Advertisement
investing

The Broker Matrix

The best broker for you depends on what’s important to you.

Back in the April issue, I wrote about my beef with my broker, E*Trade, over $32,000 that had gone missing from my IRA. As I explained then, I had invested in MobilEye, an Israeli company that developed camera-based driver-assistance technology, and the company was acquired by Intel. Before that point, whenever shares of companies I owned had been acquired, I simply let the money make its way to my account. But in this case I was supposed to actively tender my shares, and I missed the tender period because E*Trade didn’t use e-mail or snail mail to notify me of the requirement. The money was sent to an escrow account in the Netherlands, and although I filled out multiple forms and affidavits that E*Trade forwarded, nearly six months later there was no indication that the money would be sent to my account anytime soon.

After a few unproductive e-mail exchanges with E*Trade, I decided to call. The eager, apologetic rep on my “dedicated elite team” wasn’t able to help, so he transferred me to the corporate action department. Here’s where my beef comes in: The employee who picked up there said he didn’t have any information and that there was nothing he could do. He did not offer to investigate further. He seemed indifferent and unresponsive.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Best brokers. I bring this up because this month we present our annual broker rankings. I eventually got my MobilEye money, but after the debacle I vowed to dig into our rankings this year to see if there was a broker that could offer more hand-holding. We were planning to give our methodology a face-lift this year, so I asked the broker rankings team, with associate editor Ryan Ermey on point and Anne Smith editing, to include premium services for larger accounts as part of the evaluation criteria. Six of the 10 brokers we include in our rankings will assign a dedicated account representative to clients who meet a certain asset threshold. Only at Fidelity, Schwab and TD Ameritrade can clients work one-on-one with a certified financial planner. Clients at Fidelity and TD Ameritrade need accounts with $250,000 or more to access a CFP, but it takes only $25,000 in assets at Schwab. I had a dedicated planner assigned to me at E*Trade, but he stayed conspicuously silent while I was having my MobilEye moment.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Access to a CFP is only one piece of a complex matrix in my decision. As we make clear in our article, the best broker for you depends on what’s important to you—from the number of no-commission funds available to the depth of analyst research to the agility of the mobile app.

My current broker offers a great menu of services and, to be fair, E*Trade earned the top spot overall in our rankings this year. But I’m looking for someone who will be in my corner and reach out to me at crucial junctures. With retirement on the medium-term horizon, I’ve accumulated a decent-size nest egg in my IRA, and frankly I’d like my broker to acknowledge that with extra offerings. It may be naïve to believe that an entire industry that has replaced human brokers with cheap, automated trades will offer truly personalized service, but I remain hopeful.

One other tidbit to crank into the decision: Some of the brokers are offering a small bounty if you move your money. For example, at TD Ameritrade, you can get up to $2,500 cash along with 90 days of commission-free trading if you open an account with at least $1 million. Ryan gave a rundown of some of the offers on the Kiplinger podcast that aired on August 5).

Advertisement

Most Popular

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On
stocks

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On

These 65 Dividend Aristocrats are an elite group of dividend stocks that have reliably increased their annual payouts every year for at least a quarte…
July 8, 2020
8 Ways You Might Be Cheating on Your Taxes
taxes

8 Ways You Might Be Cheating on Your Taxes

Don't fall into these common traps that can get you in hot water with the IRS.
July 8, 2020
Find a Great Place to Retire
happy retirement

Find a Great Place to Retire

Our cities provide plenty of space to spread out without skimping on health care or other amenities.
July 2, 2020

Recommended

2020 Stock Market Holidays and Bond Market Holidays
Markets

2020 Stock Market Holidays and Bond Market Holidays

Is the market open today? Take a look at which holidays the stock markets and bond markets take off in 2020.
July 10, 2020
Saver's Credit: A Retirement Tax Break for the Middle Class
Tax Breaks

Saver's Credit: A Retirement Tax Break for the Middle Class

Your retirement contributions could be the key to a lower tax bill.
July 9, 2020
65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On
stocks

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On

These 65 Dividend Aristocrats are an elite group of dividend stocks that have reliably increased their annual payouts every year for at least a quarte…
July 8, 2020
Avoid Blindly Following Random Benchmarks on the Road to Retirement
retirement planning

Avoid Blindly Following Random Benchmarks on the Road to Retirement

Unless the benchmark is relevant to your personal plan, it could steer you into taking a wrong turn.
July 8, 2020