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Despite being the fastest growing segment of the mutual fund industry, target-date funds (TDFs) may completely miss the mark. You are simply buying into a fund that handles your asset allocation for you. Instead of picking from the list of fund options, you buy one fund and — voila!

— it's "all handled for you." Unfortunately, according to Marketwatch, "the most conservative target-date retirement funds — those designed to produce income — fell on average 17% in 2008 and the riskiest target date retirement funds — designed for those retiring in 2055 — fell on average a whopping 39.8%, according to a recent report from Ibbotson Associates." The common mantra on Wall Street is that annuities are a bad idea, unless of course you are buying one packed with mutual funds, which are the primary annuities sold in the big brokerage houses. Most variable annuities guarantee that even if the account goes down, your beneficiaries will receive at least the total amount you originally invested.

Does the person with whom you trust to plan you and your family's future have every incentive to operate in your best interest? The truth is the financial services industry has many caring people of the highest integrity who truly want to do what's in the best interest of their clients.

Unfortunately, many are operating in a "closed circuit" environment in which the tools at their disposal are "preengineered" to be in the best interests of the "house." The system is design to reward them for selling, not providing "conflict-free" advice.

You want to make absolutely sure that your 401(k) has the lowest possible fees and low-cost index funds.

You have to know that there are a lot of people looking to take a piece of your wealth.

The system is riddled with loopholes — what I would call "landmines" — that can blow up your financial future.

A fiduciary is a legal standard adopted by a relatively small but growing segment of independent financial professionals who have abandoned their big box firms, relinquished their broker status and made the decision to become a registered investment advisor.

These professionals get paid for financial advice and, by law, must remove any potential conflicts of interest (or at a minimum disclose them) and put the client needs above their own.

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