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How and Where to Open a Stock Brokerage Account

Open an Account. Once you know which types of accounts you want to start investing in, the next step is to open up an account. Here are the basics of opening up each account:

Certificates of Deposit – You can do this through your local bank. Enter your bank and ask the teller about opening a CD account. They will put you in touch with the right person.

Discount Brokerage – The fastest, easiest and cheapest way to open a brokerage account is to open it through a discount brokerage. Even better, open it at an online discount brokerage. My favorites (in order), are E*Trade, Schwab.com and Ameritrade. Ameritrade is the cheapest but has the least options, E*Trade is nearly as inexpensive but offers more options and a better interface than the rest (you can get bank accounts, research reports and other services), and Schwab.com is the most expensive but offers you to pay for additional services like advice, research reports and other full-service options.

Full Service Brokerage – These include companies like Morgan Stanley, American Express, Edward Jones, Merrill Lynch, Prudential Financial. These brokerages provide you guidance, advice and research reports, but they are much more expensive but their brokers can often push you toward investments you may not be comfortable with. Instead of charging a flat fee for trades, they usually charge a commission-based fee structure that can be much more expensive. Also, they charge annual maintenance fees on your account of sometimes hundreds of dollars. Be leary of these accounts unless you really need the extra guidance.

401K, 403B – These plans are ONLY offered through your employer. Find out if your employer offers one of these plans (or any other tax-deferred, stock investment or other plan) by contacting your Human Resources department. They will give you the forms needed to sign up.

Traditional IRA – You can open one of these with almost any brokerage or discount brokerage. I recommend doing it yourself with a discount broker like E*trade or Ameritrade. E*trade doesn’t charge a monthly fee and offers decent tools to help you choose your investments. If you want a little more guidance, you can open a discount brokerage account with Charles Schwab, who will give you personal guidance for additional fees.

Roth IRA – This type of account can be opened the same was as a Traditional IRA.

Coverdell IRA (Educational IRA) – You can open at many brokerages, including E*Trade or Schwab.com.

529 plan – Check with your state to see which plans are offered. Check out www.collegesavings.org to find more information about the plans in your state. Some of these accounts are also offered by online brokers including E*Trade and Schwab.com.

Other plans – Many other specialized, small-business or self-employed plans also exist. Such plans include SEP IRAs, Rollover IRAs, Custodial IRAs, QRP / Keogh, Simple 401k, profit-sharing, money purchase and other plans.


 

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