Investing is a bit like double dutch. There’s a game going on, a rhythm happening, skills to be mastered. You want to get in there and play, too—but the whole thing just feels so intimidating. Should you go with a broker? Trade penny stocks, whatever the heck that means? Watch “The Big Short” a couple times and take notes? Maybe your Uncle Steve who once met Warren Buffet at a conference would be willing to do some FaceTime…
The truth is, if you want to dip your toe in the investing world it’s never been easier, thanks to some investment apps that make everything less confusing and a whole lot more frictionless. Companies have come up with innovative ways to help us build wealth, create a safety net and prep for retirement—you know, all those good reasons people invest. Use these apps to first figure out what kind of investor you’re going to be and how to get started, then dive in there and manage your blossoming portfolio.
For a Reality Check
Online education tool FinMason doesn’t sell investments or manage money—but it can help you figure out a solid plan. The app assesses your risk tolerance, giving you a FinScore, and sees if you’re on track to meet your retirement goals. It can even predict how you’d fare in the event of a poor market or, Financial Gods forbid, a crash. Then it will assess strengths and weaknesses in your portfolio and suggests ways you might want to talk to an advisor about them. Later, you can compare how your portfolio is doing against the six million (literally, six million) other investments FinMason analyzes. The company does not sell your data, and is not affiliated with any banking or Wall Street institutions, so all you’re getting is advice.
Investing with Sneaky Savings
Hey buddy, can you spare some change? Yes, you can, and that’s the unique approach this Los Angeles-based company uses to nudge people to overcome the mental barriers to saving and investing. Acorns automatically rounds up purchases made on your credit cards or debit cards to the nearest dollar and siphons the difference into your portfolio. The money can go into one of five diversified portfolios, ranging from aggressive to conservative, based on your goals, age and risk tolerance. You can also set recurring investments to set aside more on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, or, throw a lump sum in there anytime you are feeling flush. Dividends are automatically reinvested back into the portfolio, to further boost your account’s growth.
Fees: Accounts under $5,000 are $1 a month, $5,000 and up are .25% a year. Deposits and withdrawals don’t incur any fees. Acorns waives management fees for students and anyone under age 24; accounts are available for those ages 18 and up.
For A Fresh Take on Traditional Investing
Betterment focuses on making investing straightforward to understand. It offers two types of investments: stocks and more conservative bonds, and diversifies your money across multiple funds. Then it handles the hard part—rebalancing: When your portfolio starts to drift away from your financial goals, Betterment gets you back to the desired allocation without you having to mess with it. The app also boosts tax efficiency by selling losses first, then gains, to minimize the tax bill. Take that, Uncle Sam. If you have an IRA, 401(k) or 403(b) and want to roll it over into Betterment, you can do that, too.
Fees: For accounts up to $10,000, there is an annual fee of 0.35% of the account balance with a minimum $100 per month auto-deposit or $3 a month without the auto deposit. Over $10,000, the yearly fee is .25%, and over $100,000, it is .15%. There are no transaction fees for buying and selling securities, and no fees for depositing or withdrawing from your account.
If You Like Gaming
If Bitcoin and Candy Crush Saga appeal to you, you’ll love Kapitall, where you can earn a virtual currency called Koins by becoming a more proficient investor and playing in games and tournaments. Kapitall actually started out solely as a game before becoming a real brokerage. Now, there are 12,000 load and no-load mutual funds available for purchase, but the gaming aspect remains. A monthly Market Masters Tournament pits Kapitallists against each other to see who can best trade a virtual $100,000 and win actual cash. Be sure to check out the site’s daily blog, KapitallWire, because it’s a great source of financial information; recent posts included a look at the fast food sector, gold futures, gender parity in the workplace, and encryption in wearables.
Fees: No minimum to open an account. Flat commission of $7.95 per trade. For more specifics, because things do deep-dive into details like $0.00019/share for a FINRA TAF, baby, read more here.
Trading in the U.S.
Robinhood was begun by two Stanford University roommates, Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, who wanted to broaden access to the financial markets for more people. They felt that $10 per trade really adds up. Their vision helped raised funding from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto, and the resulting company, Robinhood, offers customers a way to buy and sell stocks with zero commission. To set up an account, you need to be 18 and a U.S. citizen. Three taps and you can buy a stock, done. The app will also send you notifications when something important in the market happens.
Fees: Commission-free for U.S. listed stocks. If you do get fancy, there are fees for foreign securities, so here’s a complete list of those costs.
Tell me, is there an app you like to use to track your portfolio? If so, how often do you like to check in with what’s happening in the stock market?