There may be many documents that qualify for this blog entry, but I am writing specifically about your brokerage account statements. Sure, you may take a peek at the bottom line now and then, but actually reading the entire statement—who does that?! Let me suggest that next month it will be YOU!
Brokerage statements hold information your brokerage firm is required to provide to you on a regular basis. They hold key information about your life investments and how they are being managed. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) has provided helpful insight to consumers regarding understanding brokerage statements and the importance of the information contained in those statements. Additionally, most regulators are going to agree that staying on top of your brokerage accounts is extremely important in ensuring your accounts are being handled in an appropriate manner.
This doesn’t mean you have to know a lot about investments, but, according to FINRA, “Not only do these documents help you stay on top of your investment holdings, but they also provide valuable information that can alert you to errors, or even misconduct by your broker or brokerage firm such as unauthorized trading or overcharging customers for handling transactions.” So, even if you don’t know everything a particular Mutual Fund holds, your statements can bring to light problems you might not otherwise notice in a timely manner. Some examples of “red flags” are: Information or transactions in the account summary that you did not authorize or expect, or income that appears on your statement, but has not been deposited in your account.
FINRA has provided a helpful key information guide that breaks down sections of an account statement and provides information about why it is important and what activity might qualify as a red flag.
Many consumers are overwhelmed by the thought of reviewing financial information on a regular basis. Either they lack confidence that they will understand the statements and their holdings, or they fear activity in the market may have decreased their balance so they just avoid opening the statement all together. If you start out slow, only focusing on certain portions of your statement until you feel like you have an understanding of what should be there and what it means, you can progress to fully reading the account statement. While it may be uncomfortable and time consuming, it is an important step in overseeing how your hard earned money is being managed. It is a way to protect yourself from fraud and other unsavory activity and, should you come across something on your statement you are concerned about, FINRA recommends that you “immediately call the firm that issued the statement or confirmation about any transaction or entry [you] do not understand or did not authorize, and re-confirm any oral communication in writing with the firm.”