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Should I work with a stockbroker to buy individual stocks?

This is almost a trick question, because in order to buy an individual stock on an exchange, you must always go through a brokerage house that is a member of that exchange, and the transaction will be completed by a registered broker. Perhaps the more important question is whether you should use a full-service broker, a discount broker, or some combination of the two.

If you have more money than time to manage it, you may find the full-service broker well worth the additional expense. Full-service brokers typically charge a fee or commission but provide research, individual planning assistance, and investment advice. Many full-service brokers also offer the option of using mutual funds for some part of your investment portfolio. Typical discount brokers may provide little or no investor services but can charge much less to complete whatever transactions you desire.

Competition for market share and advances in technology have given rise to a whole host of brokerages that combine the elements of these two extremes. Most notable are the Internet brokers that feature on-line research and assistance, as well as low-cost, per-trade, flat rates. Whatever broker you choose to work with, make sure you know what you are getting and how much you are paying for it, before you invest.