How do I buy a few shares of stock?

Our 16 year old daughter has shown a sudden interest in stocks. Her 16th birthday is coming up, and I would like to buy her a few shares of stock in a company of her choosing (e.g. McDonald’s, Target).

What’s the best way to go about doing this?

And I know this is old-fashioned, but I think it would be really cool if I could get her an actual (hardcopy) stock certificate. I would be willing to pay a modest fee for it.

Open a brokerage account in her name. I prefer online brokers as opposed to old-fashioned brokerage houses with meatbag stockbrokers in them. Those people are useless.

Ameritrade and E-Trade are both pretty good. Ameritrade has no minimum deposit. They also have a form you can fill out to request physical stock certificates, but they charge $40 for the privilege.

What freido said, I’ve been using Sharebuilder and have been very happy with it. $6.95 per trade so keep in mind, that seven bucks is more then 10% of one share of Target.

I don’t know how much you’re willing to give her, but maybe buy her say, 5 shares of Mcdonalds, let her pick a time to sell it and then let her trade it until she’s out of money. Tell her (and I think this would be fun), if it hit’s zero (or close to it), she’s done, it she doubles her money she can withdraw it and keep it (or maybe withdraw half and you can take the other half back).
Something like that would be more fun, IMO, then just having a stock certificate, but actually force her to start learning how to interact with the market. Hell, you might catch her watching some CNBC at night after she’s done with her homework if she thought there’s a $1000 reward in a few months.
I started trading a few years ago, I only wish I had learned a few years earlier. I’m kicking myself for not getting in during the 2009 crash. Learning how to trade at 16 is going to be a lot more valuable then framing a piece of paper that says 1 Share of TGT.

Most discount brokerages will essentially offer the same services. Commissions might differ by 50 cents or a dollar.

You could also set up an account on a stock market simulator. For example:

Online there is also Fidelity and Scottrade. I bet your bank could hook you up if you don’t know who to trust. Online is definitely easier though- if you are willing to share your bank acct # with them, you can wire money into your brokerage account and trade right away.

Lots of companies don’t issue paper stock certificates anymore. Disney notably stopped issuing their whimsical Micky-adorned ones a few months ago. I use sharebuilder too but $6.95 per transaction is a hefty amount. If you enroll in their automatic investment plan, for $12/month you get zero transaction costs for up to 12 stocks. First month’s free. I’d use that to get started in setting up the portfolio and then if you buy more than 2 stocks per month it pays for itself. Also know you don’t have to buy whole shares of stock. You can say that you want to buy $50 worth of Apple even though it’s trading at 10x that.

Also, I use google finance (still in beta) as a quick and easy way of seeing the gains and losses of my particular portfolio since I’m always logged into google and notsomuch yahoo. You can track the dow, nasdaq, s&p, but it’s not a true reflection of what you’re holding (unless you’re heavily invested in index funds).

What about a single share:

Been years since I used them - but had good experiences.

I just bought a share of John Deere stock for my dad through for Christmas. It was pricey, but the results were nice.

After Disney, Dreamworks seems to have the coolest-looking stock certificates. The top of Shrek’s head peeps up from the bottom.