All of the advice about investing in stocks for beginners doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have any way to actually buy stocks. To do this, you’ll need a specialized type of account called a brokerage account.
These accounts are offered by companies such as TD Ameritrade, E*Trade, Charles Schwab, and many others. And opening a brokerage account is typically a quick and painless process that takes only minutes. You can easily fund your brokerage account via EFT transfer, by mailing a check, or by wiring money.
Opening a brokerage account is generally easy, but you should consider a few things before choosing a particular broker:
Type of account
First, determine the type of brokerage account you need. For most people who are just trying to learn stock market investing, this means choosing between a standard brokerage account and an individual retirement account (IRA).
Both account types will allow you to buy stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs. The main considerations here are why you’re investing in stocks and how easily you want to be able to access your money.
If you want easy access to your money, are just investing for a rainy day, or want to invest more than the annual IRA contribution limit, you’ll probably want a standard brokerage account.
On the other hand, if your goal is to build up a retirement nest egg, an IRA is a great way to go. These accounts come in two main varieties — traditional and Roth IRAs — and there are some specialized types of IRAs for self-employed individuals and small business owners, including the SEP IRA and SIMPLE IRA. IRAs are very tax-advantaged places to buy stocks, but the downside is that it can be difficult to withdraw your money until you get older.
Compare costs and features
The majority of online stock brokers have eliminated trading commissions, so most (but not all) are on a level playing field as far as costs are concerned.
However, there are several other big differences. For example, some brokers offer customers a variety of educational tools, access to investment research, and other features that are especially useful for newer investors. Others offer the ability to trade on foreign stock exchanges. And some have physical branch networks, which can be nice if you want face-to-face investment guidance.
There’s also the user-friendliness and functionality of the broker’s trading platform. I’ve used quite a few of them and can tell you firsthand that some are far more “clunky” than others. Many will let you try a demo version before committing any money, and if that’s the case, I highly recommend it.