It is true that even though you can choose your own investments you must still use a stockbroker to execute the orders. You do not have to rely in their advice though it may be helpful. You can make your own selections but you will still require their services to invest. There was a time when you had no choice about the type of stockbroker to utilize. There was only one type of broker, the full service brokers, and they controlled the market. The commissions that they demanded for their services were very high but this was the industry standard. This contributed to the notion that the stock market and stock market investment were beyond the means of the average person and only for the very affluent.
The initial loss of control of the market by these full service brokerages occurred in 1975 and discount brokers emerged. They charged a fraction of the fees the full service brokers did and as such were a big hit on the market. They offered the same great services but were affordable to the average individual as the cost were significantly lower. Another great innovation was the introduction of the internet. This was a great innovation as there was greater trading efficiency as a result.
The overall effect of all the changes on the stock market was that individuals now had access to a ton of information that was never accessible to them previously. It is a debate however whether these avenues have in fact enhanced investments and made better investors. In the case of persons that do their homework and seek out the truth behind the hype the answer is a definitive yes. The investors out their can now choose the type of broker they require from the range available.
There are four categories of brokers. These are the discount/online broker, the discount broker that provides advice, the full service broker and the money manager. The discount/online broker is basically an order taker. They do not offer advice and will not tell you when to buy or sell a stock. There may be research available and other account management tools but the choice of investment in the stock market is entirely up to you.
The variation of the discount/online broker that assists customers is the nest type. They do not offer full consultation services but will have more research than order taking sites. They will offer newsletters and investing tips but most likely not recommend particular stocks. You are not totally on your own with this option but you will still need to do a lot in terms of deciding on the best stock investment.
The full service broker will provide recommendations on specific stocks and the broker will also access your financial situation to determine your needs and investment options. This service is suitable for the investor that does not have the interest or time in making their investment decisions.
The money manager is made for the investor with a hefty investment sum. This broker will handle only significant portfolios and will invest and manage the entire account for a percentage of the assets under investment. This option can be expensive but very worthwhile in the long run.
Whichever option that you choose make sure it suits your purpose and that you are covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. Ask about backups and other options in case of technical problems and ensure that your broker has your best interest at heart.