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Should I Use a Discount Broker or a Full Service Broker?

This is one of the 20 tough financial questions posed in the “Do This or That?” cover story in the September 2011 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Use the drop-down menu above to consider other financial conundrums and the right answers for you; share your own experiences and insights in the Discuss field at the bottom of this page.

Use a discount broker if you’re a do-it-yourself investor, you need minimal advice or hand-holding, and you want to save on costs. You can buy and sell stocks online for less than $10 a trade, and some brokers charge nothing to trade selected ETFs. You should be comfortable researching securities—including bonds—and you should know how to place trades. You should also use a discount broker if you want access to no-load mutual funds from a variety of fund families.

Use a full-service broker if you want advice and recommendations on stocks, bonds (which can be particularly tricky) and other investments. You’ll gain access to a firm’s research and proprietary mutual funds, as well as to separately managed accounts. You may even get access to initial public offerings that the firm has underwritten. You’ll pay higher trading commissions and may also pay advisory and other account fees.

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