While we all know that investing can be a great way to plan for the future, the whole concept can sound a bit intimidating to first-time investors. This is especially true if you don’t have a ton of money set aside to invest in a broker or financial advisor. Fear not, however, for gone are the days when trading, investing and making smart money moves were luxuries of the rich. Here you’ll find several low-cost ways to start investing, no matter how much money you do (or don’t) have to spare.
Make your spare change work for you with micro-investing
Wouldn’t it be nice if every time you went shopping, someone would meet you at the cash register, collect your spare change, and then go invest it for you? If this sounds awesome to you, then there’s actually an app that will do exactly that — minus the creepiness of some guy meeting you at the cash register to whisk away your spare change. If you’re more of a hands-off investor then check out an app called Acorns. Once you sign up, you’ll link your credit or debit cards so Acorns will be alerted every time you make a purchase. Every time you do, the app will round up your purchase to the nearest dollar. Say, for instance, that you spend $21.25 when picking up a few things at the store. Acorns will jump in and take out 75 cents, rounding your total purchase up to $22.00. They’ll then take that extra 75 cents and put it in a sort of virtual change jar with the spare change from all your other purchases.
Once you’ve got a hefty balance of $5.00 in your account, they’ll put it to work by investing it for you in your very own ETF. What’s an ETF you ask? Basically, it’s an investment portfolio made up of stocks and bonds. With Acorns, you’ll be investing in everything from government bonds to real estate to large corporations without ever having to pick up a single copy of the Wall Street Journal. So how much is all this gonna cost you? Nothing if you’re in college and just $1 a month if you’re not. If you want to get even fancier, you can upgrade to $2 a month and add on an IRA account to start saving for retirement. You can also go wild and crazy with the $3 a month package that will get you everything in the first two plans, plus a checking account that can automatically score you extra money to invest when you shop at certain retailers.
Cut out the middle man when playing the stock game
If you like the thrill of staying on top of the stock market but aren’t so thrilled about paying a stockbroker, then check out an app called Robinhood. There you’ll get easy access to up to the hour reports on hundreds of popular stocks, as well as the chance to invest in any of them with no fees attached. Robinhood, which was built around the idea of making investing a realistic option for everyone, gives users the chance to invest in stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies, all commission-free. Once you sign-up, you can transfer as much or as little money into your account as you want and then begin trading immediately. They even have a section that reveals that most popular stocks you can invest in for less than $25.
Another easy way to cut out brokerage fees is to buy stock directly from a company. Say you’ve found a company you’re feeling pretty savvy about and want to invest without the help of a broker. Do a little research and see if they offer a DSPP, or Direct Stock Purchase Plan. If so, they’ll let you buy stocks directly, generally with one or two low-cost stipulations. Most of them either allow you to make a one-time purchase of $250-$500 or will set up a plan where you agree to invest a certain amount (usually around $50 minimum) from your bank account monthly for six months.
Get a little guidance to help you learn the ropes
What if you’re not quite the hands-off type but aren’t exactly sure what you’re doing either? A good middle of the road solution for this situation is to look into a company like Ellevest. If you’re a woman, you’ll feel right at home, as Ellevest was built by women with the female investor in mind. Rest assured, however, that they also welcome men and investors of any gender identification. Ellevest’s goal is to personalize your investing experience by helping you meet your individual goals with tools like auto-investing, professional support, and automatic rebalancing.
When you sign up, you’ll just tell them a bit about yourself and your goals and they’ll hook you up with personalized portfolio suggestions. An additional perk is that they’re a fiduciary, which means that you don’t have to take their word for it when they say they’ll act in your best interests — they’re actually required to by law. With their digital program option, there’s no minimum to get started and you can withdraw your money penalty-free at any time. As far as what you’ll pay, it all depends on how much you invest and earn. With the digital program, you only pay .25% of your account balance each year. In other words, if you end up with $500 in play, you’ll pay just $1.25 for the year. Not bad, huh?