My husband and I are starting to look at investment and retirement accounts. Right now, we've decided on a Traditional IRA. Does it make a difference where we get an IRA? If so, what do we want to look for in choosing the bank/credit union/etc?
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It's great that you and your husband are beginning to set aside money for your future, and I know it can be daunting sorting through the various companies capable of holding your brokerage accounts. The two biggest questions you need to ask yourself are how much are you willing to pay in fees, and how much customer service do you want or need? Also, make sure that any company you choose is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) so that your money is protected if the company goes under.
Fees are extremely important because of the impact they have on the overall growth of your account. Retirement accounts are all about long-term growth and you want to avoid stunting it with expensive commission fees, trading fees, and account maintenance fees. There are often other potential charges like inactivity fees, so shop around and make sure you gather all of the information you can — you could even create a quick and easy spreadsheet with all of the details in order to keep it all straight.
You need to determine which of these types of brokerage companies best suits your needs: full service broker, discount broker, or online broker. Full service brokers are more expensive because you're paying an expert a commission to answer your questions, help with your portfolio allocation, and execute trades for you. If you don't need this kind of guidance or expect this type of customer service, then you can surpass the full service brokerage for one that's less expensive.
Discount brokers execute trades at a discounted commission because they don't offer advice on your investments. Online brokers allow you to steer your account by entering trades yourself and managing your account online — you won't get any investment advice, but most have in-depth research tools and you'll pay a discounted trading fee.
Do all of your research and talk to family and friends to see if they use a company they'd recommend. Between their suggestions and the list you've come up with, you'll have plenty of details to compare and find the best one for your needs.