When young people start investing, their eyes are on the prize. Many are slightly bedazzled with the thought of smart bets leading to sudden wealth.

And that's right where Wall Street wants them. If you think you're going to earn a million tomorrow, what's a couple of hundred in fees today?

A dangerous mindset

That thinking is a trap. The million dollar windfall is always just a trade away, while the fees are as sure as death and taxes.

"The million dollar windfall is always just a trade away, while the fees are as sure as death and taxes."

Setting the trap

High fees may be an unintentional gift from Wall Street. They send a very valuable signal. If your investment advisor, broker or bank is charging you more than 1 percent, they are effectively telling you who they really care about.

Hint: it's not you.

Fees are also a fantastic yardstick for performance. Study after study has shown that with investment funds and conventional human advisers, high fees are almost always a signal of low returns. The more you pay, the less you get. The money you pay in fees erodes the very performance you’re seeking.

Wall Street is a place that sells money. Just don’t let them sell you a line.