To be sure, active stock funds give investors a chance to earn back the extra money they spend through above-market returns. For anyone that bought Growth Fund of America 20 or 30 years ago, that gamble probably worked out. But years of research by academics and fund analysts show it's a long shot. More often investors pour money into funds after a strong run that doesn't get repeated.

Given all this, it seems doubtful requiring advisors to pick the best investment for clients would price out middle-class investors. (A NAIFA spokeswoman didn't take up the chance to elaborate on Currey's claim or discuss hourly rates.) Perhaps what he meant to say is that if investors understood the hidden costs of some financial advice, they wouldn't buy as much.

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