Brokerage accounts allow you to purchase and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, ETFs and other investments. You can put money in, take money out, and trade among investments. Taxable account or tax-advantaged IRA — it's your choice.

How a Brokerage Account Works

Many common transactions can be conducted online. When you buy or sell securities, you pay a commission or transaction fee. You’re likely to incur a higher fee if a trade requires the assistance of a broker.

The brokerage firm keeps a record of all your transactions and issues account statements. With most brokerage accounts, you can also view all your investments and positions on the web any time you choose.

Some brokerage firms charge a nominal annual fee to maintain your account; most also enforce a minimum balance requirement. You can also expect to pay a commission, or transaction fee, for each buy or sell transaction. The commission can vary and is typically based on the number of trades you place.

As a general rule, you can expect to pay taxes on any capital gains (profits) you realize when you sell securities in your brokerage account. The amount of tax that you pay will depend on how long you've owned the security, and the amount of any profits you realize. In addition, any dividends or interest that you receive from your investments are usually taxed as income, although there are a few exceptions.

TIAA-CREF does not offer tax advice. Please consult with your personal tax advisor regarding your particular situation.

Your individual circumstances may affect the amount of taxes you owe on your investments and you should always consult a tax advisor to understand your situation.

Learn how a brokerage account can help 

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