It’s not uncommon for us to see headlines of people “getting rich” by trading hot stocks. What’s less noticed are the millions who do it quietly and deliberately. Take note of this second group, because their actions often start small and the effects compound with time.
In fact, many achieve their retirement goals by making the simple decision to invest small amounts of money early in life and continue doing so on a regular basis through retirement, Gen Z and Millennials included. The odds of reaching a financially secure retirement increase dramatically when you take a few easy steps as early as possible.
This article discusses the best micro-investing apps available to Millennials, Gen-Zers and any generation interested in learning how to invest small amounts of money steadily and consistently over time.
Best Micro-Investing Apps—Our Top Picks
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Open a Fidelity™ Youth Account for your teen, and Fidelity will drop $50 into their account. Get $100 for yourself when you open a new Fidelity account and fund with $50¹.
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Best Micro-Investing Apps
|Plynk™ Invest||☆ 4.6 / 5|
|Commission-free trades**||$85 in signup and net deposit bonuses|
|Fidelity Youth™ Account||☆ 4.8 / 5|
Investing in stocks
|Free, no trading commissions||$50 bonus for teens, $100 bonus for parents1|
|Robinhood||☆ 4.4 / 5|
Basic stock, crypto and ETF investing
|Commission-free trades||Free stock with sign up|
|Public.com||☆ 4.7 / 5|
Free investment app with access to alternatives
|Commission-free trades||$3 - $300 in free stocks for signing up|
|Acorns||☆ 4.8 / 5|
Automated investing in the background into diversified investments
|$3/month - $9/month||$20 sign up bonus when making first deposit at account opening|
|Webull||☆ 4.7 / 5|
Self-directed investors and intermediate traders
|Commission-free trades||Six to Twelve free stocks with $5 deposit, valued between $18 - $36,000|
SoFi Invest: iOS, Android and Desktop
|☆ 4.6 / 5|
Fee-free active trading and automated investing
|Commission-free trades||Free stock worth between $5 - $1,000|
|M1 Finance||☆ 4.3 / 5|
Fee-free active trading and automated investing
|Commission-free trades and automated investing; $10/month or $95/year on M1 Plus subscription for custodial account||Get 3 months of M1 Plus for free|
|☆ 4.6 / 5|
Everyday people looking to start managing their finances
|$3/month - $9/month||$5 stock bonus for making a deposit of $5 or more|
|Betterment||☆ 4.8 / 5|
Investors looking to build a globally-diversified portfolio and leverage tax-loss harvesting
|Greenlight Max||☆ 4.7 / 5|
Teaching investing fundamentals with guidance from parents; allows individual and index fund investing
|$9.98/month||One month free|
1. Plynk (Best Micro-Investment App for Beginners)
- Available via Apple iOS and Android App on Google Play.
- Price: Free, but certain features may require a fee in the future.
- Sign up here
Plynk™ is an app designed to help you start investing and learn along the way, and they’re currently offering a $10 account signup and $75 net deposit bonus ($85 combined).
The Plynk app helps investors put their money into an investment portfolio. You can invest with as little as $1, and trade stocks, funds, and crypto commission-free**—all in one app.
The platform uses straightforward, easy-to-understand language to explain investing concepts. No jargon. No complex charts and tables. Just simple-language tips and how-tos.
Navigate investment ideas with tools to help you explore and choose. With Plynk Explore, just answer a few questions, and the app will display stock, ETF, and mutual fund investments that mesh with your investment comfort zone.
To assist with building your financial literacy, Plynk offers complete lessons and courses on financial education, including tips, educational content and how-tos.
The Plynk app enables you to make use of a powerful investing technique called dollar-cost averaging through participating in recurring investments. By continuing to buy a fixed dollar amount of investments over time, whether the market is up or down, you can build a disciplined investing habit and lower the stress that can come from market movements.
One of Plynk’s most interesting features involves, of all things, gift cards. Specifically, you can redeem unused gift cards for money that you can use to buy stocks in your favorite companies.
If this sounds interesting to you, consider opening an account with Plynk. To make it more worth your while, they have a few special offers.
