On finance and practice
Do you understand a broker's role? Only one in four investors realizes that stockbrokers are primarily salespeople, while many believe their main job is to hand out financial advice, says a survey by the Consumer Federation of America and Zero Alpha Group, a network of eight independent investment advisory firms. Nearly 30 percent of investors mistakenly believe that giving financial advice is the primary service offered by stockbrokers, while 25 percent say giving advice is as important as selling investment products. Only 26 percent say the primary service of stockbrokers is to buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments.
But nearly all the investors agree that if stockbrokers do give financial advice, they should be subject to the same federal regulations as financial planners, who are required to protect their clients' financial interests. The SEC has proposed exempting brokers from those investor protection rules. Its reasoning: Brokers don't need to be governed by the rule, because the advice they give is incidental to the stock trades. A final decision is expected before the end of the year.
These insurers get top marks Amica Mutual ranks highest of all homeowner insurance companies in customer satisfaction, says J.D. Power and Associates. Second in line was State Farm, followed by Erie Insurance Group, Automobile Club of Southern California, and Nationwide. The customer service rankings are based on not only interactions with policyholders, but policy offerings, billing, costs, and claims. While only a fraction of consumers said they filed a claim recently, those who have tend to be more satisfied with their company than those who haven't.
Help for estates without a will If you don't get around to making a will before it's too late, your heirs will be able to look at your most recent tax returns to find your assets, says a new IRS ruling. Your next of kin can inspect your federal income tax returns for the year before your death—or any other year on request, if necessary—to help identify and track down any financial assets. The rule applies only if you don't leave a will, and certain requirements must be met before they can acquire the tax returns.