10 Best Investment Companies for Small Investors

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The financial service industry is not exactly geared toward anyone who’s not Daddy Warbucks. If you’re a small investor, it can seem like you have nowhere to turn. But there is hope!

Consumer Reports has published its ratings of investment companies. The 10 choices below are tops in the magazine’s survey of more than 70 firms that are used by small investors.

This Is the Cream of the Crop for Small Investors

The magazine surveyed more than 46,000 retail investors to find out what they thought of their brokerages. Here are the results:

Brokerage name Type of company Reader score out of 100
Edelman Financial Services Traditional investment firm 92
Vanguard Online investment firm 92
USAA Online investment firm 90
Baird Traditional investment firm 89
Fisher Investments Traditional investment firm 89
Thrivent Financial Traditional investment firm 88
Charles Schwab Online investment firm 88
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Robo-adviser 87
RBC Wealth Management Traditional investment firm 87
Raymond James Traditional investment firm 87

Notice the presence of a couple of money expert Clark Howard‘s favorite discount investment houses on this Top 10 list — Vanguard and Schwab. Both are “fiduciaries,” meaning they are investment advisors have to act in your best interest — not their own.

In fact, Clark has a list of fiduciary brokerages that he likes here.

All the companies on Clark’s list treat their clients right, no matter whether that client is big or small. And the cost to you of doing business with them is extremely low. They all offer ultra low-cost funds that keep far more of your money working for you.

Watch the Fees When You’re Ready to Get Started Investing

Stay away from commissioned salespeople like those at a full commission stock brokerage houses such as Merrill Lynch. They don’t have what’s called a fiduciary duty to you under the laws of the United States.

In plain English, that means they’re free to put you in inappropriate or unsuitable investments to score themselves more money on commission.

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Worse yet, they can charge up to 1.5% in typical management fees. Clark wants you paying .1% or less.

Clark Howard’s 4 Ds of investing

Clark routinely talks about four Ds when it comes to investing: Discount, dollar cost averaging, diversification and dull.

Dollar Cost Averaging

Dollar cost averaging refers to contributing the same amounts of money on a set schedule to an investment — as you would through an employer’s 401(k) plan with a weekly or biweekly payroll deduction.

By doing this, you never overbuy at the peak of market values and you never buy too little when stocks are “on sale” during economic downturns.

Diversification

Second up is diversification. Like the name suggests, this is the idea of not putting all your eggs in one basket.

Buying an index fund meets this criteria by definition because you’re buying a basket of securities spread out across hundreds or thousands of companies.

Discount

Clark want you paying .1% or less. There are a variety of low-cost index funds that meet this criteria.

Dull

Finally, dull is an investing mantra for the ages.

An index fund doesn’t chase the hot companies of the moment or the investing equivalent of the flavor of the month. It just owns tiny slices and dices of hundreds or thousands of publicly traded companies.

And it doesn’t get anymore plain vanilla than that!

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