Simply open an account and link your bank account to get a $10 signup bonus. Plynk is also offering a special bonus promotion through Dec. 14, 2023. If you make a deposit, Plynk will double it up to $75. Customers must have a minimum of $25 in net deposits during the promotional period to receive a match. That means you may be eligible for up to $85 in signup bonuses from Plynk by taking qualifying actions.
Read more in our Plynk review.
2. Fidelity Youth™ Account: (Best Investment Account for Teens)
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: No account fees, no account minimum, no trading commissions*
- Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)
- Promotion: Teens get $501 on Fidelity® when they download the Fidelity Youth™ app and activate their Youth Account; parents get $100 when they fund a new account
Is your teen interested in jumpstarting their financial future? Do you want them to build smart money habits along the way?
Of course you do! Learning early about saving, spending and investing can pay off big when you start on the right foot. And one tool that can help your teen get that jump is the Fidelity Youth™ Account—an account owned by teens 13 to 17 that’s designed to help them start their money journey. They can start investing by buying most U.S. stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and Fidelity mutual funds for as little as $1!⁴
Your teen will also get a free debit card with no subscription fees, no account fees³, no minimum balances, and no domestic ATM fees⁵. And they can use this free debit card for teens to manage their cash and spend it whenever they need.
And as for building smart money habits? You and your teen can access your account through the Fidelity Youth™ app, which has a dedicated Learn tab packed with materials developed specifically to help teens develop good financial habits. Not only will Fidelity’s interactive lessons, videos, articles, tools, and calculators accelerate their learning—but for every level they complete, reward dollars will be deposited into their account to use however they want.
Controls parents want and need
A parent or guardian must have or open a brokerage account with Fidelity® to open a Fidelity Youth™ Account. For new Fidelity® customers, opening an account is easy, and there are no minimums and no account fees.
Parents and guardians have plenty of tools they can use to monitor their teen’s activity: They have online account access, can follow monthly statements and trade confirmations, and can view debit card transactions made in the account.
To make it even easier, you can set up alerts to notify you of trades, transactions, and cash management activity, keeping you firmly in the loop on actions your teen takes across the Fidelity Youth™ Account’s suite of products.
If your teen has an interest in learning about investing and taking their first steps toward building their financial journey, you should consider downloading the Fidelity Youth™ app and opening a Fidelity Youth™ Account. The account comes custom-built for their needs, which will help them become financially independent and start investing for their future.
Read more in our Fidelity Youth™ Account review.
3. Robinhood (Best Simple Stock Trading App for Beginners)
- Available: Sign up here
- Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)
Robinhood is a pioneer of low-cost trading, jumping into the investing public’s consciousness in 2013 when they rolled out commission-free trading. They remain a standout option for cost-minded investors thanks to their continued $0 commissions on stocks, ETFs, and options, as well as for its fractional trading, which allows people to invest with as little as $1.
More importantly, though, Robinhood has evolved from a bare-bones app appealing to mostly beginner investors to a fuller-featured account suitable for a wider range of experience levels.
For instance, Robinhood now offers individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Roth IRAs via Robinhood Retirement. Functionally, it comes up short compared to many other IRA providers because of its investment options. It offers just stocks and ETFs; like with its brokerage account, mutual funds aren’t available. Options aren’t currently available, though Robinhood has explicitly stated that options will be made available soon.
However, Robinhood Retirement still stands out from the pack because it’s the only IRA provider that offers matching funds. If you open up an IRA with Robinhood Retirement, Robinhood will match 1% of any IRA transfers, 401(k) rollovers, and annual contributions to your account—and 3% if you pay for the Robinhood Gold service ($5 per month)—typically almost immediately after you make your contribution. Better still: Any matches made on annual contributions don’t count toward your contribution limit.
(Friendly message from your Young and the Invested tax expert: The reason the IRA match doesn’t count toward your annual IRA contribution limit is because Robinhood treats it as interest income in your IRA.)
You can choose your IRA investments yourself, but Robinhood’s Portfolio Builder can also provide you with a custom recommended portfolio made up of five to eight ETFs.
