Help with retirement investments: What to look for in a stock broker

Jan 19, 2012, 6 a.m.

You wouldn't buy a car from a salesman you didn't feel you could trust, right? Nor would you consider buying a home through a real estate agent you didn't feel had your best interests at heart. Therefore why do so many people think that looking for the best possible stock broker to help them plan their retirement investments isn't equally necessary? The simple truth of the matter is, it is. Now that you've got that straight, here are a few tips on what to look for in a stock broker or brokerage to ensure you get the best deal for your buck when you're working on your retirement planning.

Cheaper isn't better -- This probably comes as no surprise to the more savvy out there, but if it sounds like an alien language then perhaps you'd better listen up. Retirement investments aren't kid's play and you want someone on the case who knows what they're doing and has a wealth of experience to help you out. Therefore don't be cheap when it comes to choosing a stock broker that charges a high commission. They're in the game to make money too, and if you find someone who'll work for peanuts the end result may be them putting in very little effort and delivering poor results.

Minimal fees -- Stock brokers and the brokerages they work for frequently charge fees for a variety of transactions. While it's not realistic to think that you're going to be able to make a bunch of smart retirement investments without having to pay some fees, it's important to not pay all requested fees blindly. A big part of not overpaying is knowing exactly what you need, as well as the rates charged by other stock brokerages. For this reason, it's critical that you do your due diligence by constantly comparing the transaction rates of different brokerages. Never assume that you're getting the best deal, and if you're unsure about anything ask questions. That's what your stock broker is there for, after all.

Seek out good customer service -- Just because you're retirement planning doesn't mean that you are going to be asked to forgo the comforts and the courtesies that you'd expect to get everywhere else. This is a business transaction, and you're the customer. If you can't get good customer service from your stock broker or from the firm that employs them, you're probably not going to get much TLC, either.

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