Think only rich fat cats in pinstriped suits can afford to buy and sell stocks? It may be easier than you think to open a brokerage or a retirement account and become an investor.

In fact, one broker just made it a little bit easier. Charles Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW) lowered the minimum deposit required to open an account from $2,500 to $1,000 for brokerage accounts, and from $2,000 to $1,000 for retirement accounts. The jury's still out on whether the move will benefit Schwab investors.

It's also a reminder that a number of discount brokers try to make it pretty easy for novice investors to dip their toes in the water. As a sampling, here's what it takes to get started with a brokerage or retirement account at a few discount brokers. You can get more details, and find out why Fools favor discount brokers, in the sponsored comparison chart and the rest of the Broker Center.


Regular Minimum

IRA Minimum




TD Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD)









Source: Broker websites. Fidelity waives minimums with automatic monthly deposits.

Even though low minimums (or no minimums, in some cases) make it easier to put your money to work, you won't become an investor if you just sit around hoping a spare pile of cash appears in your checking account. You'll have to save the money and make it happen.

Setting aside $1,000 isn't as hard as it sounds. You can accumulate that amount in less than a year if you can manage to save $100 a month. If you're just getting started, a retirement account may become your best friend. These accounts often have lower minimum deposit requirements, and they'll pay you back during your days of leisure and shuffleboard -- the reason most of us start investing in the first place.

Here's a little incentive: If you save an extra $100 a month now, you could turn it into an extra $168 a month if retirement's only 20 years away. Start saving that extra $100 a month when you're 30 years from retirement, and it could turn into an extra $338 for golf and bingo.

Wondering where you can find an extra $100 each month? Start with these ideas and you'll soon be finding ways to save a little here or there in every nook and cranny of your budget:

  • Review all your monthly expenses, from the phone to the premium cable channels to that gym membership you've only used twice (and that still gives you nightmares when you think back to the pain from that weight-lifting session). Cancel anything you don't need or don't use.
  • Stop paying ATM charges and late bill fees. Consider putting your bills on automatic payment if that gets the money there on time.
  • Make it your new hobby to compare prices and clip coupons before buying. Better yet, shop first by hunting for freebies or used goods that will do the job.
  • Get thee to a grocery store ... with a list. You only need to cut out a little bit of the week's fast food budget to see pretty big savings in a month. Reduce temptation by planning dinner ahead of time and keeping the pantry stocked. To see the biggest savings, resist those 2-for-1 chocolate chip cookie sales.

If you're looking for more money-saving tips, look to the Motley Fool Green Light newsletter, free for your perusal for 30 days. April's issue offers ideas that could save you as much as $1,174 and give you a good head start beginning that retirement account.

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Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple does not own stock in any company mentioned in this article. She welcomes your feedback. Charles Schwab is a Stock Advisor recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.