Online Trading

Investing made easy

Approximately half of all Americans who have a brokerage account trade stocks online. They do so for convenience, cost and speed. In the bat of an eye, people can execute a trade via the web, buying or selling an investment for a fraction of what a full-service broker would charge. It can't get much easier than that.

However, online trading today is about so much more than just the trade itself. Many discount brokers provide some or all of the following:

  • Research for individual investments: Many firms provide third-party investment research, especially for better known large-cap stocks.
  • Investment tools that help you with retirement planning: Investment calculators that determine important numbers like compound annual growth rate, bond yield and annual savings to reach retirement goals, etc. are very helpful.
  • Actual financial advice over the telephone from registered investment representatives: Firms that give you an option of online or over the phone with an adviser usually score better on customer service surveys.
  • Additional products beyond stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds: Investing in master limited partnerships, private equity and hedge funds can help boost your portfolio's returns.
  • Cash management programs for maximizing your idle funds: Most firms today have programs that scoop all the cash sitting in your account and move it into a higher yielding product until you need the funds, making the most of your funds when not invested.
  • Margin accounts: Some firms will offer margin accounts at less than prime if the amount borrowed is high enough.
  • Bill payment, easy-to-understand statements and other helpful products and services: Discount brokers are eager to keep your business and work very hard to make sure you'll remain a loyal customer.

Your choice really becomes one of personal preference. Are you looking for incredible customer service or are you more concerned about the commissions you'll pay for each transaction? Where will you find your investment ideas? Some people love doing their own original research while others would rather use reports provided by their broker. Do you feel it's important to talk with an investment adviser from time to time if you're unsure about an investment? Some will value this extra layer of support. In the end, you'll use the broker that best meets your needs.

Online trading may be convenient but keep in mind that you're still investing. Just because the commissions are low doesn't mean you should be buying and selling stocks as if you're a day trader. Successful investing is still about growing your portfolio with solid investments held for a long period of time, while also reducing the amount of taxes and commissions you pay. Save more, spend less.

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