Investing can be intimidating in the best of times, and this isn’t the best of times.
Of course, you’ve probably heard that the best time to buy is when everybody else is selling. But maybe you’re not sure what to do with that information or feel like you don’t have enough money to get started investing. Or maybe you’re not sure which brokerage to entrust with your hard-earned money.
That’s where the best investing apps for beginners come in. You can learn the ropes without the trouble of dealing with a financial adviser or the difficulty of finding trustworthy sources on the internet. In 10 minutes, with less than $500, you could be set up in a smartly diversified portfolio with a company that will help you learn as you earn.
Here are some of the best investment apps and “robo-advisers” you could start with, and the strong points for each.
1. Acorns: Beginner automated investing
Acorns charges a flat fee of $1 to $5 per month depending on the features you want. The higher tiers include money advice for you and your family, the ability to set up recurring retirement contributions, and even a checking account with no minimum balance, ATM fees or overdraft fees.
There is no minimum investment.
Acorns is one of the best investment apps for those who want to get started, even though they may not have a lot of cash to invest at first. Its phone app is designed to round up the price of your everyday purchases to the nearest dollar then take that amount (your “change”) and automatically invest it in ETFs. It does this automatically after you link it to your credit card or checking account. Example: You buy a bag of groceries for $10.45 and pay for it with your linked credit card. The price charged to the card is rounded up to $11, then Acorns debits the difference (55 cents in this case) from your account and invests it.
Acorns has “Found Money” partnerships with more than 300 brands that work like cash back on a credit card — except the money is earmarked for investment. There’s a delay of 90 to 120 days in getting the money, which is automatically invested.
2. M1 Finance: Flexibility without fees
M1 Finance allows you to build a flexible, custom portfolio of individual stocks and funds or choose from dozens of premixed options for free. While it will likely appeal to experienced investors — and has a paid option that lets you trade or invest during an additional time window, among other things — it’s also one of the best investment apps for beginners who don’t want a lot of hand-holding.
M1 Finance lets you automate your contributions and supports fractional share investing, which is investing in expensive stocks without buying full shares. It doesn’t charge any commissions or the management fees that are common elsewhere, but the app can charge a $20 inactivity fee after 90 days for low balances. M1 Finance has a minimum account balance of $100, or $500 for retirement accounts.
3. Robinhood: No minimum simplicity
Robinhood is an easy place to get started investing because it has no minimum balance, a simple-to-understand interface, fractional shares and doesn’t charge commissions or fees.
Robinhood allows you to invest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, in addition to individual stocks and ETFs (exchange-traded funds, which are simply diversified portfolios of stocks, bonds or a mix of both).
The company also offers a premium subscription called Robinhood Gold with a cost starting at $5 a month. Gold offers access to investment research and data and margin trading, which involves borrowing (with interest) from Robinhood to invest.
4. Stash: Education for beginners
Stash lets you invest with no minimum, and monthly fees vary from $1 to $9 depending on account type. The beginner account allows you to invest in fractional shares of an individual stock, bond or ETF; the $3 per month “growth” account allows for IRAs; and the big “Stash+” offering provides monthly market research and allows for custodial investment accounts for kids.
Its Auto-Stash feature lets you schedule regular investments, and, like Acorns, it allows you to round up purchases and invest the spare change.
Stash recommends investments to you based on the profile you build at sign-up. It’s also one of the best investment apps if you want to get digestible educational content to boost your trading knowledge.
Plus, it offers personalized guidance, challenges and quizzes. It even has a podcast.
5. Betterment: Goal-based investment
Betterment LLC helps you plan savings and investments for specific life goals such as funding a safety net, a child’s education, a retirement nest egg or major purchases like a home or wedding.
Betterment’s basic plan has an annual advisory fee of 0.25%. (It also has a premium plan with a fee of 0.4%, which offers access to professional advice but requires a $100,000 balance.) Betterment says the ETFs it uses have average fees of 0.11%.
It charges no other fees, and there is no minimum balance for an account.
6. Ellevest: Investing for women
Ellevest, as you might guess from the name, is one of the best investing apps for women and was built around research on female investors. This robo-adviser tries to account for the gender pay gap and the likelihood of women living longer than men in designing portfolios, although male investors can and do use it too.
Ellevest‘s basic plan costs $1 per month; there are also Ellevest Plus at $5 per month and Ellevest Executive at $9 per month. The higher tiers include support for 401(k) rollovers and transfers, larger discounts on financial planning and career coaching services, and a wider variety of goal-setting options.
There is no minimum balance for the basic plan. The funds it uses carry fees ranging from 0.05% to 0.19%.
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