"She's My Broker and My Planner!"
New rules aim to shed light on your relationship with your broker
By Penelope Wang

(MONEY Magazine) – • IS YOUR BROKER A SALESPERSON OR A COUNSELOR? With brokers often calling themselves planners or advisers, and being paid accordingly--earning fees, not just commissions--that question can be hard to answer. Two new rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission may help clarify the relationship.

1 The SEC recently said that brokerages must give clients who pay a fee for their account (not just commissions) a blunt disclosure: A broker's interests may not coincide with yours, and she might get paid to push certain products.

2 In another change, scheduled to take effect Oct. 24, the SEC will define two types of brokerage accounts as advisory accounts, which makes them subject to stricter rules. In practice, that means that discretionary accounts (which you let a pro manage), as well as fee-based accounts that include planning, must be run in your best interest.

• WHAT TO DO Ask your broker about the changes. And note that you might have to pay higher fees in an advisory account. Whether you have a broker or an adviser, it's crucial to understand what you're paying for and getting. Ask what your broker earns on your account, says Craig Hoogstra, a financial adviser and former AARP official. And have him put it in writing. --PENELOPE WANG