6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Brokerage Firm

Choosing a Brokerage Firm

Choosing a brokerage firm can be daunting in today’s investment market. There are many options to consider when deciding which one is best for your investing needs. I often advise my financial coaching clients on several options that may be a good fit for them. However, this is because I have built a strong relationship with them. I understand their personalities, their needs and desires, and their goals and objectives.

I rarely ever give specific financial advice to the general public because there are many things to consider when it comes to your personal finances. Selecting a brokerage firm is both a science and an art. There are specific factors that usually impact everyone when it comes to choosing the best brokerage firm. However, this process is also very unique to each individual.

This is why I have put together a list of common factors that one should consider when deciding on a brokerage firm. So if you are in the midst of trying to decide which firm is best for your financial needs, here are some things to think about.

Accessibility

Historically, brokerage firms have operated out of brick and mortar buildings. They offered investors full service options inclusive of financial advisors and trade execution. Investors had somewhere to go when they had questions or concerns about current or future holdings.

Today, most of the long-standing traditional brokerage firms have both physical locations and robust online trading platforms. And they still offer a suite of services to their customers. They are great options for investors who want 5-star treatment but also desire the convenience of online trading.

A number of virtual brokerage firms have sprouted up over the past few decades or so. Online brokerage firms have changed the investing landscape in many ways. A number of them have 24/7 operating hours and they offer simple, self-directed trading options.

This has significantly expanded accessibility options for investors. So new investors who don’t need to access a live broker can easily open an account with an online brokerage firm. They can still speak with account managers and tech support over the phone, yet conveniently self-manage their portfolio online.

History and Reputation

Investing is a very sensitive matter as it deals with exchanging monetary funds in the virtual environment. The average person is typically concerned about where they park their hard-earned dollars, especially in today’s economy. This is why it is important to know the history and reputation of the brokerage firm that you select.

A number of brokerage firms have a strong, long-standing reputation in the financial market. This is vital to maintain sustainability in this sector. On the other hand, some firms are newer and haven’t built a solid history as reputable establishments. This doesn’t mean that the they don’t operate with integrity, however, this can be a concern for some investors.

Trade Commission Fees

While more brokerage firms are starting to offer commission-free services, a few of them still charge these types of fees. This means that investors are required to pay fees when they trade. This amount can be anywhere from $1-$50 or more, which gives investors reason to shop around. So understand how much it will cost you to trade when selecting a brokerage firm. No or low trade fees are more ideal for capitalizing on your investments.

Enjoy the security of traditional savings with the advantage of high interest rates and limited transactions. No fees. No minimum balance requirements. The Axos Bank High Yield Money Market Account means more money in your pocket.

Account and Trade Minimums

Brokerage firms vary in terms of account opening minimum deposits and trade minimums. Some firms don’t have minimum deposit amounts while others can require a minimum deposit of up to $30,000. Some firms have trade minimums on certain types of exchanges such as mutual funds or exchange traded funds (ETF’s) while others don’t. It is important to keep this in mind when you determine which firm is the best one for your needs.

Education & Research Tools

Education and research tools may also be a consideration when selecting a brokerage firm. Some firms have very robust education platforms that allow them to deliver live webinars, consistent print materials, and extensive prospectus reports. These tools can be very useful for new investors who are learning about the ins and outs of the stock market.

Traditional firms with brick and mortar locations tend to have a comprehensive suite of educational services available to their clients. Conversely, online brokerage firms tend to be less equipped to provide such services. If educational tools are important to you, you should research which options are available through various brokerage firms.

Promotional Offers

One of the last things to consider is the availability of promotional offers. Such offers generally come in the form of cash or transfer bonuses, free securities, or free services for a limited period of time. Cash bonuses can range anywhere from $50 to more than $3000. Investors are generally required to deposit anywhere from $5000 to $1,000,000 to qualify for such offers. So they are definitely for serious investors who are able to make significant contributions to a new brokerage account.

Promotional offers are generally not important to new investors with less than $5000 in investment capital. However, it may be useful to research options that may be available to you if you are in the market to invest larger sums of money.

I don’t recommend choosing a brokerage firm solely based on promotional offers. You should definitely consider more important factors such as those mentioned above before thinking about promotional offers. Keep in mind that you will most likely have a long-standing relationship with the firm that you select. So you should consider how it meets your most important needs first. Promotional offers are just icing on the cake.

