Choosing a Broker

Who should you trust with your investments?

Investors who use full-service brokers do so for one very specific reason: they're looking for ongoing investment advice and they justify the additional fees paid as the cost of retaining competent counsel. Are they right?

Historically, if you wanted to buy a stock, you needed to do it through a full-service broker. That was before the advent of the discount broker and subsequently, the online discount broker. The movie Wall Street paints a good picture of the broker of old. Cold calling was the way these guys made their money, more like salesmen and less like investment advisers. Is that still the case? Not really.

The competition for business is so intense that full-service brokers must meet the needs of clients or face being fired as more and more people explore the world of discount brokers. Fees charged by full-service brokers have come down in recent years, and many have set up online trading platforms for their customers, giving them the best of both worlds. In addition, most firms provide private client services above and beyond your traditional investment adviser as your net worth grows and your requirements change. These include investment management, private banking, and trust and estate planning. Certainly you have more options today than you did 30 years ago.

Full-service brokers to consider include:

Most investors who use a discount broker are looking for low fees, easy trades and good customer service. As online trading has become more prevalent, so too have the products available to the average investor. No longer are discount brokers considered the ugly ducklings of the brokerage business. In fact, their creation more than three decades ago has slowly moved the full-service brokers to change their ways, creating a more customer-friendly industry.

Discount brokers to consider include:

Over time, the difference in products and services offered by the two brokers has been blurred somewhat as they both try to win your investment dollar. Who should you trust with your investments? The one that best meets your overall needs, of course.

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