DEAR BRUCE: I dabble in investing. I have made purchases through direct purchase. I don't know about the pros and cons. I'm led to understand that I must use a broker to sell, however, I don't have one. I'm very conservative. Do all brokers require you to make timely purchases and require you to have a certain amount of cash in your account at all times? — Reader, via email

DEAR BRUCE: I dabble in investing. I have made purchases through direct purchase. I don't know about the pros and cons. I'm led to understand that I must use a broker to sell, however, I don't have one. I'm very conservative. Do all brokers require you to make timely purchases and require you to have a certain amount of cash in your account at all times? — Reader, via email

DEAR READER: I understand why people might choose to save on fees by handling their own accounts or using a discount broker. I have never purchased stock directly from a company and, as I view it, the fees saved on small transactions generally aren't worth playing the game. Some discount brokers handle the details while charging very little, so I believe that's the way to go.

The requirements for minimum amounts, etc., will vary from broker to broker. Many brokers advertise extensively; to find one, look in the business section of your newspaper or listen to the radio and television stations that specialize in financial news.

Send your questions to Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. Send email to bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns.

Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.