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It's sneaky stuff, on par with mutual funds silently sucking their expense ratios from your account without itemizing the charge. Can you name any expenses you paid last year besides fund fees that weren't itemized on a bill somewhere?

Both my phone bill and my electric bill have a variety of taxes and surcharges, based on utility regulations, that I do not even begin to understand. Furthermore, my phone service has a lot of options, but the bill does not break them out every month.

The particulars are not exactly like the soft dollar thing, but the effect is the same: at any given moment, I can't possibly give you a clear idea about where every penny goes that I pay for my utility bills. Do I have time or energy to write to the PUC and pester them? Nope.

So as for soft dollars as an issue for concern -- right now, it's low on my list. I can see the potential for abuse, but I can also see that the SEC has been looking at the topic for years without ever clamping down. So I need somebody to come out with a much more authoritative and convincing explanation, and documentation of specific instances and dollar amounts, before I ratchet up my worry level over it.

It's not that I don't care about money. It's a matter of where I spend my time. Right now I am more nervous about the market taking a profit-taking plunge (and me losing big money that way) than I am about the possibility of losing a few bucks on undisclosed expenses here or there.

One more thing I meant to mention before. There *continues* to be malfeasance within the governance of many major corporations, and there are still potential abuses of STOCK trading, whereby investors are getting bilked every day. So I do not believe an investor necessarily gains any safety or protection by leaving mutual funds and trying to manage a pure stock portfolio.

Basically, I think EVERY investment has undisclosed risks or hidden expenses. Buy a house, and even a home inspection may not find stuff that ends up costing you a year later. So, like I said -- the soft dollar issue has obviously been raised before, and perhaps we will get more attention this time, or maybe not. But it won't change what I do with my money in the meantime.
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