Robinhood has long catered to younger investors with its gamified interface and growing library of educational content. But over the years, it has added a boatload of other features for new and experienced investors alike. Advanced Charts, for instance, provides simple and customizable charts with a variety of technical features. Robinhood’s Options Strategy Builder simplifies the options-trading process by helping you build a strategy based on what you expect your target stock or ETF will do in the future. Robinhood also offers 24/7 commission-free cryptocurrency trading (though you’ll still have to pay a spread), allows extended-hours trading, and lets users earn interest through stock lending.
Robinhood Gold, which I mentioned above, is a monthly subscription service that offers several more features mostly geared toward advanced traders. Benefits include Level II market data provided by Nasdaq, a lower charged rate on margin investing than regular accounts, higher interest on uninvested brokerage cash via the cash sweep program, and bigger Instant Deposits.
If you want to keep your banking and investing close together, you can also add a Robinhood spending account. This FDIC-insured account includes a Robinhood Cash Card issued by Sutton Bank—however, if you don’t want this physical debit card, you do have the option of having a virtual debit card only. The Cash Card is compatible with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, and also provides you with access to fee-free withdrawals from more than 90,000 ATMs. The card allows you to round-up purchases and invest the money into your brokerage or crypto account.
4. Public.com (Best Investment App for Beginners With Alternative Investments)
Public.com is a commission-free micro investing app that targets Millennials and Gen-Zers who have attuned their senses to social media. While the company previously followed the lead of apps like Robinhood with monetizing Payment for Order Flow (PFOF), or receiving kickbacks from clearinghouses for routing trades to them, they’ve recently abandoned this practice.
Instead, they now rely on other revenue streams as well as a “tipping” system. This places this beginner investment app firmly on the side of retail investors and not pledging allegiance to Wall Street clearinghouses.
Why is Public.com a Good Investment App for Beginners?
What Public.com is really about is making investing like an investing social network, where members can own fractional shares of stocks and ETFs, follow popular creators, and share ideas within a community of investors.
What Public.com aims to do above all else is make the stock market an inclusive and educational place, with social features that make it easy to collaborate as you build your confidence as an investor—for free.
For those interested in starting to trade on Public.com, the online broker platform for beginners offers a free signup bonus if you make an initial deposit.
Further, you can share your special link with others and gift them free stocks (fractional shares) as well.
If this sounds like an interesting investment app, open an account and make an initial deposit to see if the app meets your social and investing needs.
Read more in our Public.com investing app review.
Related: Best Free Investing Apps
5. Acorns (Best Micro-Investing App to Learn About Investing)
- Available: Sign up here
- Platforms: Apple iOS and Google Android.
- Price: Personal: $3/mo. Personal Plus: $5/mo. Premium: $9/mo.
Acorns is a micro investing app for minors and young adults who wish to start with a small amount of money in their investments. You can choose to invest your spare change through a linked debit card and make regular deposits to contribute to your investment portfolio.
With more time, these recurring contributions and rounded up deposits from your purchases could grow into a large portfolio over time. Hence the company’s name, Acorns: start small like an acorn but grow strong into a mighty oak tree. The service doesn’t charge money to make trades on your behalf, but it does charge an account fee depending on the services you select for your account.
When you set up an account, you answer questions related to your risk tolerance, financial goals and how much money you have to invest in stocks and bonds in your Acorns brokerage account. Consider these questions akin to what a financial advisor might ask when setting up an account to manage. Based on your answers, it makes recommendations for investment vehicles like stocks, bonds and real estate to create a diversified investment portfolio.
The service charges a monthly fee for users. Though, it doesn’t charge trading commissions when your money gets invested on your behalf in fractional shares of ETFs. Instead, it charges an account fee depending on the subscription plan you select for your account. These subscriptions provide various products which fit well for goals of young adults and even allow the service to act as one of the best money apps for kids with its all-in-one platform (Acorns Family).
Their plans are as follows:
- Acorns Personal ($3 per month): Includes an Acorns Invest investment account, as well as Acorns Later for tax-advantaged investment options such as Roth IRAs. Also includes Acorns Checking, a bank account that has no account fees, lets you withdraw fee-free from more than 55,000 ATMs nationwide, and Smart Deposit, which allows you to automatically invest a bit of each paycheck into your Acorns accounts.
