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Many people hold off on investing during the early part of their career, often because they feel like they don’t have enough money to get started and can’t afford to set anything more aside. But due to advances in investing techniques, you can now invest for a healthy, profitable return even when you have little money. For instance, you can invest for as low as $50 per month through an investment account from the moment you start earning money.
The most essential skill for building wealth is to develop good saving habits. You can build quite a fortune by regularly putting away money into an investment fund. If you make investing a pattern from the start–no matter how small your savings are–you will be in a much more stable financial position in later life.
How To Invest Small Amounts of Money
For this article, we will define “little money” as any amount over $100 but no more than $1,000 per month. With this amount of money, there are several ways to invest your savings for a profitable return.
Savings accounts are the first option for earning a profit on the money you can put aside from your income. They are easy to open, some with as little as $100. The profit rates are low, running from 0.50% to around 3.00%.
The main benefit is that they are risk-free investments. FDIC-backed bank accounts offer complete protection for amounts up to $250,000. Most people start their first investments by savings accounts when they are young.
Chime® offers a terrific online savings and checking account geared toward savers.
Eventually, when you get more experience and understand investment forces, you can move on to more advanced investment options that offer higher profits.
Robo advisors are specialized investment programs that help maximize your wealth and enhance capability. A robo advisor is ideal for a person without the financial means to hire a full-time financial advisor to manage their assets.
It is also great for people who want to maintain complete control of their investment but do not want to get into the minute details of selecting investments, rebalancing the portfolio, and placing trades on their accounts.
Robo advisors can automatically select investments based on preset criteria, such as aggressive or cautious investment appetite. Popular robo advisors even try to align your portfolio to investment objectives like tax-bill reduction. A selected variety of robo advisors can even make trades on behalf of the investor to maximize profitability.
Some of the more popular robo advisors include the following:
Wealthfront is favored by long-time small investors who want a complete, automated investment tool for their needs. Wealthfront is most useful for investors with little money who want a planning tool for diversified portfolio management.
Investment through Wealthfront is automated and allows you to rebalance the portfolio when dividends are reinvested, or money is deposited into the account. It uses threshold-based rebalancing, which means portfolios are periodically adjusted when their asset classes have moved away from targeted allocation.
This robo advisor allows investors to choose from a wide variety of asset classes, including U.S. stocks, foreign stocks, dividend stocks, natural resources, real estate, and emerging market bonds. You can also invest in inflation-protected securities, U.S. government, or municipal bonds.
There is a small management fee of 0.25% though you can get a waiver on fees up to $5,000 if you refer a friend or family member. The robo advisor has an automated option for daily tax-loss harvesting on all taxable accounts.
M1 has made it easier and more effective to invest money into a portfolio. This advanced robo advisor allows you to automatically invest and reallocate funds into various asset classes based on your preferences. It also allows you to trade stocks and ETFs for your portfolio free.
This robo advisor has one of the most extensive lists of no-fee investments available compared to any other brokerage platform. It also allows you to invest in fractional shares, i.e., part of a single stock. This gives you complete freedom to invest in the shares you want regardless of how expensive it is.
For example, suppose that you want to buy Google shares currently priced over $1,100 in the market. However, you can only invest $100 per month. M1 will let you purchase a little less than a tenth of the share each month, (or .909 of a share, to be precise), to give you one full share in 11 months.
The platform also allows you to analyze for your investment and get current market projections for free.
Betterment completes the trio of the top three robo advisors offered on the market. It is a powerful robo advisor that uses algorithms to determine the best investment strategy based on your risk tolerance and portfolio objectives.
One significant difference from other platforms is that Betterment only invests in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). These are diversified collections of assets such as stocks, bonds, and commodities.
Betterment is ideal for small investors because there is no minimum balance required to invest. There is an annual service fee of 0.25% used to cover portfolio management and trading costs for the business. The robo advisor also offers a premium service that charges a slightly higher, 0.40% annual fee but adds access to financial advisors and experts for investors.
The investment tool allows automatic rebalancing like other robo advisors to allow your portfolio to meet your investment goals. It has tax-loss harvesting, a strategy that reduces tax liability for investors. The company is a member of the SIPC which insures investments of up to $500,000 per account so you can be assured about the safety of your investment even if the company goes into liquidation.
