In This Chapter
Understanding your choices of brokers
Deciding what you need from a broker
Knowing the differences between a self-service and full-service brokerage
Making sure that your money is safe with your broker
Scoping out how to access your account with your broker
Setting up your account and getting started
In this chapter, I dive through the offers from all the major online brokerages to pinpoint which ones could fit your needs. Why can't I save you the trouble and just tell you which broker is the best? It's not that easy. Choosing "the best" brokerage is like choosing the most beautiful painting in an art museum. Everyone has an opinion based on what is most important to him or her. When choosing a broker, if you're most interested in dirt-cheap commissions and don't care much for service, you have one set of brokers to pick from. If you're looking for access to physical branches staffed with live people who can help you choose stocks or navigate the Web site, you have an entirely different set of candidates.
You might think you don't need this chapter because you like a certain broker's ads on TV or have a cousin who swears by his online broker. But don't underestimate the benefits that will accrue for you if you thoroughly research your broker options — face it, your broker is the gatekeeper to your money, and picking the right one will partly determine how successful you are as an investor.
People are ...