- Acorns Personal Plus ($5 per month): Everything in Acorns Personal (Acorns Invest, Later, and Checking), plus Premium Education, which are live onboarding sessions covering account setup, Round-Ups, setting up recurring investments, and more; Emergency Fund; and a 25% bonus on Acorns Earn rewards (up to $200 per month).
- Acorns Premium ($9 per month): Everything in Personal Plus, plus Acorns Early, which allows you to open a custodial investment account for your child so you can begin investing for them while they’re a minor; custom portfolios that allow you to hold individual stocks; live Q&As with financial experts; a 50% match on Acorns Earn rewards (up to $200 per month); $10,000 in life insurance; even the ability to set up a will for free.
Learn more in our Acorns review.
6. Webull (Best Stock Trading App for Beginners)
- Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Google Android.
- Price: Free trades
- Sign up here
Webull came into the stock trading world in 2018 when it started challenging Robinhood for market share. This stock trading app offers free stock trading (no trading fees) as well as free trades on ETFs, options and cryptocurrencies.
The company also recently added the ability to trade fractional shares, making this a great app for micro investing.
Like most investment apps available, the company provides access to trade on your smartphone, tablet or desktop.
Further, it charges no commissions for the trades because Webull makes money on other actions you take, like Payment for Order Flow (PFOF), margin loans, interest on cash and service fees for their Nasdaq TotalView Level 2 Advances quotes subscription.
Webull also provides you access to several powerful tools you can use for in-depth trading analysis.
If these account features sound attractive, the best part might also come with knowing setting up a Webull account is free and comes with no account minimums you must meet or maintain.
Finally, to de-risk your sign up, Webull also runs frequent promotions that give free stocks.
Read more in our Webull review.
7. SoFi Invest
- Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Android App on Google Play.
- Price: Free trades
- Sign up here: (iOS), Android, Desktop
SoFi Invest is an app that allows you to track stocks and trade your money. The well-known brand in the personal finance space also has a presence in the investing world by offering free trades on stocks, ETFs, cryptos and more.
The service provides you the ability to trade actively or stand back and let its automated investing tools take over.
This micro investing app allows you to trade in fractional shares, called “stock bits” by SoFi. Fractional shares are tiny portions of a share of stock worth less than the full value of one share.
The app is a great choice for investing your spare change or adding more to the market at once by tapping into savings accounts to make larger deposits on a regular basis.
Therefore, this app might make a good place to hold your investment accounts because you’ll have options of how to invest money.
The company wants to serve all customers who have an interest in improving their financial situation alongside participating in their other personal finance products like refinanced student loans, money management, credit cards and more.
Start by making a $5 deposit today and maintaining this low account minimum.
8. M1 Finance (Best Complete Financial Solution Micro Investing Stock App)
- Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Google Android.
- Price: Free trades
- Sign up here
M1 Finance offers free stock trading but also provides automated investing according to your predetermined investment decisions as this site’s top robo-advisor pick.
What we like most about this app compared to other investment platforms is the ability to make recurring deposits that automatically get invested into your portfolio.
You can use fractional shares on M1 Finance to break down your favorite investments into bite-sized additions to your brokerage account.
M1 Finance acts as a singular personal finance app to assist with building wealth through automating your investments into diversified portfolios, having a bank account and linked debit card that provide market-beating interest rates and have access to valuable personal finance literature.
Most importantly, investing with M1 Finance can be as simple as depositing money, setting your stock and index fund selections and having the platform automate your investments on your behalf.
I’ve said it before, but this truly automates your investments if you set up recurring deposits, allowing your wealth to build.
From there, M1 Finance automatically rebalances your portfolio in line with your stated asset allocation targets. Doing this at regular intervals has been shown to improve overall portfolio performance.
It does so by moving outperforming funds into underperforming ones, capturing a value effect over time as returns revert to the mean.
Consider opening an investment account with M1 Finance.
Read more in our M1 Finance review.
Related: Best Debit Cards for Kids
9. Stash (Best Micro-Investing App for Approaching Finances)
- Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Android App on Google Play
- Price: Starts at $3/mo
- Sign up here
Stash is a mobile-friendly personal finance app that comes paired with investing options and a checking account. Stash acts as a low-cost, all-in-one financial platform and gets included in this list as a result.
