Picking Your First Broker

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Before you can choose a broker, you have to know who or what constitutes a broker. There are two types of brokers out there: those who deal directly with their clients (regular brokers), and those who act as intermediaries between the client and a larger broker (broker-resellers). Regular brokers typically are considered more reputable than broker-resellers. That's not to say that all resellers are inherently bad, just that you need to check them out before you sign up with them. Regular brokers, like Scottrade, ShareBuilder and Fidelity, are members of recognized organizations such as the National Association of Securities Dealers and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation.
Source: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/younginvestors/06/firstbroker.asp