Norman Hamra of Rancho Cordova, Calif., has invested in the American Century funds for more than 15 years, but he's thinking of selling...
Norman Hamra of Rancho Cordova, Calif., has invested in the American Century funds for more than 15 years, but he’s thinking of selling.
The problem isn’t performance, it’s that Hamra wants a more personal touch. He figures he can get that service at the local Fidelity brokerage office, which is why he’s considering unloading American Century and moving the money to Fido. “I like the idea of dealing with a local rep,” says Hamra, 77. “I want to get a little help to see what changes I should make, and I like the idea of dealing with someone regularly.
“Mostly, I don’t want to make unnecessary mistakes.”
But if Hamra sells his American Century funds, he might be making a colossal blunder, especially if his reason has nothing to do with the funds.
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Like many people of his generation, Hamra is someone the fund industry would describe as a “high-touch” customer, someone who wants old-fashioned personal service.
The opposite of “high touch” is “high tech,” the person who is perfectly content to interact with a fund firm entirely online or by telephone.
There is no reason for high-touch investors like Hamra to blow up an investment portfolio just to get a little personal service.
Many fund companies now offer some component of personal financial advice, either through telephone representatives or online. Some services are available to anyone who requests them, others may be available only for a fee, or to customers with a certain amount of money invested.
At American Century, for example, the “On-Plan Investing” program offers an “advice specialist” who helps customers build a custom-tailored diversified portfolio.
It doesn’t have to involve a portfolio that, like Hamra’s, is all American Century; the firm’s advisers help devise the proper mix of assets, taking into account everything a shareholder owns.
Once the advice specialist is on the case, he or she would become the customer’s regular point of contact.
The service is free.
American Century is not alone — most of the big fund companies that sell direct to consumers provide some advisory services — which is why it’s a boo-boo to jettison funds simply to get more face time from a human being.
For starters, in any sale situation, there are capital gains to consider. Hamra did not know how much a portfolio overhaul would force him to give Uncle Sam.
Secondarily, even if Hamra decided that moving the money to the local Fidelity brokerage was the best choice, he could keep his money in American Century simply by transferring his holdings into Fidelity’s FundsNetwork, a mutual-fund supermarket that includes more than 4,500 funds from most of the firms in the business.
In short, he could get the additional hand holding he seeks without dumping his funds willy-nilly and incurring a tax bill. Hamra could keep the funds he likes best and restructure his other holdings, all in one account.
Of course, if Hamra truly wants a high level of personal service, he can consider hiring a financial adviser.
Getting the service you desire is crucial to your financial comfort, but maybe your fund family has more to offer than you even realize.
Before you make a move, find out.
Chuck Jaffe is senior columnist at CBS Marketwatch. He can be reached at email@example.com or Box 70, Cohasset, MA 02025-0070.