If you make the right choice, your broker can be your single most valuable source of help in making good investment decisions. By the same token, an inept or unresponsive broker can make your life miserable, as well as cost you money.
The first decision you need to make is whether you want a traditional broker, whether you’d rather do your stock research and trading for yourself, or get your advice elsewhere and use a brokerage firm only to execute your trades.
Brokers differ in several ways. There are full-service and discount firms; national, regional, and local firms; and firms that operate only online or over the phone. All sell more than stocks: They sell municipal bonds, unit trusts, tax shelters, and annuities. But the chief distinction is between full-service and the discount firms.