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Should I Switch Brokerage Houses?

Question: I have $600 in stocks from an ex-employer, at a brokerage house that charges a $95 annual fee. Should I switch to another broker?

– Janel Shields, Dallas

Answer: You’re right to start looking for a cheaper alternative, since many full-service brokers ding smaller accounts with similar levies. Discount players like Schwab or E-Trade typically offer some no-minimum accounts without account-maintenance or inactivity fees, but you may have to pay your current broker a transfer fee to move the stock, says David Roda, chief executive officer of Roda Asset Management in Miami. (For more on fees, see our annual broker survey on page 53.) Another option: Ask your ex-employer’s transfer agent to convert the shares to paper certificates you can store at home. Again, some firms charge fees for the service, so do your research.

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