Use a Micro-Savings App
A perfect way to begin investing if you have difficulty saving $25 per month is to use a combination micro-savings and micro-investing app, like Stash Invest. It doesn’t actually invest your money for you, like Betterment, but it does make it easy to accumulate the funds, then it will guide you through the process of choosing the right investments for your portfolio. The app has been used by more than three million people to accumulate $1.5 billion in investment funds.
You don’t need any money to open an account, and you can begin investing with as little as $5. Stash Invest comes with a debit card that enables you to invest additional money while you spend. For example, you can use “round-ups,” where the spare change from your purchases goes into your investment account. If you make a purchase for $5.25, your account is rounded-up to $6, with $0.75 going into your investment account.
Much like a robo-advisor, Stash Invest starts out by having you answer questions that help determine your financial goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance level. It creates a customized portfolio, from which you can choose recommended investment options. Those options consist of recommended exchange traded funds (ETFs) and individual stocks in a combination consistent with your risk tolerance.
Since you can invest in fractional shares, you can build a fully balanced portfolio with as little as $5. What’s more, there are no trading fees to reduce your portfolio. If you’ve been struggling to even get started investing, Stash Invest is an excellent strategy to help you begin.
Sign up for Stash and get a $5 bonus after funding your account with $5.
Another option is to buy fractional shares of stock via Public. There are no fees for trade commissions and no account minimums so you can simply download the app, sign up for an account and choose how much you want to invest. One stand-out feature of Public is the ability to see what other users are investing in. You don’t have to make your investments “public” if you don’t want to but it is interesting to see where other investors are putting their dollars. You can read more in our Public Review.
If you struggle to save, Acorns could be the solution. The app rounds up your spending to the nearest dollar and siphons off spare change into a separate account. If you buy a coffee for $5.65 it pays the vendor the correct amount, rounds up the purchase (in this case to $0.35), and then puts that change in an account ready for investing.
From there, the robo-advisor kicks into action. It spreads the spare change that would otherwise gather dust on your nightstand across a diverse portfolio of investments, ranging from large corporations to smaller startups.
You just need $5 to start investing, which is equivalent to a cup or two of coffee. Once you hit this amount, Acorns uses it to start creating a fully diversified portfolio that it manages and monitors every day. The more spare change the app collects, the more money you have to invest. But you can also make larger deposits into the account if you want to level up your investment efforts. Acorns is unique in that it acts as both a micro-savings account and a micro-investment tool. Read more in our Acorns Review.
Cryptocurrency is all the rage, but those with little money often assume that it’s not for them. Fortunately, this isn’t true.
Coinbase, for example, allows you to buy and store a variety of cryptocurrencies — such as Bitcoin and Ethereum — via a simple-to-use online dashboard or app.
Best yet, you’ll receive $5 in Bitcoin simply for getting started on Coinbase. It’s not a lot of money, but it could be the first step in your cryptocurrency investing strategy.
Investment banks and financial institutions are always coming up with new ways to enhance business profitability. P2P lending is gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional bank loans.
Generally, several small investors put money into a bank account and the resources are pooled together. The bank has complete control over which loans or business projects they want to fund with investors having little say over their funds’ allocation.
The P2P model puts control back into the hands of the investors. The P2P lending companies allow investors to see the projects that need funding and choose which ones they want to invest in.
The borrowers get the benefit of getting credit quickly on flexible terms. There are generally no prepayment penalties and no security is required for the loans.
The benefit for investors is that P2P lending has a higher yield rate than CD or saving accounts. You get access to diversified investment opportunities and don’t just get limited to bonds and stocks.
The downside to P2P lending is there is a high risk of the business defaulting, and since there is usually no FDIC coverage, you can lose all your money. Liquidity is another issue as investors may find it more challenging to sell their loans and cash out of a bad investment.
LendingClub is one of the leading P2P platforms for investors and borrowers. It is the largest online lender in the U.S. with more than $45 billion worth of loan transactions since its founding in 2007.
The club has a realistic operational model. Every borrower is assigned a grade based on their credit rating and income data. Investors can see the grades to determine how likely the borrower is to default and set interest rates.
