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Charles Schwab Corp (SCHW), TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. (AMTD): Where to Turn for a Last-Minute IRA

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We all procrastinate from time to time. That’s OK with relatively trivial things in life, like taking out the trash and unloading the dishwasher. But it’s not acceptable when it places your financial future in jeopardy.

charles-schwab

Tick-tock
The deadline for making a 2012 IRA contribution is April 15. So, with less than one week left, time is of the essence. Remedy the situation by opening an IRA and funding it today. Luckily for you, there are many online discount brokerage firms more than willing to help out. Several offer no annual maintenance fees, low-cost investing options, and a huge menu of stocks and mutual funds.

If you need a refresher, familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of IRAs, IRA rules, and a brief explanation of how to open an IRA. Then hop back over here.

Providers that can help you at the last minute
What you desire in an IRA provider may point you to one discount broker instead of another. Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding what firm is best for you.

Discount brokerages offer very inexpensive stock-trading fees. Scottrade boasts extremely low $7 online trading fees. Trades at Fidelity and Charles Schwab Corp (NYSE:SCHW) will cost you as little as about $8 and $9 each, respectively. And TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. (NYSE:AMTD)‘s and E*TRADE Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:ETFC)‘s $10 fees are only a hair more. Vanguard charges $7 for the first 25 stock and non-Vanguard ETF trades in each calendar year, then $20 for each subsequent trade. If you need extra help placing trades, TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. (NYSE:AMTD) and Scottrade have local offices and offer broker assistance. And if you open an IRA and fund it with $2,500, ShareBuilder, a part of Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF), will give you 25 free trades.

As exchange-traded funds have become increasingly popular retirement account options, brokerage firms have tailored their lineups accordingly. Schwab rolled out commission-free ETFs a few years ago, but recently expanded its menu of offerings with its OneSource platform.  Charles Schwab Corp (NYSE:SCHW)’s OneSource boasts more than 100 different ETFs, including State Street Corporation (NYSE:STT)‘s hugely popular SPDR ETFs. Fidelity’s recently expanded partnership with BlackRock now offers its customers the greatest number of commission-free ETFs online from iShares, including all 10 iShares Core ETFs. Not to be overlooked, TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. (NYSE:AMTD) boasts over 100 commission-free, non-proprietary ETFs while Vanguard offers all of its Vanguard ETFs commission-free.

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