Last week I had an epiphany. My moment of clarity came on I-95 as I was driving from Connecticut to Baltimore to pick my son up from a lacrosse camp. Working for a broker-dealer, I always have one question mulling around in the back of my mind, “How can I help financial advisors increase their commissions?” As I pulled through my fifth tollbooth it dawned on me: Financial advisors need to follow the government’s lead and charge tolls and taxes on every little thing they do.
Americans have obviously accepted the fact of taxes and fees on just about everything. How else can you explain shelling out over $25 to drive 250 miles and then another $34 to drive home the same day? Over the course of five hours I was subjected to bridge tolls in two states and parkway tolls in four states. My favorite was paying a toll in New Jersey and in less than 5 miles paying another toll to cross a bridge in Delaware. It’s maddening and no one was complaining.
When I returned home, I read an article in the newspaper about the state of Wisconsin hiking the rental car tax in that state to 75 percent. Ouch. As I researched further, I found that in New York City when you check out of a hotel, there is an additional 21% in fees and taxes added to that great rate you negotiated on Priceline.com. Like it or not, hidden fees and taxes have become a way of life.
To further prove my point, after my big trip through toll-booth-land, I needed to get the oil changed in my car. I pulled into one of those Quick Lube oil places that had a big banner out front that advertised “$19.95 Oil Change.” As I waited for my car to be finished I took a closer look at the banner. In tiny print underneath there was an asterisk… “An additional $2.95 fee applies.” For what? It didn’t say.
I thought to myself, “Hmmmmmm, maybe I won’t get out of here for under $20.” Soon after, I learned that my car was special. So special in fact, it cost $85 to change the oil. It’s good to know that someone thinks my 10-year-old car with 149,000 miles is still special.
Unfortunately, these fees are here to stay. We all might as well get on board. Chances are your broker-dealer is already on board. How else would you explain a $9 fee to mail out a confirmation that could be e-mailed?
I suggest that you take the Quick Lube company lead and put a banner on your office door with a tiny, tiny asterisk that reads:
*Additional fees may apply.
When your clients or prospects visit you, take note of where they park. There should obviously be a parking place fee. After all, their parking in that space prevents other clients from parking there and transacting business with you.
How about a cup of coffee? I don’t have to tell you that coffee doesn’t grow on trees. The cup of coffee tax, assures that future generations of clients will still be able to enjoy that tasty French Roast double decaf half-caf.
Naturally, Mr. Client will want updated quotes on his various stock positions before he sees you. The savvy financial advisor will have a toll quote machine in his lobby. Just like a regular toll booth, your Quotron terminal should have a big basket attached to the side. Before your client gets his quote, he has to throw some change into the basket. Who wants all that loose change anyway? You do, that’s who.
Grandma Miller used to tell me, “If you can’t get out of something, get into it!” Since I don’t see a toll-free I-95 in my future, sharpen up your pencils and tax away. I bet no one says a word. We’re used to it.
Once a mildly amusing comedian, Bill Miller now works as a recruiter for a top independent broker-dealer; reach him at email@example.com.