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Old 12-29-2015, 07:11 AM
Location: Ponte Vedra Beach FL
14,628 posts, read 17,929,938 times
Reputation: 6716


Originally Posted by PNW-type-gal View Post
Lol, sometimes it is personal. Both my inlaws had accounts with TD Ameritrade and American Century and both firms have been extremely difficult to deal with, as far as paperwork required and medallion signatures, etc. Fidelity, Everbank, Vanguard, Oppenheimer - we're done with the paperwork and accounts have been transferred. TDA and Am Cent we aren't even done with paperwork yet. You'd think no one that held an account there had ever died, given how complicated they make the paperwork - and there is no real differences in how the funds are held at any of the brokerages or the type of investments, it is just TDA and Am Cent being difficult.

So, as a consequence, I am not opening accounts as TDA or American Century (Vanguard, either, but that has more to do with my convenience than anything else).

I really liked the way we just went into the Cherry Creek (Denver, CO) Fidelity office, told them what we wanted, showed them our end of the paperwork and THEIR rep sat on hold with their main office while we sat in the conference room, drank coffee and read the newspapers. The paperwork was done in a day.
Some firms try to hang on to money more strenuously than others. No matter why you're trying to move it. And they make you jump through all kinds of hoops. I honestly haven't had any issues in decades doing almost everything at home (on the computer/over the phone). Although - when my late FIL died and we set up an estate - we did have to deliver court papers to brokerage firms and banks before moving assets from his "life accounts" into estate accounts. Robyn
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Old 12-29-2015, 08:10 AM
Location: Ponte Vedra Beach FL
14,628 posts, read 17,929,938 times
Reputation: 6716
Originally Posted by ohio_peasant View Post
This is unnecessarily pessimistic. "Normalcy" over say a 5-year period can indeed be so dour. But over longer times, something has to change. Otherwise the basic model of society and economics would break down, and that would imply greater problems than just our investment returns.

I am reminded (though then I was only a child) of the 1970s' malaise, and predictions of perpetual gloom. Those turned out to be no more prescient than the late-1990s fond belief in perpetual prosperity.

Rather, it seems to me that our present morass is the result of too much nearly uninterrupted prosperity in the 1980s and 1990s. That hangover has to dissipate before we can confidently resume progress. We've had spectacular crashes and booms over the past 15 years, but the secular tendency was stagnation. That may indeed persist for some number of additional years. But it can't persist indefinitely.
I agree about the last 15 years and stagnation. Indeed - the SP500 pretty much went nowhere between 2000 and 2013. And - even taking the recent gains since 2013 into account - we're talking about an annualized rate of return of 1.5% (excluding dividends - which have been on the order of 2% or so). For the last 15 years. There have been similarly long periods of "sideways" over the decades. Which reminds us how important dividends (which were in the past often in the 4-5-6% range) can be in terms of looking at earlier long term historical returns.

The main thing that has changed in recent years is that interest rates went to rock bottom because of the fed. So retirees who used to rely on safe investments like CDs for a considerable part of their income have been pushed out further and further on the risk curve in an attempt to generate portfolio returns.

I agree that very few things last indefinitely. But they can certainly last for a very long time.

The upshot is that it's very difficult to craft an active investment-model that's truly robust. Some models, tuned to the recent past, work spectacularly well as near-term predictors. Then they fail just as spectacularly. Thus the rationale for bovine buy-and-hold.
I don't have the stomach for buy and hold. So - for the last decade+ - I've been using a simple trend following system. The bottom line is a simple system like this will never outperform in a raging bull market - will always outperform in a bear market - and can get whipsawed in sideways markets (I've come up with a couple of refinements to reduce whipsaws over the years). Is it perfect? No. Does it suit my needs? Yes.

The alternative is fundamentals-based security analysis. Clearly this works; see for example the darling of the investment-world, Warren Buffett. But it's awfully difficult to do systematically.
Warren Buffet has been so far removed from what average investors do for so long that I don't think what he does is relevant. I guess if we had been in a position to help bail out a company like Goldman Sachs in 2008 - we could have gotten the great investment terms that he did:

Buffett to Invest $5 Billion in Goldman - WSJ

It's true that none of the retail brokerage firms are good with individual fixed-income holdings, be they bonds or T-bills or whatnot. Every firm of which I'm aware is geared toward mutual funds, index-funds, or some other manner of aggregate of investments. Vanguard can't sell me an individual municipal bond, not because Vanguard can't turn a profit from such an investment, but because they're just not set up to do it.

Nevertheless, there is an advantage to putting all (or most) of one's eggs in one proverbial basket. This allows one to attain a threshold of nominal affluence, at which various perks kick in. It's easier for accounting-purposes. But it does constrain and corral us.... a big disadvantage.

Building on Robyn's comments, I would argue that the biggest problem with the retail investment world today, is not hidden fees or dishonesty or subpar performance, but the steering towards funds vs individual holdings. Bond funds are necessarily volatile, while individual holdings need not be. As customers of retail investment firms, we're completely blind to the latter.
I've been very happy with the individual securities offerings/fixed income trading platforms at Zionsdirect and E*Trade in recent years (same offerings/prices - Zionsdirect has better commissions). A little less happy with Fidelity (fewer offerings - commissions the same as E*Trade) - but it is ok. Over the years - I have looked at the offerings available at Vanguard - Schwab - Ameritrade (perhaps one or two others) - some repeatedly. And they were all pretty deficient IMO. FWIW - I know what I'm looking for (including pricing/commissions). And set up appointments at brokerage offices to give whatever they have to offer a "test drive" if I can't get a good demo at home. If anyone is interested in taking a look at Zionsdirect - you can test drive it here:


I have "status" at the brokerage firms I use. Although at Fidelity - I got kicked from the "Premium Services" group (or whatever group I was in at the time) to the "Active Trader" group (guess Fidelity thinks I'm an active trader - if I was a really active trader - I wouldn't be using Fidelity - Beware Fidelity if you are an active trader - here's why | Elite Trader). Doesn't much matter. Because when I have a question (not often) - it's usually about fixed income and I usually need the fixed income department to get an answer (the small Zionsdirect office I deal with in Utah doesn't have a fixed income desk - seems that everyone there is pretty knowledgeable about fixed income).

BTW - the biggest perks for me usually involve getting various bonuses for moving money/assets between firms from time to time. E*Trade offers cash bonuses. Fidelity offers frequent flyer miles or free trades. I wouldn't use a firm only because of these bonuses - but they're a nice perk. And anyone can take advantage of the offers. Robyn
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Old 12-29-2015, 08:17 AM
Location: Ponte Vedra Beach FL
14,628 posts, read 17,929,938 times
Reputation: 6716
P.S. Regardless of SIPC coverage - I wouldn't keep large amounts of cash at any brokerage firm today unless I had to (which is the case with IRA accounts). Because they pay peanuts. I regularly sweep cash from brokerage accounts into a "high yield" savings account through on-line transfers. The 3 brokerage firms I use are all excellent in terms of handling these transfers.
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