While the app primarily caters to hands-off investors looking to automate their investing, you can also actively select stocks to trade. You can do all of this as you spend money and make recurring deposits into your account.
Stash offers custodial brokerage accounts for real beginners (young investors), or those under the age of 18. Getting started early on your investing journey can build real long-term wealth over time as your returns compound.
Stash comes with a recurring monthly fee but justifies this with a full-service personal finance platform, including access to a checking account and debit card.
Of note, while it does charge a monthly account service fee for its full-suite of products, it does not charge trading commissions for your investment holdings.
10. Betterment (Best for Automation and Tax-Loss Harvesting)
- Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Google Android.
- Account Minimum: $0.
- Price: 0.25% Management Fee (AUM)
- Sign up here
The service does not allow you to invest in individual stocks but will automatically place deposits into fractional bits of index fund ETFs aligned with your portfolio objectives.
The features of this platform make the micro-investing app most suitable to investors looking to diversify instantly as they make contributions to their accounts.
The service charges an all-encompassing 0.25% assets under management fee but can justify this expense in taxable brokerage accounts through its tax-loss harvesting feature.
Lowering your taxable income through their tax-loss harvesting feature is one of the products that justifies the 0.25% AUM fee for holdings in a taxable account.
It works by selling losses to lock in short-term capital losses and lowers your taxable income while taking your proceeds and placing them into a similar investment.
This lowers your taxable income or other capital gains and quickly covers the 0.25% annual AUM fee.
Further, based on your intended financial goal, the company provides investment advice by tailoring your portfolios to accomplish these goals.
Betterment led the way for robo-advisor services and micro-investing apps, growing from a small business to what now represents a significant book of business.
Using them has become a popular choice for people looking to invest toward specific goals without the need for any investing experience for a reasonable fee.
11. Greenlight (Micro-Investing App for Minors)
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free 1-month trial, $9.98/mo after for Greenlight Max plan
It works best if parents and/or grandparents are involved in the process because it requires linked accounts from their banks or brokerages.
Plus, parents and guardians will need to approve trades made in the investment account.
The all-in-one plan teaches them important financial skills like money management and investing fundamentals — with real money, real stocks and real-life lessons.
You can use the investing feature to:
- Start investing with as little as $1 in your account
- Buy fractional shares of companies your kids admire
- No trading commissions beyond the monthly subscription fee
- Teens can only invest in stocks and ETFs with a market capitalization over $1 billion.
- Parents must approve every trade directly in the app.
Consider opening a Greenlight Max account to start investing in a brokerage account for your kids today.
The first month is free to trial the product and see if it meets your needs for giving one of the best investments for kids.
Read more in our Greenlight Card review.
What is Micro-Investing?
It’s hard to fight the math behind investing in small amounts consistently over time. If you can start investing as little as $100 per week (or 10% of your paycheck) by your early 30s and grow these contributions over time, you’re very likely to hit the millionaire mark by retirement. Yet, not enough people do.
Over 100 million adults in the United States don’t have an investment account, leading them toward an uncertain financial future. Many choose to deposit money into a savings account instead.
The interest earned in these accounts will not make a significant dent in your retirement preparation like investing can. Investing is more powerful than leaving cash in a savings account.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be in that number. With a simple approach you can easily get started by following these investing principles:
- keep it simple
- keep investing
- keep portfolios diversified
- commit to your financial health
What are Micro-Investing Apps?
Investing scares many when it really shouldn’t. While it might be hard to get started investing, it is tougher to retire without any money.
In the last decade, many services work to make investing easy and affordable.
These micro investing sites simplify your investing experience and can put you in a great position for a secure retirement.
The right time to invest is now and it all starts with a simple download of a micro investing, robo-advisor app like Acorns. But don’t let that investing term scare you.
A robo-investing app takes your deposits and automatically invests them in a diversified portfolio.
This personalized solution simplifies investing and earns you far more than you would by leaving cash in a savings account.
By investing $100 per week over 40 years, you can grow your investments to $1.5 million by retirement.
Doing so requires consistent contributions into your micro stock trading robo-investor app and allowing compounding returns to do the heavy lifting.
