How to Read a Brokerage Statement

Have a brokerage account? It’s likely that you get statements about it then. While perusing your statement may not be your favorite part of each month, it’s a good idea—it’ll give you a chance to spot any potential errors you might want to talk to your brokerage firm about. Plus it’ll give you an opportunity to understand the state of your ownership a little better month-over-month.

All that said, reading a brokerage statement can sometimes be easier said than done if you’re not familiar with what’s included. To that end, here’s a quick glossary of some of the sections you might find on your statement.

Statement period

Sometimes shown as just an end date, your statement period is simply the amount of time covered by your brokerage statement.

Account info

Your statement will typically include some identifying info about you, so you can be sure it is, indeed, your statement. This info will usually include your legal name, account numbers, whether it’s individual or a joint brokerage account, and your mailing address.

Note: if your mailing address is outdated on your statement, this is a good time to let your brokerage firm know your new one.

Brokerage contact info

If you need to reach your brokerage firm, for whatever reason, the first page of your statement will usually show contact information. Sometimes it’ll be a specific person, like if you have an investment advisor. If your brokerage doesn’t provide investment advice or is solely online, your statement might not show any specific person you can reach—but all are required to provide a phone number.

Clearing firm

Clearing firms handle a bit of the behind-the-scenes work for some brokerages. They’re involved in processing and settling trades, moving funds, and are the firm that actually holds customer securities and cash. If your brokerage firm uses an outside clearing firm (some brokerages are “self-clearing,” which means they do that behind-the-scenes work in-house), it’ll be listed on your statement.

Account summary

Your summary is a high-level look at how your account is doing. It’ll usually list out your balance in securities as well as cash, if applicable. You may also see your “opening balance” (the balance in your account at the start of the statement period) and “closing balance” (the balance in your account at the end of the statement period).

Income summary

This section may be included in your account summary but can also show up as its own. Your income summary shows if you’ve earned any income (such as dividends) in your brokerage account.

Portfolio equity allocation

Not in every statement, your portfolio equity allocation may be presented as a pie chart showing the breakdown of your account—it’s how much of the value of your account is in securities, and how much is cash.

Fees

If your brokerage or clearing firm charges fees, you’ll usually see any you’ve paid in your statement. It’s a good idea to look at these closely and make sure there aren’t any surprises.

Margin

Let’s first talk about what a “margin” is. It’s when a brokerage lends you money (maybe to buy a security or because you need to take the cash out), and securities in your account are used as collateral. Your statement may show you anything you’ve “bought on a margin,” if you have. It might also show any interest charges you’ve paid on the loan.

Portfolio summary

Your portfolio summary or details section lists out all of the individual assets in your account (like stock, other securities, and cash, for instance). Some info that might be present:

Description: what the asset is.
Symbol/CUSIP: the ticker symbol or a CUSIP number for a stock. CUSIP stands for Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures—it’s a 9-digit numeral that’s unique to the stock.
Quantity: how much of a specific security you owned during your statement period.
Price: the price for a share of the security at the end of the statement period.
Market value: how much your ownership in the security is worth, based on the price during the statement period.
Last period’s market value: the market value for your holding in the security during your last statement period.
% change: the percentage the value of your ownership changed, positive or negative.
Estimated annual income: your estimated income by security (for example, how much in a stock’s dividends you might receive over the course of a year).
% of total portfolio: How much that security makes up of your total portfolio.

Account activity

Any account activity you’ve had over the statement period will show up in this section of your statement, including all securities transactions and any dividends or income you’ve seen.

Other info & disclosures

Statements will typically have a page or two (usually in tiny, tiny print, so break out the magnifying glass) defining certain terms that might show up in your statement, as well as listing out any disclosures. This stuff can be super helpful if you come across a term you don’t understand—but also so that you know your rights and responsibilities of your brokerage account.

And there you have it. Now you should be able to review your monthly brokerage statements with a little more ease and a lot more knowledge.