Enjoy the security and earning potential of a savings account while maintaining the flexibility to write checks with a rate of 1.00% APY on all balances equal to or greater than $25,000

Need more investing guidance? Contact us so that we can help you start building your wealth.

5 Tips for Overcoming Fears About Investing in the Stock Market

Overcoming Investing Fears

The number one source of opposition that I get from my financial coaching clients is their fear of investing in the stock market. Once I help them develop strategies to pay off their debt so that they can begin building wealth they usually want to stop at simply saving money. While I always recommend having liquid emergency funds in store, this is not a sufficient tool for building true, sustainable wealth.

In order to build wealth quickly and efficiently it is important to invest. There are many ways to invest your money to make it grow fast. You can invest in real estate, a business, the stock market, etc. But one of the quickest and easiest ways to start investing is through the stock market, which many people are afraid of. This is especially the case for individuals who have just finished paying off debt and are anxious to set aside extra cash for the future.

And this is completely understandable. I once had these same objectives when I was fresh out of debt, however, I quickly realized the value of investing my money after taking a few steps to overcome my fears. Since that point I have found other strategies that have helped my clients overcome their fears of investing and start rewarding journeys to building wealth.

Enjoy the security of traditional savings with the advantage of high interest rates and limited transactions. No fees. No minimum balance requirements. The Axos Bank High Yield Money Market Account means more money in your pocket.

Educate Yourself About the Stock Market

Education is your first line of defense for making sound decisions in almost any endeavor. Investing is no different. The more you know about the stock market and how it works, the better equipped you will be for selecting sound investment options. Proper education can easily dissipate your fears about investing in the stock market.

When I first decided to invest I spent about a year figuring out how the stock market works. These are some of the things that I did to educate myself about the stock market:

  • Signed up for a paid online investing class
  • Frequently watched the Bloomberg channel
  • Watched YouTube videos about investing
  • Read books and online articles about investing

It took me about a year to start investing because I wanted to pay off my debt before I got started. At the time I had quite a bit of revolving debt that I wanted to pay off. I knew that I wanted to invest once all my debt was cleared so I started my educational journey very early.

It doesn’t take this long to become adequately educated about the stock market though. With the right tools and resources and adequate time you can easily learn investing basics within a month or so. There are plenty of free and paid investing resources available in-person and online. You can easily find tools to suit your personality, budget, needs, and desires. So one of the first steps you should take to ease your fears about investing is to educate yourself about the process.

Use Stock Market Simulators

When I first started investing stock market simulators were not available to me. Or at least I was not aware of them. However, these handy tools have grown in popularity over the years. They are basically a way of allowing you to invest virtual or “play money” in the stock market to see how your investments can grow over time. These tools are a great risk-free way of getting acclimated to the stock market without taking major risks with your money.

Open and Fund a Brokerage Account

This is one of the first measures that I took when I decided to actually start investing in the stock market. I opened a brokerage account with a $100 deposit. I didn’t know what to invest in at first so I started doing a lot of research while my money sat in the account for 4 months. The firm that I used automatically puts deposits in an interest-bearing money market settlement fund. So my money was growing at about .25% each month as it sat in the account.

I received monthly email statements that constantly reminded me about the account. This encouraged me to keep doing my research so that I could figure out where to invest this money. Once I finally decided which investment products where right for me I added $900 to my settlement fund and began trading. Thereafter, I became hooked on the stock market once I realized its wealth building potential.

Overcoming investment fears

The key to this strategy is to add funds to your brokerage account. Many brokerage firms allow you to open an account with no initial deposit. If you do this then you won’t be as compelled to do something with your money. So as soon as you open your brokerage account fund it with an amount of money that is comfortable for you. You can start trading whenever you are ready.

In addition to kick-starting your investing ambitions, opening a brokerage account can give you access to valuable investing educational resources. Many brokerage firms provide a number of useful educational tools such as articles, videos, webinars, etc. to their clients. As such, you can utilize these to grow in your knowledge and awareness of salient investment strategies.

Choose Low Risk Options

Another tool that you can use to ease your fears about investing is to put your money in low risk investment vehicles that guarantee a return on investment. Certain investment options such as certificates of deposit (CD’s), money market accounts, and bonds allow you to safely start your investment journey.