For example, the average diversified portfolio earns 8% on average. That means the 8% you might earn this year will then have 8% earned on it the next year and the next, and so on.
While your actual returns will vary year to year, this should show why getting started as early as possible makes the biggest difference.
If you want to take the first step towards a secure retirement, that means taking action today.
Start by downloading a micro investing app, opening an account and setting up your recurring deposits.
What are the Best Micro Investing Apps?
In truth, no one app serves every individual person’s needs the same. Some investors choose to follow a more active approach while others would rather a set-it-and-forget style.
While I espouse the latter more so on this site, I don’t necessarily think investing in individual stocks is a bad approach when using stock analysis and research to guide your decision-making.
In fact, stock picking services like the Motley Fool’s Rule Breakers and Stock Advisor have shown tremendous outperformance over the last two decades and really represent a significant value for investors looking to rely on others for making stock picks.
Some stock newsletters may even want to practice a more active form of trading and get vetted stock alerts sent directly to their phones to take advantage of market movements.
As long as you account for your risk preferences and level of commitment to following the market, your investment choices will depend on you.
No matter your investing style, when you want to get started investing, you want to look for micro investing apps that provide the functionality you want without feeling overwhelmed.
Therefore, the best stock trading app for you depends on your experience, investing goals, and desired level of educational support.
Beginners benefit from micro investing platforms that have the least amount of fees, low-cost investment options, educational resources and the ability to build a diversified portfolio in alignment with your financial goals.
They want all of this without getting lost in distraction if they can’t make sense of the information provided.
The adage of “keep it simple, stupid” usually applies, especially at the start.
Apps that provide a one stop shop for managing your personal finances often act as a great starting point. This means including your banking, spending and investing needs.
As you develop a better understanding of the market, you’ll want to extend your investing reach into new areas and see if other investing styles suit your needs. Your app should accommodate these growing needs.
With that in mind, this list of the best micro investing apps looks to offer simplified investing experiences at the start but ones which can still serve your needs as you grow your investing knowledge.
We try to highlight free apps where possible because investing your money shouldn’t come with charges unless the service provides other value-added products for managing your money.
How Much Money Do You Need to Access a Micro-Investing App?
Micro investing apps benefit people who don’t have much money to start investing.
Acorns, one of the most popular micro investing apps on the market, requires as little as $5 to open a new account.
The app then invests your money in a diversified portfolio across exchange-traded funds (ETFs), stocks and bonds.
By doing so you can start small but build a bigger balance in your investments quickly over time as long as you can commit to a consistent investment schedule.
Many micro investing apps require a minimum initial deposit, but they’re typically very affordable amounts.
Anyone can find that easy enough to save up without breaking your budget.
Why Do People Like Micro Investing?
Without a doubt, micro-investing works to build small sums of money over time in the hopes of building this into a larger one.
More toward the direct value for micro-investing: it’s a set-it-and-forget-it approach that works for you automatically while you live your life as you normally would.
What’s best about it is the ability not to think with a specific focus toward saving—instead you invest the spare change you otherwise would have left in your bank account, car cup holder or in your coin basket at home.
This simplified, automated approach to investing makes it incredibly low effort, granting significant power to these micro investing apps.
And since micro investing allows you to invest your spare change regularly, that also means the barriers to getting started are quite low. In other words, the money you have to open an account and invest doesn’t need to be a small fortune.
Instead, you might only get by with a $1 or less when opening most of these accounts. In fact, no account minimums at all.
As with every millennial trope, you can begin micro investing just by putting the change leftover after your Starbucks latte into the stock market.
That’s hitting the easy button—by taking the linked debit or credit card with the account and placing it automatically into your retirement account or brokerage account.
Is Micro Investing a Good Idea?
Plenty of people deride micro investing because they only see it as rounding up your Starbucks purchases by $0.50 for the rest of your life. They reason this will only get you a small amount of money over long periods of time.
While not entirely untrue, especially after accounting for the fees of some investing platforms, micro investing doesn’t need to stop at Round Ups, Stock Backs or whatever the branded term is for topping up purchases on a linked debit or credit card.
