If you're looking for a financial adviser to give you advice on saving for retirement, you'd probably want one that looks out for your best interests. But finding such an adviser may be more difficult than you'd expect. Some advisers are just as concerned—maybe even more concerned—about their own financial interests.

Those that look out for your best interests are known as fiduciaries. Such advisers invest your savings, say, in low-cost funds for a fixed fee instead of comparable funds that charge more in commissions. They promise there won't be any hidden fees that surprise you later. And if your adviser has any conflicts of interest that could sway his judgment about which investments are best for you, he's required to tell you.

Savers also have the option of turning to commission-based advisers who may not be fiduciaries. These advisers are only required to make investments on your behalf that are "suitable" for your needs. That means that while the investments your adviser chooses could be appropriate for your financial goals, you could end up paying him more money in commissions and other fees than if you had hired a fiduciary.

That's money that you could be putting aside for retirement instead.

“American families are losing billions of dollars because of an out-of-balance system that allows for conflicted advice,” said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez earlier this year. “Responsibility should be rewarded, not exploited.”

The Department of Labor, which regulates retirement accounts, estimates that savers lose as much as $17 billion a year from unnecessary costs due to such conflicts of interest. 

The Fiduciary Rule

To prevent those saving for retirement from paying higher fees, the Department of Labor published the Conflict of Interest Rule last April. It requires that all financial advisers dealing with retirement accounts act as "fiduciaries" and look out for their clients’ best interests. The rule is being phased in and won't be fully enforced until January 2018.

In the meantime, opposition to the fiduciary rule is mounting. On Wednesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several investment industry groups filed a lawsuit to prevent the rule from being enforced. They claim that the rule makes it more difficult for smaller investors to afford retirement advice. The reason, they argue, is that paying commissions on smaller amounts could end up being less expensive than paying a fixed or asset-based fee often charged by a fiduciary.

Earlier this year, the U.S. House and Senate, responded to those same arguments from the financial industry by voting against the rule.

Pamela Banks, senior attorney and program manager for Consumers Union, the advocacy and policy arm of Consumer Reports, says she isn't concerned about the mounting opposition. That's partly because President Obama has vowed to veto any bill that tries to kill the measure.

Also, many financial advisory firms plan to meet the requirements of the rule anyway. A recent survey by Fidelity Investments shows that almost half of all investment companies have started to make changes to comply with the rule.

Sheryl Garrett, chief executive of Garrett Planning Network, which connects individuals with financial advisers who are fiduciaries, also says that businesses are adapting to the new requirements. “You either go out of business because you’re not complying, or you step back and rethink how you can serve these clients in their best interest," she says.

What You Can Do

Until the fiduciary rule is fully in force, one way to ensure you hire a fiduciary is to work with a “fee-only” financial planner. These professionals charge only for their advice and they don’t earn commissions based on the investments you choose.

Good sources to find fee-only financial advisers are the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and the Garrett Planning Network.

Sheryl Garrett says it's also a good idea to ask a potential financial adviser to sign a fiduciary oath from the Committee for the Fiduciary Standard, which advocates in favor of fiduciary advice. “Ask the adviser if he is going to be a fiduciary 100 percent of the time," says Garrett. "If he can’t agree, keep looking for someone else.”