Federal Retirement Lone Rangers: Do They Need a Fiduciary Tonto?

The author notes that despite his handle, the original Lone Ranger didn’t actually ride alone. He had the assistance of Tonto, his trusted companion. Federal employees considering planning their retirements alone can learn from this analogy: they can often fare better with the assistance of a trusted guide to help them. The author provides suggestions on what to look for in a federally focused financial planner.

Just over the horizon, it appears hundreds of thousands of feds are preparing to don their retirement masks, transforming from average working class members to independent and courageous retirement paragons. Yet, as they head into the “wild west” of retirement, are most honestly prepared to take on retirement bandits (unplanned expenses), wild beasts (markets) and harsh environments (inflation and taxes) alone?

Despite his handle, the original Lone Ranger didn’t actually ride alone. His journeys were shared by his trusted partner and guide, Tonto. Turns out that was a good thing. More than once, this iconic hero had his saddle warmer pulled out of the preverbal fire by his unheralded companion.

The Lone Ranger battled crime, righted wrongs and sought justice.

Federal Lone Rangers will battle a lack of reliable retirement training, (potentially) strive to right mistakes they have made or will make in their retirement planning, and seek to maintain their lifestyles throughout their retirement years.

For some, riding this trail alone may be a courageous, bold and even a potentially successful endeavor. But, the retirement trail can be fraught with perils. This may not be an excursion fit for some federal “Kemosabe’s” to undertake alone.

5 Points feds should consider before mounting their retirement steed (Hi – Ho Silver):

  1. In general: federal employees only retire once. The odds of them selecting the correct trails on this, their first retirement journey, could be effectively stacked against them.
  2. Even a seemingly small error today may well carry dramatic and long term consequences.
  3. Planning issues (such as – proper distributions to ensure lifetime income, tax planning, debt management, life insurance, SSA planning and appropriate investment choices) can all be thorny retirement obstacles.
  4. Riding off into retirement without a fiduciary specialist alongside could be akin to heading into the badlands being unfamiliar with the terrain, horses or guns.
  5. The right Tonto deals with federal retirements every day. He/she will likely have a vast knowledge of the federal retirement territory.

No matter how rough the situation got for the masked champion, Tonto was always there to step into the fray and cover his partners back.

Who is a qualified Tonto for federal employees? Their ally would be a qualified financial advisor. In a crowded world of Tonto impersonators, how can a federal employee locate one that is right for them?

Four identifying characteristics of Tonto (an FFA)


Tonto should operate a business practice that focuses exclusively on federal retirement benefits and federal employee retirement needs. If a potential Tonto shares that they work with feds but, also works with non-federal groups, they are not a true Tonto.

Federal retirement benefits and federal employees are unique and require a specialist. An advisor’s focus can usually be found by reviewing their website to learn who they work with.

The Right Licenses

A qualified FFA doesn’t need to carry a badge, but, licenses are important. A qualified FFA will possess (at least) their series 7 license, series 66 license as well as life and health licenses.

6’s and 7’s – Don’t be fooled or confused because they are NOT the same thing.

Series 6 is the most basic ‘registered representative” license. It sets stringent boundaries and only entitles the advisor to register as a “limited representative.” They are permitted to sell mutual funds, variable annuities and insurance premiums. However, they are not permitted to sell corporate or municipal securities, direct participation programs, etc.…

Series 7 is a more comprehensive securities registration. It entitles the advisor to sell nearly all types of securities products. Unlike a Series 6 limited representative, a Series 7 advisor is allowed to offer more investment options, such as, common and preferred stock, stock options, municipal bonds, etc.

The Uniform Combined State Law Examination (also called the Series 66 exam) is designed to qualify advisors as both securities agents and investment advisor representatives.


Tonto will have at least 10 years of experience as a financial advisor.

  • According to Investopedia, up to 90% of advisors fail. 10 years should be long enough to determine if an FFA will have the staying power feds should seek.
  • The securities industry is a vast universe of ever changing and ever evolving options. Yet, active participation in the field begins relatively quickly after licenses are earned. This field takes a significant amount of time to navigate competently. After 10 years of experience an FFA should be able to draw a quality fed focused retirement map.
  • It is likely wise to let new advisors cut their teeth on someone else’s retirement savings.


Preferably they will perform their duties as a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). This is an advisor engaged in the investment advisory business. RIAs have a fiduciary duty to their clients, which means they have a fundamental obligation to provide suitable investment advice and ALWAYS act in their clients’ best interests.


Counterfeit Tonto’s may unknowingly be vulnerable and prone to fail in their fiduciary roll. Most letdowns in living up to the fiduciary duty of care are not deliberate. Indeed, issues that stem from fiduciary negligence aren’t usually associated with malicious or gross intent but rather with carelessness, lack of understanding of the federal retirement benefits or a false sense of confidence. Many Tonto wannabees’ think all retirement benefits are the same. Their error is simply not knowing what they don’t know. Unfortunately, any of these failings could ultimately lead to underperformance.

There is no doubt the retirement trail can be dusty, treacherous and full of perils. Therefore, federal employees should be cautious and intelligent when planning for their long retirement ride. In the retirement territories (much like life) there are few absolutes. An FFA will not be necessary for all Federal Rangers. However, many could benefit from the guidance and support of their own personal and legitimate FFA. As they retire, feds are entering new territories where inexperience could lead to aimless and ill-advised choices. Remember, this is Tonto’s world and he/she has navigated these trails many times before.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.  Investing involves risks, including the loss of principal.  No strategy assures success or protects against loss. Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.

About the Author

Randy Silvey is the published author of You FIRST, Federal Employees Retirement Guide, one of the bestselling books of its kind on Amazon and Kindle. For over 18 years, he’s been educating and guiding Feds in pursuing wealthier retirement lifestyles. Randy can be reached at 816-524-1515 or visit his website at www.silverlightfinancial.com. Securities offered through Infinity Financial Services. Member FINRA/SIPC.