Instead, as you age, you should try to aim for making recurring deposits into your account as your compensation rises.
This can be from side hustles, investing in real estate, investing in the best passive income ideas, or simply building up your career.
No one expects you to invest half your paycheck each pay period when you start working. It takes time to build financial security and an investment portfolio.
What micro investing apps help is to establish the habit of knowing your purchases also result in something more important: saving for your future.
As your financial resources grow, you can contribute more and more to your account, building your wealth.
Enough derision about micro investing only producing micro results.
Instead, consider micro investing as part of your investment strategy that ties into other long haul decisions you make about saving for retirement.
Investing for the long term requires dedication, persistence and work over time considerable amounts of time.
You might start small with a micro investment app while simultaneously starting to save through your employer’s retirement plan, your own individual retirement account (IRA), building an emergency fund, saving for a house down payment and paying off any costly debt you have.
Combined, all of these small steps add up to something big. As is often said, “the sum is more than the whole of its parts.” In totality, all these small efforts add up and move the needle in the right direction.
Micro investing as its own shouldn’t be the sole factor driving your retirement savings or for any other goal you have. It should be a tool you add to your arsenal to accelerate your wealth building.
As a side note: if you have kids who earn income, consider helping them out now by opening a Roth IRA for kids.
This will let them lock in low tax rates while they’re young and allow compounding to grow their wealth more than any major contributions later in life ever could.
But, if you want a retirement strategy which will get you to your intended destination (a safe and secure retirement), where should you start?
Step 1: Mind the Needs of Today
First, you shouldn’t save anything for the long-term if you’ve got needs that must be addressed today. Behind on bills? Need to eliminate costly credit card debt? Have to fund an emergency savings fund to guard against backsliding into debt even further?
Don’t let these expenses get out of hand. Instead, you need to build a solid financial rock upon which you can grow.
- Establish an emergency fund: This entails saving a minimum of 3-6 months (or even 12) of your on-going monthly expenses. While this might sound like a lot if you’ve got nothing currently, start small with $100, then $1,000 and eventually $5,000. Make sure you’re realistic with your budget and fully fund this personal finance priority before contributing anything meaningful toward retirement.
- Pay off credit card debt: You’re not alone if you’ve got credit card debt that’s been piling up. Paying off your credit card debt is a must before saving for retirement because it will save you money in the long-term. The interest rates paid on credit card debt almost always outweigh what you could receive by investing for retirement in stocks and bonds. Credit cards usually charge in excess of 15% APYs, sometimes north of 20%. While stocks and bonds can have years where they return this amount, over very long periods of time, you’re more likely to encounter returns between 7-10% per year on average with a well-diversified portfolio of equities and fixed income. If you have any amount of credit card debt, make sure to pay it off as soon as possible so you can start saving for retirement without worrying about this emergency expense.
- Get current on bills: You might be thinking that you should save for retirement before paying off your bills, but this is a mistake. If you’re behind on your monthly bills then you need to take care of these past due expenses before saving for retirement. Getting current on all of your financial obligations is important because it will make sure that if anything were to happen in the future where you couldn’t work or had emergency expenses come up, then there would be no debt hanging over your head.
You can lower your credit card debt quicker by signing up for an app like Tally, which extends a lower cost line of credit to cover your existing credit card debt and putting an end to late payment fees.
For student loans, you may have received a reprieve from governmental orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, but payments resumed in September 2021.
Now, you’ll need to resume payments but can lower the interest rate you pay by using a student loan refinancing marketplace like Splash Financial.
The service pulls real-time quotes from several refinancing lenders in the market to give you a sense of the best refinancing option available to you.
My wife used a loan refinancing marketplace when her first round of student loans required payments to start and she dropped her rate from 8.00% to 2.85%, reducing her average rate by 515 basis points and saving us thousands in interest!
If you’re in a similar situation with high-cost student loans, consider using Splash Financial to find your best rate and lowering your cost of repayment.
Depending on the savings you can receive, this guaranteed savings often makes for a wise financial decision.
Once you can get a handle on your high cost debt and student loans responsibly, you should look to invest money in your retirement accounts and taxable brokerage accounts to grow for the long-term.
