I hope everyone had a joyous and abundant Thanksgiving.

As the year ends, it’s time to think about those New Year’s resolutions. Sure, you may want to lose a few pounds, spend less money on shoes, or volunteer. But this is also a time for us to take inventory of our lives. Where have we come from? Where are we going? How can we contribute more to our families, our co-workers, our communities, and our world?

Start by reflecting on your adviser practice! Here are some ethical questions to get the ball rolling:

Did you take the time to learn your clients’ needs?

Did you perform a diagnostic for each one?

I encourage my fellow advisers never to work on a bid-only basis. To demonstrate my point, consider the following: would you want the caterer for your daughter’s wedding to bid on one generic main course, or ask her how many people attending are vegetarians, how many eat fish, chicken, beef, etc.?

Did you provide a complete description of your services as well as full disclosure of your compensation to your clients? Since we are legally required to provide full disclosure in the qualified retirement plan marketplace, it is also ethically appropriate to provide the same disclosure to our health and welfare clients as well.

Did you refrain from seeking an agent of record letter from employers who were satisfied with their current advisers, and justifiably so? Suppose after doing your diagnostic, you find that the employer has been served well. Instead of going for their agent of record letter, you could compliment them, then ask for referrals.

Maybe you abided by ethics at every turn. If so, commend yourself. You are an inspiration to others and a credit to our industry. Or did you in haste overlook a thing or two? You may even have made some mistakes. Regardless, it never hurts even the best of us to ask what we can do to raise the bar on our clients’ expectations.

And a fresh start is right around the corner.

The next step is to take action. The best of intentions mean little if they are never acted upon. Create a plan for yourself. Write down in great detail how you will achieve each item “next time.”

It’s your personal inventory! You can move it around, get more of it, or get rid of what you don’t need. Just don’t sell your ethics in an effort to profit financially. It’s never a fair trade.

I wish you all a happy and ethical 2012.

Are there any burning ethical issues that you believe our industry needs to address? Do yo agree with my thoughts? Please let me know in the comments.

Robert Arnoff is the co-author of The Three R’s of Employee Benefits: Recruiting, Retention, Rewards.

P.S.--Has anybody seen my appearance on the Wealth Channel? I did not see it this month. We were anticipating the broadcast for a November airing. Hmmm…I wonder if there is an ethics blog here?

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