As with anything, the best way to gain mastery of the Charles Schwab system is by actually using it. As you begin navigating around the site, you will quickly discover the tools that are most valuable to you, and which are not applicable to your investment program. You will also undoubtedly discover many shortcuts to speed your navigation. When you first get onto the system, you will need to put in your username and password just as you would with any other secure website. Going forward, you have a choice of what web page you want as your home screen, and you can set your preferences so that this will be the first screen that you see each time you log in to the system.

Once you've logged into the website, you'll find that it's broken down into six main "channels." These channels are "accounts," "trade," "research," "products," "guidance" and "service." So for instance, any time you're interested in gathering research on a security you would visit the research channel. Similarly, if you're looking to execute a trade, you go to the trade channel. If you need customer service, you would click on the service channel. Within each channel, there are numerous submenus to direct you more precisely to where you want to go.

For your first couple of visits, a good place to start is the "overview" section of the service channel. There you will find access to a variety of basic functions such as: changing your contact information, accessing new account forms, checking on the status of your account, setting account alerts and exporting your financial information into Quicken or Microsoft Money.


Figure 1 - Overview Menu


If you ever need help with navigating the website, establishing or changing your accounts, or with investing or trading, Schwab offers assistance in several ways. For starters, the submenu within the service channel will bring you to the "using Schwab.com" area of the site, which provides assistance for many common questions. If what you are seeking isn't found there, you can go to the "contact us" section within the service channel. There you will find information on how to contact Schwab via phone, email or in person at one of their branches.

SEE: Evaluating Your Stock Broker


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