What is a Brokerage Account (2024)

A brokerage account is an investment account that allows you to buy and sell a variety of investments, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs. Whether you're setting aside money for the future or saving up for a big purchase, you can use your funds whenever and however you want.

Ready to work toward your financial goals? Learn more about the benefits of a brokerage account and how it compares to other types of investment accounts.

What can you do with a brokerage account?

You can use your brokerage account to gain access to stocks and other types of investments. Opening a brokerage account is one of the first steps to building your personal investment portfolio.

  • Buy and sell stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, and other securities.
  • Take advantage of potential long-term growth.
  • Set aside money for your retirement, or other goals like college tuition or a down payment.
  • Gain access to investment research, tools, and strategies.

What is a Brokerage Account (1)

Ready to get started?

Open a brokerage account

How is a brokerage account different from other accounts?

Brokerage account is a broad term that covers a few types of accounts. For example, a standard brokerage account offers maximum flexibility and access to a variety of investments. Learn more about how a standard brokerage account compares to other account types with our account comparison table below.

Types of Accounts

What is a Brokerage Account (2024)


What is brokerage account and how does it work? ›

A brokerage account is an investment account that allows you to buy and sell a variety of investments, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs. Whether you're setting aside money for the future or saving up for a big purchase, you can use your funds whenever and however you want.

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What is the downside to a brokerage account? ›

Downsides of a standard brokerage account

Since it's a taxable account, you'll have to pay taxes on earnings in your account, including capital gains and dividends.

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Does a brokerage account make you money? ›

Brokerage accounts are used for day trading to earn short-term profits, as well as investing for long-term goals. Most brokerage accounts also provide a way to earn a decent yield on uninvested cash. A broker maintains your brokerage account and acts as the custodian for the securities you own in your account.

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Is a 401k a brokerage account? ›

A 401(k) brokerage account works like a regular brokerage account, except that it operates out of an employer-sponsored 401(k). If your plan offers one, you can use it to expand your investment options and take greater control of your account.

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How much money do you need for a brokerage account? ›

That means you could open a brokerage account and start investing with whatever funds you have—whether that's $100 or $1,000. These investment accounts allow you to purchase stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds and other securities. You might even earn interest on your uninvested cash.

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How much money should be in a brokerage account? ›

Let's look at an example: If you make $60,000 a year, then the 3x estimate would be $180,000. If you have $100,000 in your 401(k), then you should have at least $80,000 in your brokerage accounts to be on track to meet your goal.

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Can you lose cash in a brokerage account? ›

Many people fear putting money into a brokerage account for fear of losing it. And while it's true that a market downturn could cause your investments to lose value, you are protected against certain types of losses.

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Is it better to put money in a 401k or brokerage account? ›

Brokerage accounts are taxable, but provide much greater liquidity and investment flexibility. 401(k) accounts offer significant tax advantages at the cost of tying up funds until retirement. Both types of accounts can be useful for helping you reach your ultimate financial goals, retirement or otherwise.

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How risky is a brokerage account? ›

Accounts Are Typically Insured

Brokerage firms that are members of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which includes most brokerages registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) insure your account for up to $500,000 should your brokerage go out of business.

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Why would I want a brokerage account? ›

Brokerage accounts have more flexibility.

You can take money out of a brokerage account at any time and for any reason—just like you could with a regular bank account—without paying an early withdrawal penalty. You have to wait until age 59 1/2 to take money out of a 401(k) or IRA without penalty.

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Does opening a brokerage account affect your credit score? ›

Most investment accounts do not show up on your credit report. So, opening an investment account will generally not affect your credit score. Whether you are buying stocks with a credit card or investing by depositing cash into your account, your balance and investment performance will not impact your credit score.

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Is it smart to open a brokerage account? ›

Opening a brokerage account allows you to start putting money into the stock market. This is generally a good idea if you want to earn reasonable returns. Putting your money in the market is going to give you the potential to earn a much higher rate of return than a high-yield savings account or similar investments.

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When should you open a brokerage account? ›

“In cases where they have goals between four to seven years, a brokerage account may help reach some of those shorter term goals.” But before opening a taxable account, investors should put away a sizable emergency fund and max out their retirement accounts, Marshall says.

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Are brokerage accounts safer than banks? ›

While bank balances are insured by the FDIC, investments in a brokerage account are covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). It protects investors in the unlikely event that their brokerage firm fails.

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Why is Roth IRA better than brokerage account? ›

Unlike a Roth IRA, which has the advantage of tax-free withdrawals in retirement, you'll owe capital gains taxes on the gains in a brokerage account. (That's why brokerage accounts are sometimes referred to as taxable accounts.)

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Should I keep all my money in a brokerage account? ›

If you've got a large chunk of cash, you might secure better returns outside of a brokerage account. You could lose money. If your money is swept into a money market fund, that cash won't be insured by the FDIC or SIPC. It's possible to lose money.

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Should I keep money in brokerage account? ›

Investing in a brokerage account can help you build wealth. You can earn a better return in a brokerage account than in most other assets, so you can't have too much money in one. However, you do need to maintain the right asset allocation, which means you need to have a sufficient amount of money in savings too.

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Do you own the stocks in your brokerage account? ›

If you own stock, there's a good chance it's registered in your broker's name. That doesn't really change much. Your broker will have a record that you are the actual owner and you are free to buy and sell your investments as you please.

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