You are guaranteed to get your initial investment back with these types of accounts in addition to some interest. However, the interest payout is generally quite lower than what you could get when investing in stocks. Low risk investing options typically result in lower dividends or payouts. But this is still a great way to get your feet wet and to diversify your portfolio.

The Money Market account is designed for members who want the security of a traditional savings account, but with higher returns. Plus, with a suite of complimentary digital banking tools, you can access your funds wherever you are.

Start Small

Another strategy for decreasing your angst about investing in the stock market is to start small. You do not have to pour your life savings in the stock market. In fact, this is a bad idea even if you are an active investor. You should always leave cash in an emergency or reserve fund.

Many online brokerage firms allow you to invest as little as the per share cost of a stock or exchange traded fund (ETF). This could literally be as low as $2. Like with other low risk investment options, the payout is typically lower with smaller investments. But the goal is to ease your way into the stock market – you can always add to your portfolio as you become more comfortable with investing.

Need more helpful ideas on investing in the stock market? Contact us and we will gladly help you develop a sound investment strategy.

Enjoy the security and earning potential of a savings account while maintaining the flexibility to write checks with a rate of 1.00% APY on all balances equal to or greater than $25,000

Is it Better to Save or Invest?

Save or invest

This is a question that I have been getting a lot lately. More and more people are concerned about storing away for the future since COVID-19 has ravaged the global economy. And rightfully so. We should always prepare for our financial future because we simply don’t know what tomorrow holds.

As such, saving and investing are both important pieces of the puzzle. Both are critical tools for building wealth and for securing one’s financial future. This is why I always advise my clients to do both whenever possible. This is because saving and investing are both important and one only outweighs the other in regards to purpose.

What this means is that your decision to save or invest your money should be determined by your overall goal. There are definitely times when it is better to save than to invest and vise versa. But, this is ultimately determined by your individual financial situation. Let’s take a look at a few situations in which one option may prove better over the other.

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Emergency Funds

In general, I recommend saving at least 3-6 months worth of emergency funds before you start investing. Emergency funds are the equivalent of all your essential living expenses. However, I recommend adding enough to cover non-essentials as well.

For example, if your living expenses typically add up to $3,000 per month then you should aim to save at least $9,000 in your emergency fund account. This is the minimum that you should store up – the more the better. Effectively you should strive to accumulate at least 6 months worth of living expenses in your emergency fund.

Emergency funds should be stored in a savings account because they are more liquid. This means you can easily access your funds in an urgent situation. Thus, you don’t have to depend on an upmarket to sell stock shares.

There are many options for storing money in savings accounts. Common savings options include regular savings, high yield savings, or money market accounts. I always recommend accounts with the best interest rates to my clients. This way your funds are earning money when they are dormant. They are also easily accessible to you when you need them.

Take your money further, faster. No monthly maintenance fees. No minimum balance requirements. Interest compounded daily. This is high-yield savings, evolved.

Major Purchases

If you are planning to make a major purchase, timing is very important in determining whether to save or invest. If you have less than a year to purchase the item, it may be better to save or purchase a certificate of deposit (CD). These are very low risk, highly liquid options.

Conversely, if you have more time such as three to five years, investing may be a wise choice. You can invest the funds for the purchase in a mixture of low and high risk funds. This way you can get the best return on your investment. You can easily and quickly compound your money and still have the financial resources necessary for your purchase.

Financial Independence and Retirement

If your goal is to achieve financial independence or plan for retirement, a mixture of saving and investing is usually better. If you have more than 10 years before you reach your goals, aggressive investing is usually more effective. The more time you have to reach either goal, the more opportunity you have to make your money work for you on a larger, more rapid scale.

Saving and Investing for Retirement

On the other hand, if you are closer to your financial independence or retirement goals you should definitely go a bit slower. You need to ensure that you will have the financial resources available to you once you leave the workforce.

In general, I recommend that individuals who are planning for financial independence or retirement to trade lower risk options. Additionally, they should save a greater proportion of their money. The last thing you want to do is to lose your money right before it’s time for you to retire or resign. This will only prolong your time in the workforce and possibility lead to mental and/or physical health complications.

Need more financial coaching advice? Contact us and we will gladly assist you.

Enjoy the security of traditional savings with the advantage of high interest rates and limited transactions. No fees. No minimum balance requirements. The Axos Bank High Yield Money Market Account means more money in your pocket.