Investment firm fees or commissions may be higher than with discount brokers, but overall costs are often lower because with a full-service investment firm, you aren’t left shooting in the dark.

How to Understand Your Investment Goals

Every investor has his or her own investment goals, balancing risk against safety, or the chance to earn outpaced gains against dividend income and steady appreciation. This is where a full-service investment firm can really shine for investors by pointing the way to the best solution or basket of options that can help you realize your investment goals.

Just as important as shining a light on the options that match best with your investment strategy is the guidance that can explain why an investment vehicle, stock, or fund that looks like a perfect fit may have downsides. 

One of the biggest benefits of choosing an investment firm is that the firm’s advisors can help you to invest in a way that matches your long-term goals for safety and earnings — but also point out potentially problematic investments or likely underperformers. Nearly everyone who has ever invested on their own has discovered that not every investment goes up in value. Utilizing a full-service investment firm doesn’t guarantee you’ll never have losses, but many losses can be avoided or minimized.

Whether it’s time to rollover a 401k into an IRA, start an IRA or college fund, or build an investment account simply to invest for your future, investors have a growing number of options. Online brokers have taken the market by storm, offering low costs trades, technical charts, webinars, and online education centers to help investors learn the ropes, research, and trade.

Register to Know Investment

Robo advisors promise to bridge the gap between DIY discount brokers and full-service firms by providing guidance or automated portfolio management based on predetermined criteria. Even with all the online options available, some investors prefer a more personal touch and the knowledge that someone they can trust will handle their portfolio for and help guide decisions. Because there’s often some crossover in services, investment firms might offer a robust online platform for self-directed investing but also offer full-service advisors or account management.

What to Look for in an Investment Firm

1. Overall customer satisfaction

No investment firm can be a perfect fit for every investor, but the best investment firms focus their efforts on the areas most important to their clients, providing top-notch service at the acceptable expense of higher commissions or fees than discount brokers.

2. Dedicated financial advisors or teams

Much of the attraction for a full-service investment firm is the availability of dedicated financial advisors or teams, people who understand your investment goals, listen to your concerns, and who often know you by name.

3. Customer service and support options

The availability of multiple support options for account questions anytime of day or night has become a must-have feature, with the understanding that advisors are only available during business hours.

4. Reasonable commissions and fees

Expect to pay more when investing with a full service investment firm as opposed to a discount broker. However, if fees or commissions are too high, investment returns can be adversely affected by the headwind created in trading or management costs.

5. Information resources and investor research tools

Investors with a healthy curiosity will want to do their own research or learn more about investments they’ve either made or are considering.

6. Variety of products and investment vehicles

The number of investment vehicles has increased dramatically in recent years and the best full-service brokers will provide options to round out your portfolio with investment options for nearly any type of asset class.

7. Investment performance

For fully-managed accounts, investment performance becomes a big part of an investment firm’s report card for investors.

8. Additional wealth management or estate planning solutions

Sometimes investments are only part of the picture. The availability of trusts, life insurance, and estate planning options can help turn gains into a legacy of lasting wealth.

You’ll have a new silent partner in your investment account, quietly taking a percentage — in good times and in bad. Warren Buffett is famous for his quote, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” This investment maxim can be applied to the notion of investment management cost as well. What’s often overlooked is the ability of a managed investment strategy to keep you out of trouble.

Many individual investors using DIY brokerages lose money. A management team’s or advisor’s ability to keep your account in the black — at least most of the time — is part of the value you get for the price you pay in higher commissions or fees. Be aware that some investment firms charge a transfer fee if transferring your account to another broker. You can probably expect transfer fees to be waived if transferring to another location within the same firm.

Most Global Invests Solution use low-cost index funds and ETFs.

Index fund: A mutual fund that passively tracks an index or benchmark. A Standard & Poor’s 500 index fund, for instance, aims to mirror the performance of the S&P 500. Index funds attempt to follow the market, not beat it, and hold a group of individual investments, making them inherently diversified. Learn more about index funds.

ETF: Like an index fund, an ETF holds many individual investments and tracks an index or benchmark. The major difference is that ETFs trade on an exchange, like individual stocks, and can often be purchased for a lower investment than a full-fledged fund. Learn more about ETFs.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is a robo-advisor?
  • How does a robo-advisor work?
  • Not sure which advisor to choose?