Anatomy of Your Account Statement

Brokerage account statements provide valuable information, including your account number, contact information for your financial professional and clearing firm, and a summary of your holdings. Your statement also generally includes the recent market value of your holdings or, in the case of illiquid securities (such as direct participation programs or public non-traded REITS), an estimated value. Account statements may not all look the same—and can come to you either electronically or in the mail—but they all contain certain common information.

Below are some key elements of account statements, why each element is important and red flags that can help you recognize or avert problems.

Key Information Why Is It Important? Red Flags
Statement period or statement end date The value of your investments is figured at the end the statement period, so it is an important reference point for how your investments are doing.
  • No specified end date or statement period.
  • End dates or statement periods that don’t follow a consistent pattern (such as the last day, last business day or last Friday of each month).
Account number and account holder(s) name and address Identifies account ownership as well as the type of account (for example, an individual account, joint account or UGMA account). Promptly notify your firm with any change in account ownership status (for example, from a personal to a business account, or from an individual account to a joint account) or contact information, including a change in your name. If you receive account information electronically, notify the firm if you change your email address—or if your email account is "hacked" or otherwise compromised. If there are multiple account holders on the statement, give each holder an opportunity to review the statement.
  • Account number that doesn’t match previous statements.
  • Wrong or outdated address, which could hamper delivery of account information.
  • Incorrect or outdated account ownership information.
Contact information Name and contact information for your financial professional. Statements from online brokerages or other investment firms that do not provide investment advice generally will not include the name of a specific financial professional, but are required to provide a phone number to call for information about your account.
  • The financial professional’s name is unfamiliar to you.
  • A phone number that is out of service or always busy or not answered.
Clearing firm name and contact information The clearing firm holds your securities. FINRA rules require that account statements provide clearing firm contact information, including a phone number.
  • No clearing firm information on your statement.
  • A phone number that is out of service or calls that do not get answered or returned.
Account summary Offers a helpful, high-level picture of your account performance from the end point of the previous statement, including the total value of your account. Careful review can be helpful in assessing buy/sell/hold decisions.
  • Information that you suspect is incorrect or activity you did not authorize or expect.
  • Performance that seems unrealistic (return is always positive).
Income Often consolidated with your account summary, deposits, withdrawals, dividends interest and maturity dates of bonds. Helps you stay in tune with your investments and "follow the money."
  • Unfamiliar sources of dividend and interest income.
  • Income that appears on your statement, but has not been deposited to your account.
Fees Fees associated with your account are required to be disclosed and should be factored into the overall performance of a given investment.
  • Fees, including commissions, handling charges or other costs that seem excessive or are unfamiliar.
Account activity This is where you find detailed information about account activity during a statement period, including any trades that have been made in your account, money or securities coming in/going out of your account and your beginning and ending balance for the statement period. Compare trades in your account statement with trade confirmations, especially if your financial professional has the ability to make trades on your behalf (this is called a discretionary account).
  • Information that is inaccurate or does not match trade confirmations.
Margin Margin is a loan from the firm that is secured by the securities you purchase and therefore comes with costs and risks. Your statement will tell you which securities, if any, have been purchased on margin. Margin interest charges let you know, in effect, how much interest you have paid on this loan in a given account period.
  • Securities purchased on margin without your authorization.
  • Margin costs that exceed disclosed interest rate.
Portfolio detail Shows you the individual assets in your account, allowing you to check the accuracy and details of each of your holdings. This area may also include a breakdown of investments by asset class, which can help you determine if you are adequately diversified. Other information such as bond insurance ratings, income, yield and unrealized gains and losses may also be included and help you assess whether your investments are in line with your financial goals.
  • Missing assets that you believe to be held at, or purchased through, your brokerage firm.
  • An asset mix that does not match your risk profile.
Disclosures and definitions From explanations about fees to definitions of various terms and codes used in your statement, this information helps you understand your statement and stay informed and protected. For instance, this is where you will find an explanation of any account type that may appear on your statement, such as cash, short or margin. It is also where you will find details about new or revised legal information and fee details. Your statement may also include “stuffers” such as brochures or letters deemed to be important, or in some cases mandated by regulators.
  • Absence of any disclosures or definitions.
  • Fee disclosures that are not in keeping with actual fees assessed to your account.

Many account statements include an investment objective that characterizes your investment strategy—for example "growth," "speculative" or "conservative." Make sure this description accurately describes your financial goals, and that the activity in your account reflects these goals. Keep in mind that your financial objectives may change over time and should be updated accordingly.

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