The 8 Questions to Ask about Investment Fees


Wooden Blocks with the text: Fees

A lot of hand wringing over such an undemanding proposition: When a financial expert gives you guidance regarding the life savings in your retirement account, that person must act in your top interest.

It took quite a few years for this so-called fiduciary rule to achieve consent. And then, we have seen President Trump telling the Labor Department to revise this uncontroversial proposition which he desires to turn over. A few days later came a huge failure for industry players who challenged the legitimacy of the rule in Texas, where a centralized judge ruled against them.

The finest technique to understand what the fiduciary debate is about is to sight this debate through the lens of fees. Every time you do business with people in the financial services industry, ask them this: How much money are you making and what are the different ways you are making it?

The finest clarification we have seen of what a fiduciary is and does comes from a video that a firm called Hightower Advisors posted on YouTube in 2012. There, they contrast butchers and nutritionists. Butchers provide meat, possibly the best meat they have. Nutritionists, on the other hand, tell you what is best to eat. When in search of advice on your life savings, you probably desire to speak to the nutritionists and not the butchers. However, the butchers of the financial world are in a pretty good spot right now. After all, we have just seen eight years of stock market gains. 

You will be seeing this pitch soon enough and, when you do, there is an extensive list of questions you need to ask. In fact, any time anyone is trying to sell you an actively managed mutual fund, a real estate investment trust, or REIT and you don’t understand, hit them with each and every one of the following questions.

Questions You Need To Ask About Investment Fees

1. How much money will you individually make now in cash commission if we select this product? And, how much will you make later in any sort of ongoing or trailing commission?

2. Is there a bonus you are qualified for which comes as a result of your employment to this firm? Is it in danger if you do not make this sale?

3. Are you earning more from advertising this product than you might from putting me in a similar product from a diverse company? Are you earning more than you might if you put me in a different vehicle from the same company?

4. Is your company or the company that shaped this product running any contests that may lead to you getting a free trip or incentive if I buy this product?

5. Do you get to eat lots of free food?

Then, there is some nitty-gritty. You will be offered all sorts of product features and extras and you will need to ask the following questions:

6. How much more will I pay in fees if I choose to receive a sign-up bonus on my allowance? Or, for a definite minimum income or benefit if I elect to receive my money in monthly payments starting at some later date? What if I want a death profit for my heirs? Are there precise charges for the insurance component of the product? Are there any penalties for pulling my money out before time?

7. As for any sub accounts in my pension, are there expenditure ratios or fees for the money there?

8. Does your firm stand to collect any fees that you yourself will not split as part of your payment because they have favored one product or another or restricted their platform to certain products and locked out others?


However, whatever happens, so much will hinge on squishy terms like suitability, best interests, and the reasonableness of fees, legal exceptions to any and all standards and whoever is adjudicating any disputes. Rather than getting caught up in all of that, it’s probably best to defend yourself from the outset. And, in an industry that makes a game of hiding lots and lots of fees every which way, the best possible response is to ask lots and lots of questions.

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