Brokers are the people who handle customer orders to buy and sell securities. In the same way that a grocery store acts as a middleman between shoppers and the companies that produce food, a broker acts as a middleman between the securities that trade on the market and the investors who buy them.

We should also mention that the word "broker" can be used in a variety of circumstances. It could mean an individual person you deal with or it can refer to a brokerage firm such as Charles Schwab or Merrill Lynch.

To be a stockbroker in the United States, you must pass two licensing examinations from the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD): the Series 7 and the Series 63. These exams prove that a broker is informed about what he or she is selling and knows all the regulations and laws in the securities industry. Most countries have similar licensing programs.

The most important thing to realize is that brokers are salespeople. They get a commission when you trade. This will be our focus in the next section.

Next: Brokers and Online Trading: The Costs »

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