Most people who provide financial advice self-identify on their websites and business cards as professionals: as advisers, planners or (popular with the brokerage firms) vice presidents of investments. And I think because most of these people provide at least some level of financial analysis for their customers, they’ve convinced themselves that their primary activity is advice rather than sales.

Yet when I look at the annual broker-dealer surveys, I find, with very few exceptions, that their dually registered reps generate much more of their revenues from commissions than from fees. The BDs of insurance companies, meanwhile, are almost exclusively commission-driven. That tells me a different story from what I read on the business cards.

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