A few years ago, authorities banned the use of golf carts on a section of a roadway. Many areas here in Florida allow the use of carts on some roads within the neighborhoods of golf course communities, but on this particular stretch of road the carts moved at a much slower speed than the regular traffic. Their presence was hazardous. 

Despite the obvious need for the ban, some cart drivers who used that stretch of road protested. They would no longer be able to do what they were doing. 

They were “all for safety” and were adamant that they were being careful to do no harm. As proof, they cited the fact that there had not been any actual accidents on that road. A few even suggested that more than just the cart drivers would be inconvenienced. They claimed that if they were forced to use their carts on the residential roads, it would hamper their neighbors’ ability to get around. The cart drivers’ ability to use the road was therefore actually a benefit to the community.

They lost handily because their arguments didn’t hold up to basic logic and an important group of people spoke against the protestors’ positions. Any normal person, not biased by the convenience or habit of using that part of the road as a shortcut for their golf cart, could clearly see the carts should not be on it. I’ll get to the important group later.

Whether they thought they were being careful or not didn’t make the dangerous situation safe and just because they didn’t think they were in danger didn’t mean everyone was out of harm’s way. A few more carts on the other roads wouldn’t cause traffic jams, so the “inconvenience to others” argument melted away quickly.

Nonetheless, many of those golf cart drivers made quite the fuss. One guy tried to rally support by saying that the new rule would ban his portion of the community from owning their own golf carts. According to him, it was all a conspiracy to force them to rent carts from the country club.

I have found myself thinking of the cart owners often lately as I hear lobbying forces rail against the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule proposal. This is an important issue for anyone advising people about retirement.

There is a significant portion of the financial advice community that thinks the DOL proposal is both good and long overdue. As you’d expect, most of these folks are investment advisors and financial planners that are already subject to a fiduciary standard that expects them to eliminate conflicts where possible, and where not possible, to both disclose and fairly manage the conflict in the client’s favor. Being required to do something they already do is obviously no burden at all.

The underlying logic of the DOL rule is compelling. One cannot serve two masters. Hardly a new concept. Other proponents include a lot of consumer advocates, HR directors and, frankly, most people who spend a little time thinking about it. If you are offering your services to advise people on what is best for them, you should be accountable to actually advising them to do what is best for them.