You must make many tricky judgments when you invest, and often the questions you have to answer stump even the experts. This is why you should always deal with a broker you can trust. You must order through a broker anyhow, and choosing the right one is as important as picking your family doctor. You should take the time and care to find the best one for you.
What is a broker and what does he do? A broker is a registered representative of a brokerage firm, and deals in buying and selling stocks on a full-time basis. Only if he is a member of the New York Stock Exchange can he place orders through that body. However, most brokerage firms either have one member who has a seat on the Exchange, or else they have an arrangement to deal through one or more Exchange members in other firms.
Time was when brokers wouldn’t bother with the small investor, but most of them today will not turn you away. Not all brokers will act as advisers, and not all the advice they might give is necessarily good. But they can sometimes help the beginner learn the complicated operation—and the language—of the stock market, which is their business to know thoroughly.
When you look for a broker, visit three or four and compare how they treat you, and also what they tell you. A good test is to ask each of them about the same stock, so you can find out which one gives you the most information. If a broker asks you for a detailed financial history, don’t be secretive and touchy. It’s essential that he know everything about your money situation in order to give you sound advice. In fact, be worried if he doesn’t ask all about you, just like a good doctor taking down your medical history. If he seems to want to get you out in a hurry, or if he doesn’t give you his full attention, cross him off your list.
Try the biggest and best-known brokerage firm in your town, as well as others. It will cost you no more to deal with the best. Don’t worry if your town is too small to provide you with a big choice. It may be an advantage in that the local broker will be so well known that you can check his reputation easily. If there is no reputable broker, write to the nearest city that has a New York Stock Exchange member firm. You can usually handle most of your business by mail. Above all, be sure to choose a broker whose firm is a member of the Security Investors Protective Corporation.
Be warned that once you give a broker the go-ahead, there is no turning back. You must be prepared to pay for any stocks you order within five business days. No broker will stand either for a change of mind about buying (though he will sell a stock again immediately if you really don’t want it), or your failure to pay on time.
Remember, you always make the final decision, however much or little your broker discusses investment with you. You must learn all you can about the stock market yourself, follow it carefully, and take the responsibility for your success or failure.