Investing for retirement is about having access to investment guidance, comprehensive research, and fantastic customer service.

Getting started with retirement means first opening a standard retirement account such as a 401k, IRA, SEP IRA, or similar. All of the brokers mentioned above support every retirement account type. Furthermore, all of these brokers support roll overs if you want to transfer assets from a different brokerage.

Next, the question to ask is, “what level of service would I like?” If personal hand holding is not for you and you want to build your own diversified portfolio, Capital One Investing's PortfolioBuilder tool is something to look into, for example. Charles Schwab and Fidelity both lead the industry in research, with TD Ameritrade, Scottrade, and Merrill Edge not too far behind. If passing full control of your portfolio to an investment advisor appeals to you, then any of the brokers will be able to suit your needs.

For clients electing to use an investment advisor and have their portfolio managed professionally, yearly management fees will vary based on the type of service, how actively the account is being managed, and how large the portfolio is. Traditionally, management fees are lowered as clients increase the total assets they have being managed. 

All in all, Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab are the two undisputed leaders in the retirement space when ranking by total assets. Both firms also have the longest history of being in business and as a result the most experience in providing retirement services. They understand how to cater to the client’s specific needs and help make retirement a prosperous experience.

That said, Merrill Edge, TD Ameritrade, and Scottrade shouldn’t be completely written off. All three brokers provide great research for independent investing, retirement specialists of their own, and high quality client experiences. Merrill Lynch for example, a counterpart to Merrill Edge underneath parent company Bank of America, houses over 15,000 financial advisors.