The firm offers a variety of investment options ranging from an individual account to a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k) rollover, joint, corporate, and trust accounts. The minimum investment required is 1,000 for regular investment and $5,500 for an IRA. Most investments run for 3 – 5 years.
Once you have set up an account, the club requires you to invest at least $25 for each note. Notes are graded from A1, the best grade with the least risk/return, to E5, the lowest grade with the highest risk/return.
Investment through the platform isn’t available for everyone. For a start, you must have a gross income of at least $70,000 and a net worth of more than $70,000 as well. For California, the gross income must be $85,000 with a similarly higher net worth. The platform isn’t available in Alaska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
The platform charges a loan origination fee of 1% – 6% on borrowers, and there is a check processing fee of $7 for checks.
Enroll in Your Employers Investment Plan
If you are on a tight budget and cannot afford to spare a lot of money, then you can enroll in your employer’s retirement plan for growing your wealth. You don’t even have to contribute a significant portion of your income. Even a 1% salary deduction into the employer’s plan can add up to a lot of money.
A deduction of 1% of your salary is hardly something you will miss. But the contribution gets matched by your employer and you also get a tax reduction for contributing to the plan.
After you have committed to making a 1% contribution for each pay period, you can gradually increase the amount to 2% and 3% over time. There are a variety of investment tools you can use for managing your retirement fund. They make it much easier for you to keep track of your investments and grow them as required.
Mutual Funds are investment tools that let you invest in a portfolio of stocks and bonds. These funds are managed by experienced stockbrokers and financial advisors. They are the perfect investment opportunity for new investors without market experience or for investors who cannot devote a lot of time to monitoring the stock market.
The one problem with mutual funds is that you will have to make a substantial investment into the fund. The minimum starting balance for mutual funds is $500 – $2,000, and you will have to maintain the balance in the fund if you want to earn any reasonable profits. If you are low on funds, then these investment opportunities may seem challenging to achieve.
Thankfully, a variety of investment firms are willing to accept a lower starting balance, somewhere in the range of $100 – $250, as long as you commit to making a regular deposit of $50 – $100 to the fund every month.
Best Online Brokers for Mutual Funds
- TD Ameritrade: Ideal for more experienced traders looking for a rich set of tools and resources.
- E*Trade: Offers trading platforms and tools for any investment style.
- Ally Invest: Best for new investors and those looking for a very easy website to navigate.
- You Invest by J.P. Morgan: Best for free trades and cash bonuses.
Pay Off High-Interest Debt
Smart investment isn’t just about putting your funds into a project. If you are always low on cash, it could be because you have taken on high-interest debt, placing a drain on your budget.
You can improve your financial situation by clearing off debt before you consider investing your money into investment accounts. The first place to look at is your credit card debt.
Credit cards have an exorbitantly high rate of interest, usually starting from 15% and going up to 30% per year. Even if the outstanding balance is insignificant, like $500, you could be paying a very high-interest rate. Your credit card should be the first priority for paying off the debt.
Bonus Idea: Invest in Worthy Bonds
Still another way to earn high interest while you’re accumulating enough to invest in a fund is Worthy Bonds. It’s a peer-to-peer investment platform, where you can invest money in bonds issued by small businesses. The bonds don’t have FDIC insurance, but many of them are secured by the inventory of the issuing business. You can earn an annual return of 5% on an investment of as little as $10.
Worthy Bonds has a special advantage for anyone who has had difficulty saving money to invest in the past. Its mobile app works similarly to micro-savings apps, by using “round-ups” on spending activity to accumulate savings. For example, if you purchase a candy bar for $1.39, the app will charge your account an even $2.00, pay the merchant $1.39, then move $0.61 to your investment account. Once it reaches $10, it’ll be invested in a bond.
Related: How to Invest in Bonds
With an investment of just $100, you can spread your money across 10 different bonds for diversification purposes.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to start investing with little money–you just have to develop a plan, be patient, and make sure to do your research. You won’t get rich overnight, but slow and steady wins the race. So even if you don’t think you can afford to invest – you can. Set aside as little as $100 per month and you’ll start to see your wealth grow in no time.