Three major positive changes in US stock market at the beginning of 21st century bring tremendous investing opportunities to individual investors, leveling the playing field of once institution-dominated arena:
(1) The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal agency that oversees the nation’s stock markets, ordered all U.S. stock markets to convert to decimals by April 9, 2001. With this change, the spread for individual investors to trade stocks plunged and resulted in huge increase in market liquidity.
(2) US federal law Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 was a enacted on July 30, 2002, which set new or enhanced standards for all U.S. public company boards, management and public accounting firms. Since then, financial restatements from public companies declined significantly, and individual investors can reliably count on public financial statements to analyze stock fundamental factors without the need to hire an army of accounting investigators for the job.
(3) With the rapid advance of information technologies, individual investors can trade stocks at sub-penny level commission, the same (if not lower) rate as institutions, with the same direct access the trading venues.
With all above, individual investors no longer have to limit their investment needs to the investment products sold by Wall Street companies that are full of conflict-of-interests.