When people think about terms like “investing” or “stocks,” it can be easy to conjure up mental images of high rollers in suits–people who have a lot of expendable income, who speak about finance in a different language and with advanced jargon, and who live for the ups and downs of the market…who even know how to translate those ups and downs to begin with.
While that may have been an accurate mental image to attach to investing originally, it’s time to update our ideas of who can really play in the market. You don’t have to have an appreciation for a dry martini or a costly suit to jump in with the rest of the investing audience–technology has made it easier on all of us who 1) may not have a pile of extra cash to be able to float toward stocks, or 2) may not have any real understanding of what “bull” and “bear” markets are, or how to read the stock ticker we automatically got on our phones. Several companies have, in recent years, introduced apps that break down investing for even the most novice of beginners: they’ll assess what risk level you can tolerate, what kinds of products or services are important to you, and how much money you have available to spend. After that, they’ll be your guide on your new stock market tour.
As someone who also doesn’t have a lot of money to invest (or never really looks around and thinks, Look at how much money I have to throw at something I know nothing about!) I started poking around and compiled a list of investing apps for people like you and me. Here are five different apps you can use if you’re unsure of what the stock market really entails (I promise you’re not alone) and/or don’t have an extra cache of cash lying around. And all of these apps you can use the pre-made watchlists and safety sector info in the SFTW Investor App to add to your watchlist.
- Stash is meant to take the mystery out of investing and give everyone a piece of the pie, for only $1 a month and $5 per investment. They’ve set up categories for you to browse and determine which sectors (technology, travel, etc.) are important to you or interesting enough to you that you may want to buy shares of companies inside those categories. One of my favorite parts about Stash is their “Jargon Hacks,” which help break down all the language around the stock market that can make a beginner’s head spin. In no time, you can speak with confidence about your investing decisions. Trade and invest as you want to, or set up “Aut0-Stash”: set your budget and your preferences, and Stash will buy and sell for you in the sectors you choose.
- App fee: $1/month
- Minimum investment: $5
- LOYAL3 (to become FolioFirst mid-May)
- LOYAL3 is an app that allows you to “own what you love,” and when you get started, that’s the thing they want to know about most. Getting started means picking a company (or companies) who matter to you: AMC? Snapchat? Delta Airlines? Whatever type of company you’re looking to invest in, LOYAL3 makes it easy. Come mid-May, LOYAL3 will be changing to FolioFirst, however, with a few other changes. This new platform will have a $5 fee per month, and you must make a minimum investment of $25–still pretty low in the grand scheme of investing. Take a look at both and keep tuned in to FolioFirst to see how it can work for your pocketbook!
- App fee: will be $5/month
- Minimum investment: moving from $10 to $25 mid-May
- Seeking to be a no-BS platform that doesn’t pull punches or charge fees every time you move in the market, Betterment says that its goal is to put out better advice to investors…without getting paid to do it. What does that mean? The premise is that, too often, investors recommend the plans that give them kickbacks–Betterment’s team doesn’t receive any such kickbacks, so they’re able to give impartial advice tailored specifically to what you need in your portfolio. With no minimum investment, no minimum balance, and only a 0.25% annual fee on any balances under $100k, Betterment could be the app you’ve been searching for to get quality investments on a budget.
- App fee: 0.25% annual fee on balances under $100k
- Minimum investment: No minimum investment, no minimum balance
- Why make investing a thought process at all? The theory behind Acorns is that you should be able to make money in the market without thinking twice about it, which is why they connect to your debit or credit card, take the extra cents from each transaction you make, and put those extra cents into your account balance. Did that latte cost $4.87? Acorns will round that up to $5 and take that extra 13 cents and put it into your account balance for investing. Each investment is a minimum of $5, and you can add in money to your account balance at any point in time. Acorns is designed to diversify your portfolio based on your desired risk level and return rate, giving you fractions of shares in the companies you want to spend money on.
- App fee: $1/month
- Minimum investment: $5
- Steal from the rich and give to the poor? That might not be exactly what’s happening with RobinHood, but they do provide a commission-free service to investors, meaning that beginner or low-budget investors don’t have to spend even more on an advisor in a brick-and-mortar building. RobinHood doesn’t charge for their beginner-level app; they make money off of their next-level app, RobinHood Gold, at $10/month. There are no fees for the beginner-level app, and no minimum investments, which makes this service ideal for someone who is looking for a low-risk way to get real-time data on stocks and enter the market successfully.
- App fee: $0
- Minimum investment: No minimum investment
Get the idea out of your head that you need to be a high roller in order to participate in the market. Download one of these apps to get started on a smaller budget and dip your toes in!