How becoming your own broker could save you money

Investing is a slippery game, and you are likely to pick almost as many losers as winners, but with some basic training in the do's and don'ts of the stock market, you can take advantage of what it offers. Here's how:

How becoming your own broker could save you money

Take a good look at yourself

Before striking out on your own, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you willing to monitor markets daily for new opportunities and watch out for threats to your existing portfolio?
  • Do you know how to analyze the information in a company report?
  • Do you have any specialized knowledge of an industry or company to help boost returns?

If you said "no" to more than one of these, you should probably employ a stockbroker to make the decisions on your behalf.

Discount or full-service?

Discount brokers have popped up everywhere, including at major brokerage houses. But how do you decide whether a discount or a full-service brokerage is right for you?

  • If you want speed, 24-hour access and personal control, check out the discount brokerages.
  • Ifyou want advice and someone to formulate and manage your investing plan, opt for a full-service brokerage.

Strike a deal with your full-service broker

  • A full-service brokerage may offer the advice and research you need to help you make lucrative trades. But while they offer what they call a "standard rate," it's almost always negotiable.
  • If you're happy with your broker, but not with his fees, call a few discount brokers to find out how much they charge and then use the information as a negotiating tool.

Expect resistance

  • Excellent service or quality personnel isn't a good enough excuse to pay top dollar. If you feel you're paying too much, negotiate by showing that your portfolio doesn't use all their resources.
  • Ralph Charell, former CEO of his own Wall Street Securities firm, has suggested that a 20 percent to 30 percent reduction from the top rate might be in order.

Online share dealing slashes costs

You can pay less for your share dealing service by using an online or telephone-based broker. There are dozens of stockbrokers allowing online trading in real time, and slashing fees by 30 percent to 80 percent.

How much will you pay?

Costs vary significantly, but most discount brokerages offer trades of up to 1,000 shares for about $25 and up. Meanwhile, the cost is anywhere from about $75 to $500 for a full-service brokerage, depending on the share price, the client's trading volume and the fee or commission policy.

The minimum spend

Discount brokers may not make sense if you invest infrequently, or if your investments are usually below $2,000, mainly because they charge minimum commissions that are usually in the range of $20 to $40.

Choosing between brokerages or going alone is an important decision. It requires time, effort and skill to make it in the investment world, but with the right ideas, you could see more from your investments.

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