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I don’t care if you’re investing one thousand dollars or ten million, you can do a better job at a much lower cost by avoiding most traditional financial advice altogether. There are a handful of advisers out there worth their weight in gold but my point is that the vast majority don’t “make their money the old fashioned way.” In most cases avoiding them is a huge step in right direction.

Yesterday, I mentioned all you will need is, “the right products at the right brokerage firm, a little knowledge about asset allocation and then a couple of safeguards to prevent you from dropping the car while you’re still underneath it” changing your own oil, so to speak. So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. 

As far as brokerage firms go any discount broker will do, really, but I like Charles Schwab for a few reasons. First, they are very competitive on costs. Second, they have their own index ETFs that they will let you trade for FREE. Finally, they have branches across the country and other conveniences many other firms lack.

All in all, choosing the right firm and the right products really go hand in hand. If you want to trade Schwab ETFs you should probably do it with a Schwab brokerage account. If you would prefer Vanguard index funds you can buy those directly through Vanguard but it might be more convenient to do so within a brokerage account. I’ll let you figure out what works best for you.

For now let’s get back to those Schwab ETFs and trading for FREE. Most index-based investment securities are like like generic medicines. They all do exactly the same thing. What differentiates them is their cost and Schwab’s ETFs are very cost competitive. It also really helps that they charge you zero commissions to buy and sell them.

This brings up another point: the benefit of ETFs over mutual funds is that they can be traded at any time during regular market hours. Mutual funds are only traded after the market closes and the fund’s net asset value is calculated. Now I’m not recommending you start day trading these things but if you need to trade intraday or just see the intraday value of your investments for whatever reason you can only do so with ETFs.

Schwab offers ETFs for all the asset classes you will want to consider, as well. Using them you can get exposure to foreign and domestic stocks, real estate and bonds of a variety of durations. Next post will discuss which of these you may want to consider using and how to allocate your investment capital among them.

Disclosure: though I receive no compensation for recommending Schwab I do have a professional relationship with the firm.

Read Part 3: Building Your Personal Investment Portfolio