The New Rules on Investment Accounts


The New Rules on Investment Accounts

Regulatory changes could mean you'll have to close your wrap account.

My broker says I have to close my one-fee-does-it-all account. What's up?

You're among the million or so investors who will likely be hearing from their brokers soon as a result of recent regulatory changes. Brokers will no longer get a pass on the rule that requires anyone who gives advice for a fee -- even just stock tips -- to be registered as an investment adviser. That designation legally binds them to put their customers' interests ahead of all else.

Before, brokers who offered fee-based accounts needed only to ensure that securities were "suitable" for clients -- a lesser standard that is still in force for brokers paid in commissions. At stake is $281 billion in fee-based brokerage accounts, also called wrap accounts. The average account is worth $279,000 and is paid for by a percentage of assets under management rather than commissions.

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Most likely you'll have to choose between transferring your money to an account with full advisory services (assuming your broker offers one) or a commission-only account. You could pay $200 a year more than you do now to go the full-advice route, according to consultant Cerulli Associates, so make sure you need the extra attention.

If you choose to pay commissions instead, you may also end up shelling out more money, according to industry calculations. You'll want to monitor trading to make sure it's no more frequent than was the case in your wrap account.