Q: I have had an account with Schwab for some time now. It is an income account and the broker keeps asking me to take less from it as he says the stocks go down. My wife and I live from the income from this account so I am wondering if the returns could be somehow manipulated, like the Madoff thing?

How can I know how much comes from the 19 closed-end fund stocks that I have in my account? Can I believe the broker who tells me that he gets his figures from Schwab and that he has no control over them? I have asked for exact figures on the percentage of dividends coming from each stock and my broker doesn’t seem to want to give them to me. Am I to assume that he has something to hide?

A: You should be able to confirm the information about the companies held in your portfolio or fund elsewhere. Try Morningstar.com. You should be able to look up the firm and it’s top 10 holdings. You should also be able to call the Schwab 800 number and speak to a different representative who isn’t connected to your account.

To your larger question, it is possible that your broker is cheating you – but unlikely. Most probably, your broker (I assume this is someone hired by Schwab to help you?) isn’t that smart and isn’t that knowledgeable. Maybe it’s his first year in the business. He’s probably asking you to spend less since many companies have cut their dividends in order to conserve cash in this deep recession. If you’re trying to live on that money, it would make things tighter.

What I don’t understand is why your broker seems unwilling to help you figure this out. If you’re seeing the broker inside a Schwab office, perhaps it’s time to contact the manager of the office for a better explanation of what’s going on. You shouldn’t feel as though you’re getting anything other than the very best customer service.

If after contacting the office manager you still feel like you haven’t had your questions asked, you should contact Charles Schwab headquarters and speak to a vice president of operations or the head of customer care.

The CharlesSchwab.com Web site is excellent. But you might also find good information at the Charles Schwab Corporate site: http://www.aboutschwab.com/