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Does Your Stock Broker Offer In-Person Service?

Sept. 30, 2014
Brokers, Investing
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In today’s 24/7, hyper-connected world, you don’t need to hire an actual person to help you trade stocks. You can simply open a brokerage account online and begin buying equities with a click of the mouse.

But what if you’re a new investor who needs one-on-one guidance? Or what if you need advice about setting up a retirement account or a 529 college savings plan? There are some instances where you may want face-to-face, personalized service to accomplish your financial goals.

When do you need in-person investment advice?

Here are a few potential scenarios where you may want to speak with an advisor in person.

If you’re brand new to investing and have no idea how to create or manage a portfolio, the process can be quite intimidating. In this case, it might not be the best idea to begin trading stocks on your own.

Instead, you may want to meet with a professional who can teach you the basics of investing, help you decide which stocks or bonds to buy and sell, teach you the importance of diversification and how to allocate funds into different asset classes, and manage your portfolio.

What if you need help setting up a trust or estate account to protect your assets after your death? Brokerage professionals would be able to walk you through the estate planning process and could offer you tax advice. In this case, sitting down with an expert could be a better option than trying to open an online account on your own, search for information on the Internet or phone someone for help.

If you’re a wealthier investor, you may require more face-to-face contact and advice than someone who’s just starting out with a small portfolio. Personalized advisory services can provide this type of investor with one-on-one support, to help grow and preserve wealth.

If you decide to establish a college fund for one of your children, you may want some help getting started. For example, should you consider a 529 college savings plan, an education savings account or a custodial account for your child? What investments should you choose for the account, and what are the tax implications and the penalties for early withdrawals? A professional can help you figure it all out.

These are just a few scenarios where you might need in-person advice with a professional.

Brokerage firms that offer in-person advice—and what you’ll pay for it

Some discount brokers offer professional portfolio management services and in-person advice, sometimes at a cost. Here are a few examples:

TD Ameritrade offers broker-assisted market orders, but also provides professional portfolio management services at more than 100 branches nationwide. Amerivest, the company’s affiliated investment advisor, requires a minimum initial investment of $25,000, with annual advisory fees up to 1.25%.

Fidelity Investments is another example, as the company offers investment guidance, retirement planning, wealth management services and investment guidance at its 170-plus branches. Fidelity’s portfolio advisory service requires a minimum of $50,000 to begin and charges an annual advisory fee between .63% and 1.7%, depending on the amount of assets invested.

Scottrade is a brokerage with more than 500 branches nationwide. The company offers in-person educational seminars, in addition to online podcasts and daily market commentary.

At E-Trade, one-on-one assistance is available at the company’s 28 branches. The firm’s financial consultants offer investment recommendations, professional portfolio management and guidance for retirement.  A minimum of $25,000 is required for the company’s managed investment portfolio service, and fees range from .65% to .90% of assets.

Charles Schwab has a number of physical locations. The company offers in-person workshops, covering everything from the basics of finance to complex trading strategies. The brokerage offers managed portfolio services that invest in mutual funds and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) for clients. The service requires a minimum investment of $25,000 and fees start at .90%.

If you think you’ll need more support than what a discount broker offers, you may want to consider a full-service, traditional broker, which offers comprehensive services.

Examples of full-service brokers include Edward Jones, Raymond James, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley. While you’ll likely pay more in commissions and fees, a professional will work with you one-on-one, walking you through the investing process. He or she will help you build and manage your portfolio, plan your retirement and navigate tax and legal issues.

Financial planning and investing can get quite complicated, and no one’s needs are the same as another person’s. That’s why in-person brokerage services remain relevant to many investors.