When it comes to bills, do you prefer getting a printed statement in the mail over an electronic statement online? In a Consumer Action survey of a few years ago (tinyurl.com/yxq69wc3), 78% of those surveyed who received paper bills by mail said they actually reviewed their statements; only 43% of those who received online statements reviewed theirs.
What about brokerage statements? Do you get your brokerage statement in the mail or electronically?
One advantage of receiving your monthly brokerage statement electronically is the immediacy of information. It does take some time for a mailed statement to arrive.
Electronic delivery is less costly to the financial firm. Some financial firms encourage electronic delivery by charging for paper statements.
No matter how your statements arrive, they should be read regularly and diligently.
An Investor Alert issued by regulators (“It Pays to Pay Attention to Your Brokerage Account Statements”) advises: “You should make it a habit to review online or paper account statements and trade confirmations on a regular basis. You should review your statement as soon as you receive it.” The alert (tinyurl.com/y48jnvhz) was issued jointly by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).
You’ll want to confirm that the statement “correctly reflects your investment decisions and any actions you made or authorized during the time the statement covers.”
Specifically, look for:
1) Cash balance changes such as “An unforeseen increase in the amount of cash in your account, which might have resulted from a data entry error by the brokerage firm, but could also indicate that someone sold securities without your consent; or an unexpected decrease in the amount of cash in your account, which could indicate an unauthorized purchase, transfer or withdrawal.”
2) Missing securities (securities that you owned and did not sell).
3) Trades that look unfamiliar (did you authorize the trade?).
4) New fees (or higher fees that you did not expect).
If there is an issue and you don’t speak up, the firm may presume that all is in order. As the alert states, “The broker-dealer, registered investment adviser firm, a regulator or organization such as SIPC may presume that you authorized the trading or other activity in the account.”
That’s the most compelling reason to do a review -- to catch problems as early as possible and to report them to the investment professional and the brokerage firm for resolution.
After you report the issue, the firm should address it and resolve it to your satisfaction. But what if the firm is unresponsive, or disengages by telling you that everything is fine without satisfying you? Those are red flags, says the alert.
Others are: offering, but not accomplishing, a correction; different people at the firm offering different resolutions to the single issue; and attempts by the broker “to settle with you directly or ‘off the books’ without involving the branch manager or the brokerage firm -- by writing you a check, depositing money or securities into your account or providing other compensation,” to quote the alert.
If you run into a red flag situation, contact the branch manager of the brokerage firm in writing with specifics. That will give the firm a chance to address the issue, and give you, the firm’s customer, a chance to create a record, just in case you need help getting an appropriate resolution.
Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant Investment Advisers Inc. of Stamford, Connecticut) and award-winning author, welcomes your questions/comments (email@example.com). Please visit www.juliejason.com.
DISTRIBUTED BY ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION