The Securities and Exchange Commission has specific rules concerning how long it takes for the sale of stock to become official and the funds made available. The current rules call for a three-day settlement, which means it will take at least three days from the time you sell stock until the money is available.
Stock trade settlement covers the length of time a stock seller has to deliver the stock to the buyer's brokerage firm and the length of time the buyer can take to pay for the shares. The current rule is referred to as T+3 settlement. This means that the stock trade must settle within three business days after the stock trade was executed. If you sell stock, the money for the shares should be in your brokerage firm on the third business day after the trade date. For example, if you sell the stock on Wednesday, the money should be in the account on Monday.
Broker's Best Effort
The T+3 settlement rule applies to the brokerage firms handling the transaction, and in most cases, the money from sold shares will be in your account on the third day. However, the SEC website notes that a broker cannot deposit the money until it has been received from the brokerage firm of the stock buyer, and delays in the receipt of funds can occur. The SEC makes a point that securities laws don't mandate a hard deadline when the money must be available to you.
Receiving the Money
Once the proceeds from the sale of stock have been credited to your brokerage account, you must still get the money from the account. You can set up Automated Clearing House -- ACH -- transfers, which allow you to get the money to a bank account in one to two additional days. The quickest way to get money out of a brokerage account is to have the broker wire the money to your bank account. Wire transfers are a same-day service, but carry costs to move your money.
If you need money quickly from the sale of stock, some pre-planning could help expedite the process. Plan your stock sale according to the T+3 settlement. If you need to wire the money out of your brokerage account, contact the broker before the settlement date for instructions and know whom and where to call to initiate the wire. Some brokerage firms allow you to link your brokerage account to an associated bank account, enabling you to write a check to access the proceeds of a stock sale.
Tim Plaehn has been writing financial, investment and trading articles and blogs since 2007. His work has appeared online at Seeking Alpha, Marketwatch.com and various other websites. Plaehn has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy.