Survey ranks the best and the worst of brokers

QI've been trying to locate any website that might include information on historical performances of major money management firms (Morgan Stanley, Fidelity, Amerprise, etc.) and I'm not having much luck. Do you know of sites that have comparison information?

DAVE, EAGAN

AYour question comes with the luck of timing. Smart Money has just released its 2011 Broker Survey. The survey ranks the best and the worst of the discount and full-service brokers. You can read it in the current issue or online at www.smartmoney.com. The top discount broker was Fidelity, and Raymond James came out on top among the full-service brokers. It's worth looking at the different players in detail since what's best for you, say, good customer service, might pale next to the quality of research for others.

You can also tap into a wealth of information about independent broker dealers at Investment News, www.investmentnews.com. It's a fun site to explore. You could glean some information at Morningstar.com, the investment data firm.

QI'm retired and have a $30,000 CD that's due.  Even though CD rates are at rock bottom, I'm not comfortable investing in the market or in mutual funds right now.

I collect interest every month from a group of CDs.  Would I be better going with a 1-year CD at 1.15 percent, 18-month at 1.20 percent, 3 years at 1.55 percent or 5 years at 2 percent?  I figure the 1-year would bring me a paltry $27.77 per month, while the 5-year would offer $48.30 per month.  But is it wise to tie up the funds for 5 years?

GUY, ST. LOUIS PARK

AI wouldn't lock up the money long-term -- like a 3-year or 5-year CD -- to reach for a slightly higher yield. I don't think you're getting paid enough to take the risk that interest rates could rise sharply during that period. For instance, I watched the Ben Bernanke press conference several weeks ago, and while much of the discussion was about the moderate recovery and transient inflation, Bernanke made it clear that the Fed will start tightening as soon as the monetary mandarins think it's safe.

Now, interest rates have stayed down far longer than most prognosticators anticipated. The upturn could be several months away. Nevertheless, it seems the only real question is not if rates will go up, but when. By sticking with short-term, high-quality investments you'll be able to reinvest money at higher interest rates down the line.

Chris Farrell is economics editor for "Marketplace Money." Send your questions to cfarrell@mpr.org.

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