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Survey shows dissatisfaction up among self-directed investors

Self-directed investors those who make their investment decisions on their own, without an adviser -- are more unhappy with trading charges and fees than a year ago, although their overall satisfaction with their firm has increased, according to a new research study.

According to J.D. Power and Associates' annual U.S. Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study, nontrading fees such as maintenance or inactivity fees are the primary source of dissatisfaction among the 3,733 respondents to the survey.

"Overall trading volume has dropped during the past couple of years, and similar to banks, investment firms are looking to compensate for lost revenue with fees," said David Lo, director of investment services at the Westlake Village, Calif.-based firm.

The 11th annual study measures customer satisfaction with their investment firms based on six factors of account information, account offerings, information resources, interaction, problem resolution, and trading charges and fees.

On a 1,000-point scale, satisfaction averaged 723 when investors didn't pay a nontrading fee but fell to 613 with maintenance fees and 628 with inactivity fees.

Overall, satisfaction with fees fell to 697 from 703. But total satisfaction with investment firms rose from 764 to 768 because of satisfaction with interaction, information resources and account offerings.

By firm, Charles Schwab & Co. scored the highest, with 801, followed by Vanguard at 799, Scottrade at 798, and TD Ameritrade at 794.