Every investment incurs a cost to be created, managed, distributed and regulated. Some of these are costs are transparent, easily identified and comparable. Others are not. I wish there was an easy way to make sure every investor knew the costs of their investment portfolio and whether it is below, at, or above average. One of the best questions you can ask any financial advisor, brokerage firm, custodian or financial representative is “How do you get paid?” Then probe further, “Is there any other way that you get paid?” Keep on asking that same question over and over until you understand how everyone gets paid.
In the long run, you want to align yourself and your portfolio with low-cost or cost-effective investments and advisors. You want to work with people and firms that have a clear fiduciary standard to put your financial interests ahead of their own. You want to find good coaches and teachers who can help you reach your goals and are willing to be transparent at every step of your journey about how they are compensated. Ultimately, you will need to decide if the investments they recommend and the services they provide are valuable to attaining your financial goals.