The amount of money you can save and invest over time has much to do with brokerage fees and taxes. Paying even small amounts to a financial advisor, tax planner, or the federal and state government will have an exponentially more significant effect on your net gains.
While many of the fees and taxes associated with investing and saving can’t be avoided, it is essential to understand the rules before you commit to any investment.
When working with an investment advisor, you should have the advantage of easy access to an expert who can explain all the investment fees associated with every investment you consider. They should be willing to talk with you about every fee you’ll pay.
You also have the right to understand how your investment advisor is being paid. It’s crucial for you to know if they are working on commission and where that money comes from.
A mutual fund charges operating expenses. The total cost of the fund is its expense ratio. So, if the fund’s expense ratio is .90%, you’ll pay $9 per year for every $1,000 invested. If the expense ratio is 1.6%, you’ll pay $16 per year for every $1,000 invested.
These fees are automatically subtracted from the return you receive on your investment.
With high-fee mutual funds, you may pay fees in excess of 2% of the total assets managed. If your investment manager charges 1% for every $100,000 invested, you’ll see $250 taken from your account each quarter. Smaller accounts may pay higher fees, but portfolios over $1,000,000 shouldn’t pay more than 1% unless estate planning, tax planning, or budgeting help is included with the price.
Investment management fees may be partially tax-deductible.
You may pay a transaction fee each time you choose to sell or buy a stock or mutual fund. Be especially cautious of these fees if you invest small amounts of money. Since they occur with each transaction, it may be better to set your investment money aside in a savings account and make just one purchase each year.
If you make ten $5,000 transactions and the fee $50 you’ll pay a total of $500 in fees. If you make one $50,000 transaction, you’ll pay only $50.
A-Share mutual funds charge front-end loads or commission. So, if you buy ten shares of a fund with a 5% front-end load for $10 each, you’ll pay $100, but you’ll own $95 worth of shares because of the fee.
B-Share mutual funds charge a back-end load or surrender charge when you sell the fund. The fee goes down each year you own the fund. If you own a fund for three years, you may pay less money in surrender charges than if you held it for only one year.
Index annuities and variable annuities have some of the highest surrender charges. These financial products have high commissions built in, so if you pull your money out early, the insurance company needs to recoup the commission already paid to the salesperson (sometimes called a financial advisor or insurance agent).
You may also pay an annual custodian fee to cover mandatory IRS reporting on these types of accounts. The fee is usually between $10 and $50 per year. If you decide to terminate the account, you may also be charged a closing fee of $25 to $150 per account.
If your investments aren’t performing well, your fund manager may be making more off your money than you. Their fees aren’t tied to market performance like your investments, so no matter how your funds perform, your fund manager gets their money.
Closed-end funds that own only a few stocks may charge a 1% annual fee, but rather than buying that fund, you could pay a one-time transaction fee for each individual stock and never pay a yearly fee.
Trading is expensive, and investment firms love people who like to buy and sell stocks frequently. Only trade when not doing so would harm your portfolio. You may also trigger taxes when your trade is profitable, so if you plan to sell stocks, proceed with caution.
Not only do they not usually perform well long-term, but IPOs are also risky in the short term. Don’t get sucked in by the promise of high yields. Making investment decisions because you are afraid of mission out guarantees your broker will make money, but it doesn’t mean you’ll make money. Instead, choose established companies with a proven history of good performance.
High fees could eat up a considerable portion of a retirement fund. Especially in a financial environment where many mutual funds are underperforming, you may be paying more money in fees than you make.
One way to reduce the number of fees you pay to invest is to choose a brokerage that meets your needs. Fee-free investments and buying no-load mutual funds can help investors avoid per-trade fees.
This is the least expensive option. An online brokerage simply allows investors to buy and sell stocks online. There is limited customer service, and you’ll typically pay a flat fee per trade.
For beginners, Robinhood is a great option. You can trade cryptocurrency, options, stocks, and exchange-traded funds without paying fees. There’s a simple but easy-to-navigate mobile app as well as web access to the platform. Email support is available Monday through Friday.
Charles Schwab gets excellent reviews from users and charges $4.95 per trade. This platform offers one of the largest selections of ETFs that don’t charge commissions. They have good customer support, and you can access a variety of mutual fund options. You’ll also get access to a robo advisor to make the process of investing easier.
