The number of companies offering brokerage accounts has increased, including banks such as Ally Bank. Some brokerage companies provide a simplified version such as Robinhood where investors can buy and sell stocks, ETFs, options and cryptocurrency from a mobile app for free. Although Robinhood doesn't offer trade options for mutual funds or foreign stocks.
There are many fees an investor will incur when investing in mutual funds. One of the most important fees to consider is the management expense ratio (MER), which is charged by the management team each year, based on the number of assets in the fund. The MER ranges from 0.05% to 0.7% annually and varies depending on the type of fund. But the higher the MER, the more it impacts the fund's overall returns.
Finally, one point to mention is that a given cryptocurrency can be listed in more exchanges, with different listing prices (see below – Arbitraging). The best place to look for a cryptocurrency listing in term of total market capitalisation is Coinmarketcap. Cryptocurrencies are listed per descending order of market capitalisation; the site also allows to deep-dive on each cryptocurrency to see their value over time and where they are listed. Some cryptocurrencies may be listed on several exchanges but only 1 or 2 exchanges may see the critical mass of transactions taking place.
Competition has spurred many brokerages to slash commission fees, which can add up quickly if you buy and sell stocks, mutual funds or ETFs frequently. Robinhood is not the only company that does not charge commission fees. Starting in October, Interactive Brokers is providing an unlimited number of commission-free trades on U.S. exchange-traded stocks and ETFs along with no account minimums or inactivity fees.
In contrast, professional fund managers (information here) do not want tips. They have dozens of good ideas of their own. They won't be sharing those ideas with you and they will not be expecting you to share yours. Instead, they ask about how you allocate money. "Which sectors and markets do you like and why?" The difference between these approaches is like night and day.
A local financial regulator or competent monetary authority or institute is assigned the task of regulating the stock market of a country. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the regulatory body charged with overseeing the U.S. stock markets. The SEC is a federal agency that works independently of the government and political pressure. The mission of the SEC is stated as: "to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation."
When thinking about a stock exchange it is worth remembering that it is a capital market. The primary purpose of a capital market is to enable businesses to raise money to provide working capital to fund expansion and growth. In exchange for this money, the companies issue equity in the form of stock, creating stockholders. Each stockholder ownes a piece of the active business relative to the amount of money they invested.
Once you are familiar with the concepts above, and know that you can (and eventually will) be influenced, you need to do some research on what projects you want to invest into. There are to date 1400+ cryptocurrency projects listed on coinmarketcap, a website that tracks projects, market value etc. This is a good start to understand market capitalisation, price of the cryptocurrency unit in what we understand when we begin (fiat currency i.e. dollars or anything else), total amount of assets in circulation etc.