Step 2: Invest Early, Invest Often (and Diversify)
I’m a huge believer in working toward financial independence, or having the financial resources to make decisions not guided by money.
That means you need to have enough saved and invested. To get there faster, you’ll need to save more now.
I suggest saving more than the standard 10-15% of your income per year if you can afford. This will give you either A) a more comfortable and secure retirement at the traditional age (65-68) or B) a chance to retire earlier.
How much earlier depends on when you start saving, how much you contribute, the portfolio you choose and the investment returns you receive.
To get started, consider the following investing strategy:
- Pay off debt, save an emergency fund. This again? Yes. These short-term needs aren’t something you can avoid. Prioritize the now in this instance as the costs of being behind on bills, credit card debt or student loans is far greater than the upside you’d see long-term for investing from retirement. Those costs you see in your mail are certain. You can always save more if you get started a bit later on your retirement with a chance to catch up.
- Work your way up the retirement savings account ladder. This means starting with an order of investment accounts to capture the greatest return for yourself. It starts with an emergency fund but then quickly goes into investment accounts. If you work for an employer who offers a retirement match, or money they agree to contribute alongside yourself into a 401k, 403b or 457 plan, you should start here. Make sure the investment options provided make sense and are lower cost. If they have index funds in the employer-sponsored plan menu, you’ve found a good set of investments to hold for decades to come. If you get a match, take full advantage of it! That’s free money you can call yours risk-free. Invest up to the match at a minimum. That means if your company offers a 4% match on your contributions, invest at least 4% of your annual pay.
- Contribute to an IRA. Next up are individual retirement accounts, or IRAs. These accounts come in two types: traditional and Roth. Traditional IRAs allow you to deduct your contributions in the year you make them (subject to certain income limitations) and pay taxes when you withdraw money in retirement on a tax-deferred basis while Roth IRAs work the opposite: pay taxes upfront and see your investments grow tax-free. If you’d like to open an IRA, consider whether you think you’re paying higher taxes now or whether that’ll happen in retirement. If you think taxes are higher now, contribute to a traditional account. If you think they’ll be higher for you in retirement, contribute to a Roth IRA with M1 Finance or other investing companies that don’t charge commissions.
- Standard brokerage accounts. If you have all these bases covered and you’re hitting the maximum for all of them, consider investing in a taxable brokerage account deemed as one of the best investing apps for beginners. This after-tax money isn’t tax-efficient, but it does provide you with liquidity if you need money before retirement.
Step 3: Rinse and Repeat (and Repeat)
Micro investing is an easy way to start investing because of the low capital commitment and minimal (if any) investment minimums. Though, for it to really make a difference for your financial needs, it can’t be the only way you save for retirement.
In fact, you’ll need to supercharge these contributions in short order to take advantage of compounding returns over time on increasingly larger sums of money.
Said differently, you want to contribute as much as you can as early as you can to allow compounding returns in diversified investments to do the heavy lifting if you want to actually live out your retirement dreams.
The great news is that the earlier you get started, the more time you have to put your money to work. That’s the power of compound growth! Here’s what that could look like for you:
Let’s say you’re 30 years old, making the average household income of around $66,000. You decide to invest $600 per month in your retirement accounts, all inclusive of any employer match you’d receive.
That amounts to just over 10% of your income every year. If you retire at age 67, you could have over $2.1 million in your retirement savings.
This assumes an average 9% annual return, which is a bit under the inflation-adjusted average annual return of the S&P 500 of the last 50 years.
In short, a realistic growth rate if you leave your funds investing in a S&P 500 index fund over multiple decades.
That sounds pretty great, right? But it gets even better. Of that total $2.1 million, your contributions only make up around $266,500.
That means 90% of that total is money provided by the market—not your wallet!
But, if you made the same decision to start investing $300 per month at age 22, you’d have $2.2 million. $600 a month? $4.4 million!
And if you really want to save and retire early, say at age 55, consider investing $1,000 per month starting at age 22. Certainly a steep contribution to start, but if you can manage it, that decision will pay off significantly: $2.4 million.
If you can manage $2,000 per month, you could retire at 50 with $3.0 million. The lesson here: start early and invest as much as you can as early as you can.
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