If you want to learn more about investing, ETrade is well-known for their willingness to provide free education to their account holders. You’ll pay $6.95 per trade, but they also offer volume discounts. If you start with a $10,000 deposit, you’ll get 60 days of waived commission trades. There’s a $500 minimum deposit required to open an account.
You won’t get the full-service treatment with a discount broker, but your fees will be lower than with a full-service brokerage. A discount broker doesn’t provide investment advice; they execute orders. In most cases, you’ll pay between $7 and $10 per trade with an online discount broker.
Most discount brokers operate 100% online, which lowers their overhead. You can also find discount brokers in the world of real estate and insurance.
If you already know your way around when it comes to buying and selling stocks, check out InteractiveBrokers. They charge just $.01 to buy or sell a single share. You’ll get access to international trading opportunities and a high-quality trading platform. Before you dive in, make sure you understand their inactivity fees and balance requirements.
TD Ameritrade is another good choice to consider if you decide to pursue the option of using a discount broker. They charge $6.95 per trade, and there’s no minimum. You’ll have access to a wide variety of commission-free ETFs and mutual funds through this platform. You can even get involved in bitcoin futures trading.
For frequent traders, ally invest has an excellent platform for research. They charge $4.95 per trade. Users have access to their intuitive mobile trading app, 24/7 customer support, and investment tools. You can get a bit of help with their managed portfolios if you start by investing $2,500. Their average annual advisory fee is .3%, while the industry average is 1.02%.
This type of licenses financial broker offers a massive range of services including retirement planning advice, help with tax planning, research, and estate planning. If you need wealth planning assistance and don’t mind paying higher fees and commissions, you may want to interview full-service brokers.
When you choose a brokerage, you’ll have an individual broker or advisor who is your main point of contact. Their investment banking division may provide you with access to IPOs, preferred stocks, limited partnerships, and alternative investments. They’ll manage your portfolio according to your wishes and overall financial goals.
If you want access to exclusive reports and individualized advice about how and when to invest in specific stocks, you may wish to explore the option of using a full-service broker. They offer the benefit of access to their in-house research by top analysts.
You need to be aware of all the associated fees, however. For most people who don’t have millions to invest or don’t have complex financial needs, a full-service brokerage is too expensive.
When you sell an investment and make a profit, you’ll pay taxes on the money you made. If you owned the investment for less than a year, you’d pay a tax rate as high as 35%. If you held the investment for more than a year, you’d pay a maximum of 15% on gains from stocks and funds you sell.
Even if you didn’t sell shares of your mutual funds, you might have to pay capital gains taxes on mutual funds distributions. When the fund sells stocks on its own, they pass on the capital gains to their investors.
You’ll also pay taxes on dividends, interest, and rental income from investments. The exception is municipal bond interest, which is not taxed at the federal level.
Traditional IRAs and 401(k) contributions aren’t taxed up to a certain point. The accounts grow tax-deferred, and then you’ll pay taxes when you take the money out. Roth IRAs are funded with money you’ve already paid taxes on. Those investments grow tax-free, and you can access it according to the rules without paying taxes.
You can also get tax breaks on your health savings account (HAS). You don’t pay taxes on the money you deposit to this account, it grows tax-free, and you don’t have to pay taxes on withdrawals if you use the money to pay for qualified medical expenses. Past retirement age, you can use the money for any reason without having to pay taxes or penalties on those withdrawals.
There’s no carry-over limit on an HSA, unlike health care flexible spending accounts. To be eligible to own an HSA, you must have a high-deductible health insurance plan. The out-of-pocket expenses won’t exceed $6,750 for an individual plan or $13,500 for family coverage. The annual deductible must be a minimum of $1,350 for an individual or $2,700 for a family. The contribution limit for 2019 for an individual is $3,500. For a family, it’s $7,000.
Understanding fees and taxes before you invest or purchase an insurance product will help you grow your savings faster. Investors are always liable for taxes when they sell an investment, but there are many other ways they can incur taxes, penalties, and fees.
If you fail to report interest and dividends on an investment for tax purposes, or if you don’t file a tax return during a year that you received interest payments or dividends from an investment, you may be subject to backup withholding going forward. You may also be charged an additional 20% accuracy-related penalty for underpayment of tax.
If you have interest income that you need to report on your tax return, you’ll receive Form 1099-INT or Form 1099-OID from the payer of interest.
You can find more general information on taxes at the IRS website for dividends and their site for capital gains and wash sales. Everyone has a unique tax situation, so it’s best to consult a tax planner or thoroughly research your options before selling your interest in any investment.