choosing an advisor, a little research will help you understand who may better serve you. We would like to provide an overview of how our dedication and independence can be beneficial to you as you make financial decisions that affect your future.

There are at least three different types of advisors with some overlap as one advisor can have multiple licenses and therefore have multiple roles.  The three types are:

  • Investment Advisor Representative of a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA)
  • Registered Representative (Broker) of a Brokerage Firm
  • Insurance Agent

The most confusing is the difference between an Investment Advisor Representative and a Broker.  They both claim to help you with investing and each wants to provide recommendations for your financial future.  Well, how different can they be?  We decided to open as a Registered Investment Advisor because the differences are significant.  Below is a comparison of the two in a few key areas.

Courage Miller Partners

Brokerage Firms


We believe in full transparency. You will know exactly what your fees are before working with us. The SEC requires that you are provided a full background of our business and each member of our team.

Brokerage firms provide general disclosures, but not covering all fees and costs. This is because in many instances their fees are dependent on commissions paid by products sold. As a result, they are unable to provide a full view of all the fees you may be paying them.


As a Registered Investment Advisor, we are governed by the Investment Advisors Act of 1940. This act mandates that we put only our clients best interests first and act as a fiduciary in our advice and recommendations.

As a broker with a brokerage firm, an advisor must only use a test of suitability for making recommendations. This gives the advisor the ability to choose a product or service that makes sense for a client, but pays a higher commission to increase the revenue for the firm and therefore his income as well.


We have chosen to use a Fee Only service model. We are compensated in one of three ways:
  1. Based on a % of the size of a portfolio we manage
  2. Hourly fee
  3. Fixed fee
We have chosen to never be compensated by commissions for selling a product. We believe this does not provide the best opportunity for our clients to seek unbiased advice regarding their financial future.

Brokerage firms and brokers are compensated in a number of ways. They may use a Fee based or commission model for compensation. In a fee based model, they may derive a portion of their compensation based on a % of the size of the portfolio, but they are also paid commissions for investment and insurance products sold. They may only work on commission where they are paid based on the commissions for products sold. In many instances, it is difficult to know exactly what you are paying in fees for the services and products you receive.

Service Focus

As a fee only advisor, we are focused only on guidance and advice. While we do manage portfolios for clients, it is not the only way that we serve our clients. Our focus is on your current financial situation, and not on how we can gather assets. We are never limited set to a specific product or service because we only work for our clients.

As an employee of a corporation, a broker with a brokerage firm is limited to products that their company offers. This limitations should raise the question of whether it is the best option for you, or the only option their company offers. They also may not be able help provide investment recommendations for any investments not held with their company, such as a 401(k) plan. This forces them to be more focused on gathering assets.

Who comes first?

As a completely independent company, nothing comes between us and our service to you. You always come first in any recommendation or advice we provide.

As an employee of a company, the company comes first. They have an allegiance to the brokerage firm that may require them to recommend not what is in your best interest, but is simply suitable given your situation. This is due to the fact that they are limited to only the offerings of the company.

The Grey Areas only add more confusion to the situation.  Why?

You can’t tell by the title


In today’s financial services environment, you cannot rely simply on a title to help guide you in your decision process. There are titles used from Vice President- Wealth Manager, Financial Advisor, Senior Investment Advisor and Financial Planner that are used in the industry, but these titles do not disclose any aspect of their compensation arrangement or responsibility to you as a client.

How can you tell the difference?


If you truly want to know, simply ask the financial professional if they are ever compensated by commissions for the sale of financial products and investments. The answer to that question will immediately let you know if they are truly an Investment Advisor Representative or not. If they answer that they may receive commissions, then you know that when you are presented with a recommendation there is potentially some incentive provided to them for selling the product. Now you must ask if it is truly the best product or the highest commission for the professional.

The Grey Area in between


With all situations there always remains a grey area that must be carefully navigated. A very traditional practice is for many financial professionals to be dually registered as both an Investment Advisor Representative and a Registered Representative (Broker). When a financial professional is licensed as both, they may provide financial planning and guidance for a fee or free, but at the time of implementation of the advice they implement the plans as a Registered Representative and receive the commission compensation from the products used to implement the plan.

Proof of the complexity is highlighted in a recent report from the Consumer Federation of America, they reviewed 25 major brokerage firms and the conflict that exists between their marketing efforts and what they believe when they will be forced to meet a Fiduciary Standard imposed by the pending DOL Fiduciary Rule.  We encourage you to educate yourself!


Review of 25 Major Brokerage Firms & Insurance Companies Find All Posing as Fiduciaries, Misleading Consumers


Financial Advisor or Investment Salesperson? Brokers and Insurers Want to Have it Both Ways

We pride ourselves on providing personalized service with a custom plan for your future.  We work closely with your other advisors to create a professional team serving you and your family.



Our independence allows us to choose service providers and other professionals that we feel embody our same dedication to exceptional service.  Since we only work for our clients, we are always free to look for better ways to serve you.

To experience the difference in our service get started with your free portfolio analysis!


Complete the form below and a professional from Courage Miller Partners will contact you with the next steps.  We look forward to serving you.


Your no obligation portfolio analysis and review will let you know:

  • How you are currently invested
  • If you have a high level of risk
  • If you are paying high fees.

focustestWorking with an RIA